Friday, January 20, 2012

Toasters, Plugs, and Equations

It's Friday again, and you should know what that means. It's time to mull over a couple of short stories. Here are three that I have read in the last few weeks. Two of them have been published recently, and the the other one is a classic.

The Brave Little Toaster by Cory Doctorow -- Technology Review Science Fiction
(The written version of this story is only available in MIT's TRSF. If you would like to purchase it, click the link to Technology Review Science Fiction. However, an audio version read by Doctorow can be found on one of his podcasts, and can be listened to by clicking on the story title.)
In this story, Doctorow imagines how smart house technology could work in the future someday. All of the gadgets, and nearly everything else people will purchase anymore, will have chips in them and will be able to communicate with each other. The story begins with the main character buying a soda. However, it starts malfunctioning, so he tries to get rid of it. But none of the technology in his house can dispose it. So we are left with a question: what is he supposed to do with it? He puts it in the fridge, but the fridge refuses to hold it. He tries to put it in the oven, but the oven thinks it's dangerous. I forgot to mention this, but the story reads a lot like a Dr. Seuss tale, which also makes it all the more fun to read. Anyways, he tries everything, but nothing seems to work. Then he remembers his grandfather's old toaster. It's stupid, but perhaps it is the brightest piece of machinery in his whole house. It does what he tells it to do. He puts the soda can in there, and it ends up overheating. The main character gets arrested in the end, yet he still accomplished his goal.

Character Is What You Are by Michael R. Fletcher -- Daily Science Fiction
Fletcher set his story in the near future, and intellectual property is now one of the most protected things around. The main character and all of his fellow coworkers wear memory plugs at work so that they cannot take any of the company's secrets home with them. So, while wearing the plug, they can recall everything, however, when they take it out, everything associated with the plug goes as well. The strange thing that happens in this story is that while not plugged, the main character meets a woman and starts dating her. I guess that isn't so strange, so let me tell you the strange part: his best friend has been having an affair with that woman while they were plugged. But once they leave the office, they don't remember it. So the main character discusses everything with his friend, and once they put on the plugs, the friend becomes irate and starts to hate him. It's actually a very good story and it got me thinking about more stuff like that.

The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin -- Astounding Magazine
All of us face difficult decisions from time to time. And, put simply, that is exactly what Tom Godwin explored in this short story published nearly sixty years ago now. His main character, by duty of law, must kill a stowaway on his tiny ship, otherwise entry into the planet won't work. It is on his shoulders to do this. Kill the stowaway or kill everyone on the ship. The situation only gets muddier when he discovers who the illegal passenger is. It's a teenage girl on her way to see her brother, or so she thinks. I don't want to go further into detail on this story because it is well worth the read.

No comments:

Post a Comment