Size / / /

"'And that is all,' said Dr. [Susan] Calvin, rising. 'I saw it from the beginning, when the poor robots couldn't speak, to the end, when they stand between mankind and destruction. I will see no more. My life is over.'"

—"The Evitable Conflict," from I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

Isaac invented you in isolation:

no mother and no sisters, no girlfriends,

more symbol than personality. Everything was alien.

Robots were what went right,

followed the rules. Those that lied,

that hid, that reached inside your brain—

you squashed, unsparked, shut off.

What violence from loneliness.

And Isaac gave you center stage.

Did you represent the women of his future?

Your devotion to mathematics and the three laws

of robotics prohibit romance and biology.

Where did he see the horde born from

who spanned his galaxy? Written out

of the story, what women would agree

to bear the margin's tedium from now

until machines might save us all?

Narrator, protagonist, soliloquizing

your brilliance to the audience,

your actions had the option to speak

what dialogue could never leave your mouth.

You trusted the unknown, the Other,

you laid down calmly on the tracks

and called out, singing, to the train.

Don't save me. Let the wild metal men

kidnap me, blow up my trappings of humanity.

Why would they take you in?

Like any other ape, you couldn't meet

the membership requirements.

Don't injure other people. Pay attention

to the words of those wiser than yourself.

Be true. Woman in a man's world

just like you, yet I refuse to choose destruction

of my own deep unknown, the human mystery.

I can hear the whistle blowing. Stand up.

Or I will pull you out with my own warm hand.




Mary Alexandra Agner writes of dead women, telescopes, and secrets. Her poetry, stories, and nonfiction have appeared in The Cascadia Subduction ZoneShenandoah, and Sky & Telescope, respectively. She can be found online at http://www.pantoum.org.
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28 Sep 2020

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Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
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17 Jul 2020
Strange Horizons is now accepting fiction submissions for our Mexico Special issue, which will be published at the end of November 2020!
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