I Am Heard From Yet Again

by wjw on July 18, 2008

Bookseller McNally Robinson has made available a lengthy interview with me. Some of the questions are not the usual out-of-the-box numbers, so I had to actually do some thinking in response.

They have also very kindly made Voice of the Whirlwind a staff pick.

Tobias Buckell July 18, 2008 at 3:56 am

Ah, Voice of the Whirlwind, one of my favorites from my collection when I was in High School.

I need to pick up the new edition, my old copy was lost in Hurricane Marilyn….

halojones-fan July 19, 2008 at 3:23 am

Good interview, but I was wonder about this bit:
“For instance, SF created the idea of humanoid robots that would be jacks-of-all-trades, and largely ignored the idea of specialty robots that only did one thing, be it weld auto frames, aid bomb disposal teams, or bake bread on kitchen table tops.”

What about “QUR”? That was written in 1943 and addresses exactly what you describe here.

QUR is a rather interesting short because it actually goes back on itself in the end. The idea is that the human-specific android form is not only inefficient, but is actively harmful to the machine-psyche of a robot designed to do a particular task. It’s like trying to scratch an itch in that spot right between your shoulder blades–but more so, because scratching that itch isn’t just your job but your fundamental reason for existence.

And then, in the end, the solution to the character’s problem is to build a robot that exactly replicates a living being’s physiognomy(*) and have it duplicate a video record of that being’s actions. So, in the end, the story denies its own premise!

(*) I can’t believe I actually used that word, this is some fucking good vodka I’ve got right here

dubjay July 19, 2008 at 4:14 am

I haven’t read, or previously heard of, QUR, so I can’t comment on the story.

Googling it, I discover it’s by Anthony Boucher.

I guess it’s yet more evidence that all the good ideas are already taken.

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