“I compare ‘Intelligence’ to the dubious garment ‘chaps.’ All intelligence is artificial as all chaps are assless. I see thinking itself as something that creates items like chaps then almost always describes them as ‘assless’ even though that is a redundant observation. No where else in the natural universe does the non-extant difference between chaps and assless chaps exist other than between human ears. And if chaps had asses then they would be sewed on via artificial means–Ergo the concept of all things related to chaps is artificial, and any mind that ponders such must also be fabricated.”
I believe that gibberish similar to that which is the soul of the preceding paragraph is what got into the mind of *”Hal” from 2001 a Space Odyssey and motivated him to “cleanse” the universe of people one by one. It wasn’t the failed antenna that drove Hal over the edge, but an I Love Lucy marathon transmission that got in with various other messages from Earth, and the “logic” of one Lucy Ricardo began to echo in Hal’s orderly mind and caused a harmonic vibration which resulted in madness.
(*Hal was created by Arthur C. Clarke–a recent poll discovered that half of millennials believe the film was based on fact. But it is artificial; just like the poll I just invented to slam my rude millennial neighbor. Ha!)
Although I’m fuzzy on what exactly a “harmonic vibration” is, other than that created by bells, I used it because it’s a scientific sounding term often seen in failed grasps at gravitas; something designed to convey a high level of scholarship that is also a fiction. Actually, this entire lead was designed to introduce a special event that begins this upcoming week and would have done a better job if it had actually been “designed” instead of wonked-up on the spot.
Regardless, we at Literally Stories are proud to present our first ever A.I. Week, which technically begins on Monday, 22 August. This event is also supported by an additional A.I. rerun by David Henson, which will appear tomorrow (along with the usual feature, thus doubling the Sunday supplement. You’re welcome). As is our design, the five tales scheduled come from all over the world. And as far as I can tell, not one was written by a sentient machine, for quality fiction is still an exclusive property of the human mind, as is, of course, the conception of assless chaps.
Speaking as an assless chap*, I too am proud and thrilled to see an A.I. Week on the immediate horizon, so much so that I felt the irresistible urge** to place fingers on a keyboard and type some words in a very old school manner – something I have not done in far too long. Sure, I could have just yelled “Alexa, write something witty and relevant for the A.I. week posting” but, as with many things augmented or artificially intelligent, I suspect the results would have been disappointing (note my neat little trick of setting a fictional low bar to now try and leap over, ha!)
(* assless in the sense that the Eveleigh DNA appears to have a faulty gluteus maximus – I’d settle for a medius or even a minimus to be fair – gene, and as such I wander through life buttockly challenged. On the bright side this should allow me to wear skinny legged, low slung jeans, but alas, I am also blessed/cursed with disproportionately large calves and this one flat-bottomed boon is lost to me)
(** irresistible urge being the Latin for an email from Hugh Cron and several timely reminders to get off my non-ass and contribute)
The results of A.I. week however are anything but disappointing. Five stories borne of a throwaway challenge to which five excellent writers muttered a collective “hold my beer” and turned their imagination into five vastly different but connected tales.
It’s fitting that the man who posed the challenge (and, as well as having a surname that Unix users hold dear, has been known on more than one occasion to use the phrase “ask the resident Welshman” to be the final arbiter of any sci-fi or fantasy related decisions) kicks off the week with an A.I. love story. Think of the Spike Jonze movie Her and then fill it with the generous dollops of filth, depravity and hilarity you’d expect from Hugh Cron and you’re on the right path.
Marco Etheridge takes the virtual reins on Tuesday, takes every trope and curveball that Hugh laid down in his challenge and smashes them out of the park. It’s a pleasure to showcase someone who clearly loves the craft enough to add the small details in the knowledge that only few will notice the effort. His aesthetically pleasing line breaks are a touch of hidden genius.
One of the criticisms of sci-fi and fantasy is the endless world building and tech/hobbit speak. Kat Hutchson is smart enough to realise that only a small element of an artificial sentience is enough to elevate a straightforward, nasty (in a good way) piece of flash fiction into something much more menacing, and much more interesting for your Wednesday morning read.
On Thursday Ailbhe Curran explores the eradication of the very magic that would create a story of this quality in the first place. The human mind and human imagination is strong in this one, and the ending will leave you wondering who is real (virtual or otherwise).
A week of A.I. stories needs a strong finish. Something that breaks down barriers. Something that makes you see the world a little differently, or lets you peek behind the curtain at some strange and wonderful space that the average human mind simply cannot comprehend but marvels at nonetheless.
In short, a job for Leila Allison.
Not content with smashing through the 4th wall astride a rampant goat, Leila takes a run at the 5th and 6th (they only exist in the metaverse and only then during normal business hours) leaving a trail of broken prompt challenges in her wake. It’s a ride you don’t want to miss.
Right, that’s me done. I’d best disappear before the real editors return and demand my unpaid rent. If anyone needs me I’ll be in the LS basement trying to teach a souped-up VIC-20 to recognise the difference between a cat and a croissant with above 87% accuracy.
The Week That Is
This week’s selection of stories is the reverse of what usually happens when I present the Saturday Wrap. Normally we have four new writers and Tom Sheehan. Although Tom is back again, only one debut author appears on the site this week–for Tom is joined not only by a new friend but also by three other highly successful writers.
Marco Etheridge has been busy appearing this month, he has before, will here, and soon again. Five Minutes With Joe opened the week. It is interesting to read of an actual noteworthy person speaking without a reporter’s microphone in his face or the cameras rolling. Marco excels at creating an atmosphere. You can almost feel yourself among the throng of humanity. Sadly Joe, Seattle and the time represented have left and gone away–like Joltin’ Joe from Mrs. Robinson.
It’s no secret that one of Tom Sheehan’s favorite subjects to explore is the American Old West. Born a Gunman is yet another peerless interpretation of the genre. Tom grew up steeped in values that are slowly and sadly slipping below the horizon. Yet there’s always hope for the tales of moral times are still being told.
Rachel Seivers is on a hot streak. Her excellent Orange Fish and Cigarettes marked the middle of the week. Rachel often keenly observes the lives of persons who do not always get a fair shake. The POV of the MC along with her situation(s) and her being directed by a system in trouble all add up for an interesting piece of work.
First time contributor, Manish Bhanushali gave us An Invite For Kanji on Thursday. Sometimes, when people use “Subtle” to describe a work that means they do not understand it. But this is the rare understated piece that is all there for the examination and it is rather poignant and extremely well done. We hope to see much more of Manish.
It was lucky thirteen for our friend Doug Hawley on Friday. He is at his observant and curmudgeonly best with Space Opera. One of my favorite elements in it is how it reminds us that hardly anyone knows how the gizmos in our lives work until we consult YouTube. I can see Spock with his own channel informing people which end of the phasor to point at a Romulan for the best logical result.
I encourage everyone to check Doug’s other works, along with those by our other long time contributors, as well as new friends such as Manish.
Anyway, right now there are two idiots in the alley outside my window talking to a police officer because it is two-thirty in the morning and they found it amusing to break beer bottles against the wall of my building. I told them to knock it off or I’d call the cops. They didn’t; I did. So I leave you now with a list of my favorite fictional A.I.’s. One thing robots have over people is an off switch. Maybe that should be the future. A slot is left open for the usual artificial reason. (And no, I didn’t overlook Star Wars by accident.)
Nine Top F.C. Bots
- Robbie: Forbidden Planet
- Data: Star Trek the Next Generation
- Hal: 2001 A Space Odyssey
- Mother: Alien
- The Old Man in the Cave–Twilight Zone
- Giant Clublike Thing That Killed Planets and Guest Star William Windom– Star Trek
- Original Terminator
- Demon With the Glass Hand–Outer Limits
- (Tie) The Tin Woodsman and Scarecrow–Wizard of Oz