Issue 046 Author Interview: Laura Duerr and “Unit Two Does Her Makeup”

Our brand new Issue 046 is here, dear readers, and with it comes a brand new batch of author interviews! Laura Duerr is here to start us off with her take on robots, fashion, and “Unit Two Does Her Makeup.”

LSQ: Unit Two has many human qualities, but her actions, and even her descriptions of her thought process, makes it clear that she’s not. What were the challenges of writing from the point of view of a not-quite-human robot?

Laura: The biggest challenge was to try to avoid the clichés of “robo speak” that we are all familiar with. I drew inspiration from two of my favorite androids/robots, Data from Star Trek and EDI from Mass Effect, as well as Breq in the Imperial Radch trilogy. I tried to envision Unit Two as a program first and a body second: how does a program view being embodied? Since she’s chosen to identify as female-gendered, how does she express that, and how does she deal with objectification? How would she reframe her communications when she’s in a body, talking to other bodies? What would a program value or find irrelevant about physical appearance?

LSQ: As someone who lives for bold makeup, I really appreciated this story’s statement that makeup should be first and foremost for the person wearing it. What sparked your inspiration for telling this story through the eyes of a robot?

Laura: I’m frequently guilty of overthinking fashion and makeup and any messages I may or may not be conveying, and if I’m honest, I’m still working on letting go of the fear of what people think of me and just wearing what makes me happy. I’m also aware of the privilege I have as a cis female in being able to wear or not wear pretty much whatever makeup I want without consequence. Unit Two, particularly in her conversation with Suzy, let me go back to the root questions of why we even wear cosmetics and how our social contexts determine “appropriate” cosmetics usage–in this case, specifically with regards to American ideals of femininity, gender performance, and fashion trends.

LSQ: Do you wear makeup? What’s your favorite kind of #look?

Laura: I love makeup–getting to write a story that featured both robots AND makeup was a fantastically fun experience. I own a frankly embarrassing number of lipsticks and take great pride in the time a teenager looking for something in Sephora asked me if I worked there. My friends and I even kept ourselves entertained during the pandemic with makeup: we assigned makeup products to dice numbers, rolled for each other, and shared the resulting look.

My favorite look changes regularly, but I love a classic red lip with a simple eyeliner flick, and currently I’m obsessed with “soft goth” looks: a dark lip with a slightly smoky eye. Oh, and I love pairing a black winged upper eyeliner with a brightly colored lower liner. And I’m a sucker for duochrome eyeshadows.

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

Laura: I’m working on a YA contemporary sci-fi trilogy that’s part family drama, part globe-hopping archaeology adventure, part Ancient Aliens. The protagonist is a lonely, brainy teenage girl whose style begins and ends with hoodies–very different from Unit Two–and I love the adventure she goes on as she tries to solve the mysteries of alien involvement throughout human history while also trying to piece together her messy, unconventional family.