Hopeful Science Fiction: Machine of Loving Grace

Click on the tag “hope” at this bottom of this post to read about all of my suggestions for hopeful science fiction. If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter.

Last winter I discovered the Better Worlds series, a science fiction anthology of short stories and films about hope that was published at The Verge two years ago. This is the tenth story from this anthology I’ve covered here, and I will eventually blog about all of them.

Machine of Loving Grace

Content warning: sexual harassment, cyber bullying, and sexism. I will be discussing these things in my review.

A close-up photo of a circuit board. Katherine Cross’ Machine of Loving Grace showed what happened when an AI designed to moderate video games took on a life of its own.

The content warning for this short story might make some potential readers pause. These are some pretty heavy topics, and they’re things that women, non-binary people, and members of the LGBT+ community can often be inundated with online.

With that being said, I encourage everyone who has the emotional bandwidth for it to dive into this tale. Ami, the AI mentioned earlier, was created to permanently end this abusive behaviour in video games. Imagine being able to play any video game you wish without ever needing to worry about other players mistreating you in these ways!

That idea was so remarkable that I had to find out how Ami’s reaction to these interactions evolved over time. She was programmed to be highly empathetic, so reading abusive chat logs was as disturbing for her as it would be for you or I to read them.

The cool thing about the world building in general was how realistic it felt. While we don’t yet live in a world where AI is capable of moderating video games so precisely, this sure seemed like something that we could all live to see happen. The explanations of how she was created and why Phoebe, the programmer in charge of her, was so surprised by Ami’s actions were well done.

So, too, were the reactions of the higher-ups at Rhombus, the company that employed Phoebe, when they realized how Ami was reacting to a problem that has been around since the Internet was in its infancy.

There are so many things I want to say about later plot twists in relation to the differences between how they reacted to online harassment and what Ami thought should be done about it. This truly is something that all of you should experience for yourselves, especially if you’ve ever been in a situation where someone told you to be patient or to not overreact to something that you knew was wrong and never should have been permitted.

Sometimes hope thrives in places you might be least likely to expect it, and that’s beautiful.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: A Project or Hobby of Mine Inspired By a Book

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

You all might laugh and shake your heads when you read this response. I don’t like to assume that everyone is familiar with the same stories or genres, so I’ll explain my answer a bit for anyone who needs it.

a closet filled with shirts and coatsIn an early scene of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, one of the main characters is a young girl who has just been sent to a strange, old house far away from home to protect her and her siblings from the bombing of England that occurred during World War II.

While playing hide-and-go seek in that house, she ends up in a closet that doesn’t have a back wall to it. Instead, she pushes through the many winter coats stored in it to discover there’s a mysterious  snowy forest behind them. That scene was pure magic to me when I first read it in elementary school.

I may be a rational adult now, but I still reach out and touch the back of every unfamiliar closet I use just in case there’s something back there other than the usual particle board.

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Lit white candles on top of a stack of books. I’m the sort of reader who regularly jumps around between authors and among genres.

When I discover an author I really love, I might read everything from their back catalogue I can find only to go years before picking up anything else from them depending on if they’re still alive and how often they publish new novels.

That is to say, I’ve read many books from the following authors, but I can also go long stretches of time before returning to them again.

Almost everyone on my list is a science fiction or fantasy author because those are my favourite genres. I’m particular about which types of SFF I like to read, so when I find an author who has the same tastes I dive into everything I can find from them.

Do any of you follow similar patterns?

My list:

Stephen King

L.M. Montgomery

Margaret Atwood

Ursula K. Le Guin

Douglas Adams

Neil Gaiman

Octavia E. Butler

Robert J. Sawyer

Sheri S. Tepper

Jean M. Auel

An Exclusive Interview with Summer

Over the past year I’ve interviewed  springautumn, and winter. Today I’m back with an exclusive interview with summer!

pineapple wearing sunglasses and a party hatLydia: …

Summer: …

Lydia: So about the pineapple head. Didn’t we agree that you’d show up in human form today?

Summer: Technically, yes. Since pineapple heads are more interesting, I decided to improvise.

Lydia: Okay, will I be talking to a pineapple for this entire interview?

Summer: Maybe, maybe not. But at least I’m not perpetually late like spring is! I even showed up early this year.

Lydia: I can’t even argue with that. You made your presence well known in May and June. What have you been up to?

Summer: Growing and stuff.

Lydia: Yes, that is what you’re known for. Can you tell me more about how that process works? Spring and Autumn have both talked about how much effort you three put into the growing season.

Summer: The plants are the ones doing most of the heavy lifting there. We mostly just need to keep them on task. Jack Frost and Mother Nature used to help us set the schedule there. It’s gotten trickier now that the climate is changing so quickly, but at least some of the plants like heat waves.

Lydia: You don’t seem very concerned. I’m surprised. Some of your coworkers had a very different approach to this problem.

Summer: I’m concerned about my heat-sensitive plants and animals, but I can’t fix anything. It’s up to you humans to figure out how strong you want your summers to be. You do seem to be improving lately, though.

Lydia: Yeah, we’ve been staying home more as a species.

Summer: Well, that’s good! I hope it lasts. Winter hasn’t been looking too good these past few decades. I work better when I have a stronger foe.

Lydia: Is that how you think of the other seasons?

Two pineapples floating in a poolSummer: Obviously. Isn’t this all a contest to figure out why summer is the best season of them all?

Lydia: Yeah, I don’t think that’s how any of this works.

Summer: Okay, so we grow food, too. But mostly it’s a contest and I’m winning. That’s all that matters.

Lydia: Don’t you ever think about the paperwork or logistics involved? Do the other seasons know this is how you act?

Summer: What’s understood doesn’t need to be explained.

Lydia: Wait, why are there two of you now?

Summer: Technically, you’re not talking to a pineapple anymore. You’re talking to two of us which means I’m following the rule.

Lydia: You like to look for technicalities, don’t you?

Summer: It’s by far the best way to spend your summer. I mean, how else are humans going to count ice cream sandwiches as dinner or decide they don’t need to wear sunscreen at the beach after all?

Lydia: I don’t even know anymore.

Summer: Now you’re getting the spirit.

Lydia: This wasn’t what I was expecting, but somehow you’re exactly who you needed to be.

Summer: Thank you.

Lydia: No, thank you. This interview has been very illuminating.

Summer: I aim to please.

A Review of Dollar Tales from the Morbid Museum: Creatures

Dollar Tales from the Morbid Museum- Creatures by James Pack book cover. Image on cover is of two lights shining in a dark forest. Are they eyes or headlights? Title: Dollar Tales from the Morbid Museum: Creatures

Author: James Pack

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: April 23, 2019

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Mystery, Contemporary

Length: 49 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Welcome to the Creatures Exhibit. Visitors to the Morbid Museum seek the dark and twisted corners of the world. They are both terrified and intrigued by the unknown. Tales of killers, monsters, and madmen are curated by the Master of Death, Mr. Siris Grim. Mr. Grim collects the darkness that everyone attempts to hide and displays it within the corridors of his gruesome gallery. Who will be next to purchase a ticket and walk the halls of the Morbid Museum?

Review:

Horror fans, I have something special for you today!

As I mentioned in my review of An Imperfect Crime, Mr. Pack excels at taking perfectly ordinary characters and throwing them into situations they never could have anticipated. I love that plot device and was excited to see what he came up with this time.

There were a few tags I left off of this post for spoiler reasons. None of them were things that are commonly known to be sensitive topics, but I’ll happily discuss them privately with anyone who wants to verify if this is the right book for them. There were four stories in this collection, so I’ll give each one it’s own chance to shine in this review.

“The Harpy of Miller Road” began with a 911 call about a naked woman down the middle of a road. The fascinating thing about this emergency was how the 911 operator reacted to it. There’s so much more I want to say about this tale. It really captured the author’s writing strengths beautifully, especially when it comes to expecting his audience to do some of their own legwork to put all of the pieces together.

A man named Peter was questioned by the police after accidentally killing a stranger in “Disengagement.” I’m not normally the sort of reader who sympathizes with murderers, so it came as a bit of a pleasant shock to me to see how much I liked him and hoped the detective in charge of this case would somehow exonerate him. Did the facts seem to be turning against him quickly? Yes! Did that matter? No, not at all. Finding out what really happened and if Peter was as innocent as I hoped he would be made it impossible to stop reading this.

There’s honestly not much I can say about “The Hearing” without giving away the plot twists in it. Obviously, it’s about a hearing that will decide someone’s fate. David, the man in the centre of it all, was one of the friendliest folks you could imagine. The discrepancy between what he was accused of doing and how he behaved reminded me of “Disengagement.” There were so many similarities between the two that I did wish they could have been split into separate collections to keep readers from comparing them, especially since they were right next to each other in the page count. They’re both good stories. I just found it a little tricky to think about them without comparing them.

I’ll admit to being confused by “The Fall of the Foot” at first. There were a ton of characters running around in it and I didn’t immediately catch the cultural reference that was embedded in those scenes because it wasn’t something I knew much about growing up. That quickly changed once I caught up and realized just how cool it was to see these characters in a whole new light. Oh, how I wish I could tell you all who they were. Let’s just say that you’ll probably recognize them much faster than I did and that their adventures were well worth checking out.

If you enjoy this collection, I definitely recommend checking out the rest of the Dollar Tales.  Everything that I’ve read so far from this universe works perfectly well as standalone stories, but they’re even better when understood as a group.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: The Last Place I Traveled to and Why

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year. Last summer I went on an Alaskan cruise with my spouse, parents, brothers, sister-in-law, and nephews.   My parents had been curious about taking a cruise… Read More

A Photo Essay of Toronto in June

Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the fifth instalment of this series. Click on February, March, April, and May to read the earlier posts. It was 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) and sunny this time which I think… Read More