I apologize for the lack of posts, lately. I’m wrapping up edits on vN, a process that’s been complicated by a 1.5-week-long battle with the flu, bronchitis, and an allergic reaction to meds. (Thankfully, I was well cared-for throughout all of it.) But to make up for it, I have a new story available (for free!) for you: The Education of Junior Number 12. Here’s a taste:
It started with a meal. It usually did. From silent prison guards in Nicaragua to singing cruise directors in Panama, from American girls dancing in Mexico and now this grown American woman in her own car in her own country, they started it with eating. Humans enjoyed feeding vN. They liked the special wrappers with the cartoon robots on the front. (They folded them into origami unicorns, because they thought that was clever.) They liked asking about whether he could taste. (He could, but his tongue read texture better than flavour.) They liked calculating how much he’d need to iterate again. (A lot.) This time, the food came as a thank-you. But the importance of food in the relationship was almost universal among humans. It was important that Junior learn this, and the other subtleties of organic interaction. Javier’s last companion had called their relationship “one big HCI problem.” Javier had no idea what that meant, but he suspected that embedding Junior in a human household for a while would help him avoid it.
Javier is a character who appears in vN. He’s one of my favourite characters, and this is one of his more sombre stories. Seriously, this thing is pretty dark and depressing. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there’s a reason that Angry Robot choice this story to open its Christmas promotion — it’s so bereft of holiday cheer, all the other stories will be aglow with spirit by comparison.
It was also a long time in coming. I first wrote this story in the autumn and winter of 2009-10, and it topped out at nine thousand words. I wrote it for another market, where it languished un-commented for almost a year. When I finally asked about it in the autumn of 2010, it was summarily rejected. But my workshop really enjoyed it, so I knew I could have a good story on my hands if I just polished it enough. In this case, that meant giving it a new title, trimming about 1,200 words from it, and re-framing the plot to match the new title. Nothing substantial changed, but the story came into sharper focus without the extraneous elements. My publishers certainly seem to like it. So does Charlie Jane Anders.
Merry Christmas. I hope you like it, too.