Merc Fenn Wolfmoor has a new queer sci fi collection out: Friends for Robots.
In this upbeat, positive collection of SFF short stories from Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, author of So You Want to Be A Robot, you’ll find hope, humor, friendship—and of course, robots.
Have you heard the one about…
…a neural network who wants humans to drink more water?
…a person stranded on Mars with only an obsolete robotic toy?
…a cyborg caught in a time loop with a frightened ship?
…a self-aware mech who doesn’t want to be a weapon anymore?
…an AI sent into the deepest part of the ocean—and finds a god?
You’ll also meet entrepreneurial barbarians, an astronaut making first contact, a boy who might have (accidentally) started Armageddon, magical birds, a bot who wants to tell jokes, and more. Whether you’re a robot or not, come make some new friends. :)
Warnings: Each story has a note attached to the opening paragraph that will contain specific content notes for that story. In the ebook version, you can click on the footnote to see the text; the Notes page contains a full list. Overall content notes for the collection include: violence, suicidal ideation/thoughts, misgendering, incarceration, animal death, depression, gender dysphoria, mentions of transphobia, verbal abuse, abandonment, self-harm, gun violence, lung disease, threats of violence, non-consensual telepathic contact.
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The rover purrs over the rocky surface of the moon. Kaityn remembers playing the old video game series Mass Effect, where they piloted an indestructible ground vehicle. They reveled in flying it off cliffs just to watch the absurdity of low-G and unbreakable shock absorbers. They aren’t nearly as reckless with an actual GEP-commissioned rover—especially when they’re driving, and this is reality. Still, in private, Kaityn thinks of their rover as the Mako 2.0.
Dust kicks up behind the treads, and on the radar map, Kaityn notes the signal lit up as a green flare. They park the rover half a kilometer away and strap on their survival/first aid pack.
The vibrations of hurt-lost-scared presses against their consciousness even this far away. They swallow hard, their throat tight.
In space, they have only their own emotions to process. This nervousness is all theirs. Although Kaityn believes AIs have cognition and emotion, Horatio operates on a different frequency from their perception. They asked once if that was intentional to accommodate them. There was a long pause—for Horatio, at least—and then the AI replied: “Yes, I do. I was not programmed to project emotions, merely to observe and respond to them when appropriate.”
“But you’re full of sensors,” Kaityn said, flapping their hands in excitement. “And you do feel—I can tell by the way you operate. We might be similar in that way.”
“Interesting analysis,” Horatio said. “Perhaps we are both outliers from how we were originally programmed.”
Kaityn liked that: another thread of connection between them and Horatio.
Now, Kaityn struggles to rein in their wildly fluctuating emotional response. This could be first contact! The sheer thrill is muted with fear, and the building sense of pain they can’t ignore, like an oncoming migraine.
Kaityn unstraps from the rover and hops out.
Their boots leave quarter-inch tracks in the soft moon dust. Kaityn resists the urge to flop down and roll around, making an angel pattern in the sediment. It isn’t polite to the moon, and they can’t spare the time.
They’re reminded of fresh, soft snowfall in North Dakota, where they lived as a child. They would bundle up in a plush jacket, snow pants, mittens, hat—always refusing a scarf for how it itched against their skin—and dash out into their huge yard. After a snowfall, there was a sense of calm and serenity under the vast gray sky. They would flop in the beautiful drifts, gather clumps of snow to make forts or dinosaurs until called back inside when their lips grew numb and their cheeks turned bright red.
Winters were never the same for Kaityn when they moved to Chicago at age ten, and there was no peace under the sky.
Kaityn navigates via digital map and their helmet’s built-in spotlights. Mesas sprout up and meld into cliff faces on Io 7’s surface. Their helmet light casts jagged shadows along the gray-blue stone. There: a disturbance in the arid stone. Dust sways like smoke suspended over dimming embers. Something bright and translucent shimmers within a tiny crater, a crack in the stone.
Merc Fenn Wolfmoor is a queer non-binary writer who likes dinosaurs, robots, monsters, and cookies. Their fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Uncanny, Fireside, Nightmare, and others. Merc is also a 2016 Nebula Award finalist for their story, “This Is Not A Wardrobe Door,” which has been reprinted in PodCastle (audio), Cicada (2018), and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, along with translations into Chinese and Portuguese.