Why I wrote Twisted Metal…

The Edinburgh SF Book Club recently met to discuss Twisted Metal.  They asked me to provide them with a little bit of background to the book.  Here it is…


The main inspiration behind Twisted Metal is here on my blog:

…but that’s not the full story.

The working title of TWISTED METAL was THE BOOK OF ROBOTS. That was never going to be a commercial title, but I liked the way it literally described not only the novel itself but also the rather biblical “Book of Robots” within the text; and that it also sounded like the sort of big SF picture book I used to read when I was a child.  One of the reasons for the manga like illustrations within the novel was to make the book look like an old illuminated manuscript.  The joke on the robots is that they don’t believe in their creator when they clearly have one.  The reader can form their own conclusions about our world.

TWISTED METAL was partly inspired by the nature and form of old ballads:  the idea of old stories that subtly change in the telling over the years.   I have since written a quartet of stories: STORIES FROM THE NORTHERN ROAD based on old English ballads but set on Penrose.  These may eventually see the light of day if Macmillan ever get round to giving me the go ahead to publish them.

The names in TWISTED METAL weren’t chosen by accident.

Karel should need no introduction to SF robot fans, his wife Susan dropped her maiden name of Calvin.  Turing City and Penrose offer differing thoughts on the nature of machine intelligence, and the countries of Segre, Bethe, Wein et al are all connected.  Even Artemis featured in my previous Recursion trilogy under another name.  Whilst reading the book, you may want to spot the connections, SF and otherwise, between the names.   The only original name, by the way, was made up by my daughter who, when she heard I was writing a book about robots said “You should have one called Banjo Macrodocious, then.”  I realised that she was right, and he was so included.  She also came up with Wa-Ka-Mo-Do from BLOOD AND IRON.

There comes a moment in the development of every story when I have the realisation that finally allows the transition from my mind to the page.  For TWISTED METAL, this eureka moment came when I figured out the mechanism by which robots reproduce:  with the women twisting the shape of a child’s mind and the men looking on and having to trust what they were doing.  This led to the book’s original opening line:  Two robots were making love in the middle of an electrical storm.  The preceding paragraphs were added later to make the opening more commercial.

TWISTED METAL and BLOOD AND IRON were originally going to be one book, but the characters developed a life of their own and the first book expanded.  Kavan, in particular, was only going to be a minor character, but such is the nature of his belief he quickly invaded more pages than he should have.  That’s why Karel and Kavan have such similar names, by the way.  If I were to write the book again Kavan would be called Arban and would play the cornet beautifully.

There is a third, as yet untitled, book that completes the trilogy.  Personal circumstances have meant that it is as yet uncompleted, but in time I hope that both Karel and Kavan will finally make it to the top of the world.


19 Responses to Why I wrote Twisted Metal…

  1. Thank you for the update about there WILL be a trilogy. I was getting very very worried. The Penrose series became my favourite books so fast it was almost scary. And been itching for the 3rd one :D.

  2. PS: your link seems to be directed to a admin page which of course we do not have access too.

  3. Ove Jansson says:

    Hi Tony,
    I am so happy to hear there is a third book in the works. I loved both books, really imaginative and enjoyable.

    Keep up the good work!


  4. Rhys says:

    Hey Tony! Love your book, Twisted Metal- Blood and Iron is on its way to me so I can continue the adventure! 🙂 Just wondering if there has been any progress with the third novel? Hope you and yours are well!

  5. Wiktor says:

    Hello Tony, I’ve loved all your books and i greatly anticipate the next ones. You Sir made masterpieces!

  6. matthew says:

    hi tony i have to admit that i came across twisted metal by accident at the airport i like the look of the cover anyway i started reading it when i landed and couldnt put it down fantastic book i ordered blood and iron before i even finished and am also loving it anyway thanks for fantastic writing

  7. Glenn R Bell says:

    As an avid SciFi reader I was hooked from the first page of Twisted Metal. What I admired most was the absence of flesh and blood humans from the early storyline, while at the same time making your characters, in every sense, more alive than most of us. My hope is the third book stays grounded in the metal world and doesn’t get bogged down in an us against them conflict. The fantastic world you’ve created will be changed through its awakening and is destined to be a classic for today and tomorrow.

    OK I know you get tired of addressing this question, but here goes. Any progress or relese date on the next book?

    • Thank you! It’s nice that you appreciated what I was trying to achieve. The third book progresses slowly – I don’t want it to get bogged down either. I hope you enjoy it when it finally sees the light of day.

  8. Joseph Piatt says:

    Not five minutes ago I finished Blood and Iron, and found myself in the rare position of actually being eager for more.
    It’s taken only a couple of weeks to work my way through all of your novels, all a result of accidentally grabbing Recursion while chatting with someone in a Wal Mart. A lucky accident that resulted in my time being devoured.
    I don’t suppose you could tease us with an update on its status? Or maybe simply a biology lesson? I can’t stop trying to imagine how robotic whales procreate.

    • Glad you enjoyed the books! There will be news of Penrose 2.5 soon, I hope, I’m just in conversation about the final dates etc.

      Ah! Thinking about robotic whales procreating! If there’s a better way to pass the time, I don’t know it 🙂


  9. Gregorius Maximus Augustus says:

    I finished Blood and Iron 2 days ago. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes after putting it down, I had a strange thought: are Wa-Ka-Mo-Do and Melt the same character in different time periods?

    • They are! Not many people spotted that. Good to know that someone got it!
      btw, my blog has moved. It’s now at http://www.tonyballantyne.com

      Hope to see you over there.

      • Everyone I know has asked that question. I guess not as many people have wanted to spoil it for people who have not worked it out yet.

      • Gregorius Maximus Augustus says:

        What’s odd is that I only noticed it when I asked myself “Wait, what the hell are whaling robots doing in Artemis City?” That got me thinking about how Wa-Ka-Mo-Do stepped into a whale at the end and used it for transportation, which reminded me “hey, didn’t Melt get coughed up by a whale at some point?” And I STILL have no idea how the whaling robots got to Artemis City :\

        That would be a great thing to include in future books, actually – how we often find things by accident when we’re searching for something else, or learn things by accident when we’re trying to learn something else.

        I’ll see you at the other site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: