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Oil's a fine lubricant for fucking robots
he told me over lunch at the corner cafe
on a Sunday afternoon across the street
from el Templo del Jesus Androide.
With a glance out the window, he grins
yellowed teeth like bits of brass
that scintillate on animatronic carcasses.
I take them in one at a time, it's an artform
for a hundred bucks I open the hatch
and put my hands in. It's not clean money
but the job isn't dirty: scraping the rust
from their calloused breastplates
is like fingers down a chalkboard--
you remember those, right, from those movies
saved as digital media files
before the temporal resonance transmitters were installed?
Anyways, I was saying rust. They're older models
before the carbon chassis came out
no one tends to them anymore, but their AI's still active
what else are they supposed to do?
Junk them up as batteries? Recycle their memories?
You can't even jump one up for spare parts these days
no one cares about 'em anymore. So what's the harm?
I polish them all nice and cozy, maybe kiss 'em on the processor
it's a process, being a whore. I gotta watch who I message
gotta feel 'em out for cops or not
but screening is easy with modern-day encryption,
it's like there's no police at all.
Anyways, where was I? So no one likes the iron guys
the brass bodies, those deluxe models in carbon grey
now all they want is crystalline displays in white casing
sterile sentients all pumped up for the masses,
but what are they after? These new ones, they're just slaves
but these older guys, they were something--
have you ever listened to a droid drone on?
I mean, come on, they lived through the elections
before the States fell apart, before the transition began
and you know what? I like it. Sure, my mind departs me
when I'm undressed and getting naughty,
but I'm doing something, helping people--
wait, you say they aren't people? So what if they're made of steel
and the sweat of systems engineers,
what's our biology but the cell structure
of their robotic chassis? Maybe you think they're less than human
but that's why I've got this job--because they've got nothing else
so I sell myself. It pays the bills, keeps me in school.
It's not like I got a million dollar inheritance from my father.
To you it might be sex, but to me it's a connection
once I met a man, and sure, he was handsome
and as I peeled away those rusted brown spots from his back
I could feel it in the way his cooling fans sputtered
he didn't need a cleansing, but another
so I turned him over, brought my face to his
and we sat there, just touching, and I saw his display screen
start to waver at the edges
and it made my eyes gloss over. So you know what?
I don't give a fuck. I'll sell my body
for these men, these androids,
because it's all I've got left to give.

Darren Lipman graduated from NC State University with his master's in mathematics and a minor in poetry. He's currently moving from his hometown of Asheboro, NC, to Milwaukee, where he'll teach high school mathematics as a Teach for America 2016 corps member. Find him at, with fiction and poetry at
Current Issue
27 Mar 2023

close calls when / I’m with Thee / dressed to the nines
they took to their heels but the bird was faster.
In this episode of Critical Friends, the Strange Horizons SFF criticism podcast, Reviews Editors Aisha Subramanian and Dan Hartland talk to novelist, reviewer, and Strange Horizons’ Co-ordinating Editor, Gautam Bhatia, about how reviewing and criticism of all kinds align—and do not—with fiction-writing and the genre more widely.
If the future is here, but unevenly distributed, then so is the past.
He claims that Redlow used to be a swamp and he has now brought them into the future before the future. Yes he said that.
My previous Short Fiction Treasures column was all about science fiction, so it’s only fair that the theme this time around is fantasy.
I’ve come to think of trans-inclusive worldbuilding as an activist project in itself, or at least analogous to the work of activists. When we imagine other worlds, we have to observe what rules we are creating to govern the characters, institutions, and internal logic in our stories. This means looking at gender from the top down, as a regulatory system, and from the bottom up, at the people on the margins whose bodies and lives stand in some kind of inherent opposition to the system itself.
Friday: August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White 
Issue 20 Mar 2023
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Issue 30 Jan 2023
By: Catherine Rockwood
By: Romie Stott
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
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Podcast read by: Romie Stott
Podcast read by: Maureen Kincaid Speller
Issue 23 Jan 2023
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