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Interview: Nick Wolven on “Carbo”

Tell us a bit about “Carbo.”

“Carbo” is an ancient tale. One of the world’s oldest tales. It’s the tale of a boy and his car. Formerly known as the tale of a boy and his horse, and before that, as the tale of a boy and his dog. It’s a tale of the attachments young men form in the moody, wandering period before they’re entirely ready for human attachments. Or maybe it’s just a story about a robot who wants to be loved.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

Gordon [Van Gelder, F&SF Publisher] had sent me an article about the apocalyptic implications of self-driving cars—something to do with our creeping surveillance state and Big Bad Data and Orwellian EZ-Pass systems—which I took to be a kind of editorial elbow in the ribs. So the topic had been on my mind. One day I was out driving and the concept simply appeared to me, in a weirdly explicit and literal fashion—I mean the words themselves actually manifested in my vision, like something from the Book of Exodus, like a screenplay pitch, like trails of marquee-neon laser-scripted on the windshield: MAN HAS MISOGYNIST CAR. Once a phrase like that has crawled its way across the cornea of your inner eye, it’s almost impossible not to write a story.


Was “Carbo” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

“Carbo” is a story for all men, for all time.


Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for “Carbo?”

The trouble with talking about research is that I never know if I’m adding to my air of writerly authority or puncturing the illusion of writerly authority. When other writers are asked this question, they always say something like, “Oh, yes, I visited six obscure libraries, interviewed all the world’s leading experts, and now know everything there is to know about Mycenaean cuisine.” Whereas I’m afraid I’ll blurt something boneheaded and unglamorous like, “Yes, I finally looked up what a carburetor is.” I wish I could say I prowled in dusty archives, I pulled down crumbling tomes of yore, I accessed elusive bodies of knowledge. The truth is I’ve been watching a metric ton of car-jock YouTube videos.


What are you working on now?

I’m working on a novel of adventure and intrigue, romance and mystery, deceit and derring-do, about the sexy and crowd-pleasing subject of technological unemployment.


“Carbo” appears in the November/December 2017 issue of F&SF.

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