Issue 045 Author Interview: Kristin Hooker and “Inspector 36”

Ready for more Issue 045 author interviews? We’re just getting started! Today we’re joined by Kristin Hooker as she answers all of our questions about her story “Inspector 36“.

LSQ: The automation of the workforce has been a hot topic for some time. In your story, it seems that workers are still given somewhat of a choice of being replaced by robots. How do you think people like Chantelle would be affected if the replacement wasn’t optional?

Kristin: I’ve created a World that I’ve written many stories in. In this World, corporations in the US have been limited as to how many employees can be replaced with a bot. In order to get around this law, they offer employees bot rentals. Basically, the job is yours, but you can stay home and have a bot do your job. The rental fee comes out of your paycheck. When I asked myself what the repercussions of this system would be, I immediately thought that the hiring process would involve discriminating against those who want to come to work in person. Employees who chose to come to work in person might be harassed by management. In the end, they wouldn’t really have a choice.

LSQ: Your use of a panopticon management added a nice level of tenseness to the story. When Kelly pointed out Chantelle’s mistake, I felt her dread! How did you go about creating such a casual yet tense moment?

Kristin: Chantelle’s workplace is a sanctuary. She’s virtually alone doing work that she finds satisfaction in away from her kids. She listens to audiobooks, inspects garments, and takes home a paycheck. Her sense of sanctuary is taken away little by little throughout the conversation with the person on the other side of the bot. At first, it’s just some “fellow employee,” Kelly, interrupting her audiobook. She becomes more annoyed as Kelly continues to chat with her. Kelly, the corporate spy, blows her cover by asking Chantelle about her kids. Now Chantelle knows she’s being watched by management. Sanctuary gone. Despite the prevalence of cameras, she’s never felt like management was scrutinizing her before. What more could they ask for? She works hard. And this spy, Kelly, is suggesting that perhaps instead of working she’d rather sit on a couch and watch TV all day. It’s insulting. The final blow is when Kelly points out that she made a mistake. Now Chantelle fears her job is in danger. Perhaps the only way to keep her job at all will be to rent a bot and have the rental fee deducted from her paycheck- a blow to her independence and a financial blow to her family. A lot is on the line.

LSQ: What was your favorite part about writing this story and why? The most difficult?

Kristin: I wrote further about the characters, Kelly and Steve, in my book, Idiots and Robots. In the chapter “The Bot Ratio”, you witness the board room moment where Kelly, Steve, and others create the laws that now govern lives like Chantelle’s. I wrote “Inspector 36” after I wrote “The Bot Ratio” because I was intrigued by seeing the law in action. How would it affect the everyday people that the corporate heads and wealthy politicians know absolutely nothing about. Their ignorance and lack of empathy are laid bare.

LSQ: Are there any other projects you’re currently working on? If so, could you tell us a bit about them?

Kristin: Like I said, I have a book out called Idiots and Robots. It’s available online through independent booksellers as well as Amazon. It has some darker stories like “Inspector 36”, but mostly humorous stories that all take place in the same World with zombies, cults, demons, robots, and a Christian teen. While that book is aimed at adults, I’m currently writing a kids’ series called Tales from Slacksville. It has a Sideways Stories from Wayside School vibe and should come out this spring. Being at home during the pandemic with a young child and no childcare means I only have short amounts of time to write. I’m not able to write something that requires a lot of planning, so I started writing these short stories to make my son laugh. I’m enjoying channeling my silliness in this way.

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