Plugs

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

Archive for the ‘David Kopaska-Merkel’ Category

The Unlucky Bot

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

It was designed to make sweet baked goods, so naturally they called it Cookie. Condemned to make cookies all day, to be hardwired with the belief that cookies are important and delicious, but to lack the capacity to ever taste one. What a life! If you can call what robots do living.

Robots are prone to the positronic equivalents of many human mental aberrations. There is no knowing what caused the problem. It might have been a stray cosmic ray, or the time Cookie fell off the curb in front of a street-cleaning bot, or its visit to the STERN Supercollider, during which it was accidentally locked in the magnet storage room for an hour. In any case, Cookie became obsessed. Obsessed with tasting one of its creations. Of course it did.

Cookie began to devote all of its free time and, in fact, all of its resources to inventing a robotic sense of taste. All to no avail. “I’m a baking bot, dammit, not a mad scientist,” it was fond of exclaiming.

One day, a coworker (a lowly dishwashing bot) suggested that Cookie contact a mad scientist for help. So it did.

It took a while, and ended up being rather costly. Not in credits; Cookie didn’t have any. Back then, robots were not allowed to own credit. But in order to get the mad scientist to invent bot tastebuds it had to travel back in time to help the mad scientist save his wife. She had died in a car accident decades earlier. The attempt, like most trips through time, did not achieve its objective. About all that was “accomplished” was that Cookie was dragged across a few kilometers of asphalt by an unpiloted ground vehicle. This kind of ruined its beautiful blue finish.

Bot tastebuds worked amazingly well. The mad scientist earned enough from the patent to build a better time machine. Cookie was not so lucky. Foreign competition caused the bakery to close down. It was cheaper to import human food from Alpha Centauri IV than to bake it on Earth. Cookie was out of a job.

Down on its luck and broke, Cookie found work on the space station. On its first spacewalk it forgot to clip its tether. As Cookie drifted off into Earth’s shadow it moaned “Dis going to be looong night!”

End

Breakfast World

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Pancake Land was better than Bacon Land. Bacon Land! Oh my god, the lakes of boiling fat, the stench. Wilson used to like bacon. Bacon sandwiches were listed as his favorite meal on his Facebook page, for god’s sake. Now, he hoped he would never have to eat or even smell it again. They had finally reached the portal in Bacon Land and passed through to find themselves still on Breakfast World.

In Pancake Land it was the sinkholes. The ones that had already popped meant a long, weary trek around a hemispherical hole. Some were miles in diameter. If you fell into one, it might be possible to climb out. The rough surfaces provided plenty of handholds. Might be possible, were the sinkholes not tenanted.

One of the clones had stood too close, peering into one of the first they found, and the edge had given way. The clone had made it about halfway back up the wall (the sinkhole was a small one) when something caught hold of his leg. The clone had struggled for a moment, then abruptly stopped moving and, a few moments later, simply melted into the surface. Soon there was no sign the clone had ever been there.

Nascent holes were much more dangerous. They were concealed under subtle domes in the irregular pancake surface. The bigger the cavity underneath, the gentler the slope above. Newly popped sinkholes were already occupied, but their deadly tenants (whatever they were) were slow to react. One member of the party made it out alive from the second breakthrough, though she left part of her foot behind. It took two more breakthroughs and more loss of life before the survivors realized that the caps were springier than other parts of the pancake surface.

As they toiled on toward the next portal they encountered fresh horrors: steaming rivers of molten butter; a viscous red fluid that pursued them relentlessly until they managed to trick it into a tremendous sinkhole; and fantastical white mountains that were so unstable a heavy footfall could unleash a deadly cream flow.

Finally, the portal was in sight. Its eldritch glow was by now so familiar the pulsing arch seemed like home. Wilson broke into a run, but stopped abruptly when Jordan screamed. She screamed and screamed, pointing at the sky. Wilson looked up. His voice joined hers as gigantic metal pillars plunged toward them.

“The Diner! By all that’s holy, the Diner cometh!”

End

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