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Interview: Lisa Mason on “The Bicycle Whisperer”

Lisa MasonTell us a bit about “The Bicycle Whisperer.”

The title references the 1995 novel, The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans and the story’s plot evokes some of the novel’s essentials. A girl and her beloved horse are severely injured in an accident. The injuries aren’t just physical, but also emotional. In a desperate attempt to heal girl and horse, the girl’s mother takes her on an arduous cross-country trip in search of a man with an uncanny sympathy with horses, especially damaged horses. A horse whisperer. He helps heal both the girl and the horse and reconciles horse with rider.

Readers and reviewers have responded emotionally to “The Bicycle Whisperer”, some disturbed by the end, some finding the story sad, some believing the forgiveness. I’m just glad people are responding emotionally. Emotions are what fiction is all about, even science fiction.

 

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

I was pushing a shopping cart out of the grocery store when I noticed a teenager wandering around the parking lot. He was hitting up shoppers for money. They ignored or shunned him. He had that confused, despondent look of someone who had just been kicked out of the house or fled from there, for his own reasons.

I put my groceries in the car and rummaged around in the glove compartment. I almost never carry cash these days! I found only a crumpled dollar, approached him, and offered it. I said, “Promise me you won’t spend this on drugs.” He gratefully took the dollar and said, “I promise.” I said, “Are you going to be okay?” He gave me a sunny smile and said, “Sure.” And it was like looking down into his soul.

When I drove away, imagining what his life was like, the Lone Rangerette stepped out of the shadows and said, “Forget about him, you are going to write about me!” “The Bicycle Whisperer” is as much her story as Shimano Stella’s and Simon’s. With luck and work, the Lone Rangerette, her sentient bicycle Scout Regalia, and her mobile AI Tekto may have their own YA novel in a year or so.

 

Was “The Bicycle Whisperer” personal to you in any way? If so, how?

I’m fascinated by people’s propensity to anthropomorphize everything. From the love we lavish on our pets (I’m a crazy cat lover myself) to attachments people form to inanimate objects. I had a college friend who was inordinately attached to his beat-up Chevy. He’d gone through several unhappy romantic relationships, but his car—he called her “Clementine”—stayed with him through thick and thin. Just the other day, a reader posted on my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/lisa.mason.7393264), saying how much he appreciated the story and that he seriously loved his bicycle from 1974 when he was in college in Austin, Texas. And he referred to his bicycle as “she.”

I’ve enjoyed the sentient car stories recently published in F&SF so I was inspired to write about a sentient bicycle and her troubles. It’s not so far of a stretch to imagine how emotionally attached people could become to AI. Would AI have emotions, too? By definition not, but it’s fun to imagine that they would.

 

What are you working on now?

More stories, always! The YA mentioned above, set in a gritty near-future. A high-concept SF novel. And an urban fantasy. I’m even revisiting a concept I filed in the to-do box, involving a woman detective in 1960s San Francisco. The latter is not fantasy or science fiction, but I enjoy mysteries and should probably write at least one.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

As always, people can visit me at http://www.lisamason.com for my newly reissued trade paperback books, ebooks, interviews, blogs, adorable cat pictures, and my husband Tom Robinson’s bespoke art, mobiles, and jewelry. My latest novella, published in trade paperback and as an ebook, is One Day in the Life of Alexa, and has been well received with five-star reviews.

 

“The Bicycle Whisperer” appears in the May/June 2018 issue of F&SF.

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