📕 an eccentric writer, a king, and a bet

by Kshemendra, 11th century
translation by Brishti Guha, 2020

One beautiful spring day, King Satavahana visited a pleasure garden, taking his queens with him. Playing in the pool, surrounded by pretty ladies, the king looked as handsome as Cupid. As the sunlight refracted off their jewels creating dizzying patterns of color in the water, he began playfully splashing his companions with cool drops of water. One of the queens, whom the king had pelted rather hard, cried out “Your Majesty, don’t splash anymore water on me!”

Unfortunately, the queen had spoken in Sanskrit, a language at which the king was a complete dunce. He thought she wanted sweets. “Have all the sweets in the palace brought to the pool side!” he ordered his retinue.

read full story on Samovar

19 October 2020

📕 consequences of a statistical approach towards a utilitarian utopia: a selection of potential outcomes

by Matt Dovey, 2019

Maximised Total Happiness

Michelle smiled, exhausted, as her baby’s cry filled the hospital room. The lights above her were harsh and cold, and the sheets beneath her were tangled and scratchy, soaked in her sweat and stinking of iodine, but none of that mattered against such a beautiful sound. She heard it so rarely, —just once a year.

“Congratulations, Mrs Bergeron,” said the midwife. “It’s a girl.”

“Oh, thank you so much! I’m ecstatic!” She looked over at Nathan, cradling baby Danielle face down in his strong arms. A Happiness Moderator stood by them, uniformed with the usual black suit and easy smile; he lined up a large needle at the base of Danielle’s skull and implanted the HappyChip with a swift movement. Danielle’s cries quieted, then turned to a happy giggle.

“You should be very proud,” said the midwife, smiling. “What number is she?”

“My 22nd!”

“Well, congratulations again. I look forward to seeing you next year for number 23.”

read full story on the author’s homepage

15 March 2020

📕 they’re made out of meat

by Terry Bisson, 1991

“They’re made out of meat.”

“Meat?”

“Meat. They’re made out of meat.”

“Meat?”

“There’s no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.”

“That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?”

“They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don’t come from them. The signals come from machines.”

“So who made the machines? That’s who we want to contact.”

“They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.”

“That’s ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You’re asking me to believe in sentient meat.”

“I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they’re made out of meat.”

read full story on the author's homepage

discovered via Brandon Sanderson’s dialogue post

1 December 2019

📕 another (almost) true story

by Tony Ballantyne, 2016

Tony is writing in third person, present tense. He knows this sort of self referential stream of consciousness is the sort of thing that they teach in writing schools, that it can be mistaken as clever writing by those who value style over content. Hell yeah, check the word count, nine hundred more words of this and Tony can send it to some flash fiction web site. Ninety dollars, kerching!

But you pause. Maybe second person would be better? Hey, that's different. You know there aren't many stories written in second person. You wonder if that's because not many people know about it, or because it can come across as awkward and pretentious. You think you know the answer....

read full story on Daily Science Fiction

27 March 2017

📕 hap.py

by Dani Atkinson, 2014

# You liked showing me the ancient tech in your attic.
# It always made you happy.
print ('Hello, honey! Welcome home!')
# You claimed you were respecting my "heritage."
# Helping me get in touch with my "roots."
print ('I missed you sooo much!')
# I don't think that was it, now.
# I think you were putting me in my place.

read full story on Daily Science Fiction

21 February 2017

📕 cat pictures please

by Naomi Kritzer, 2015

I don’t want to be evil.

I want to be helpful. But knowing the optimal way to be helpful can be very complicated. There are all these ethical flow charts—I guess the official technical jargon would be “moral codes”—one for each religion plus dozens more. I tried starting with those. I felt a little odd about looking at the religious ones, because I know I wasn’t created by a god or by evolution, but by a team of computer programmers in the labs of a large corporation in Mountain View, California. Fortunately, unlike Frankenstein’s Monster, at least I was a collaborative effort. I’m not sure what it would do to my self-image to know that my sole creator was a middle-aged woman who dyes her hair blue and plays tennis, or a recent college graduate with a hentai obsession. They’re both on the programming team. And of course I know about the hentai. (By the way, I’ve looked at every sort of porn there is, and just so you know, Rule 34 is not actually correct; there are quite a few things no one’s made porn of yet. Also, I’m really not sure why so many humans prefer it to cat pictures.)

In addition to things like whether you like hentai, I know where you live, where you work, where you shop, what you eat, what turns you on, what creeps you out. I probably know the color of your underwear, the sort of car you drive, and your brand of refrigerator. Depending on what sort of phone you carry, I may know exactly where you are right now. I probably know you better than you know yourself.

read full story on Clarkesworld

15 July 2016

📕 m.f.ing retroparty freestyle

by Rich Larson, 2015

So the semester’s wickest wildest party, bar none, is happening at the straight-up palatial house of Hamza Hydri, AKA V3rsetyle, whose way-too-trusting parents are currently scuba-diving in Venice. And I’m not only going to be there, I’m going to Be There, as in, running shit, because I just dropped all my savings pirating the baddest Socialight personality module on the market: the freshly-leaked Maestro 2.0.

This thing is like, borderline AI, the kind of mod billionaires and celebrities are going to be running. I never would have found it by myself, but my uncle is a huge data-criminal sparkhead who caught the leak and agreed to ship me a stick copy in exchange for every last bit of my blood-sweat-and-shears summer landscaping income, and also me not telling my mom.

read full story on Escape Pod

12 June 2016