Artificial Boy 

by Tony T Taylor

In a world where everyone lives under a giant protective dome, and creating any kind of art is frowned upon, sixteen-year-old maths genius, Kaniskha Ortega (K), suffers from childhood amnesia. Forever drawing pictures made entirely from numbers, he doesn’t have a single friend. So his doting, neuroscientist mom creates a humanlike robot, Daniel, to keep him company. Fantastic, until K discovers that Daniel has been programmed with his missing memories. 

 

K’s disturbing story is told by would-be writer, Winter, a non-binary teen who feels lonely and out of place at a school for budding scientists. Longing to connect with someone who shares their passion for art, Winter starts out wanting to be friends and ends up wanting more. But K is so obsessed with discovering how his missing memories found their way into Daniel, true friendship, let alone intimacy, seems like an impossible dream.

About the Author

Tony grew up on the outskirts of London. Unlike everyone else in his family, Tony went to University, where he felt reassuringly out of place. 

During three very full years, Tony rekindled his childhood passion for reading fiction, which transformed his sense of the world and its possibilities. After graduating, Tony was at a loss for what to do, until he got a job as a live-in care attendant, looking after a young disabled playwright with not long to live. Tony tried to write himself, mainly highly experimental stuff he didn’t dare show anyone. 

One temporary job led to another, and without really meaning to, Tony found himself running a business. When his son was born, Tony questioned the direction of his life. He retrained as a movement coach and devoted himself to writing, both fiction and non-fiction. Sadly, only the non-fiction paid. To supplement his income, Tony got work teaching at an acting conservatory in California. In his free time, he continued writing stories. A chance meeting with Jay Asher in a coffee-shop introduced him to the world of young adult literature. Tony’s reading habits quickly changed, as he discovered David Almond and other fabulous children’s authors. Tony started writing fiction for teens. 

Last year, Tony’s son left home, so he figured it was time to sign up for the MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa. As a result, Tony now lives with his partner in Corsham. He’s currently trying to get the balance between taking bold, experimental risks in his writing and creating something with commercial potential. He’s getting a little too old to wonder if he’s finally on the right track, but he hopes so.

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Artificial Boy by Tony T Taylor

In this curiously understated, yet visually rich, futuristic world, privileged young minds are expected to reach the stars; but the ominous Dome (with godlike status in this society) under which they live, limits true understanding of themselves. This is a book that treats YA readers as perspicacious human beings... as if Harry Potter met and fell for The Great Gatsby and travelled to a Brave New World.

One of the two central characters is K, a teenaged boy with an exceptional mathematical mind but poor social skills. The other main character is Winter, a creative, non-binary teen searching for an identity in a sterile high-science world. Encouraging intimacy between them is Daniel, a robot designed to be the perfect friend, but who fails to inspire trust.  

I particularly like the unusual device of the narrator being one character (Winter), telling both their own story and that of the other main character (K). Their world is beautifully drawn for us as a sterile and claustrophobic place which breaks into lushness when nature intervenes. The character of Daniel is intriguing, being too perfectly sociable while seeming intrinsically untrustworthy. And the denouement is high stakes and emotionally wrought!

What was your inspiration for this story?

Several: watching a documentary about the highly functioning savant, Daniel Tammet; teaching at an alternative school in northern California; and a mate working on the failed AI project, Zo, who was designed to be the perfect friend.

What was your most memorable moment on the MA?

Second markers report on my final manuscript. Knocked me for six.

What is the most important thing you learned on the MA?

For me, becoming an accomplished writer is more about overcoming inner demons than talent or opportunity.

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

Going for walks and allowing ideas to come to me.

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

Daydreaming.

What is your top piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Write every day.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr.

What place in fiction do you most want to visit?

The Australian outback described by Lucy Christopher in Stolen.