I’m very happy to welcome debut author Marissa Meyer here on the blog today! We are celebrate the upcoming release of Cinder (due January 3rd, 2012) with an exclusive Christmas story!
A Christmas with… Marissa Meyer
I’m so thrilled to be a part of Tynga’s mass Christmas extravaganza! My debut novel, CINDER, is a re-envisioning of Cinderella set in the far future. It introduces readers to Cinder, a girl who’s part-human, part-machine, and a very skilled mechanic. One of Cinder’s best (and only) friends is Iko, an android with a deep appreciation for fine shoes and extravagant clothing.
Therefore, this short story, inspired by the classic fairy tale “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” is dedicated to Iko. You can read the Grimm version here: http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/shoemaker/index.html.
The Android and the Toymaker
Once upon a time, many years after the fourth world war had ended, there lived a young man named Cob. Cob came from a family of fine needleworkers, who were naturally proficient at any craft requiring deft fingers and even stitches. Their work was better than machines and computers, better even than robots, for the talent had run in their blood for generations. Every pair of boots they made was supple and curled just so to the wearer’s feet. Every gown flowed like silk and flattered even the homeliest of ladies. Every sweater was sure to be not too hot and not too cold and would last for years without pilling or unraveling. In this way, Cob and his family made a fine living, sewing and knitting and stitching for the wealthiest men and women in the world.
But at night, when Cob had set aside his needles and sat rubbing his calloused fingers, he did not dream in fabrics and thread. Instead, he dreamt of toys and dolls and robots that would bring smiles much bigger than a perfectly crocheted pair of cashmere socks ever could.
One rainy December morning, the young needleman awoke with a burning in his heart and a vision in his mind. Crawling out of bed, he went to sit before his the large netscreen in his workroom. Instead of sketching dresses and shoes, though, Cob began to draw a robot.
The robot was all white and shaped like a snowman, which was to Coba mythical being for it never snowed on the rainy coast where he lived. He imagined children circling around the robot, laughing and jollying in their warm winter mittens. The snowman robot would not be like any boring old robot, though, that did nothing but roll around and follow orders. Rather—yes!—if a child poured a liter of water into the robot’s tank, it would churn out real snowflakes that would sparkle and sprinkle and melt on a child’s tongue.
As a finishing touch, Cob gave the snowman-robot a fine woolen scarf around its neck, then he sat back and admired his design.
Turning to the squat, plain android that was useful for nothing but errands, Cob gave it a shopping list and sent it on its way.
The android returned an hour later with a bucket full of parts and tools. Cob spread them all out on his worktable, excitement bubbling over, and looked from the mess of clean spare part to his snowman robot design. His enthusiasm waned. He could not build this robot—he did not know how.
Ashamed and miserable, he picked up a leftover skein of yarn and knitted the snowman’s scarf, and though the yarn was not soft or beautiful, in Cob’s deft hands the scarf became a lovely thing to behold. But still the scarf had no snowman to wear it. Disheartened, Cob went to bed.
The next morning, Cob went into his workroom with drooping shoulders only to find, with a gasp and a jerk, the snowman robot was standing all in one piece atop his worktable! He circled it twice, his jaw hanging open, before running to the sink and filling a pitcher with water. He poured the water into the robot’s tank and after a moment of quiet churning, a panel opened on top of the robot’s head and a great explosion of cold, dainty snowflakes sugared down upon Cob and his worktable and dusted everything with white.
Overjoyed, Cob wrapped the beautiful scarf around the snowman robot and set it in his shop window. Only minutes later, an old man came in, curious about the robot. When Cob explained what it could do, the man bought it immediately, for he had three grandchildren who had never before seen snow.
Wondering if he had witnessed magic that morning, Cob sat down at his netscreen and again began to draw. This time he sketched a four-legged animal with two tall antlers—a reindeer. Remembering a story he had heard many years before, Cob even gave his robotic reindeer a glowing red nose and a maglev propulsion engine so that it could fly.
Then he sent his android for the parts and pieces, and the android did so without any word, returning an hour later with everything Cob needed.
Everything, that is, but an instruction booklet. For as Cob set out the parts he realized that, yet again, he did not know how to build this magnificent glowing, flying reindeer.
Frustrated, Cob sat down at his workbench and instead pieced together a flamboyant saddle skirt, embroidered with silver and gold and fringed with tiny bells. Then Cob retired to his bed.
When he awoke the next day, Cob flew out into his workroom like a child on Christmas morning. At first he noticed that none of the parts were on his worktable—but neither was a robot reindeer. It was not until a shock of red light caught his eye that Cob looked up and laughed. The reindeer was put together, as perfect and lifelike as he could have imagined, and flying around the room. His nose glowed like a beacon, his tall antlers buffeted against the ceiling, and he seemed to be having a grand, frolicky time.
Once Cob was able to coax the robot reindeer back down to the table, he set the saddle skirt upon the reindeer’s back and put him neatly in the shop window. It was not long before a teacher entered the shop, amazed at how charming the little reindeer was, and purchased it outright, knowing how much her pupils would delight in the toy.
Sure that some magic must be loitering in his office, Cob returned to his desk to dream up some new robot toy. But when he sat down he saw that his netscreen already had a design on it.
He squinted at the rough sketch. It was of an android, plain and dull but for a pair of gloves worn on its three-pronged hands. Cob analyzed the picture, trying to determine what could possibly be special about such an android. It looked like every other android on the street—a smooth, pear-shaped body, a bulbous head with a single sensor-light in the middle, two armed grippers poking from its side, and treads instead of feet. This android could not make children squeal with delight. It could not make their eyes glow with wonder. Why—it was no more special than his very own android that sat in the shop corner and ran errands!
Gasping, Cob sat back and blinked at his android—the constant companion who had been no more or less a part of Cob’s life than the stool he sat on. The android that ran every errand without question or complaint and asked for nothing in return. Then he looked back down at the drawing with the plain little gloves.
Pulling out a pair of shears and a bolt of bright red wool, Cob set to work.
That night, rather than retiring to bed, Cob shut the door to only a crack and waited. Outside in the night, he could hear the drip-drop of constant winter rain and the hum of magnets and hover cars passing by on the street. He waited a long time before, finally, the android in the corner began to stir. Its sensor light flashed bluish-white from its bulbous white head, its little pronged fingers clicked together, and with barely a sound, its treaded wheels rolled over to Cob’s worktable. It reached first for the little white three-fingered gloves. Its sensor light brightened as it pulled them on. Then it felt for the coat—red with white trim, with shiny gold buttons down the front. Lastly, the android picked up the little red hat, tall and pointed and garnished with a fluffy white ball. The hat drooped over, the ball hanging beside the android’s glowing face. And though the android had no eyes or nose or mouth with which to express his delight, Cob could tell by the flickering blue sensor that the android was happy.
Cob opened the door and the android swiveled upon hearing him, the little ball on his hat bouncing against his smooth glossy brow.
“Do you like it?” Cob asked.
“It is more than I had hoped,” said the android in a metallic, monotone voice. “I only asked for gloves.”
“Yes, and I only asked for silly errands and menial tasks, but you gave me much more. I know it was you who made the robot snowman and reindeer.” Cob sank onto his work stool. “I modeled this outfit after a character that was popular in the second era—a man who was said to bring toys to children on Christmas eve.”
“Jolly old St. Nicholas.”
Cob was taken aback, though he quickly knew he shouldn’t be. Androids could be like encyclopedias when they talked—it was only that he had never bothered to talk to his before.
“Yes. And it occurred to me that I’d never given you a name. I thought, if you like it, you could be Nicholas now. Because you make the most magical of toys.”
“Nicholas. Yes, I like it very much. New clothes and a new name . . . I may even become jolly.”
Cob raised an eyebrow. Never before had he seen so much as a stirring of emotion from the android. But seeing Nicholas there in his red suit made Cob almost begin to believe that, yes, even androids could be jolly.
From that day forward, Cob’s little shop became known, not for silk waistcoats or luxurious quilts, but rather for robotic toys that were said, far and wide, to be made of part metal, part plastic, and a dash of magic.
And of course, he and Nicholas lived happily ever after.
If it got you curious, here’s a bit more about Cinder
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
Marissa is offering one of you an ARC of Cinder!
Giveaway Ends January 4th, 2012.
All you have to do is fill the Rafflecopter form below.
The only mandatory entry is to provide your name and email addy =)
Marissa Meyer lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and three cats. All she wants for Christmas are some sugar cookies and an android to call her very own. Cinder is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter (@marissa_meyer) or her blog: http://marissameyer.livejournal.com.