A Short Story About Robot Guts

I recently read a lovely short story by Mary Robinette Kowal about a female protagonist, which begins with a woman’s hand inside the guts of an A.I. chassis. It is a story of entrails, introspection, and self destruction. I loved it.

Through the wonderful world of the interwebs and clicking around on io9, I stumbled upon Mary Robinette Kowal‘s Hugo-winning For Want of a Nail which was in the September 2011 issue of Asimov’s. It is a short story deserving of an award. In the future? an alternate universe? Rava has been given the responsibility of caring for the family’s daily recording device, an A.I. named Cordelia, aboard a vessel heading to an unknown location. For Want of a Nail,  explores issues of scarce resources, reproduction in a place of finite space, dealing with A.I.’s with personality, and committees making decisions about people’s worthiness based on usefulness.

Kowal quickly reaches into the guts of her story and pulls out gory issues. She made me  wonder what it would be like to be dropped in a world of finites, robots, and new rules. I may not always be a fan of her female protagonist, but I am in love with her prose. She writes with beautiful simplicity and emotion producing scenes. I also suggest reading her Nebula nominee novella (see that alliteration!) Kiss Me Twice a story which questions whether A.I. are people too. Best line? “I’m not sure. I’ve never mopped.” Kiss Me Twice was in the June 2011 issue of Asimov’s and it is an excellent read.

Did you know googling “mops kissing” garners pictures of dogs? Original art work by yours truly.

Set to release April 10,2012, is Kowal’s sequel full length novel,  Glamour in Glass. I’ve been assured by the author herself, that the main protagonist Jane, develops a back bone. Hopefully this portends great things for Glamour in Glass. After reading these two short stories I think I may have to pick up a copy and see for myself. With four books to be released in total for the series, I am hopeful that Jane will grow as a character.

I feel like Cordelia from For Want of a Nail, but it is my own hand reaching into my guts and rearranging them. Now that things have settled into place, I think my vivisection has revealed a few things. Authors do not always write characters in the direction I wish them to go, but if there is a chance for growth I should give the author the benefit of the doubt. I still have reservations because of Jane and her sister’s behavior in Shades of Milk and Honey, but Kowal has been added to a list of authors I read even if they make me angry occasionally. (I’m looking at you Karen Marie Moning. Coming to the end of Dreamfever was pure torture. ) It is their job to elicit emotions. Apathy is the real curse.

Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. Some weeks are full of dermatological allergic reactions to food that blow up our faces, eye ticks that develop from stress, and accidentally punching a wall at work and breaking our favorite ring (seriously, it was an accident! The wall jumped out at me as I walked past it!). But some weeks are full of women in pretty dresses playing with glamour, robots with emotional intelligence, and little girls who ask us if we are Cinderella because we have on a pretty puffy dress.


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