Tag Archives: cyborg

Effort Less

‘Henry. You can tell a lot from someone’s footwear,’ his mother had been fond of saying.

He stared at his feet, lost in thought about his parents’ prenatal decision to enhance him, the embryonic Henry, for a life of fully fledged privilege. A high-performing human.

His shoes were scuffed, dirty and fraying where the plastic upper was coming loose from the sole. His whole body sagged with despair. Although, looking along the neatly lined-up feet of the bus queue, his were no worse than anyone else’s; public transport and poverty must be symbiotic, each dependent on the other.

In contrast, a pair of hand-made soft leather shoes stood a few feet away in the gutter. Nice trousers too, but why the hi-vis jacket and protective gloves? Aha, a streetcleaner. An extremely rich streetcleaner if he was willing to work in such expensive shoes. They lived in an effortocracy and no matter what Henry did or said would change that.

What a fucked up world.

Despondent, Henry continued to wait passively in the queue which he suspected was almost entirely made up of the morning’s appointments at the same assessment centre that he was being forced to attend. This poor struggling batch of humanity would be cajoled into behaving properly, to fulfil their potential. Made to acknowledge that they’d let themselves and everyone else down. Continue reading

Shhh… it’s a Library

Yesterday was the launch event for Eating Robots and Other Stories at The Libary Club in central London and what a great evening it was. There’s nothing quite like hearing an audience laugh and gasp at the exact moment you want them to, and they did.

I was really pleased that Christine Aicardi and Laura Prime, both contributors to the expert responses at the back of the book, were able to come along to speak and take questions from the audience. I think there’s something special about collaborating and they epitomised this perfectly.

For me the pinnacle of the evening was Gigi Lynch performing the story US (photo above). It’s not easy to hold an audience for thirty minutes with one story, but she managed it effortlessly.

US was emotional to write and Gigi was brilliant at bringing out the deep sense of loss, loneliness and optimistic hope that I believe is an integral part of the story. In fact she was so good that I was moved to tears (by my own story!) and even people who already knew it came up afterwards to say how captivated they’d been.

You can find out more about the collection at stephenoram.net/eatingrobots


On 22 June 2017, Eating Robots and Other Stories is featured as a part of the Fitzrovia Festival literary event – Collaboration Works

Cracks in the Code

Why are we enthralled and appalled by the idea of a robot apocalypse?

Getting lost in the fantasy of a film or a book, being petrified by the impending end of the world and knowing at the back of our minds that it’s not real is exciting and entertaining, but why are so many stories like this? Perhaps the reality of our world is too harsh to accept and this form of escapism helps. Or, it could simply be that it’s easier to write apocalyptic stories of dread and danger than it is aspirational and inspirational utopias. It’s certainly a lot easier than writing about the human race messily stumbling forwards in a, “can’t quite work out who the good guys are,” kind of way.

Over the past few months I’ve met and shared a stage with scientists, sometimes to talk about their work and sometimes for them to respond to my work. It’s been fascinating and I want to do a lot more of it.

During one of these meetings we talked about what was acceptable on the dystopian spectrum and, in their view, Black Mirror was good and Terminator was bad. In fact, I’ve been particularly struck by how these collaborations have counteracted the tendency towards writing apocalyptic and improbable stories. It’s almost as if there’s a symbiotic tension; writing science fiction with a view to highlighting the potential uses of scientists’ discoveries while in their presence also makes me write stories that are not only entertaining but also plausible. I have to say it’s a relief the reviews for my new collection, Eating Robots, have compared it favourably to Black Mirror and there’s no mention of Terminator.

Through work with the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, the Human Brain Project at Kings College and various events with Virtual Futures I’ve been exposed to science and art that I wouldn’t have normally come across. It’s these conversations and observations that have led me to believe that we shouldn’t be worrying so much about the robot apocalypse as looking for the cracks in the crevices of poorly written or inadvertently biased code.

When choosing what would be in Eating Robots and Other Stories I decided it was only right that the scientists I’ve been working with should have a voice so I invited them to contribute a response to whichever story they wanted. Christine Aicardi, a Senior Research Fellow at Kings College London, touches on this notion of the cracks in the code in her response to The Thrown Away Things. She says, “Instead, it may lurk where we don’t expect it, in the discarded and the obsolete, in the faulty lines of code of an ill-designed and unmaintained software – here, in the decision-making modules of the bric-a-brac.”

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that not only is the messy bit in-between the dystopic and the utopic more likely it’s also much more interesting.

If you feel the same then I’d love to hear your views on the stories in Eating Robots and if you happen to be in London on 6 June then please come along to the launch. I’ll be reading from the collection and Christine, among others, will be there to give their response.



photo credit: Eugen Naiman Green rock via photopin (license)