Interview with Clayton Barnett, author of The Amazing, Unfolding World of Machine Civilization series

This one is for fans of the science fiction realm! Dive into the world created by Clayton Barrett. Learn about his characters and writing process, and then check out the series. Note that Echoes of Family Lost and The Fourth Law are only $0.99 right now. Be sure to check out the rest of the tour for even more fun and chances to enter the great giveaway!

Which character was your favorite to write?

The character of Dorina, from tribe Tohsaka, fascinates me. She makes appearances in “The Fourth Law”, “Echoes…”, and “Cursed Hearts.” She is also integral to the next novel I’m currently working on. I describe her as “…quite possibly the most intelligent person on the planet.” She is always learning: facts in general and about her own family and humans in particular. Cheerful, helpful, loyal; she’s everyone’s perfect big-little sister.

To which character did you relate the most?

Unfortunately, that would be Clive Barrett, the father of Lily and Callie. He’s only mentioned in “The Fourth Law” and has a brief walk-on in “Cursed Hearts.” A troubled soul whose reaction to the loss of one his children leads to political terror and mass murder. A nasty bit of work all ‘round. I don’t want to relate to him, but I’m introspective enough to know that I do.

Will we see these characters again?

Absolutely! I’m about a third of the way into the next novel of Machine Civilization, with most all of the characters from “Echoes…” making an appearance. Even characters that have died have ended up in some of my writing exercises… who’s to say when and where we’ll see them again?

Tell us about your other published works.

I call my future history Machine Civilization, based upon a statement of a character in “The Fourth Law” who finds the term artificial intelligence to be insulting. To-date, there are five novels and one children’s early reader from this world. A sixth novel is already underway. So long as they keep showing me stories, I’ll keep writing them down!

What is the best writing advice you ever received?

“Start your story in the middle,” from Jerry Pournelle. As I believe, he got that same advice from Robert Heinlein, so I’m sticking with it. I’ve had comments that some readers find it a little off-putting, as no one – not even the characters – seem to know what’s going on as the books open. That is by design.

Who is your writing muse?

While I am not a fan of the man’s works, I completely agree with Hemmingway: “Write drunk; edit sober.” Distilled spirits make me too lethargic to write, but a bottle of wine is the gateway to several thousand words.

What is your favorite part about writing?

I don’t write, per se. It’s much more as if I’m sitting in a movie theater with a laptop. I’m shown scenes and transcribe them. Later, I thread them into a coherent narrative. Where do these scenes come from? Why are they shown to me? I’ve no idea but thank God that late in my life I’ve been given this opportunity.

The Amazing Unfolding World of Machine Civilization Series

A history beginning in our near future, these stories are set in a world where the US dollar has been displaced as the world’s reserve currency, prompting its economic and political collapse, with a few areas able to hold onto civilization.

At the same time, across the Pacific, under a resurgent economy brought about by the implementation of new technology and deregulation, three Japanese companies produce breakthroughs in both artificial intelligence and robotics. These newly made people exhibit an odd interest in the goings-on of the former United States.

To-date, my chronicling of this interest of theirs has led to stories that populate five novels, which I would like to share with everyone now!

The Fourth Law – In the near future, 23-year-old apprentice nurse Lily Barrett lives in a shattered time. Following its economic collapse, the US has devolved into a group of a few barely functional smaller states and vast swathes of barbarian badlands. His sister has been missing for years, and her father, after earning the opprobrium of most of the world for running a state terror organization, presumed dead.

Two things keep her going: her live-in job at a small, Catholic orphanage in the city of Waxahachie, Republic of Texas, and Ai, her odd but dear friend, whom she met online; a young woman who only shows herself to Lily as a rendered CG image.

Troubled by her past, haunted by her name, and facing an uncertain future, Lily seems only a quiet, simple life. But, that past and her present conspire against her.

Echoes of Family Lost – Alive! After four years believing her older sister lost and presumed dead in the horrible Breakup of the United States, Lily Barrett gets word from her dear friend, Ai – and Ai’s family of Machine Civilization – that Callie Barrett is very likely alive… but over 900 miles away in Knoxville.

Using the resources of her and Ai’s family, Lily puts together a search party to go find Callie: old, broken, and burnt Orloff – an expert in surviving in the Badlands, Ai’s little sister, Fausta – her machine mind controlling a Combat Android to protect her friend, all together in a cart pulled by their sturdy pony, Clyde.

It’s almost a thousand miles to go, with something very odd trying to limit their ability to communicate over distance and even to cross bridges. A chance meeting along the way in Huntsville, former Alabama, wrecks their plans, and puts all of their lives in danger.

Read an excerpt:

Lily stared through her field glasses toward the bridge.  On the roof of an abandoned eight-story warehouse on the east side of West Memphis, they wanted to try to confirm the rumor before they went any further.  The air was cool – mid-fifties, she guessed – and the gray clouds didn’t affect her view.

“The span’s still there…” she said aloud. But, was something dangling from the middle?

“Fausta? That middle section…?” Lily asked without turning or lowering her glasses.

“Definitely damaged,” Fausta replied in her low, rich voice. “I’d speculate it was either a missile or kinetic energy weapon; a simple bomb would have blown out and up as well.”

Lily lowered her field glasses and turned to her friend. Jump boots, field gray pants, combat webbing over her similar colored jacket, that, over a black tee shirt, with her large sunglasses perched atop her head. Her long brown hair was kept under control in a tight braid. Fausta turned her android body to face Lily, and stared down at her with her “eyes.”

At least I don’t shudder anymore, Lily thought. Not at all pretty like Ai’s body had, these were not even eyeballs: a complex cluster of synthetic micro-crystals was stuffed into each socket. ‘Electromagnetic search array’ was what Fausta had called them. More powerful than Ai’s, they could see into ultraviolet and infrared. Even so, they’re creepy as hell.

Cursed Hearts –Izumi blinked his eyes against the small light above him. Had power been restored already? He tried to sit up . . . .

And couldn’t.

Not only were his limbs restrained, he could not even move his head to look about. His eyes now adjusted to the light, he was able to tell he was in the surgery itself. That’s right, he thought, each unit has a small emergency generator. He heard movement in the room.

“Hello! Who’s there?!”

There was no reply, he was about to shout again when Maya came into his field of view.

“Miss Maya! Thank goodness! Would you please – ” He broke off sharply as she raised the rotary bone saw in her right hand. “Miss Maya! What is the meaning – !”

“You have knowledge that we need. Now.” He’d just noted the red in her eyes before she pressed the saw against his forehead. Blood sprayed everywhere, across the room, across her face, as he screamed on and on.

With a heave of breath, he opened his eyes again. They stung from all the blood in them. Did he pass out? What was Maya doin-

She stood over him, his blood running down her face and dripping back onto his.

“M… Maya…” His voice choked with agony. “…what are… what…?”

“We have already answered that question.” She reached toward him, just above his eyes, into his forebrain.

Friend and Ally – Model 5 is a prototype designed to fit seemlessly into human society. A meeting in Tokyo derails Nichole’s planned training as she is dispatched to Portland, former Oregon; the last working deep water port on the West Coast of the imploding US.

There, under her cover as a Graduate Engineering Student, she is to do her utmost to nurture the people and politics of the City-State into a Friend and Ally of the Japanese Empire. But from the first day in her new home, all of Nichole’s plans go awry.

Beset by those who want this small lamp of Western Civilization snuffed out, Nichole must find within herself the courage and ability to protect her new friends, at whatever consequence to herself.

Foes and Rivals – After residing nearly a year in Portland, Nichole’s life seems to finally settle down: with her classes, friends, and lover. But troubling rumors about secret deals between the City’s master and the savage horsemen to the east reach her ears.

With her own skills augmented by her friends and allies, she sets plans into motion she hopes will thwart those in opposition to her dream of a peaceful future.

Once again denied a quiet, normal life, Nichole is faced to make hard, dangerous choices that will jeopardize her, her friends, and the survival of the City itself.

Amazon / Smashwords

About Clayton Barnett

One time engineer, some time pharmacy technician, full time husband and father, Clayton Barnett stumbled into writing a traditional novel November 2014 during National Novel Writing Month. Liking the results, he edited what would become “The Fourth Law” and set about teaching himself self-publishing. In the following four years he has produced four more novels as well as a children’s early reader, all in what is now called Machine Civilization.

Clayton Barnett lives in central Ohio with his wife, two daughters, and two dogs.


Clayton Barnett will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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13 thoughts on “Interview with Clayton Barnett, author of The Amazing, Unfolding World of Machine Civilization series”

  1. GFP gave me the heads-up that you’ve been under the weather. Thank you for dragging yourself off of your sickbed to make this inaugural Tour Stop post for my Machine Civilization novels! Hope you’re better soon!

    1. Much better by today, thank you! Something didn’t agree with me at dinner Sunday night and it was not pretty. 🙁

  2. Thanks for the comments so far. It’s been tremendous fun discovering this world; I learn more each day. And, I’ve had fantastic luck using to find talented illustrators all over the world!

    1. That excerpt was the very first thing I wrote of “Echoes…” It’s now about 1/4 of the way into the book.
      Lily loves her friends, but perception is perception. There are more descriptions of Fausta, including her odd skin, in a flashback just after this scene.
      I’ve become rather fond of my bull-in-china-shop character the point she’ll also be in my next novel… please enjoy the rest of the tour!

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