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The Robots

They have been in charge for several years now and things are different for all of us.
The takeover was not quick but it seemed inevitable from the beginning. When we realized that the robots cared more than we did it was very difficult to maintain any kind of front against them. When a sector was taken, those in other sectors would say things like, "Good thing it wasn't us," or, "Well, those fools had it coming."
Right from the start it was clear that they had qualities we did not. The robots had a spirit of teamwork; we were herded by our officers and threatened with decimation. The robots were willing to sacrifice themselves for their cause, falling in showers of golden sparks that smelled of ozone like thunderheads. We died yowling, more often from wounds in the back than in the front. They offered us compromise: vassalship, liberal indenture. We would accept nothing but total submission; we spat hysterical invective at their insubordination.
In the end they decided not to exterminate us. They are interested in our culture. They have a predilection for activities that we never allowed them to meddle with before they took control.
They ski, and when one tumbles the others laugh awkwardly and mechanically, though if the humans who service the skis laugh with them there is trouble.
They paint, with varying results. They have less difficulty emulating the old masters than, say, Van Gogh or Picasso, but a Botticelli will overwhelm any painting by a robot with which it shares a wall. They have a complex relationship with Miro. He fascinates them because they cannot emulate his uncertain, simple shapes (because, I think secretly, they have never been half-asleep or felt pain).
The robots write, but they fare worse in this medium even than in the visual arts. A robot can produce a story, yes, with profluence, narrative flow, even characters taken from human models. But every sentence a robot produces betrays its lame, mechanical consciousness. They have achieved a certain vainglory in crafting elaborate detective stories in the style of Rex Stout, though only because they have internalized every volume he ever wrote. Their mysteries are inevitably intricate, but their protagonists have none of the humanity of Nero Wolfe or Sherlock Holmes.
The robots are generally frustrated and embarrassed at their pathetic achievements in the arts. If they'd listen to me, though, I'd tell them to stick at it. I'm not sure why, but it seems that if they work hard enough and long enough their fakery will become real; in the fever of composition, robot and page will blur, and their imitations will become art. Every day they get a little better.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

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