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Talking with Author Martha Wells

All Systems RedMartha Wells is the author of the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Award-winning sci-fi series The Murderbot Diaries, which consists of five novellas and two novels (so far). It’s become an incredibly popular series—but newer fans who have discovered Wells that way might not realize that she’s been writing science fiction and fantasy works, including the Books of the Raksura, the Fall of Ile-Rien, and many more, for more than 30 years. “That’s really been interesting, because there are people who don’t know that I did anything else," Wells says. “When WITCH KING [her 2023 fantasy novel] was being announced and getting ready to come out, people were sitting there going, well, can she write a fantasy? It was kind of the same way with NETWORK EFFECT, since it was the first Murderbot novel. People were asking, well, can she write a whole novel? And it was like, this is my 20th or 23rd novel, I can’t remember how many it had been.” Wells laughs. “And then there’ve been people who are all: ‘I’m happy to read; I’m going to go look at all the other stuff.’ Those are the best people.”

Though Wells is a regular fixture at conventions—recently she’s been a guest of honor at Eurocon, Wiscon, and San Diego Comic Con, and she will be a guest of honor at the 2025 Worldcon—2023 marked her first in-person book tours for WITCH KING and then SYSTEM COLLAPSE. “It was exciting to do it, and I really enjoyed the event in Decatur especially; there were a ton of people there, and that was kind of the first indication that, well, this is going to be pretty big.” By the time she got to Seattle, she says, there were between 400 and 500 people at the event. 

System CollapseThe star of The Murderbot Diaries is, of course, the rogue security unit Murderbot—a construct of organic and machine parts. When it’s not busy protecting hapless humans, it prefers to spend its time rewatching favorite dramas for comfort and distraction. Relatable!

This relatability is part of what has made The Murderbot Diaries so beloved. Golden Voice Kevin R. Free, who has narrated all of the unabridged audiobooks in the series, says that fans regularly reach out to him to tell him that they’ve listened over and over again. “When people say, ‘It’s comforting to me when I listen to this,’ I just feel so happy that I’m bringing people comfort.” Free stresses that he’s also a fan of the books, and he’s quick to give full credit to Wells. “I’m only inspired by Martha. I’m only interpreting what Martha wrote. I never, ever, ever want to step on her toes in any way because I could not do what I do without her point of view and her mind and her words.”

For her part, Wells knew that Free was the right narrator from the start. “The casting director emailed me, and usually they email with two or three narrators and see who you like best, and he just emailed with Kevin. And I went and listened to him and said, ‘Yeah, he’s perfect.’” 

Witch KingThe choice wasn’t quite so straightforward for WITCH KING, narrated by relative newcomer Eric Mok. “The casting director sent, I think it was 12 possibilities, so going through those and trying to narrow them down was so difficult. But I’m glad we ended up with Eric because I thought he did a fantastic job. It’s also really nice to pick someone and then realize that they’re fairly new in the process, so it’s kind of cool to look back later and see what they go on to do.” Wells is now working on a sequel to WITCH KING. “It’s called QUEEN DEMON, and it’s going to be out next year sometime—if I’m able to finish it on time.”

Also on the horizon for Wells: An Apple TV+ adaptation of The Murderbot Diaries is currently in development, starring Alexander Skarsgård. Wells is a consulting producer. And for fans who want even more Murderbot on audio, GraphicAudio is now producing full-cast adaptations of the series. 

Artificial ConditionIn addition to her long tenure as a science fiction and fantasy writer, Wells is also a reader and a fan. She’s very supportive of fellow authors on social media, and it’s clear that she has high hopes for the future of the fantasy genre. “So much of the new fantasy fiction by Asian authors and African authors is very exciting to people because it’s just a different way of telling fantasy, and telling those stories, and it just makes it all new and fresh and interesting again, especially to readers who have been reading the same old kind of Western fantasy based in the pseudo-Middle Ages. It was very hard to find anything else, and now it feels like it’s very easy to find. It’s energizing for the genre—the more people involved, the more voices doing their own thing, the better it is for everybody.”


Photo: Martha Wells reading to search and rescue robots at the TEES (Texas A&M University Engineering Experiment Station) Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR). 

Jennifer Dowell is AudioFile’s Managing Editor.

AudioFile Magazine is your #1 source for audiobook reviews.

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