Tag Archives: near future

Reclamation by Ryan Row

This is the first 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: August, 2016 in Clarkesworld Magazine

Genre: science fiction

Setting: the asteroid belt, near future Continue reading

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Short Stories by M. Darusha Wehm

This is the next story included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

The Care and Feeding of Mammalian Bipeds, V. 2.1

Published: November, 2012 in EscapePod (you can either read or listen to the story at that link)

Genre: science fiction

Setting: someone’s home, near future

Summary: The story is told from the viewpoint of a robot that is just entering service into a family’s home. The family thinks it’s getting a house-bot, but the robot sees itself as caring for a herd of humans. It remarks on events happening within the home and thinks all is well with its herd.

Final thoughts: I remember hearing this story when it came out in EscapePod (it’s one of the short story podcasts I listen to regularly) and it enjoyed just as much now as then. It’s fun to try to figure out what the robot is referring to (the evening “chanting sessions” between the husband and wife, for example). The outsider view says everything is well with the family. The human view, which is able to interpret the situations correctly, realizes the parents are working toward a divorce and the kids are suffering as the parents constantly fight.

Title comes from: The robot is continually referring to a manual to interpret the actions of its human herd. The manual is called The Care and Feeding of Mammalian Bipeds, V. 2.1

Modern Love

Published: May 2012 in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (you can find an audio or print version of it here)

Genre: science fiction

Setting: a college town, near future

Summary: Marian is obsessed with Graeme, a barista at the coffee shop. She’s following him home after work, and watching him go to class. It’s totally creepy, until we flip to his point of view and find out he spiked one of her lattes with a custom pheromone and now she’s obsessed with him.

Final thoughts: As the story started, I thought it was just a gender-swapped version of a stalker story. Interesting to see it with the woman creeping on the guy, but not all that interesting. That thought changed when the perspective of the story changed to Graeme’s voice. He created the situation by surreptitiously drugging Marian and is happy to be the focus of an obsession. Now he’s the total creep and she’s the one being used. A totally unexpected twist that will keep me thinking about the story for a while.

Title comes from: Marian is totally in love with Graeme, but only because he got a custom pheromone created to cause the obsession.

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The Tell by David Brin

This is the next story in the Future Visions anthology. I’ve read several books by David Brin, most recently rereading the Uplift saga.

Published: 2016

Genre: science fiction

Setting: near future, mostly in Vegas Continue reading

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A Cop’s Eye by Blue Delliquanti & Michele Rosenthal

This is the next story in the Future Visions anthology, by someone I’ve never even heard of. Turns out the two authors are known for their comics and illustrations, which explains my lack of knowledge.

Published: 2015

Genre: science fiction

Setting: Minneapolis in the winter, near future Continue reading

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Machine Learning by Nancy Kress

I read the next story in the Future Visions anthology. I’ve read other short fiction by Kress – Beggars in Spain.

Published: 2015

Genre: science fiction

Setting: a tech company’s campus, it felt like California, near future

Summary: Ethan works for MultiFuture Research in machine learning, trying to get Maip (the Multifuture Research Artificial Intelligence Program) to be able to read emotions in people and to help them learn better. Another branch of the company seems to have found a cure for a fatal childhood disease that killed Ethan’s daughter a few years ago. Ethan has been trying to cope by organizing every aspect of his life and emotions, but he can only seem to copy by viewing a hologram of his daughter. He breaks down, and Maip helps him get through his emotions, displaying machine learning in the process. Unfortunately, Ethan’s response is to rebuild his algorithms to run his life even better than before.

Final thoughts: We have a bit of a contrast here between Ethan and Maip – Ethan seems to want to become more machine-like and unemotional, while he and his partner are programming Maip to become more emotional. Even when Maip helps him deal with some of his emotions, Ethan’s response is to recode his personal algorithms. We see technology helping to deal with problems (like theĀ  new disease killing kids, or trying to help people learn more effectively), but it can also aggravate problems (like when Ethan just keeps playing his daughter saying “Hello, Daddy” over and over again). Kress just reminds us that technology isn’t intrinsically good or bad; it’s all in how you use it.

Title comes from: Ethan worked in the machine learning division, trying to get a program to learn how to read human emotions, especially when they’re lying about them.

 

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Skin in the Game by Elizabeth Bear

I read the next story in the Future Visions anthology. Even though I’m a bit late getting the review up (gymnastics meet coupled with a final exam to give meant a bit of craziness), I still wanted to read the next story and review it. This one was by Elizabeth Bear. She’s another multi-award winning author, but this time I’ve actually had the pleasure of reading one of her books – New Amsterdam.

Published: 2015

Genre: science fiction

Setting: a generic future concert hall

Summary: Our narrator is a singer/performer out on tour. She’s starting to lose market share because she’s no longer on the edge of the trends and she’s too stable to generate gossip. Her publicist convinces her to try the Starfish app that can record and transmit emotions, to give her a bump in popularity. The first concert she wears it on, she finishes up and finds her manager dead in her dressing room, with the Starfish recording her response. She’s pretty certain the publicist did it to generate buzz, so she pirates her response so he can’t sell it.

Final thoughts: This one seemed pretty realistic. Yes, we can’t record and transmit emotions, but if we could, this would happen. The publicist is all about the buzz for his clients, and what better way to generate buzz than to record her response to a murder! She was a bit too smart for him, though, and made she he couldn’t capitalize on the situation.

Title comes from: It comes from the phrase having skin in the game, where the publicist tried to ensure his client would succeed using nefarious means.

 

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The Machine Starts by Greg Bear

Welcome back! I hope all my American friends had a lovely Thanksgiving. My family went up to my parents’ house and I got to see my sister and brother and the kids got to play with cousins. The weather was a bit cold and rainy, but the kids still went out to play football. Fun was had all around! And now, back to book reviews. Or, since it’s Monday, a short story review. I’m back to reviewing a story from Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft, this one by Greg Bear. He’s written quite a few science fiction books, and won lots of awards, but I haven’t had the pleasure of reading anything by him yet.

Published: 2015

Genre: science fiction

Setting: near future American city

Summary: The narrator works for a company trying to develop the first working quantum computer. They’ve had two failed attempts, but are hopeful the latest, bigger version will function correctly. The chief of the project decides to try something different and consider what they thought to be errors to instead by off-phase echoes between the braided qubits. Incorporating them into the programming makes the quantum computer work, but it also brings about an unintended consequence. Copies of the people on the project keep showing up from alternate dimensions in the multiverse, and those two copies disappear if they see each other. The story finishes with our narrator driving away, looking for a place no other copy of his will also look to be in.

Final thoughts: I wasn’t as impressed with this story. For one thing, the technical jargon got pretty thick when the project managers talked about the quantum computer. Quantum mechanics definitely makes my head hurt. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t compelling enough for me to forgive the jargon. I didn’t really understand what the narrator’s role in the company was. He mentioned several times that he wasn’t as smart as everyone else (in fact, that’s how the story started, which kind of put me off from the narrator from the start), and seemed to be around just to keep people happy. Then we have the problem of multiple copies of yourself appearing in the world and no one does anything about it. Everyone just goes on as if life were fine. How do you even know which copy is the original? And what happens if the original and a copy see each other? Do they both disappear, or does the world’s original get to stay? The narrator seemed to think both disappear. He at least tried to react to the copies, but only by running away. It probably didn’t help I’m reading a novel about computer programming at the same time, so I’m computered out at the moment.

Title comes from: They started up the quantum computer and finally got it to work in this story.

 

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