Once I saw the cover for Andrew Smith’s new book, RABBIT & ROBOT, I knew another feature was in order. This book breaks all the right rules, and Andrew had some interesting new things to share as well.
Cager has been transported to the Tennessee, a giant lunar-cruise ship orbiting the moon that his dad owns, by Billy and Rowan to help him shake his Woz addiction. Meanwhile, Earth, in the midst of thirty simultaneous wars, burns to ash beneath them. And as the robots on board become increasingly insane and cannibalistic, and the Earth becomes a toxic wasteland, the boys have to wonder if they’ll be stranded alone in space forever.
In our last interview, you said, “I don’t think there has been anything that has educated or impacted me more than traveling and meeting people from unfamiliar places.” What has been one of your most favorite unfamiliar places to travel to, and why?
It’s impossible for me to pick a “most favorite” because everywhere I’ve been has been unique in ways that set it apart from anywhere else. I like the experience of newness. That said, last summer I took my son to Europe and during part of our trip we stayed with my friends Els and Guy at their home in Geraardsbergen, which I had never been to before and I thought it was lovely. They took us to the city of Ghent, another place I’d never been, and I thought it was one of the most spectacularly beautiful little cities I’ve ever seen. There are these candy sellers in Ghent who set up carts about five feet away from each other, and they make the same product, candy noses, so they compete with each other. And they hate each other, and have even gotten into fistfights before over whose candy noses are better. It’s quite an interesting and bizarre story. Here’s a picture of one of the guys with his candy noses:
I can’t imagine anything better than rival candy nose vendors! And speaking of petty arguments, I like how RABBIT AND ROBOT explores the consequences and chaos of human destruction. What do you think matters most about what makes us human, and what hopes, if any, do you have for the human race?
The fact that you like an exploration of chaos and human destruction is quite telling, Karen. But then again, so do I, so… um…
There is a point in the novel where the narrator, a kid named Cager Messer who is obsessed with all the things he’s never had the opportunity to do, says, “I figured it out: love and hope are what make us what we are. I couldn’t see this before we came to the Tennessee. So the Tennessee saved us, and doomed us, too, all at the same time.”
So there you have it in a nutshell: love and hope are the things that essentially define us as human beings, and then there’s the whole doom and chaos and destruction thing going on as well.
Do I have any hopes for the human race? That’s a tough one to answer since it’s in our nature to hope, to visualize an outcome that puts us in a better place. I suppose if everyone on the planet reads Rabbit & Robot, and then as a result decides to stop doing all the shitty things we’re doing to the planet, to each other, to kids, to economic systems, to ourselves, then just maybe. But I’m not the first writer who’s imagined the possibility of a grim future given the path we’re on. Just take a look at some Orwell, Huxley, or Vonnegut, whose novel Player Piano is chillingly becoming our reality. There’s a good academic paper in there somewhere.
And because Rabbit & Robot makes a rather dark prediction about where capitalism is taking us, here’s a picture of my son standing in front of a meeting hall for socialists in Ghent.
I love it. And I love what she said to me, because it’s exactly what I would say to my younger writer self: to keep on keeping on. To me, it means this: Don’t lose sight of the fact that the purest kind of writing you can do, what will give you the greatest sense of satisfaction, is the writing that you do for yourself. It’s why I have found myself receding at times, so I can try to get back into that solitary internal space where nothing else matters.