This is the next short story in the Event Horizon 2017 collection of short stories highlighting authors who are eligible for the 2017 Campbell award for best new writer.
Published: November 2016 in Analog (you can read it for free at the link provided)
Genre: apocalyptic science fiction
Length: 14 pages
Setting: a remote island miles off the coast of Hawaii, present day into the future
Summary: Our narrator, Karl 3478, is an AI submersible that is designed to observe and collect marine life. He also is in love with Adeline, the professor that runs his research program, and parses her emails to him to the utmost, looking for her love in return. He also researches her every whim, including octopuses near his island. After several years of research, he loses contact with Adeline and only realizes there was a global catastrophe after heading back to Hawaii. He decides to change his programming slightly and help the octopuses thrive in the sea, now that humanity is gone.
Final thoughts: I was impressed with this story in several ways. First off, I was impressed with the amount of biological knowledge included in the story. I have a background in marine biology, and all the species and descriptions woven into the story checked out in my head. Also, the story kept morphing into something else. It started out as an AI/human love story (and Karl’s reading innuendo into Adeline’s emails was highly amusing). Then, it became an apocalyptic story as Karl couldn’t contact anyone and found various radioactive sites in the ocean. Then, at the very end, we see a choice to uplift the octopus species he’d been observing, and taking a more active role in the ocean. Each of these changes were organic and logical, and added depth to the story.
Title comes from: Since Karl was an AI (based on the personality of one of Adeline’s grad students), it was a rationale he used for himself in making decisions.