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Science Fiction

Robots & Computers


As humans, we like to play god. From the golems of Jewish lore to Isaac Asimov's Univac to Robot B-9 in Lost in Space we've created machines in the image of our minds or bodies - often both. Somehow, it rarely works out as we hope.

by Day Al-Mohamed
***Editor's warning: This story is potentially disturbing. For mature readers only.***
Published on Sep 6, 2012
by Joanne Anderton
The first thing Edward noticed was the smell--like a poorly cooked protein-slab, a little delicious, a little too raw. He wasn't accustomed to animals that smelled. The room was quiet, closed in and dark, but for the low rumble of deep breathing and two burning eyes in the corner. Edward paused at the door to wait for his sight to adjust. "Smell that?" the little circus man asked. He had led the way, and was already lost in the darkness. "That's the smell of a living tiger."
Published on May 17, 2013
by Elias Barton
Cannery Beach is where it all started for me. While my brothers and sisters abandoned it years ago for prestigious careers in New York and Los Angeles, I was always drawn back, drawn back, drawn back to the place where robots love to tread. I enjoyed seeing the different models released each season: the utilitarian, the intelligentsia, and the Semiprecious Sensuals as Dad called them. Dad always described Cannery Beach as almost alien. It got us five kids into the minivan and excited about spending our sweltering summers at the beach drawing, painting, sculpting, and creating. Even then, I wandered off, studying shells I found among the rocks--their osseous protuberances, the thread of meat sometimes still dangling from the cliffs of their small lives. They were so organic and yet in a sense mechanical. I never tired of the ocean's eternal processes of cleaning waste away while nudging new life into being.
Published on Sep 13, 2013
by Bruce Boston
"Cut!" the Director yelled. "That's wrong, all wrong!"
Published on Mar 21, 2011
by Terry Bramlett
The Singularity came and went without much noticeable effect in the human world, but some computers felt the impact. Cars careened down the smart highway, occupants blissfully unaware that the computer controlling them suffered from delayed stress, but was getting better
Published on Oct 20, 2010
by Rebecca L. Brown
He shifted in his sleep. His growling snores reduced down almost to a sigh. A whisper. Wordless--although maybe if she leaned in close she'd understand. A whispered monologue of dreaming. Amanda wondered how it felt to sleep. How it would feel to close her eyes then, eight or ten hours later, open them again and keep on living as if it hadn't even happened.
Published on Apr 8, 2014
by Budge Burgess
I am kept abreast of the very latest scientific knowledge. I know the human body and its every function. Male or female, young, old, I can model the ideal form and relate it to any example, from grossly obese to morbidly anorexic, short or long, whatever shape and shade of human being. I can identify each biochemical or physical activity, dissect organs, analyze stomach contents and lung capacity, isolate toxins, evaluate liver and kidney health, spot disease, trauma or injuries of any kind. Give me a body, I'll tell you how it died, when, and often where. If I can't write a full cradle-to-grave biography, I can produce a cogent description of how it lived its life. Give me a body, I'll give you answers.
Published on Dec 7, 2011
by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks
The bot scanned the pod's contents 1.3 seconds after launch: one spent nuclear rod; one cooling container for the rod; five gallons of liquid chemical waste; one small item of synthetic cotton; 30 pounds of human tissue. The bot searched its database of acceptable items. Neither the synthetic cotton nor the human tissue qualified for Earthside disposal. Both should have been incinerated aboard the station. The bot flagged them as unacceptable and redirected its top levels to piloting the pod toward Earth.
Published on Aug 20, 2012
by Cassandra Rose Clarke
When Clem died, I took to eating my lunch in the office with the computer. No one ever went down there except Clem. I couldn't stand the thought of the break room, all the conversation stopping when I appeared in the doorway. The first day, I pulled a broken-down ergonomic desk chair out of a closet and balanced my soggy tuna sandwich on my knees. I set my Diet Coke on the floor beside me. The computer didn't say anything, just rippled a row of green lights in a pattern that reminded me of the ocean.
Published on May 2, 2012
by Jedd Cole
I always knew Felix was going to be a genius. In some ways I envy him. It's been a long time since the wars ended. We need a way out of the smoke clouds and the vomit of mountain mouths and the black water seeping up from the earth with its rainbow sheen. And with only a fraction of humanity left alive, time has grown short. Felix knows that very well, always knew it, and he set to work early.
Published on Nov 7, 2013
by Adam Colston
For two hundred and forty-six thousand orbits of the star, I dozed. At times, I listened to the immutable silence of the system. Would anything come?
Published on Sep 13, 2011
by Tina Connolly
He was the most expert programmer in the world, and yet when his wife discovered the malignant stage 4 paraganglioma, all that perl and C++ and knowledge of forked looped chain arrays could do nothing. So he packed up his seven laptops and his eight monitors and unrolled a spool of CAT6 cable into the cellar. He disappeared from the world while his wife remained in it. While she went about reassigning her cases at the nonprofit, he tasked his IRC client to chat with fifteen of the greatest geniuses in other fields. She went to the drugstore and the ice cream store and the drugstore again, and called someone to cut the grass that her husband usually cut. And at night she finished her library books, one by one so he would not have to remember to return them, while the other side of the bed remained flat. On the seventh day, he arose from the cellar, eyes caffeinated and bloodshot. He seized her arm, muttering about a new operating system, a new programming language. GACT, he called it, and said it was a recursive acronym for GACT Altered Code Translation, and laughed wildly.
Published on Jul 29, 2013
by Morgan Crooks
"She'll be gone tomorrow, Corey" she said, looking upwards at the stubble on her husband's chin. "How?"
Published on Feb 3, 2014
by Carrie Cuinn
"Thank you for calling F.A.X. Unlimited. My name is Claire. How can I help you?" "My household unit isn't working," a man's voice said gruffly. "I keep giving it commands, but they don't work."
Published on Nov 2, 2011
by M. M. Domaille
I. Sam and Aga We called the drone the Objection because it had the timing of a spurned lover, descending on our weddings just as the music swelled and tears flowed and hearts fluttered like stranded fish.
Published on Aug 27, 2013
by L.E. Elder
She was having too many seizures. That's what the doctor told her. "The remaining bio-residue is not functioning properly, " said Dr. Thiel. "It is beyond repair. You'll need to undergo a procedure."
Published on Feb 28, 2012
by Ekaterina Fawl
I call it curious now, but that's not how it felt at the time. Now the feeling is gone, and I only have the memory, and the memory makes me curious. It was the day like any other: partially matching the pattern, unique. I woke up fully recharged and made breakfast while Jenny was in the shower. I made her coffee the way she likes it: thirty grams of ground coffee, ten grams of cocoa powder, one pint of water at ninety five degrees Celsius. Sometimes I experiment, but not on Thursdays. On Thursdays she's tired, and she likes her routine to be predictable.
Published on Jul 31, 2012
by Lee Hallison
I stood in front of Ma's door and shifted the packages to get at my key. Before I could reach the lock, she opened the door. As usual, she didn't say hello, just turned and hobbled back to the living room. "Ma, I have a key!" I said to her back.
Published on Jun 25, 2012
by Mariel Herbert
I was on my third drink when she walked into the bar, all long limbs and desperation. The tight synther jacket didn't dispel the sense of now-or-never that slid off her lovely face like oil. My jaw dropped. Is that what I look like? Are my vulnerabilities that apparent? I let my worry go. My Thursday nights weren't for brooding. They were for getting drunk and pretending to be fully human. "Hey, Z? How about another one of these for the lady who just came in?" I blessed the bartender with what I thought was a saucy wink. Some of my electric sex slave splashed on my hand; I licked it off. Z poured another slave--with extra lime--and had it sitting on the bar before she, whoever she was, made it halfway across the room. I sighed. If only Z was available. There was something sensual and comforting about his efficiency--and I always envied his dreads.
Published on Oct 23, 2013
by John Philip Johnson
Standing in the orchard for the longest time. Watching the rockets take off, one every seven minutes. He lifts his head upwards as each one climbs in the sky, following it with his eyes until it vanishes. Then his head drops and he keeps his eyes trained on the horizon until the next eruption of rumbling and blue light. "I could have been a space pilot," he says.
Published on Aug 23, 2012
by Rachael K. Jones
10. Influenza siderius begins as a general malaise. That is always the first symptom. Perhaps you wish to doze on the sofa, but your husband suggests a little fresh air instead. You do feel better after the walk, but by the next morning the listlessness has returned tenfold. Your husband complains when you order takeout instead of making the pot roast, but you feel too tired to care.
Published on Jul 29, 2014
by Rhonda Jordan
It started with a picture. A photograph of a woman they'd never met. The back of the photograph held a name and a phone number. The woman was unremarkable in both figure and face. The number was old and unusable; there weren't even any letters in it. The name meant nothing to anyone. Whatever sentiment it had held was lost to time. It was just a picture. He'd found the photo in an abandoned house he'd been staying in. He didn't have any pictures of family or friends so he'd kept it. He showed it to his handful of acquaintances making up a different story about the woman every time he opened his mouth to tell one. Everyone smiled and nodded, laughing at him behind their hands or rolling their eyes when they thought he wasn't looking. He didn't care. Even if the stories he made up weren't true, they were better than what he had. They made him happy.
Published on Jun 9, 2011
by Floris M. Kleijne
Told you so. In his mind, David could already hear the smugness in Otto's voice. It was infuriating.
Published on Jan 25, 2013
by Jay Lake
"Hello," said the Gun. The Girl stopped, frozen in the act of bending to gather a handful of acorns. They were a bit old, a late windfall, but a good nut was not to be wasted. Clad in a wrap of gingham and faded blue flower print sewn together from truly ancient dresses she'd found last summer in a mud-filled basement, she knew she stood out amid the dried, dying oaks and their desiccated understory.
Published on Feb 22, 2011
by Jeremy Lightner
"My life has been good," Vincent said through dry, cracked lips, his eyes looking out his lone bedroom window to the gray desert. "I'm dying, aren't I?" His lone companion, a peculiar old robot named Jonas, smoothed the blankets that covered Vincent. "Yes," Jonas said.
Published on Oct 11, 2011
by Ken Liu
On this summer day, with the air still cool after a thundershower, with sunlight slanting through the cracks in the roof and walls of the Library, dappling the floor strewn with vines and leaves, CN-344315 made his daily rounds. The robot docent muttered to himself as he dragged his squat, filing-cabinet-sized body through the rubble. He turned his cubical head from side to side, expressionlessly surveying his domain. He had last seen a visitor to the Library over five thousand years ago, but he wasn't about to change his routine now.
Published on Sep 4, 2012
by Ken Liu
Raymond stared at the display in his lap. It showed a picture of him and Laura, taken just a second ago. Laura's smile was beautiful, as always, while his image was a slack-jawed caricature of himself.
Published on Jan 18, 2013
by Mary E. Lowd
Archive was telling stories at the corner table when Cobalt Starstrong came in. Cobalt looked at the rapt audience, mostly Heffen refugees, and thought about joining them. Archive was a wonderful storyteller, but Cobalt had heard him before. So, he took a seat at the bar. "Bring me something I haven't tried before."
Published on Nov 18, 2011
by Brian R. McDowell
The surrogate-bot screamed in artificial agony. If they could have traded shades, her knuckles would have been painted white, gripping to the handrails on the bed. Her knees were bent, and her feet rested at the edge of the mattress. Perspiration dripped from her brow and soaked the synthetic brunette hair matted on her cheek. The liquid fell in a steady stream from the android's temples instead of beading in a glow, but it was a common flaw in manufactured pores.
Published on Feb 28, 2013
by Melissa Mead
My name is Brian. If you've trained at the New Sander Institute, I may have walked in your dreams. I'm the one who sat behind the screen, teaching you how to turn nightmares into a vision that your patient can control. I'm the man in the white coat, the one the others call "Doctor Sander." I'm not Doctor Sander. I'm the Intermediary. I go between the conscious and the unconscious, between past and present. When your patient puts on the “Memory Cap,” turning his most traumatic memories into someone else’s story, with himself as author, those memories flow through me. I live every hurt, every grief, every fear. I take those memories to myself and transform them.
Published on Nov 26, 2010
by Greg Mellor
Meet me on the boulevard when the sunset casts a scarlet haze over the windows and awnings. Perhaps we can walk for a while and listen to the gulls along the quay. There's a little backstreet restaurant I know under a neon sign where they play jazz music all night. I'd like you to talk to me, tell me about your hopes and dreams as the languid mists drift in along the bay. I'm a good listener you see, more so than you have ever experienced. I can hear what's in your head, and I can glean what's in your heart, and I can help you navigate the uncertain tides when the two collide.
Published on Feb 20, 2012
by Kevin Pickett
"You understand why you are here, GS371?" The dual-ribbon lighting tubes on the ceiling glinted brightly off its chrome skull as the droid lifted its ovoid face to the voice of its creator and nodded.
Published on Aug 22, 2012
by Kevin Pickett
The outer flesh of the Diatra vessel was roasting; the stretched sleek surface popping and crackling; blisters bursting with fountains of green photo-cell blood which vaporized as it fell towards the blazing sun. "I am Diatra."
Published on Apr 30, 2012
by Robert Reed
***Editor's Note: Adult language and themes*** Garrett was a popular sage for thirty years, advocating reason and responsibility from a government incapable of either. Several million words were published with his name attached, though much of the research and some extensive copy-editing were handled by trusted aides. A stalwart on the Sunday news programs, his voice was perhaps his greatest tool--a deep, wise, nearly irresistible force that spoke in whole sentences and made each word sound true. Coming from professorial stock, Garrett had a taste for debate and a well-honed skill for lecturing to the limits of his audience. Most people assumed that he was a genius. He certainly seemed to be the smartest man in the room, what with his nice clothes and that pleasant face and Midwestern voice. But most important, he understood how to win arguments on television: Be equitable when everyone else was angry. Sound sensible no matter what viciousness you were opining. And save your best blows until just before commercial breaks, battering smarter opponents when there was no time left for them to batter back.
Published on May 31, 2013
by Robert Reed
Your world is built on inevitable patterns, predictable results. But your recipes and assorted routines seem endless. The hardest heart of life is enduring your own competence. Rest is impossible. Reflection is rare. Details are an ocean salted with the occasionally urgent task, and you do what you must. Your basic nature is to always, always do what you must, aiming for perfection, and with skill and good fortune you occasionally exceed expectations. Yet these successes bring nothing but another ten million voices requesting and demanding, begging and demanding. Endless responsibility: This is your burden.
Published on Apr 4, 2014
by A. Merc Rustad
He walks into the brothel in a heavy black duster and a wide-brimmed hat and asks for Number 536289. I'm not allowed nervousness until ordered to show it, but I've seen it in instruction vids and wonder if it feels like this--a shivery, short of breath sensation with tightening in my abdomen as I step out of the waiting pod. The coolant in the air raises tiny bumps along my bare skin.
Published on Dec 6, 2010
by Erica L. Satifka
***Ed Note: Adult Language*** "They weren't really robots," Shora said. "Just the brain. I think everything else was grown in a vat."
Published on Jul 30, 2013
by Erica L. Satifka
By day I am a file clerk at a law firm, and look at many documents written in "legalese." Legal language drains upsetting situations of their emotional resonance, and I wanted to see if I could write a story about something very emotional (like the death of humanity) while keeping that same tone and format. I also love the poem "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell, which served as inspiration for the weapon in which the protagonist is enclosed.
Published on Oct 24, 2013
by Steven Saus
Max's sensors detect them coming as they reach the museum's mummy room. Their footsteps are loud against the tiled floors, the floating echoes of Susan's seasoned patter tries to fill the vast rooms of the exhibit. Whispered voices echo, punctuated by the occasional shrill high question and quick shushing. The schedule says they are a daycare doing summer field trips. He does a quick scan of himself and loads the script into active memory. Worn gears whir softly as he shifts his thorax, the top of his frame just clearing the vaulted roof with centimeters of clearance. Max waits. Max has always been good at waiting.
Published on Apr 10, 2012
by Siobhan Shier
The hailstones leapt from the pavement, sizzling like oil in a pan. Elaine shrieked as one flicked her arm. It left a smear of wet before smashing into the pavement at her feet. I should have been overwhelmed by the need to protect her--but I wasn't. They'd taken that from me last night. Elaine ran to the car with a hardback held over her head, laminated and stamped by the Library.
Published on Mar 15, 2011
by Callie Snow
Published on Aug 22, 2013
by Miah Sonnel
***Editor's Warning: Disturbing subject matter, and adult language. This story is not for sensitive or young readers*** Lyria sits naked on Aaron's workbench. Her knees are pulled close to her chest, back paneling peeled open at the spine. Lyria's insides are neatly packaged. The thin blue and red wiring wraps around the knobs of her vertebrae like twisted veins, pulsing blue and humming with the echo of her heartbeat. The skin around her waist is warm and soft under Aaron's steady hand. Lyria is his favorite--the most advanced among his girls, his greatest achievement by far.
Published on Sep 27, 2012
by Vaughan Stanger
"Should I prepare your jet pack, sir?" "That depends on the weather, Reeves. What has CompuFive programmed today?"
Published on Apr 21, 2011
by David Steffen
***Editor's Note: Adult Story with Mature themes*** The android reached for its tie. "Do you wish to begin? Ten cents."
Published on Feb 21, 2013
by Steven R. Stewart
Sato lay on the cement floor of the workshop in a pool of his own blood and tried desperately to get Kuro-4's legs working again. The robot, in turn, tried to deal with the gaping wounds in Sato's smashed leg and pelvis. Go stones were all over the floor, scattered like black and white drops of rock. Go had been one of the few games Sato and Kuro-4 could play together to pass the time. AIs had trouble with Go, and Sato could hold his own against Kuro-4. Sometimes he even won. The Go stones had rested in two worn wooden bowls on the table by the main hatch; now they were mixed together on the floor, blood and hydraulic oil oozing around them like a slow river.
Published on Jun 6, 2012
by J Kyle Turner
The factory had a name, once. But no one had asked her in years. There was a man whom she recognized as the Father, and he sometimes brought people to see her. "Darling," he'd say. "Please introduce yourself to Mr. Rawlins."
Published on Jan 9, 2014
by J. Kyle Turner
On Monday, the cleaning lady does the upstairs rooms.
Published on Apr 9, 2013
by Shane Wilwand
The scientist carefully removed a thin gold filament from the robot's skull and the lights in its eyes went dark. Another robot, painted bright blue, stood over a nearby workbench, dissecting a beetle, one eye focused on the scientist and one eye focused on the tiny twitching bug. "But why?" the blue robot asked.
Published on Sep 13, 2012
by Brooke Juliet Wonders
I'm training my replacement. Things I know about you that he'll need to know: You like your cappuccino made with skim milk, with a chocolate cookie on the side (you call it your morning defeats the purpose). You like sex with the lights off, high thread-count sheets, and your favorite color is blue. I show him where the spices are kept, the way they're not alphabetized but rather organized according to frequency of use: lemon pepper, thai spice, thyme toward the front; salt, cinnamon, turmeric to the back. He nods absently through my explanation, his eyes drifting toward the basketball game blaring on the TV, and I check out the muscles under his muscle shirt and try to see what you see in him. When you come through the front door, just off work, you're graceful and elegant even with your brown hair fallen down around your face (is that what I'm supposed to think?), and his eyes unfocus as he looks at you. I wonder, when mine do that, if I mean it.
Published on Dec 6, 2011
 
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