Publication: Elegy of Carbon

My science fiction short story, “Elegy of Carbon,” is now available in the anthology The Internet Is Where The Robots Live Now! This exciting anthology offers 20 short stories about the intertwined lives of human and machine, from near-future to space opera.Anthology cover

About the anthology:

We are headed for convergence. The separation between mind and matter, robot and man, the artificial and the sublime is becoming less every day. Will the human race survive the reckoning? Will we crash into extinction or wake to a future beyond our current comprehension? Join Mari Ness, Benjamin C. Kinney, Aimee Ogden, Monica Louzon, Sharon Diane King, Deepak Bharathan, Kevin Daniel Lonano, Vajra Chandrasekera, Marie Vibbert, S.H. Mansouri, Nikki Macahon, Krishan Coupland, Premee Mohamed, David Rogers, Priya Sridhar, Rhoads Brazos, Matt Fuchs, Conor Powers-Smith, Maria Haskins, and Claudio J.A. Espinal as they tell twenty unique stories exploring the thinning space between human and machine.

“Elegy of Carbon” is the story I like to call the Brave Little ToasterMining AI. The miner finishes its mission, no carbonaceous asteroids left in its territory to mine for diamonds. What, then, is a mining AI to do, in a solar system cold and empty yet very much still populated?

Keep reading for some spoiler-free notes about its creation and inspiration…

I started writing this story a few years ago, when Merc Rustad’s amazing Tomorrow When We See The Sun gave me a space-opera hankering. I did some of the writing in the back seat of a long car ride from Missouri to Colorado, and let me tell you, nothing gets you in the mood for deep space like a nighttime drive beneath the endless Kansas stars.

When I first started writing this story, one of the core questions I wanted to address was, “Why might artificial intelligences choose to have human-like minds?” The story ended up going in a different direction, but there are still notes of that in the story’s middle scenes. The answer that doesn’t actually get unpacked in this story: If there’s a community, there’s culture. If there’s culture, there’s fashion. If there’s fashion… who chooses and influences what’s fashionable? As long as humans remain influential, there’s reason for non-humans to emulate them.

The astute reader will notice that’s not a great answer. It’s circular: it assumes a mind human enough to create communities in a human-recognizable way. That’s why I’ve explained it here, rather than in the story itself.

If you want a better answer for why I think AIs might choose to have human-like minds, I have another story shopping around on that very topic. I hope I can share with you all someday!

And if you want to see more of the miner’s adventures beyond the end of this tale, patience is all you need. I’m currently working on a novel in this setting.

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