In a future when humans are believed to be extinct, what will one curious robot do when it finds a girl who needs its help?
In the future, robots have eliminated humans, and 12-year-old robot XR_935 is just fine with that. Without humans around, there is no war, no pollution, no crime. Every member of society has a purpose. Everything runs smoothly and efficiently. Until the day XR discovers something impossible: a human girl named Emma. Now, Emma must embark on a dangerous voyage with XR and two other robots in search of a mysterious point on a map. But how will they survive in a place where rules are never broken and humans aren’t supposed to exist? And what will they find at the end of their journey?
So, take this time to get to know Lee Bacon and his compelling story that is now being made into a film by Phil Lord and Chris Miller(Artemis, The Lego Batman Movie).
1. What is the genesis of The Last Human?
I was walking home from the grocery store, listening to Ezra Klein’s podcast. He was interviewing Yuval Harari, the author of Sapiens, which is a book I really love. During the interview, Harari was asked whether he thinks human beings will be the dominant life form on Earth in 300 years. His answer came instantly: "Absolutely not!" According to his prediction, humans will either destroy the world or we'll be surpassed by our own creation: technology.
When I heard this, I nearly dropped the bag of groceries I was carrying. I was startled by what he said. And inspired. My imagination immediately began conjuring a future world. A world in which humans have gone extinct. A world ruled by robots.
I decided, right there on the sidewalk: I HAD to write this story. That same day, I began writing The Last Human.
2. What research did you do when writing The Last Human?
One of the challenges of researching robotics and AI is the rapid advancement of technology. Even books that were published in the past few years feel outdated. But I still managed to find a few books that were really helpful in researching The Last Human. One was Yuval Harari’s follow-up to Sapiens, Homo Deus, which actually offered the epigraph for The Last Human: “Organisms are algorithms.” A statement that’s both simple and deep. Whenever I worried about losing my way on The Last Human, I’d go back to this quote. Organisms are algorithms. Both simple and deep, it seemed to cut straight to the heart of what I was trying to do with the novel. To tell a story about finding a connection between two very different worlds.
My research also involved listening to a lot of tech podcasts, talking to friends in the tech industry and watching videos of robots, especially the wonderful YouTube channel from Boston Dynamics.
3. What was your writing schedule when you wrote The Last Human?
I’m a morning person. I’m at my best when I’m on a routine of waking up super-early (sometimes as early as 3am), making myself a green tea, and sitting down at my desk to write. I love feeling like I’m the only person awake in the world. Like time doesn’t exist. I’ll usually write for four or five hours, sipping green tea and tapping away on my keyboard. I generally finish up by 9 or 10am. By the time everyone else is just starting their day, I’m pretty much finished!
Sometimes, I also hit a second wind in the afternoon—around 4:30pm. If the weather’s nice, I’ll go out on the back deck with my laptop and try to write a little more.
4. How long did it take you to write the first draft of The Last Human?
About six months.
5. Did you know how The Last Human would end or did it come to you while writing the story?
On that first day, when the idea struck me while listening to a podcast, I had no idea how The Last Human would end. I only knew the basic premise. A book narrated by a robot, who unexpectedly discovers a human—even though humans are supposed to be extinct. It was only later—as I was writing the book—that I gradually figured out the ending.
6. What was the hardest chapter to write and why?
The Last Human has over a hundred chapters, most of which are only 2 or 3 pages, so I don’t really think about which individual chapter gave me the most trouble. I can only think about it in more general terms. The middle. That was the hardest part. Which is the case with every book I write. The first fifty pages usually (hopefully!) hum along on the momentum of a new idea, building the world, exploring the characters. And if I manage to make it to the final fifty pages of a novel (which isn’t always the case—some books get abandoned halfway through), I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Definitely a source of motivation. But the middle . . . that’s where things get tricky. You’ve got to do all the hard story stuff, moving things forward, maintaining the velocity of the story while also hitting all the important landmarks on the plot. If I lose steam on a book, it’s usually somewhere in the middle. Luckily, with The Last Human, I managed to make it to the end!
7. How do you continue a flow of creativity day by day?
Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t think about the entire novel. Just the passage you’re working on that day. Little by little. One foot in front of the other. If I’m in a good routine, waking up early and writing for 4-5 hours a day, I’ll make steady progress. Not all of what I write will be pure gold, but that’s what revisions are for!
8. Silly-Game question: from The Last Human novel could you please leaf through the pages and point at a random place. What is the full sentence? And what is the page number of this random sentence?
I don’t have the final versions of The Last Human yet. Only the advance reader copy. So the page number probably won’t match the final edition. But here goes!
“Most humans could withstand several minutes/hours in direct sunlight before their skin burned.” Page 95 of the advance reader copy.
9. Which fictional character (besides yours) would you like to sit down and chat with?
Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby. He seems like the kind of person you’d want to meet at a party. An eloquent speaker with a good story to tell. But also an excellent listener. And I bet he makes a good cocktail.
10. Congrats on the news that Mr. Phil Lord and Chris Miller are adapting your novel, what scene are you looking forward to seeing on the big screen?
Lord & Miller are my favorite comedy filmmakers. It’s such a thrill to be working with them. I can’t wait to see the ideas they bring to a film adaptation. All the ways that their zany, brilliant vision will shape the story. I’m really curious to see how they’ll depict the scene of the two main characters meeting for the first time, when XR_935 encounters Emma.
11. Also, congrats on having Mr. Henry Gayden, writer of DC super movie SHAZAM!, writing the script, have you ever consider writing screenplays someday or in the near future?
Absolutely! I’ve actually already dipped my toe into these waters. I’m working on an audio original story with Audible called Interview With The Robot. It’ll have voice actors portraying dialogue from different characters. I wrote the entire story as a script. It was great to have the chance to work in a format that’s both familiar (storytelling) and new (screenwriting). While I was writing the first draft, I thought of it like writing a full season of a TV show. Each chapter was another episode. And like TV, I wanted these individual chapters/episodes to feel like their own distinct stories, with a beginning, middle and end that would keep the listener engaged. But of course, each part also needed to serve the larger story.
I really enjoyed working on Interview With The Robot and hope I’ll have the chance to write other scripts in the future!
12. What is your favorite book as an adult? What is your favorite book as a kid?
My favorite book as an adult is The Great Gatsby. I re-read it every couple of years and always find something new to appreciate. Maybe that’s why I chose Nick Carraway as the fictional character I’d like to meet.
My favorite book as a kid was James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. It was funny and dark and weird. When I discovered it back in elementary school, it opened my eyes to what books could be. They could be anything!
13. You lived in Munich, Germany in the past, what meal would you consider everyone to try if he or she visits there?
Well, you’ve got to get some authentic German food! I’d recommend a sauerbraten with knödel (potato dumplings) and red cabbage. My wife is German, so I go back once or twice a year and always look forward to a big German meal while I’m there.
14. Could you give an interesting fun fact about your Joshua Dread book tour?
After the first Joshua Dread book came out, I did lots of school visits. Including at my old school, Oakwood Intermediate School in College Station, Texas. It was a surreal experience to walk back through that same front door, to walk down those same hallways—twenty years later. Everything was the same, and different. Including me.
15. What did you wish you knew when you started your writing career as you were hoping for publication?
If I could go back and give myself one piece of writing advice, it would be “Keep it simple!” This can be a challenge in those early days. Many ambitious young writers have a tendency to overwrite. I certainly did. I was eager to prove myself, to show off all the spectacular things I could do with words. Which meant long, flowing sentences, vivid metaphors, poetic turns of phrase. At the time, I thought readers would be blown away by my shimmering language. Now I realize how overwrought those early stories were. These days, I understand that a writer can do a lot with less.
16. What was the last story (fiction or non-fiction) you read?
I just finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It was my second time, and I think I enjoyed the book even more this time around! I hope she publishes another novel sometime soon. Although—I’m not holding my breath. A new Donna Tartt novel comes along every decade or so. But it’s always worth the wait!
17. Last question, if you discovered that you’re the last human on earth what is the first thing you would do?
Mr. Lee Bacon's The Last Human should be on your to-read pile. You should definitely check it out. It will also make a wonderful gift for any child that loves to read science fiction books.It's available on amazon. Thanks once again for visiting my blog and I hope each and everyone of you have a superb Saturday. Take care and happy reading.