Interview with Floor Kist, author of Can Machines Bring Peace?

Today author Floor Kist is taking us behind the scenes of his new science fiction novel, Can Machines Bring Peace? with an excerpt and an interview. Be sure to grab your copy while it’s on sale for just $0.99! Follow the rest of the tour for more. And of course, best of luck entering the giveaway!

Can a machine bring peace? Or are humans built for war?

450 years after Earth was bombed back to the Stone Age, a young diplomat searches for lost human settlements. Kazimir Sakhalinsk narrowly escapes an exploration mission gone wrong and searches for ways to make future missions safer for his people. A festival introduces him to the Marvelous Thinking Machine.

A machine Kazimir believes can change everything

For his admiral it’s nothing more than a silly fairground gimmick. But Kazimir is convinced. Convinced enough to go against orders and build one of his own. Convinced enough to think he can bring peace. Convinced enough to think humanity is worth saving. What if he’s wrong?

He asks his hikikomori sister, a retired professor filling her empty days, the owner of the festival machine and the admiral’s daughter for help. Will that be enough?

Read an excerpt:

The memorial service is solemn. The admiral thanks the fallen officers for the ultimate sacrifice they made for the Empire. To the gathered wives, children, parents and grandparents he swears that they will not be forgotten. He tells the assembled men that he will do everything in his power to avoid these catastrophes in the future. And finally, he decorates the survivors, for their bravery and courage under fire. They are fine examples of Imperial officers.

Sugimoto shares the sentiment, of course. He is glad the admiral arranged this event. But it does feel a bit hollow, considering what happened to Kazimir Sakhalinsk. He steps forward when the admiral calls his name, announcing that he will lead the next mission.

He’s not surprised with his new orders. After Maeda’s death, Sugimoto expected as much. He gave his new team the report he received from the Kirisu-device as an example of what he expected. And they worked on the new one diligently. But he had to ask them to perfect it three times. And it took more than a week to prepare. Sakhalinsk’s Thinking Machine did it in half an hour. And Sakhalinsk’s is better.

Ogata will court-martial him for sure if Sugimoto visits Kazimir. But that’s preferable to dying in the middle of nowhere, isn’t it? It’s not as if Sakhalinsk will tell. He decides to risk it.

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Describe your book in one sentence or fewer than 25 words.

Hi everyone,

Hi Andi, thank you so much for this interview.

The one sentence about my novel is: “A young diplomat builds a Thinking Machine to bring peace, but instead it discovers a plot for war.”

To write “Can Machines Being Peace? Hope in a Post-Apocalyptic Age”, I used Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method. And it requires you to start the writing process with one sentence describing the story. It was probably the hardest sentence I had to write! But I’m glad I did.

What kind of research did you have to do for it?

The setting is Japanese with a 1930s vibe. And I really had to research all sorts of aspects. I needed a fairground for the Marvelous Thinking Machine, so I checked out Japanese festivities. I settled for the Tanabata festival.

One of the leading ladies, Mizuki, wears beautiful kimonos. I spent hours finding nice patterns and descriptions.

I think I invented a Japanese word. Someone with other than Japanese roots are ‘continentals’. And I used the literal word ‘tairikusei’. But I don’t think it’s really used that way in Japan.

For the energy sources and some backstory about failing systems in the vault after two hundred years underground, I researched hydrogen fuel cells.

The 1930s setting means there are no microchips, so I had to read up on the first computers using vacuum tubes. And only so I could write sentences like this: “By using field emission rather than the thermionic electron emission, the vacuum-channel transistors don’t require a heat source. And they don’t really need vacuum either. Instead, they use helium.”

I wanted a solid system of currency, so I made sure all the prices made sense. Using the current yen would seem odd for the US readers. The Japanese price their products in the thousands.

I researched the wonderful kamon, something like a family crest. It plays a minor part in the story in the dynamics between Kazimir and his father. I had to find out how they are made, what the artists are called who create them. Really great!

Several readers complimented me on the great depiction of Japan – I have never been to Japan…

Which character was your favorite to write?

Ouch! What a terrible question. OK. (deep breath) I think Mizuki was the most interesting character to write. She was also the most difficult.

Mizuki is the daughter of Kazimir’s admiral. In traditionalistic Japan, her independence isn’t always appreciated. So, she makes use of her social charms to get things done. I wanted Mizuki to change from a somewhat frustrated, and therefore childish, young woman to a more liberated person who becomes more aware of her talents and creates her own person.

She falls in love with Kazimir, but I didn’t want that to be a girlish kind of smittenness – it had to be a mature and serious choice. A real relationship with mutual respect and admiration, and of course, physical attraction.

I really hope I got that right.

What was one of your favorite scenes?

Let me choose a scene with Mizuki. A scene where her talents help others, instead of only herself.

Mizuki visits an Imperial Councilor. The team needs protection against her father. The Councilor is not at all prepared to get involved in this affair. But before he dismisses her, Mizuki apologizes for dragging the councilor into some silly family tiff. Then talks about something else completely. She finds common ground, then uses that discussion to recruit him for her cause. Mizuki does so charmingly and innocently. The councilor can’t believe he fell for that.

I really like how that moment is pivotal for her and for the main story as well.

Will we see these characters again?

Most definitely! I’m working on Part 2 right now. And it’s a daunting task. Even more so than the first book.

Sometime my kids do something great, say land a ball in a net at a good distance. I always tell them it’s wonderful, but it’s the second time that counts, that proves talent.

Now I’m using that quip on myself. There is a whole new dynamic in sequels. We already know the characters. So, the freshness of the first novel is gone. We know what the story is about, so there is no surprise about that either.

If my readers are interested in what’s next, I have to figure out what they want to know. Are they interested in more romance between Mizuki and Kazimir? Or what happens to Kira?

I have re-written that first sentence for part 2 several times. And I have restarted the story at least four times. Some of the main and secondary characters changed places. Some characters even disappeared, because each character has to contribute something of value to the story.

For the moment, I like to think I’m almost there.

Let’s say I’m coming for a visit to your area. What are some must-see places?

Near The Hague in the Netherlands, there is a town called Voorburg. That’s where I live.

There are three really worthwhile places: we have a view with three honest-to-goodness Dutch windmills in a row. Even in Holland that is quite unique. We have a very cozy, old city center along a canal, complete with a working sluice. And we have the family home of Christiaan Huygens, the 17th century scientist who discovered the rings of Saturn. His father is a renown Dutch writer, poet, diplomat and secretary to the King. Come one, come all!

Floor Kist lives in a Dutch town called Voorburg with his wife, two sons, two cats and their dog Monty. He is currently deputy-mayor for the Green Party and an AI researcher. He’s concerned about current divisive public and political debates. But he’s also interested in how AI can be used to resolve society’s big issues.

This is his first novel. He’s been carrying the idea about a story about AI bringing peace for a long time. The Covid-19 lockdown in the Netherlands suddenly gave him time to actually write it.

Link to website: www.floorkist.nl/author

Blog: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21225715.Floor_Kist/blog

Floor Kist will be awarding a $30 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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