The new anthology The best American science fiction and fantasy 2021 brings together 20 of the best short stories of the year. Series Editor John Joseph Adams was particularly impressed by Ted Kosmatka’s story “The beast adjoins” which presents a new take on the idea of an AI uprising.
“It’s so awesome,” Adams says in episode 492 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It pushes all the sense of wonder buttons; there’s all this cool character stuff in there. It is enormous. There’s so much going on in the story. I adore.”
The story is inspired by Von Neumann-Wigner interpretation of quantum mechanics, postulating a future in which advanced AI will be incapable of functioning without the presence of humans. Guest editor Véronique Rothauthor of Divergent, found the story extremely frightening. “I reached the place where the machines were using people attached to the front of themselves to move time forward, and I thought, ‘This is revolting.’ I love it,” she says. “It’s haunted me since I read it. I can’t stop thinking about it.
Fantastic author Yohanca Delgado agrees that “The Beast Adjoints” is a disturbing story. “It’s a beautifully realized and frightening premise, this reversal of what we imagine AI can do for us,” she says. “There is a passage where [the AIs] create human taillights – humans in jars who are just an eye and a blob of flesh. This is incredibly horrible writing. I am a big fan.”
For now, “The Beast Adjoins” only exists as a standalone short story, but Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley wonders if the story could be expanded. “I just feel like it’s such an interesting premise: these AIs that can only work when humans observe them,” he says. “I feel like there are probably a lot of other stories you could get out of this.”
Listen to the full interview with John Joseph Adams, Veronica Roth and Yohanca Delgado in episode 492 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Yohanca Delgado on the Bugle workshop:
“At Clarion, I skipped a week and I was freaking out in my room, because I was like, ‘I have to write something.’ I have this idea, and I can’t seem to write anything else, but I also feel… you know that feeling when you want to write something, but you’re not quite ready? Like, you don’t feel like you’re the right writer to tackle it yet… And the schedule at Clarion is relentless. I had already missed a week, I couldn’t miss another. I talked to Andy Duncan, who is a wonderful human, and basically he said to me, “I don’t understand why you don’t just do this.” Sometimes that’s what you need to hear. You need someone to shake you by the shoulders and say, “Go do it. »
Yohanca Delgado on his story “Our Language”:
“My family is from the Dominican Republic and Cuba. I didn’t know any monsters from Latin America or the Caribbean, so I embarked on this research project to find them… The ciguapa is this woman – there are some stories that say she is also masculine, but I was particularly interested in the idea of it being a woman – who is very petite and charming, of a wild manner, and whose legs grow backwards. I found it to be a really interesting monster to think about. What would his powers be? What does all this mean? As I researched this topic, I discovered that it was truly rooted in the stories of indigenous and enslaved people. Because his real superpower was being able to escape. And I found that it fit really well with some conversations about gender and gender oppression.
John Joseph Adams on the pandemic:
“Most people who publish a sci-fi/fantasy magazine don’t do it as a job, it’s a side hustle they do. They have another regular job that allows them to pay the bills. So perhaps because they saved an hour of commuting each day to and from work, they had more time to work on their [magazines]. Honestly, I expected there to be a lot more shutdowns and stopping publishing, just because a lot of people lost their jobs once the pandemic hit, and there was just a lot of tightening the belt which was necessary for almost everyone. So I was really surprised to see that everyone was so resilient. Maybe part of it was because everyone was thinking, “People need this right now.” So it was more important to stick around rather than shut down, because we need that to look forward to when we’re dealing with all this scary sadness in the real world.
David Barr Kirtley on “The Pill” by Meg Elison:
“One of the reasons why this story is science fiction, in the good sense of the word, is that it doesn’t just present an idea and then stick to this static situation, it never stops to complicate it and introduce new twists… One of the things that is It is often said about science fiction that the job of a science fiction writer is not to predict the automobile: no matter who could predict the automobile. Your job is to predict the interstate highway system and suburbs, and examine the second-order effects of these technological changes. And I thought the story worked really well in that way as a science fiction story, where it wasn’t just about, “How does this new technology affect the protagonist?” Company?'”