Interview – Tobias F. Cabral – Mechanical Error

Book Name and Description:

MECHANICAL ERROR is a Post-Cyberpunk novella, set in the larger *.Punk world under on-going construction by Joseph and Marisha Cautilli, Johnny Andrews, Roma Gray, and others.

A serial killer is loose in the megalopolis of New Cyber City. People are dying as various parts of their bodies burst explosively into flame, for no apparent reason.

For Agent Charlotte McCain, of the global tactical and investigatory body known as Earth Corps, this should have been just another day at the office. Except that this one was hitting nerves she’d spent a lifetime numbing. This irritated her even more than partnering up with brilliant but troubled Agent Tom Murdoch.

Meanwhile, a rogue android with a dark history takes to the stage, delighting audiences, who never guess the terrifying Mission he pursues, in the shadows beyond the spotlight…

Interview Questions:

What gave you the idea forMECHANICAL ERROR?

Joe and Marisha Cautilli were working up a treatment for a story about a peculiarserial killer. Joe and I started riffing on the idea, and I tossed in some fun beats and character/setting ideas.

We bounced drafts back and forth, and Joe graciously offered me Lead Author for it. So I went off and running! The final work is still an amalgam of our collective ideas.

 What got you into writing in this genre?

“It’s a funny story, actually!”

Way back in the Dim Times of the early-mid ’90s, Joe and I worked on a Psych unit in a Philadelphia hospital. It was a twelve-hour shift, and unusually quiet (read: Boring as a beige planet!). We came upon the idea of starting a story together, and laid the groundwork for a Cyberpunk adventure. He came up with the working title, “The Source.”

It was a little strange for me, as the only fiction I’d written to date was a fanciful fable about mice in the NYC Subway system, and a rather…errm…humidVampyre Novelette (“A Virtual Eternity”).

However, my first and greatest love was hard, space-exploration SF (think Clarke, Niven, Bear, et. al.).

As you might expect, we never finished the fool thing. Then I finished my doctorate, moved back to NYC, and we fell out of touch, till 2016 (thanks, Facebook!). Turns out, he’d never finished “The Source,” but he hadbeen working with his daughter and several other writers on an impressive collection of tales set in the same world, and spanning decades!

Joe invited me to work with him on finishing “The Source,” and it’s currently awaiting publication for a charity anthology with another publisher.

How long have you been writing?

Including the novels I started (and of course never finished) in grade school and high school 😀 ?

The first piece of any consequence that I actually finished was my Hard SF novella, “Night Music.” It deals with curious circumstances surrounding a Mars mission. That was circa 2001 (yes, the irony is not lost on me!).

A “soft” SF (think Twilight Zone) short story (“A Night’s Work”) was finished in 2010. Both of these provided the occasion for me to accumulate an impressivenumber of rejection letters and emails…So I finally self-published them (thus insuring their virtual invisibility till the end of time!).

Tell us about your past books and stories?

(See above, re: “A Virtual Eternity,” “Night Music,” and “A Night’s Work”)

Finished “The Source” in late 2016. This was followed by “Mechanical Error,” as well as a significant number of stories and novellas and novelettes (Including “Blank Check,” a bonus novelette included with “Mechanical Error”), all set in this same dystopian alternate future.

Back in June, I went ahead and wrote a sequel novel for “Mechanical Error” (whose sales I reallyhope will justify pitching it to JEA.. 😉 ), “New Eyes.”

I also recently completed a (solo) short that’s currently under consideration for an anthology by Indie Authors Press (fingers crossed).

What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

The writing process generally amounts to sitting down in front of my computer, pouring a glass of a nice Irish, and waiting till something starts twitching off the ends of my fingers.

Typically, this takes place at indecently late hours.

Influences are legion. I’ve been into SF pretty much since I could understand Lost In Space on the black and white TV. Reading it since I could read at all.

I’m a clinical psychologist by trade, so there are manybits of the human condition that I can mix and match (so as neverto identify a client, natch!). I have also driven for Lyft from time to time, as it’s a splendid source of anecdotes.

What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why?

It would have to be a reallyBig Gun pointed at my head for me to commit to a “favorite book!” However, should I find such a Howitzer leveled at my keppy, I would have to say “Dune” the way Princess Leia said “Dantooine.” I do ADORE that series (I re-read it every few years, and I’ve filled a blank book with the scores of quotes that I bracketed in my tortured copies of those works).

Disappointing:  (So far) “Consider Phlebus” from the Culture series. Seems like a futuristic “Candide” so far. Still, Banks’ works are so widely well-regarded (Including by Citizen Elon), I am going to keep plugging through (Remember the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation?……”).

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I have learned to be less reluctant to subject my characters to realsuffering. Trouble is, I empathizewith them. I knowthem. I want to be a Merciful God to them, but this is not always in the service of the story.

I am stilllearning this!

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A thesaurus. An illuminated keyboard and semi-dark space. A good Irish whiskey (your mileage may vary on that). Some sort of implement for occupying attention creatively while ideas marinate in the background (for me, a guitar).

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
The previously-mentioned novella, “Night Music.” It’s the kind of stuff  I mostenjoy reading (cf. Clarke, Bear, Niven, Bova, Flynn). It’s the piece of which I’ve been mostproud (read: Astonishedthat it came out of me!).

Or at least that was the case till veryrecently. I do believe the sequel to “Mechanical Error,” the novel “New Eyes” might be my new Favorite Thing I’ve Written.

Sure do hope it sees the light of day!

For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
Again, have to say “Night Music.” I am Lovingthis new-ish foray into Cyberpunk. It’s unlocking all kindsof new levels.

But Night Music lies Dead-Center of my most comfortable, lived-in wheelhouse. It represents a Zone where I explore my love of spacefaring tech, my Wonder at the unexpected oddities that live in this ‘verse, my fascination with the possibilities of self-organizing non-linear complex systems, and a host of other idiosyncratic fascinations of mine.

What are you doing next?

Working with Joe on several simultaneous works, as co-author, ‘Script-Doctor,’ or Beta Reader (and yes, they alllive in the same world; lotsof stories to tell in that ‘verse!)

What advice would you give aspiring writers?



Tobias Cabral is a clinical psychologist and lifelong Speculative Fiction enthusiast. He has a private practice outside Philadelphia, PA, working predominantly with adolescents and young adults. In 2017, he had the wholly-unexpected opportunity to serve as an adjunct professor for Clinical Psychology graduate students of a nearby Psy.D. program. And he is in *grave* danger of becoming quite addicted to this new thing…

Doctor Cabral’s passions for SF and psychology have cross-fertilized most fruitfully: He has developed a sub-specialty in working with SF Fans (who are frequently and non-trivially helped by not having constantly to translate their thoughts and feelings into “Mundane-ese” with their therapist). He regularly speaks at “PhilCon,” the annual convention of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society. His Doctoral Dissertation (Nested Systems: Evolving Models of Embodied Psychotherapy) dealt with Chaos/Complexity/Dynamic Systems theory (to which he was first exposed in Crichton’s novel, Jurassic Park), as the basis for a proposed metatheory of psychological functioning and multi-level (fractal-structured) clinical interventions.

The author is an avid consumer of comparative mythology (who sees Grail stories *everywhere*), and an inveterate aerospace junkie (who will –*someday*– complete his hours for his Private Pilot license!). He is particularly obsessed with private/commercial spaceflight, and with the exploration/colonization of Mars. (He is, thus, an *unapologetic* Elon Musk Fanboy)

Dr. Cabral dabbles in songwriting, aided in this by YouTube, his Giannini acoustic-electric guitar (Evangeline), and assorted pennywhistles (because they’re Lovely, and totally portable). He is nonetheless mindful of the comedic figure he clearly strikes in comparison to his former concert pianist mother and Julliard M.A. sister. Intermittently driving for Lyft provides a rich source of narrative and empathic capital to re-invest in all of the above (plus, drunks are Funny).

Doctor Cabral lives in the verdant suburbs of Philadelphia with his (undeservedly-tolerant) wife, (intriguingly-eccentric) son, three dogs (Kaylee, Madame Maxine, and Fitz ), and Z’Ha’Dum-black cat (Daenerys Angelique). Ball python (Monty….of course), alas, shed his mortal coil in 2016.


Mechanical Error:

Tobias’ Author page: