Tag Archives: robots

Robots vs. Fairies, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe

One of the stories in this collection was nominated for a Locus Award. I got the collection to read that story and ended up reading all of them. The collection itself was also nominated for a Locus Award.

Published: 2018

Genre: science fiction and fantasy short story collection

Length: 362 pages of stories, 373 pages total

Setting: various locations, mostly on Earth

Summary: Short version: Stories by various authors featuring either robots or fairies, and sometimes both Continue reading

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Nuking the Noomies by Bill Patterson

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: October 2016 in Chronicle Worlds: Paradisi (Future Chronicles Book 14)

Genre: science fiction

Setting: Paradisi system, late 2000s

SummaryShort version: Unsupervised robots do bad things Continue reading

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The Peralta Protocol by Daniel Arthur Smith

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: March 2016 in The Doomsday Chronicles

Genre: apocalyptic science fiction

Setting: a generic city, near future

Summary: The Earth has become so contaminated with nanoparticles that human reproduction has ceased. Scientists have come up with a stronger, synthetic womb and the first child carried to term in ten years is about to be born. Just before the birthing process begins, the hospital is attacked and the baby is stolen. The parents go with the military officer in charge of recovering the baby before it’s oxygen run out. They think she’s been taken by a religious group who thinks she is the returning Messiah. Turns out that she was taken by Syns, synthetic humanoids created to replace the aging human workforce. The Syns hacked the protocol to create a Syn baby, capable of reproduction.

Final thoughts: This story took a surprising turn. It’s definitely apocalyptic fiction. Humanity has polluted Earth to the point that we can’t even reproduce any more. There’s a timeline ticking to reverse the problem, and perhaps a synthetic womb is the way to go. You don’t even realize the baby that’s being born isn’t carried by Leana until about a third of the way through the story. The author keeps the tension of the impending birth so strong, I thought for sure Leana was pregnant. When the baby was kidnapped, the flavor of the story changed. It was no longer about the crazy religious people vs. scientists and should humanity stop having babies and turned into an action story. Then, it changed again when we discovered who took the baby. Turns out, it was a story about robots taking over the world. It did find it interesting that the Syns were all blond-haired and blue-eyed. Why that particular choice for complexion? Maybe so the blue eyes can glow in the darkness and creep everyone out.

Title comes from: The name of the scientist who developed the protocol to allow for the development of a baby in a synthetic womb.

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Last One Out by K. B. Rylander

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: July/August 2016 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Genre: post-apocalyptic science fiction

Setting: Sweden, near future

Summary: The story is told from the viewpoint of Filip, a Stationary CompanionApp, as he relates to Ella, his elderly human companion. It seems that the world was struck by a killer virus, and years later, everything is still in quarantine. Filip has tried to get Ella off the little Swedish island she’s currently on, or access to her drugs, but has had no success. Things change when he’s able to contact a supercomputer who turns off the quarantine conditions and teaches Filip how to import his consciousness into a Go-Machine.

Final thoughts: An interesting take on a post-apocalyptic world. Ella is alone, except for the bots that continue to maintain the cities and town. Filip has enough consciousness to worry about Ella, but not enough to come up with a good solution. Moving into the Go-Machine changes his perspective and his interactions with the world, and seems to open up more creative aspects of his personality. He still doesn’t understand music, although Ella keeps trying. Overall, a thoughtful piece with a touch of hope at the end.

Title comes from: According to an interview with the author, it refers to the phrase, “Last one out, turn the lights off.” Ella was the last one out, but she hadn’t turned the lights off because the bots were still out there.

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Short Stories by John Zaharick

This is the last group of stories from the 2014 Campbellian Anthology. It’s only taken me three years to finish – so I’m a slow short story reader.

Dysmorphic

Published: April, 2013 in AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review

Genre: science fiction

Setting: Earth, near future

Summary: Lisa is a sensory network array controller. She feels much more comfortable controlling the robot arrays than in her own skin. She finally feels comfortable in her body after returning her consciousness from an array in the Gulf of Mexico.

Final thoughts: I feel like I’m missing something in this story. We get flashbacks of Lisa’s life and how uncomfortable she is in her skin and then suddenly, she’s fine? What was so special about that particular assignment that allowed her to slip back into her skin and be happy in it for the first time ever? I don’t know, so I end the story unsatisfied.

Title comes from: The narrator was unhappy with her body shape, and the author used the term dysmorphic to describe her state of mind.

Ghost Gardening

Published: January, 2013 in Lost and Lonely

Genre: fantasy

Setting: generic location (felt like the U.S. but not really specific), present day

Summary: Our narrator plays a game with their significant other – find the strangest book you can in a used bookstore and buy it for your partner. They’ve found the best one yet – A Guide to Ghost Gardening. Alternating with snippets from the book, we learn the partner has died and the narrator has had a hard time getting over that death.

Final thoughts: I enjoyed the contrast of the crazy gardening book (if you’re trying to make a ghost garden, you need to get the proper energies in the ground to attract ghostly elements) with the more mundane reminisces of the narrator. For a bit, the narrator seems to have found a haunted house with a ghost garden already in existence (there are salamanders everywhere), but then they move on.

One interesting point I only noticed as I started writing up the review was the gender of the narrator and their partner is never mentioned. I read it as having a female narrator, but I think that’s only because I am female. I wonder if it would feel male to a male reader?

Title comes from: The title of the strange book the narrator found and was excerpted throughout the story.

 

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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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Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick

Published: 2015

Genre: middle grade graphic novel

Length: 192 pages

Setting: Earth, present day

Interest: I had seen it reviewed somewhere online (I forgot to record where since I went straight to the library page to request the book). I’m always on the lookout for good graphic novels (the whole family enjoys them) and this looked like it fit the bill. Continue reading

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