149

She pulled on the haptic gloves, and her fingertip grip on reality slipped.

Scientists have developed an ultra-light glove that enables users to feel and manipulate virtual objects. Weighing less than 8 grams per finger, this glove could be powered by a small battery, giving users unparalleled freedom of movement. Reading of these ultra-light virtual reality (VR) gloves, Katherine Quevedo was reminded of her first experience in VR, playing a game against three strangers in San Francisco’s Pier 39 and was blown away—figuratively and virtually. Inspired, she combined this tech with the concept of super hero/villain origin myths, and this story seed was born.

//Katherine Quevedo lives just outside Portland, OR, with her husband and two sons. Find her at www.katherinequevedo.com.//

148

My sails are strong, and my hands are raw. A dozen boats float close enough to pay witness to my coming of age sailing through the white forest.

Recent research by Carnegie’s Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira suggests aquatic wind farms might be a viable source of clean energy, especially during the winter months on the Atlantic. Carlin Ring was inspired by a projection forward into a time when these wind farms are an established part of a post-climate change landscape, and what cultural significance they might take on.

//Carlin Ring is a mail clerk this month, but will be something else later. She tweets @threesnakeleave.//

147

Have you ever had to convince someone you’re human?
I recorded my voice for an open source AI.
Now the robots look human, and they all sound like me.

Mark Johnson’s friend Alan is the voice of of an AI assistant called Mycroft. He recorded samples of his voice and released them under an open license so they could be used to create an artificial voice. In the 21st century, this is still a novelty, but imagine this in an Asimov-style future. Suddenly, robots are ubiquitous, and humanity assumes that a person-shaped thing talking with this voice is a robot. How would they react if they saw it break the laws of robotics?

//Mark Johnson is a web developer, podcaster, science and sci-fi enthusiast.  You can hear
him (and Alan) speaking every week on the Ubuntu Podcast at http://ubuntupodcast.org//

144

We found the secrets to unravelling the universe, and bound them in poison-laden books. Those who hungered for such power unravelled themselves, their dying minds an inaccessible, sparking archive.

Shadows from the Walls of Death (1874) contains close to a hundred wall paper samples. Be careful when opening – if you touch it with bare skin, the book might just kill you. This book is not some cursed artefact – it is the work of Dr. Robert M. Kedzie, a Union surgeon during the American Civil War and later professor of chemistry at Michigan State Agricultural college (now MSU). Dr. Kedzie was intending to raise awareness about the dangers of arsenic in paper. Inspired by this marvel of chemistry, D. C. wondered whether there would ever be a reason for a scientist to poison a book on purpose… maybe to protect the secrets of the universe?

//D.C. (@sixfeetzen) is a queer/NB writer who works on LGBTQ games. They were a mortician once, and prone to writing about death.//

 

142

Alone, I have sailed, sought and found
I am tired
Careening further still into the void, my dream of sleep is dashed
As thrusters wake

For the first time in 37 years, Voyager 1 was roused by the remote re-ignition of its thrusters by NASA to slightly alter its course. In this story, Nathaniel Darbonne re-imagines the awakening of Voyager 1, humanising it for his reader. If you feel your heartstrings pulled, this is not the first time a spaceship has been anthropomorphised – several spacecrafts have now ‘live-tweeted’ their own deaths (with the help of a human media department). What will future generations think of our compassion for inanimate spacecraft?

//Nathaniel Darbonne is a human.//

141

The district attorney’s histrionics left the audience in tears. Unimpressed, the robot juror considered the facts.

Inspired by research on how artificial intelligence will impact the way we work, writer Justin Short creates a sci-fi legal drama in Story #141. “Robots aren’t scary,” says Justin. “What’s scary is knowing your fate is in the hands of twelve humans easily swayed by emotional closing arguments.” With the launch of IBM Watson’s legal AI application, Outside Counsel Insights (OCI) in 2017, the legal industry is poised on the precipice of fast technological change. Yet, it must be asked – if we use robot’s to enforce the law, can programmers overcome their own unconscious biases to ensure the law is ethically enforced?

//Justin writes horror, sci-fi, and other stuff.  Find him online at www.justin-short.com.//