Michael Hartford

writer, photographer, programmer, dad

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“The Golem” by Avram Davidson

A retired Jewish couple is visited by a golem-like android, and they unwittingly turn the tables on its plot to subjugate humankind to its will.

This is a wonderfully charming story; Davidson nails the characters’ voices perfectly, and their utter indifference to the android’s evil plot is delightful.

“Computer Friendly” by Eileen Gunn

A girl befriends a pair of rambunctious kids at a test for their future placement in a cybernetic network, and goes on a quest to prevent them from being liquidated as unassimilable.

This story deftly balances a very dark and dystopian setting – people wired into a bio-engineered computer network and children euthanized if found to be out of step with the network’s needs – with some fun and playful cyberpunk imagery.

“Everywhere” by Geoff Ryman

A young man in the near future reflects on his grandfather’s passing and the way technology intersects with his daily life.

This is an interesting look into the rather mundane effects that remarkable technology can have; some of the tech is familiar now some 20 years after the story was published – the narrator’s smart watch is quite relatable – while other things are a bit fantastical, like the personal flight devices that the church choir uses. It’s a largely optimistic story, though, showing the positive and sometimes unintended benefits that technology can have on daily life.

“We See Things Differently” by Bruce Sterling

An Arab journalist interviews an American rock star who has become a demagogic focal point in a declining post-imperial world.

This has fascinating and troubling contemporary echoes – written in 1989, it would have been eerily prescient if it had been written in 2019. The world it imagines, with America in decline but grasping for an imagined glorious past while other centers of power emerge, feels closer to our world today than it would have 30 years ago.

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