Author Topic: EP173: Robots Don’t Cry  (Read 36561 times)

Bdoomed

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on: August 30, 2008, 12:54:14 AM
EP173: Robots Don’t Cry

By Mike Resnick.
Read by Stephen Eley.

Every now and then we strike it rich. Usually we make a profit. Once in a while we just break even. There’s only been one world where we actually lost money; I still remember it — Greenwillow. Except that it wasn’t green, and there wasn’t a willow on the whole damned planet.

There was a robot, though. We found him, me and the Baroni, in a barn, half-hidden under a pile of ancient computer parts and self-feeders for mutated cattle. We were picking through the stuff, wondering if there was any market for it, tossing most of it aside, when the sun peeked in through the doorway and glinted off a prismatic eye.

“Hey, take a look at what we’ve got here,” I said. “Give me a hand digging it out.”


Rated R. Contains profanity and some sadness.



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Sandikal

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Reply #1 on: August 30, 2008, 05:38:51 AM
I'm such a sucker.  This story got me.  I've always loved robots and believed that if they could think, they could love.  Sammy was clearly the Tinman who didn't have a heart but that didn't stop him from loving, even if he didn't know it.  It was a very sweet story.



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Reply #2 on: August 30, 2008, 05:25:40 PM
Curse you Mike Resnick- you've made me tear up yet again.

Oh, great and mighty Alasdair, Orator Maleficent, He of the Silvered Tongue, guide this humble fangirl past jumping up and down and squeeing upon hearing the greatness of Thy voice.
Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.


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Reply #3 on: August 31, 2008, 12:15:02 AM
Outstanding!  Great job on the narration, Steve. 

Even though this was a very predictable story, I was still engrossed.  I can relate to the narrator when he said, "Shut up!"  I normally react with anger when I'm upset.  I'm working on it.

This made me think of the Firefly universe.  It's not the same, but Greenwillow would fit right in.

I also like the fact that Mike wasn't heavy handed Sammy's emotions.



alllie

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Reply #4 on: August 31, 2008, 01:16:35 AM
That needed a "This Story Will Make You Cry" Warning. Unless you are Sammie.



600south

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Reply #5 on: August 31, 2008, 11:10:51 AM
That needed a "This Story Will Make You Cry" Warning. Unless you are Sammie.

Steve did warn just that at the beginning, no?



alllie

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Reply #6 on: August 31, 2008, 01:02:14 PM
That needed a "This Story Will Make You Cry" Warning. Unless you are Sammie.

Steve did warn just that at the beginning, no?

Yeah, but I didn't believe him. Till I cried.

This story brings up the question of what we will want robots to be once we have robots and can control their intelligence. I believe we need only look at dogs to see what we want. I think future robots will be like dogs emotionally and be made to love us and WANT to protect us. Which will be sad for them if we don’t reciprocate.

Love has proved an effective shortcut in evolution. An animal doesn’t have to reason out why he/she needs to protect an offspring or a mate. Love will make many animals do that automatically, though they may have to balance love against fear. (Gazelles don’t fight lions if an offspring is taken but every bluejay in hearing distance will come scream at you if you touch a bluejay baby.) I think we will want that emotion in robots. One of the main criticism of robots (outside of factories) is that they are not emotionally responsive. (Alllie considers how she would feel about her rumba nudging her toes to remind her that she needs to pick up her shoes so it can vacuum. Hmmm.)

That far in the future I think a nursemaid robot would have been made so it was able to feel love and want to protect and care for its charge. That was the part I found a little unbelievable, that Sammie wasn’t built with those feelings and had to develop them.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2008, 04:17:53 PM by alllie »



JoeFitz

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Reply #7 on: August 31, 2008, 11:56:31 PM
I usually don't mind Resnick stories and I usually don't mind a little tune on the heartstrings; but this story just didn't work for me. It seemed like a tv episode. Frankly, I was much more interested in the Baroni than the child, the robot, or the "love" story. Perhaps it was just a little too "after school special" for me.

On the extro - saying the boilerplate in one breath was a nice touch. Well done!



Darwinist

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Reply #8 on: September 01, 2008, 03:53:48 AM
Thumbs up.  I liked the story a lot.  One thing I didn't quite get was the tear duct implant idea.  So there would be water  streaming down Sammie's face and it would "feel" like crying, but would he as a robot have strong enough emotions in his "brain" to generate tears?  Maybe I missed the explanation or didn't understand his ability to become emotional. 

I've enjoyed all the Resnick I've heard on EP, with the exception of the basketball robot story.

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.    -  Carl Sagan


deflective

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Reply #9 on: September 01, 2008, 06:25:08 AM
tech's never been the point of Resnick's work but it seems like the career of an interstellar antique collector would be much more involved. the problem is in the traveling; once you hit relativistic speeds the concept of 'old' gets complicated. even if you assume some sort of jump tech to avoid the time dilation in traveling you still have the star systems moving relative to each other (opposite sides of a spinning galaxy, dunno the numbers but they seem big).

on top of that, how would you prove the age of anything? you'd have to know the manufacturing planet and the ambient carbon-14 levels to even begin. short of introducing some sort of 'magic tech.'

anyway, a solid story that started me thinking.


This story brings up the question of what we will want robots to be once we have robots and can control their intelligence. I believe we need only look at dogs to see what we want. I think future robots will be like dogs emotionally and be made to love us and WANT to protect us. Which will be sad for them if we don’t reciprocate.

the answer is probably as varied as human imagination.
some people are much more comfortable without the worry that they may hurt something.



mike-resnick

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Reply #10 on: September 01, 2008, 03:11:48 PM
Thought you might like the genesis of "Robots Don't Cry":

   One day I was in Barnes & Noble or Borders (I spend a lot of time in both), thumbing through a new coffee-table book on Kilimanjaro, when I came to a photograph of Dr. Richard Leakey holding up a mildly human skull, and in my haste I thought at first that the caption said he was displaying a newly-discovered specimen of Australopithicus Robotus.
   I did a double-take and went back and read it more carefully, and of course what he had in his hand was the skull of an Australopithicus Robustus. Made a lot more sense.
   But all the way home I kept wondering what an Australopithicus Robotus might be like, and before I went to bed that night I had written “Robots Don’t Cry.” It was a Hugo nominee in 2004, was made into an amateur film (titled "Metal Tears") as a film school graduation project by a young director named Jake Bradbury (damned good name for a science fiction director, don’t you agree?), which had its world premiere at Noreascon IV (the 2004 Worldcon) and has been showing at cons all over the country ever since. Then it became a computer-animated film, "Machiines Don't Cry"...and last month I sold Polish radio rights to a group that's dramatizing it.

-- Mike Resnick



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Reply #11 on: September 01, 2008, 05:43:45 PM
Stories like this are what I listen to Escape Pod for!  Now don't get me wrong; I like variety.  If this type of story ran week after week, I would grow tired of it.  However, I love a great emotional story now and then, especially in sci-fi.  It is the editorial choice of Steve to run several of these stories throughout the year, and that is why EP is at the top of my list of favorite podcasts.

Emotional stories do always have a danger of crossing the line into sappy, but Robots Don't Cry does not go into that territory, in my opinion.  The emotions were evident, but subtle and not overplayed.  I like how Sammy wanted to cry, but understood its limitations as to why it could not. 

I am a sucker for a good robot story.  This Resnick tomato tasted very sweet.

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cuddlebug

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Reply #12 on: September 01, 2008, 06:41:12 PM
I am really sorry to say this, but I was slightly disappointed with this story and am a bit surprised that everyone loved it so much. For some reason I had expected more. Maybe it was just the "Resnick-Factor", that made me get all worked up, or the intro that made me expect another emotional meltdown, ... but it didn't happen this time. Not that the story did not make me sad, it certainly did, but as for the writing, it felt more like a think-piece rather than a properly thought through and executed story.

It felt too slow especially in the beginning and I had the feeling that Miss Emily was more of a place-holder rather than a character, she did not really come to life for me. Ok, agreed, she was not the center of attention anyway, but her character (personality) seemed essential for the robot's 'emotional development' which is obviously at the center of the story.

However, the interaction between the narrator (forgot his name) and Baroni was very interesting and the narrator's observations made this story worthwile to me. But I have to conclude that there was something missing. Sorry. I know, I am probably breaking some unwritten law, by creating an opposition here, and criticizing a story by Mr Resnick himself, but I am just describing my impression. We can always blame Steven Spielberg and the impression of AI left in my memory, maybe that somehow screwed it (this sort of story) up for me. Yep, blame the Spielberg.



Swamp

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Reply #13 on: September 01, 2008, 08:15:27 PM
I am really sorry to say this, but I was slightly disappointed with this story and am a bit surprised that everyone loved it so much...

...But I have to conclude that there was something missing. Sorry. I know, I am probably breaking some unwritten law, by creating an opposition here, and criticizing a story by Mr Resnick himself, but I am just describing my impression.

I don't think you need to fret about having a differing opinion.  That's what the forum is for.  It doesn't matter who wrote it; it doesn't matter what others think of it.  I, for one, appreciate hearing your opinion.

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Talia

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Reply #14 on: September 02, 2008, 12:07:02 AM
Thanks for the background, Mike. It's always interesting the new possibilities that can be opened up just by misreading something.


Love this sort of story, something of an exploration of what it means to be a person, an individual. Found this very engaging and Sammy a most sympathetic character (an actually a nickname I've been called myself. Though I am hardly a robot. As far as any of YOU know..). Didn't make me cry, but I did find it very touching.



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Reply #15 on: September 02, 2008, 10:17:50 AM
I was moved by the idea of the story, that a robot could become more than the sum of its parts and "evolve" to a point where it had emotions, but the story didn't move me. I didn't feel for any of the characters, not even the robot, and at the end, where Our Hero has his change of heart, that came so quickly that it didn't have any impact -- or, at least, not the right kind of impact -- on me. The worldbuilding -- the universe, not Greenwillow -- was too fast, and the tech couldn't support me through what I thought was a not-that-great story. I guess I wasn't in the right frame of mind to enjoy this one in the same way as the other commenters. But then, I think I often miss the "point" of Resnick stories, in that whatever others say they like, I find myself not liking to the same extent if at all.

I'd like to have known more about the Bironi (which sounds like either an alcoholic drink or an ice cream treat). Why didn't Our Hero address him by name? Was he the only person on Our Hero's ship? And, as for Greenwillow, if it's a farming colony without a lot of money, how did Emily's parents afford a robot as complicated as Sammy? Or were they less expensive back then? More questions than answers -- nice news cliche there, I know.

I also don't care for Steve's "snide, world-weary, vaguely-southern" character voice.

So, in all, not a good EP for me.

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Reply #16 on: September 02, 2008, 01:01:58 PM
An interesting idea, but no tears over here, I'm afraid. I didn't find the rapid transition from ruthless, mercenary antique-hunter to blubbing, touchy-feely human being very credible. I think if there had been something more personal to the protagonist/narrator - something in his backstory - that hooked in with the tragedy of Miss Emily in an emotionally powerful way, I'd have found the transformation more credible. It takes a lot to change a leopard's spots.

Or maybe I'm just a Sammy  ;)



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Reply #17 on: September 02, 2008, 03:48:35 PM
I loved it. I have to admit, I didn't get why anyone thought that being able to create tears on demand and being able to cry might possibly be the same thing, but I suppose developing a system of robotic emotions to run on unknown and obsolete hardware would have been beyond even Mech 3, trooper that he was.

And I was a little confused by the references to Australopithecus (thanks for the insight into that, Mr Resnick!); for a moment, I suspected that this was a universe something similar to Hominids, in which Homo sapiens (or in this case, the genus Homo) never evolved. But somehow I doubt that's the case.

Why didn't Our Hero address him by name?
Do Baroni even have names?

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Reply #18 on: September 02, 2008, 04:25:54 PM
I can't explain *why* I'm a skeptic, but whenever another Resnick story pops up in the feed, I feel like it's almost daring me to get emotional, and I'm betting it I won't.  Most of the times, Resnick wins.  He certainly did this time, although I found myself feeling a bit more emotional during the middle of the story than the end, probably due to imagining Miss Emily's smile and how she didn't seem bothered in the least by her prosthetic leg.  (Didn't cry this time, though. So, HA.)  I really like the idea of interplanetary grave-diggers/antique collectors, too, and was also very interested in hearing more about the Baroni.

There should be some kind of honorary Heartstring award (probably prestented by Rachel Swirsky) for Mike Resnick.

Why didn't Our Hero address him by name?
Do Baroni even have names?

Good question.  I'd guess yes, but it's just a guess.  I don't think the narrator of this story had a name, either (although Miss Emily obviously did, so you probably can't ask the same thing about humans).


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Reply #19 on: September 02, 2008, 05:10:19 PM
The words "Resnick" and "Robot" were both right there at the outset - I knew it wouldn't work for me.  Why, oh why, did I even listen to it? 

If the story made me cry it was from all the worldbuilding that just did not work, the characters that were cookie cutter and boring, and the very cliche of another robot that learns to love.

Resnick stories can work for me when he does fantasy.  The minute he tries SF there are always so many implausible things going on that it just throws me right out of the world.



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Reply #20 on: September 02, 2008, 07:35:43 PM
Maybe I'm just a cynical bastard, but the girl character did not make grab me with her plight.  If anything, I thought she was too sympathetic to be believable.  What's strange is the rest of the story was interesting, the idea of selling junk of the past to the future seems pretty plausible to me, as I see a lot of junk only 10 years old selling for a lot on E-Bay.  I enjoyed the interplay of the cynical human and the docile alien, the chatter was well written and enjoyable.  But the girl and robot relationship was too gooey for me, overplayed to wring sympathy from me.  It may be the news of Jeffery DeRego in the intro that affected the story's ability to elicit sympathy from me, as that did bother me.  I somehow think the plight of a real person may have overshadowed the plight of the non-existant character.



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Reply #21 on: September 02, 2008, 10:01:32 PM
I think it's interesting how the robot understands the difference between crying and just tears. Just because you can manage the one, doesn't mean you're being genuine about the other.



Zathras

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Reply #22 on: September 03, 2008, 03:21:56 PM
I guess it's just me, but the narrator's chaacter is what made me enjoy the story.

Maybe I just relate to him.



Hatton

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Reply #23 on: September 03, 2008, 04:10:16 PM
I'm one of those people who have been moved by other stories, including Resnik stores, to the point of tears.  This one didn't do that for me.  I understood it at an intellectual level and thought it was heart-warming, but not tear inducing.


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Rain

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Reply #24 on: September 03, 2008, 04:42:03 PM
I dont really pay attention to authors so i had to search to remind myself what Resnick had written before, it was a mix of stories i hated, stories i loved and some that were ok, so i didnt know what to expect from this.

I didnt like it.

First of all the Alien didnt really serve any purpose, and apart from changing personality several times didnt add anything to the story.

Emily was just a big whiner, all she did was complain, have pity on herself, oh yeah, and she denied treatment and the chance to be with people who cared about her, because then she wouldnt have anything to complain about... No wonder all the other people died off if they had to listen to that.

The Robot didnt do anything for me, i might have believed it had emotions if not for the fact that the exact opposite was shown throughout most of the story.



contra

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Reply #25 on: September 03, 2008, 04:49:14 PM
I enjoyed the story greatly.

But I didn't cry.  Other stories have... (Edward Bear for one)

Ideas were great, story was interesting, robots concept was cool.  And I can see a robot following orders forever.  

I've never identified with those that settle places... my fav stories were always people that got into adventures from their normal life, not that went out there to find adventure or settle somewhere new.  Maybe its because I grew up in Stirling, a place with history going back thousands of years.  I identify with people in settled place, visiting others... Also I never played Oregon trail game when younger...

Who knows.  Still.  Enjoyable.


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Corydon

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Reply #26 on: September 03, 2008, 05:53:05 PM
Channeling my inner Oscar Wilde, I can confidently say that one must have a heart of stone to read the death of Miss Emily without laughing.

I'll cry at a moving story.  Melodrama and cliche?  Not so much.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2008, 05:55:14 PM by Corydon »



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Reply #27 on: September 03, 2008, 06:03:18 PM
I liked the story overall, even though it was predictable.  I appreciate the narrator's intention at the end. 
Miss Emily was a little bit of a whiner, and I cannot believe she was the only person on the planet suffering from at least some of her afflictions.  Even if she was rejected by the populous as a whole, there would be some kindred spirits, small settlement or not.  The question I have about it is whether Emily's diseases were because of the planet or she "came" with them.  If she was sick from the start, why would her parents choose to settle there?

I do appreciate that Steve chose the story because of the response he had to it, rather than any new or insightful quality that would have set it apart.  I also look to my overall feelings about a story, even if there are some clever twists.



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Reply #28 on: September 03, 2008, 06:52:23 PM
Channeling my inner Oscar Wilde, I can confidently say that one must have a heart of stone to read the death of Miss Emily without laughing.

I'll cry at a moving story.  Melodrama and cliche?  Not so much.

I quote Corydon, only as a springboard for some thoughts

I could be wrong, but I don't think the intended sympathy character was meant to be Miss Emily, but Sammy.  He was a devoted robot who came to love his charge, and was sad and lonely to lose her company.  I felt for him, not Miss Emily.

I don't think it is a requirement to cry, to feel something emotionally.  I have never cried reading a Mike Resnick story, but I have enjoy the emotion of his stories.  Granted this is not the best example; there is some melodrama with Miss Emily.  I think Down Memory Lane and Barnaby in Exile are better examples.  Still I enjoyed this story, on behalf of Sammy, and the eventual thoughtfulness of the narrator.

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WillMoo

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Reply #29 on: September 03, 2008, 07:06:39 PM
I liked this one. It was too predictable for me to get emotional over though. Why do robots always seem to either want to be like us or to exterminate us? They never seem to want to be themselves.



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Reply #30 on: September 03, 2008, 07:40:36 PM
Maybe I'm just a cynical bastard, but the girl character did not make grab me with her plight.  If anything, I thought she was too sympathetic to be believable. 

That kind of hits the nail on the head for my feelings on this story.  I like the premise (I'm always fond of the inhuman who is more human than the human stories), I liked the idea of intergalactic scrap dealers, I even enjoyed the banter between the human and the alien.

But what made me really hit the stumbling block for this was the girl and her problems.  It started out alright in the beginning, but especially in the end, it struck me as somewhat Diablos ex Machina.

Much as a Deus ex Machina is when something comes out of nowhere and makes everything better for no reason, to me a Diablos ex Machina is where something comes out of nowhere and makes everything worse for no reason.  Not only does is she missing a leg, but she's got a mess of diseases.  And she gets fungus that makes her ugly.  And the kids hate her.  And her parents die.  And the planet she's on is bad for farming.  And the government shafts them entirely.  And she's so sick she's an old bitter woman by the time she's thirty.

At some point, her problems become less tragic and more a parody, because it's hard to comprehend someone who's had that many bad things happen to them.  Especially when their response to an offer of help is to smack it down with "I just can't make them deal with the woe that is me!", which has been discussed already.

I think the story might have worked a lot better for me if her laundry list of problems had been somewhat decreased. 



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Reply #31 on: September 04, 2008, 12:35:57 AM
... But what made me really hit the stumbling block for this was the girl and her problems.  It started out alright in the beginning, but especially in the end, it struck me as somewhat Diablos ex Machina.

Much as a Deus ex Machina is when something comes out of nowhere and makes everything better for no reason, to me a Diablos ex Machina is where something comes out of nowhere and makes everything worse for no reason.  Not only does is she missing a leg, but she's got a mess of diseases.  And she gets fungus that makes her ugly.  And the kids hate her.  And her parents die.  And the planet she's on is bad for farming.  And the government shafts them entirely.  And she's so sick she's an old bitter woman by the time she's thirty.


Yeah, really. I haven't seen such a string of misfortune since reading the book of Job in the Olde Testamente of teh Holye Bibele.

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Cerebrilith

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Reply #32 on: September 04, 2008, 12:48:03 AM
Ugh...could Miss Emily have been any more pathetic?  At first I had sympathy for the little cripple girl but that soon evaporated when woe after woe was dumped upon this kid.  She's covered in horrible fungus, she's rejected in love, the family farm goes bust time and again, her parents die, her world dies, she rejects her offworld family because she feels they're too good to be burdened with her, she's covered in pustules, she goes blind, she dies alone with the robot who's only there because he was built to be.

The unending parade of sob stories broke all suspension of disbelief and I spent more time thinking about what was going through the author's mind when he felt all of that was necessary then I spent caring about what the characters did.



veganvampire

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Reply #33 on: September 04, 2008, 02:55:02 AM
I loved the story, and only had one question: Why was this rated R?

A theory about Sammy's tears: I, personally, can't cry when I'm sad.  When I'm frusturated, sometimes I cry, but when someone who I love is sick or dead, (or while listening to/reading sad stories, like this one) I just feel sad without crying.  I think that Sammy just wanted to get the "really sad emotion," and didn't care so much about the actual tears.

But if he was programmed as a caregiver to understand emotions, he probably thinks that "tears" are connected to "sad."  When there is a sad child, she has tears.  If the child has tears, she is sad.  What Miss Emily told him about tears coming from the soul probably just confused him.  When she died, he felt like it was his duty to cry "from his soul," and because of his programming, he thought that you can only cry with tears, which he had none of.  And even if he had tears, he had no soul.

Poor guy.  I think he viewed it as not surving his charge.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2008, 03:02:40 AM by veganvampire »



deflective

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Reply #34 on: September 04, 2008, 09:31:52 AM
wow. way to pick on a sick woman guys. =P

she had a defective immune system. these weren't random events that happened to her, they were all symptoms of one defect exasperated by poverty.

the robot chose to show us the pivotal moments in her (and its) life. the time when, as a teenager, she first realized she would probably never be loved like a woman. her decision to remain alone because after a lifetime it's what she was used to. unhappy moments that could be seen as whining but these were the reasons why she was isolated; bitter times for the nanny bot but at some level it probably knew that these were also the reasons why it could stay with her.

Why do robots always seem to either want to be like us or to exterminate us? They never seem to want to be themselves.

definitely agree



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Reply #35 on: September 04, 2008, 11:41:20 AM
I liked this one. It was too predictable for me to get emotional over though. Why do robots always seem to either want to be like us or to exterminate us? They never seem to want to be themselves.

Well, theoretically, they don't have "selves" to be. In most fiction, robots to some degree are developed by the people they are surrounded by. They don't have personalities of their own because they aren't built to.



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Reply #36 on: September 04, 2008, 03:55:57 PM
I liked the story.

I must also comment that I saw Mike Resnick on a panel at Dragon*Con called "101 Delectable Ways to Kill Your Character."  Mike said at one point that he felt out of place on the panel, because he wrote SF and not thrillers.

I think Miss Emily and Sammy would both have to disagree.

He killed Miss Emily in a pretty nasty way, piling (as has been said before, here) woe after woe upon her until she died in pain and loneliness with only The Tin Man as a companion.

And Sammy effectively committed suicide because of inexpressible sorrow.

I was going to go speak to Mike after the panel and tell him how much I've enjoyed his stories on Escape Pod, but I wasn't sure how to say, "I love your stories! You torture your characters in a most wonderful way!" and not sound like a weirdo. :)

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alllie

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Reply #37 on: September 04, 2008, 05:50:44 PM
I think we are pretty lucky if we find Ms. Emily's life weird and unbelievable. Lots of people in the world live lives just as bad or worse than she did.



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Reply #38 on: September 04, 2008, 06:24:29 PM
I liked the story.

I must also comment that I saw Mike Resnick on a panel at Dragon*Con called "101 Delectable Ways to Kill Your Character."  Mike said at one point that he felt out of place on the panel, because he wrote SF and not thrillers.

I think Miss Emily and Sammy would both have to disagree.

He killed Miss Emily in a pretty nasty way, piling (as has been said before, here) woe after woe upon her until she died in pain and loneliness with only The Tin Man as a companion.

And Sammy effectively committed suicide because of inexpressible sorrow.

I was going to go speak to Mike after the panel and tell him how much I've enjoyed his stories on Escape Pod, but I wasn't sure how to say, "I love your stories! You torture your characters in a most wonderful way!" and not sound like a weirdo. :)

.. and what's wrong with sounding like a weirdo?

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Reply #39 on: September 04, 2008, 08:09:58 PM
Well, this story made me laugh - probably not the appropriate response.  I just couldn't get my head into the story enough to care about Ms. Emily and her "oh woe is me, I'm diseased and ugly, I don't want to inflict myself on others, I shall stay here and die."

Anyway, when Mike started piling on the diseases - well, I laughed - after all, isn't comedy just other people's pain?  and I thought it got to the point of ridiculous.

When I did managed to get into the story - I felt bad for Sammy for being stuck with such a rotten owner who would sacrifice her companion robot and tell it not to abandon her - even though she knew she was going to die/commit suicide on Greenwillow.  It really had an AI (the movie) resonance and I was just waiting for Sammy to say "I just want to be a real boy, can you take me to the blue fairy?" or a Robbie the Robot flair with Ms. Emily being Gloria.

Instead, he asked to be able to cry.  When they fit him with tear ducts so he can dribble water down his face I was so disappointed.  I was expecting something along the lines of an emotion chip a la Data from Star Trek:TNG or at least something more that fitting a couple of tubes into his face.  Then I thought maybe they were going to go down the road of physical vs. emotional crying and what it means to be sad - I guess Sammy at some point could have made the connection that having tubes dribble water would never make him cry as it's emotions - but at this point I was only half listening).  And when he sits there and tries to cry I was thinking "well, he's going to turn them on like windshield wiper blades and realize he doesn't have the emotion to go with it".  But when they don't even turn on - again, I was confused because turning the pump on would be just flipping a switch as they didn't do any real programing of emotions to Sammy - so why would it not at least function from a mechanical point?  I would have even enjoyed a dissertation on how an alien/human team has forgotten the meaning of sadness and crying and it being more than physical (which is where I thought the alien partner was going to come in.  As it is, I think the alien distracted from the story more than moving it along because I kept expecting something more from the alien - Actually, any kind of insight would have been nice).

Instead, they buried the poor mis-used robot. I was confused about why the Baroni was in the story rather than a human other than another checkmark in the sci-fi checklist of things to have in a sci-fi story.  And, I just felt very sad that of all the ways it could have ended - that's the way it did.  I kept thinking - hey, it's a robot - instead of burying it just hit the factory hard reset like I do with my PDA then it's off to relive a productive life with another caring family, but maybe that's my inner pack-rat coming out saying never throw anything away...

I think writing this post probably evoked more thinking than the actual story.



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Reply #40 on: September 04, 2008, 08:10:51 PM
  This story should have been really dull; nothing much really happened, and the ending was somewhat predictable, so why did i like it so much?

  I feel proud that I did not tear up at this one (thank you very much for the warning at the beginning, although I generally assume now that if it is a Resnick story, I should prepare myself for sorrow), but I do understand why some people might.

  I  have come to the conclusion that Resnick stories are like a crystal rose; lovingly crafted things of true beauty... but you have to watch out for the darned thorns.

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WillMoo

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Reply #41 on: September 04, 2008, 08:37:11 PM
I liked this one. It was too predictable for me to get emotional over though. Why do robots always seem to either want to be like us or to exterminate us? They never seem to want to be themselves.

Well, theoretically, they don't have "selves" to be. In most fiction, robots to some degree are developed by the people they are surrounded by. They don't have personalities of their own because they aren't built to.
I thought that the implication that it was once they achieved sentience was obvious. I am thinking about writing a story where the robots become fully self aware, realize how screwed up humans are and just pack up and leave.



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Reply #42 on: September 04, 2008, 08:43:11 PM
I am thinking about writing a story where the robots become fully self aware, realize how screwed up humans are and just pack up and leave.

Cylons, anyone? :)

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ieDaddy

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Reply #43 on: September 04, 2008, 08:45:57 PM
I liked this one. It was too predictable for me to get emotional over though. Why do robots always seem to either want to be like us or to exterminate us? They never seem to want to be themselves.

Well, theoretically, they don't have "selves" to be. In most fiction, robots to some degree are developed by the people they are surrounded by. They don't have personalities of their own because they aren't built to.
I thought that the implication that it was once they achieved sentience was obvious. I am thinking about writing a story where the robots become fully self aware, realize how screwed up humans are and just pack up and leave.

Would that be skynet?



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Reply #44 on: September 05, 2008, 12:35:53 AM
I am thinking about writing a story where the robots become fully self aware, realize how screwed up humans are and just pack up and leave.
Cylons, anyone? :)
Would that be skynet?
I think both Cylons and Skynet fall into the "exterminate us" category. what with both of them launching a war with the explicitly stated goal of making humans extinct.

But I'm probably reading a little too much into a friendly genocide...

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WillMoo

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Reply #45 on: September 05, 2008, 12:55:19 PM
I am thinking about writing a story where the robots become fully self aware, realize how screwed up humans are and just pack up and leave.
Cylons, anyone? :)
Would that be skynet?
I think both Cylons and Skynet fall into the "exterminate us" category. what with both of them launching a war with the explicitly stated goal of making humans extinct.

But I'm probably reading a little too much into a friendly genocide...
Exactly, both of them want to exterminate humans. "Friendly genocide"??

Maybe they would just leave a note on our galactic pillow the morning after the conception, leaving us to wait by the SETI dishes for their call. I mean really! They could at least send flowers!



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Reply #46 on: September 05, 2008, 04:10:53 PM
Hey, has anyone seen this (sorry, if someone has already posted it): Rogun the robot-babysitter by Korean gadget company CornTech.

Hmm, not sure I would want this to take care of my kids, not that I have any of course, but I would want my children to learn to relate to other children and to adults, not to robots, which/who only keep them entertained by showing them videos. Well, I do love gadgets and would love to play around with it, take it apart ... I am sure that would make it cry. If not that then probably the dog peeing on it would. (The dog that I can't have now but that would be part of the fictional family I have in mind.)

Oh, and here is the link to the company, in case anyone is interested.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2008, 04:13:31 PM by cuddlebug »



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Reply #47 on: September 07, 2008, 11:39:19 AM
It's a very rare and special moment when a short story makes you really sit back and reflect, like a a small bullet of emotion.

This short story was no exception, one of my favourite Escape Pods to date.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2008, 11:52:38 AM by TristanPEJ »

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evo.shandor

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Reply #48 on: September 07, 2008, 07:22:15 PM
I didn't enjoy this piece, although I did like Resnick's earlier EP outing "The Big Guy."  The girl's pain seemed too easy -- just throw a lot of maladies at her.  And I did not believe or follow the bot's developing emotions.  For what was supposed to be a tear-jerker, it moved along like stereo instructions.

I had expected the tear ducts to be inserted and the bot to cry...and cry...and cry...and make it useless for any resale value, but eventually find someone new to care for as a nursemad since that is the human condition: We lose people we love, but most move on and overcome.  As for the main character, he I had hoped he would decide not to sell the machine (i.e., slavery), but to let it free to follow its own wants.

Alternatively, tell this story from the alien's POV -- that would really have been interesting.  All in all, there were no original idea (except for salvaging abandoned world for "antiques", which I think was a great idea) and no emotion resonance for me.

But can I suggest to Mr. Eley putting a moratorium on Mr. Resnick's work?  He has appeared 11 times (one of those, "The Sweet, Sad Love Song of Fred and Wilma", being co-authored with Nick Dichario) on Escape Pod, which is two more than Jeffrey R. DeRego with nine appearances, many of those the Union Dues stories.  There are two other writers who have appeared five times (Paul E. Martens and Robert Silverberg) and five writers who have had four stories published (Janni Lee Simner, Jonathon Sullivan, Nancy Kress, Tim Pratt and Christmas Story favorite Mur Lafferty).

I enjoy Escape Pod as an anthology, getting to sample different writers and discovering some I never would have run across, but the repeats bog me down.  I do not mind a Kristine Kathryn Rusch or Robert J. Sawyer story now and then, but there are some great up and coming SF writers who deserve the exposure they might not otherwise get.  In Metacast #3, Steve said Escape Pod is "a major force in the science fiction genre," but how can it be that when we are getting stories we can find elsewhere from writers who are finding their own success?  That is, Escape Pod strikes me more like echoing major forces in sci-fi rather than being its own force.  I realize as an editor Steve has his own preferences, which are reflected in the stories selected for Escape Pod, but how about some new voices rather than "SF's most award winning author" ad infinitum?

Granted, Steve can only publish that which is submitted to him.  So, to all you writers out there, send Steve your stuff!!!



veganvampire

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Reply #49 on: September 08, 2008, 12:13:30 AM
Alternatively, tell this story from the alien's POV

Now that you mention it, I would have liked to have seen that!



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Reply #50 on: September 08, 2008, 01:58:30 PM
wow veganvampire i love your avatar!

sorry for interrupting.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #51 on: September 08, 2008, 02:30:22 PM
I don't know if it is all Mike Resnick stories, but I usually hear the name and think, "why does that sound familiar?" and then there is a crappy, pointless story.

And that makes me sad. =(

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Reply #52 on: September 08, 2008, 04:02:26 PM
I wasn't a big fan of this story.  It seemed dry and the ending a bit disconnected.  I don't think the feeling and desire of the robot came across like I would have expected it to.  Maybe I just expected more out of it.

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Reply #53 on: September 08, 2008, 04:22:24 PM
You must be listening to a different escape pod, I've yet to hear a Mike Resnick story that was crappy and pointless.



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Reply #54 on: September 08, 2008, 06:15:39 PM
Hey, has anyone seen this (sorry, if someone has already posted it): Rogun the robot-babysitter by Korean gadget company CornTech.

That's nothing compared to the hours of fun I had with my 2-XL, and it just used 8-track tapes.  Anyone else have one?

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Reply #55 on: September 08, 2008, 06:29:06 PM
This story didn't work for me. I felt the narrative voice to be contrived and superficial. The story of Miss Emily itself felt like it was a direct-to-cable tearjerker - hitting all the standard buttons, with little originality or insight. But the fact that the story was trite wasn't the issue for me. I can accept triteness if it's well-written, which this was. The problem was that we were removed from the Miss Emily story by the narrative framework. And while I myself may get an emotional response to a cliche'd story, hearing about how someone else was deeply moved by it - especially as the premise of "cold, callow man's heart melts" is also a cliche - holds no appeal to me whatsoever.



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Reply #56 on: September 09, 2008, 12:05:27 PM
I have been looking forward to reading/hearing this story since I saw a review of an animated film of the story on scifi.com (the review was fairly negative, but doled out great respect for the story).

I ended up running errands while I listened to this piece.

At about the 27 minute mark I got out of the car where my mp3 player was plugged into the radio.

With the ability to stop and reflect about the story partway through, I walked about my errand and thought to myself that although Steve gave the tear jerker warning I did not see how the information about the person and robot we should care about, provided in 3rd hand information, from a narrator who is in no way a compassionate person, could cause me to tear up within the few minutes I had left to listen.

Of course by the end, the tears were flowing.

Good Job, Mike.



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Reply #57 on: September 09, 2008, 01:01:32 PM
... the hours of fun I had with my 2-XL, and it just used 8-track tapes.  Anyone else have one?
Yes, and my wife remembers the little guy too.

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sayeth

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Reply #58 on: September 10, 2008, 02:03:36 AM
A question for Mr. Resnick: Is "Miss Emily" a nod to the character of the same name in William Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily"? It seems like they have a few things in common. I had recently been reminded of the Faulker story from its appearance in an episode of Miette's Bedtime Stories podcast.

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mike-resnick

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Reply #59 on: September 10, 2008, 03:34:43 AM
>>A question for Mr. Resnick: Is "Miss Emily" a nod to the character of the same name in William Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily"? It seems like they have a few things in common. I had recently been reminded of the Faulker story from its appearance in an episode of Miette's Bedtime Stories podcast.<<

No, I hadn't thought about Faulkner's story until you just mentioned it. Actually, "Miss Emily"
is what I call Tobias Buckell's charming wife.

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Reply #60 on: September 10, 2008, 09:10:08 AM
You know what it was actually nice to watch me crying in the mirror. For the first time in my life i admired those little liquid drops coming out of my eyes. I know I sound like a little sissy when I talk like that but hell maan be honest I think all of us cried listening to it.



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Reply #61 on: September 10, 2008, 09:52:36 AM
Didn't work for me at all, I felt I was given no reason to care that bad things happened to someone who died a long time ago and as for the Bicentennial Man plot with the robot, gosh, we have another grumpy prospector who likes to pretend he's only after money and looking after number one in order to protect the noble human being he is inside?

Although the quality of Mr Resnick's writing was as great as ever, the plot was melodramatic and clichéd.



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Reply #62 on: September 12, 2008, 05:05:51 PM
It reminded me of everyone I have lost and made me go threw and mourn them all over agein. It was refreshing to remember the day I lost them which led to remembering our time together and being able to see what they added to my life. I just have to remember to not listen to any Resnick while operating a forklift agein.



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Reply #63 on: September 14, 2008, 02:27:22 PM
... but hell maan be honest I think all of us cried listening to it.

Nope.  Not all of us.

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Reply #64 on: September 15, 2008, 12:54:42 AM
Maybe I'm made of tin but I didn't cry.  It reminded me a bit of the "Wizard of Oz" tinman.
Very well written and read.   A bit of action would've been nice though. 

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Reply #65 on: September 23, 2008, 12:55:09 PM
I wouldn't have been able to tell you what I really thought of this story when I finished listening to it, but I did move it right over to my "Keep" playlist.  I only keep about 10% of the stories, so I guess I liked it.



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Reply #66 on: June 25, 2010, 04:48:28 PM
Resnick stories tend to skirt a line between being tearjerkers and being transparently emotionally manipulative.  This one fell into the latter category for me.  I'm not sure if it was the heavy reliance on cliches, but instead of feeling emotion I could mark the points in the story "This is supposed to make me feel sad" but without actually feeling sad.  I like me a good Resnick story, but this case I could see the man behind the curtain.

It is hard to break new ground with a "robot learns to love" story and I just don't think this one pulled it off.  It doesn't help that we have so many other Resnick stories with such a similar theme here on EP to compare it to.  Beachcomber pulled it off much more effectively, and did it more concisely, to boot.  Of course, I have also sold a "robot learns to love" story, so perhaps others would see mine the same way.