Making You Think
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his latest in a regular series about comic series that never were. Today it’s the turn of Mark Russell’s #NotAllRobots…
Mark Russell’s #NotAllRobots
Comics scribe Mark Russell has turned heads and won awards for his myriad works, including Snagglepuss, The Flintstones, and his “cereal serial” in AHOY’s award-nominated Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror. Now, he turns readers’ attentions to his engaging “Lost Tale,” #NotAllRobots.
What’s the secret origin behind Russell’s “Lost Tale?” What’s it about and what inspired it?
“I like working with grand metaphors,” said Russell. “I wanted to write a metaphor for toxic masculinity in a way that forces men to empathize with what it’s like to be on the receiving end of it. The impending era of automation seemed like a good place to start. In a world where robots have all the good-paying jobs, control most industries and law-making, it’s about what it would be like for men to be reliant on the goodwill of creatures who might, you know, also go crazy and kill them.”
When did he first come up with the story? And, how long has he been pitching it to publishers?
“As the title suggests,” Russell explained, “I came up with the story idea around the same time the #NotAllMen clapback started to the MeToo movement. To me, it seemed like a real deficit of empathy and an inability to read the room when the guys started protesting their own innocence and sense of victimhood to women who were telling their stories of decades of systematic abuse and harassment. This story was designed to sort of put them in the same boat and also to explore themes of automation and worker displacement, which seems to become more relevant with each passing day.”
Russell has submitted this involving story to various publishers. What kind of feedback has he received for his efforts?
“Most publishers I’ve spoken to have said that they like the story,” said the award-winning writer, “but they’ve had it up to the gills with dystopian sci-fi stories right now.”
Above many things, Russell is known by fans for his thought-provoking work. Would #NotAllRobots continue that trend?
“I hope so,” Russell said, modestly. “I think the point of science fiction, and perhaps just fiction in general, is to get people to think about themselves while not getting defensive because the story is ostensibly about someone else. That’s the effect that I hope this, and most of my work, would have.”
Who are the Waltons – and what can Russell tell us about his human protagonists and their place in the story?
“The Waltons are sort of an every-family,” Russell explained. “Sort of like the Waltons from the 70s TV series, but in a near-future dystopia instead of a near-past dystopia.”
Who are some of the robotic characters that Russell came up with for #NotAllRobots? Are they friend to mankind or foe?
“They are mostly breadwinners and civil servants,” said Russell. “Normal ‘people.’ Because all work has been automated, every family has been assigned a robot to be their source of income and support. These robots think they are the best thing that ever happened to humanity. Whenever one of them goes nuts and kills its family, they just write it off as a small price to pay for all the benefits humans get from their metal overlords.”
With robots replacing our labor force on a daily basis, is this dystopian future closer to reality or tailored to be nothing more than fantastic fiction?
“I think it’s closer to our current reality than anyone quite realizes yet,” Russell admitted.
Although this “Lost Tale” has not yet come to be, there are other high-profile projects Russell is currently working on. What’s the future hold for this amazing writer?
“Currently, I am working on Wonder Twins for DC,” said Russell, “which is part superhero deconstruction, part after school special. I am also working on Red Sonja for Dynamite, which is great, because they’re letting me really take my time and tell a long-arc story rooted equally in fantasy and ancient history. And, in July, I have Second Coming, my comic book about Jesus Christ sharing an apartment with a superhero, which is being released by AHOY. That should be an adventure.”
Lost Tales©2019 Scott Braden. All Rights Reserved