The following is an interview with award-winning comic creator GMB Chomichuk regarding the illustrated novel, The Automatic Age. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Chomichuk about the inspiration behind the project, the creative process in balancing both the writing and illustrative duties, the impact that the story may have with readers, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your illustrated novel, The Automatic Age! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
GMB Chomichuk: Thank you. I appreciate that. The Automatic Age is a story of a father and son hunted by polite robotic killers while navigating a perfect world they are not allowed to live in. The Automatic Age is set in the aftermath of a future where everything you want done for you was done for you by robotic systems. People thrived in a society that supported their ambitions and creative desires, their explorations and innovations. Last Christmas, the autovolts came house to house and removed the one thing preventing perfect harmony in the system, the people who used it. It’s a little bit of I, Robot meets The Walking Dead.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in balancing the writing and illustrative duties, and what have been some of your creative influences?
GMBC: The Automatic Age was a natural extension of that wish to have more length than a comic and less length than a novel. A little word and picture machine that delivers a story. I spent my childhood walking in the woods, dreaming of rocket ships and robot wars. Now, actual corporations and governments race for mars and build robot soldiers, but not enough kids grow up walking in the woods. Nearly every tool and distribution channel I use to make my living now had not been invented at the time my community leaders were telling me to choose a path for my life. Every week, an advancement in machine learning and robotics makes our role as an apex species less certain. The future people promise never arrives. A lot of the things related to that went into The Automatic Age. I write and illustrate graphic novels and kids books. Words and pictures have different balances to create different sorts of experiences for the mind’s eye. Some stories need more pictures than words, this one needed more words than pictures. The Automatic Age is something you could put in your pocket for a train ride, bus ride, plane ride, finish, then think, “Wait, did I miss something?” There are a few easy-to-miss details in the illustrations if you think of them as additions to the story rather than the literal next page of the story. The Automatic Age is me using words when they are needed and pictures when I want there to be no loss of transmission from me to the reader.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
GMBC: A sense that the present is the gift, not the future. An idea that trauma isn’t one’s direction but a stop along the way. That it’s fun to imagine what we’d do when there aren’t any rules anymore. Robots are amazing and terrifying, like any world changing technology.
BD: If given the opportunity to expand your series into other entertainment mediums, in what format do you hope to see it adapted?
GMBC: I love the medium of books, little ones that you can take with you and steal a few moments of your day for imagination. It’s much better to let a thing be what it is for a bit before setting out to change it. There. Times up. I would love to adapt The Automatic Age into an audio drama podcast. I’ve been talking to producers already who are interested in it as an adaptation as a series, but any such reality is a long way off, projects like that die a thousand deaths before they get made. For now, I’m happy and proud that it gets to be a book.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that The Automatic Age’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
GMBC: Under the chase scenes and rocket pistols and android killer robots, the whole exercise was a sort of meditation on what it means to be a child in a time when your parents actually have no idea what state the world will be in when you become an adult. It’s a story about how the future and the past are imaginary and right now is when you are alive.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
GMBC: Well, I try to divide my creative output between pure entertainment and social conversation. To that end, I have two new projects out in 2020, as well. One is an allegorical story about what a family does when bigotry and narrowmindedness turn from political power talking points to open warfare. It’s dog people versus cat people, and a family is stuck in the middle. That one is called Good Boys, and it’s out from Portage and Main Press. I also have a bombastic ultra-violent-kung-fu-cyber-punk-revenge-tournament book which will be announced soon called Arena City. I’ll let you decide which is which.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Automatic Age?
GMBC: Let the electrobrains and robots do the hard work. Put The Automatic Age into a search bar and see what comes up. Choose carefully; machines are watching.