Archive for the ‘Droids and Robots’ Category

Snap Sci-Fi – Time to Go   Leave a comment

Assembled robot

“I’m telling’ ya, you’d better’d kick in a little more palm grease before I pull this duty again,” said Rathwalson, a bare-boned bot jerry-rigged from spare parts. “The way you sold this gig to me, I’d thought I’d wind up on the shores of Celestrasia, oiling my joints with some babe. Instead, I’ll be floating toward that rock there, crunching breccia and nothing else.”

“Oh, quit moaning,” said Biff Chesthair. “I’m maneuvering this bucket so close it’ll only be a leap and a step. Else, they’re gonna catch us and switch out your parts. Turn you into something you’re gonna regret. We both know why.”

“How can I not? My repeat circuit keeps showing Chrome and Pewter pissed because I mistook them for Dead Betas. What bot rests? Only boosted their Slether so I can sell it to buy more appendage junk. Hey, they’d do the same to me! And yes, I’m an idiot ’cause I didn’t think they’d have the sense to bury a tracker inside the Slether pack. So, I’m taking it…there,” Rathwalston said, pointing out the porthole to a grim, scarlets-shadowed planet.

“Look, R,” said Thurston Chiseljaw as he strapped a hefty transport box to the back of the unwilling robot. “We got to get rid of that Slether,” he said, referring to the blitz-quick addictive drug, known to bring down bots, babies and everything in between. “We can’t have both the cops and bots chasing us. Already they’re on to us. I’d do it myself if you didn’t play hide-and-seek with my helmet.”

“You lost it in that poker game last night. Now I’m wearing it,” he said, glancing at the lower part of his mechanical torso.

“Yeah, it’s your ass,” said Thurston, “and there’s no way I’m putting that back on my head.”

Meanwhile, Biff struggled with the primitive controls on their stolen ship, a hacked-together collection of gear shifting rods, a metal pegboard box passing as a control panel and a window with a target drawn on it. A few dials sporting unrecognizable symbols proved to be a complete waste of time, signifying nothing useful, to him anyway. He might as well fly blind. After much jiggering, he figured out the correct joystick to turn it towards the unnamed planet only meters away.

“If either of you loose screws wants to pay attention, we’re here. We got an hour, tops. Time to go,” said Biff to Rathwalson.

“I’m already gone. Catch you in five,” Rathwalson said as he slipped through the portal.

Biff and Thurston watched him stream towards the planet’s surface, leaving a faint trail of propulsion fuel in his wake.

An hour passed by. “Come in, Rathwalson. Come in,” Thurston hailed through the barely-functioning radio. “Come in, now, can’t hear you. Where you at?”

Nothing but a sizzle crack of dead air.

“Don’t like this,” said Biff. “Either he’s gone off someplace, or they’ve found us. I’m going down there.”

“I’ll keep watch. Not that we’re a tempting target or anything, but even if Pewter and Chrome are in a good mood, they’ll pick us off just for laughs. I mean, look at this ship,” he said, slapping the metal pegboard box that held the control panel.

Biff tugged on his spacesuit as Thurston readied the propulsion kit. “There’s not much fuel here. Might not be enough to bring back the bot anyway.”

Moments later, he disappeared into the dark abyss, floating towards his destiny.

 Headless Robot

Nothing works like it’s supposed to, thought Biff as he scrambled along the rough surface of the unnamed planet. The tracker’s sending me here, but I’m not picking up signs. 

Without warning, the sky erased it stars, replaced by a great gust of wind, then darkness. After a few foggy minutes, he regained his senses and glanced at his biometer. Oxygen…that’s good. He slipped off his helmet and breathed fresh air. A clink, followed by a ka-terrk, ka-terrk, ga-wheee sound caught his attention.

No…

Leaving his helmet, he raced towards the noise. There stood Pewter and Chrome, disassembling a sizable assembly of bots. Among them was Rathwalson, his various pieces carefully arranged in categories: appendages, intelligence, camera, receptor, and others. That packet of Slether joined others in a bin.

“What took you so long?” said Pewter, as he turned toward Biff, pulling the head off of another bot while Chrome dissected its innards.

“That wasn’t our agreement. You know all the trouble I went through to get this stuff?” said Biff.

“Doesn’t matter,” said Pewter. “You’ve pirated more Slether than anyone this side of the sector. Our profits have vanished.”

“Time to go,” said Chrome, as he rose up from the ground.

“But…but…” Biff whimpered, until he felt the cold metal finger touch his cheeks.

Chrome unscrewed the cap that once served as Biff’s head, placed it on a shelf, and dug within his interior, scooping out the piles of packets of Slether that Biff held captive for far too long. It was time for him to go.

Snap Sci-Fi – “A Close Shave”   Leave a comment

thunder-robots

A Close Shave

Damn them, thought Ranger Radsusky. Didn’t I tell them to go away?

It all started innocently enough. After tinkering around with an old electric shaver she found in the bathroom cabinet, inspiration struck fierce, sizzling her brain with concepts and plans.

“Hmm, let’s see,” she said as she held up the graphene synthesizer in her sunny, garden-girded laboratory. “I’ll put this shaver here on the 3D model conceptualizer, plug in an aerodynamics structure, maybe even a thruster or two. Then I’ll hit the send and blend button.”

Radsusky heard a tinny, unamplified series of musical notes in the distance. “Who’s calling me now?” she said, and turned to leave the room.

Big eyed cat

Mr. Widdles, Radsusky’s inquisitive cat, slunk into the lab through a slightly ajar French window. His feeding implementor Stood in the next room, talking into a small, flat slab of glass and metal. He sniffed around in the meantime.  A flat tray under some kind of big box held a few items of interest. Say, what’s this? Food? Inching closer, he pressed his paws against a tab. Quicker than a flash, the box lit up and weird, strange buzzing noises rattled his eardrums. He ran off, seeking a quieter spot on top of the kitchen counter.

Without warning, the entire laboratory building shook, its foundations cracking. Radsusky threw down her phone and ran into her lab, only to notice four ginormous robotish razors rose from the 3D model conceptualizer. While their bodies resembled electric razors, the cord morphed into some kind of segmented legs. The on-off-clean now lights turned into eyeballs. The bits and pieces of an aerodynamic structure wound up as a kind of wing. Thrusters became fire-shooting appendages. She let out a sigh.

Rough Woman

“Jeez, I can’t even leave for five to talk to my mother? By the look of things, it’s going to be rough from now on,” she said. “These guys aren’t going to play fair. Sheesh, I didn’t have a chance to insert the morals chip. Who’d even believe this? Can’t even think who to call to stop ’em. I’d better get out of here. This roof’s about to crash.”

Sure enough, as soon as Radsusky left the lab, immense bodies rose up from the tray and continued to grow in size and strength. As they did, the lab collapsed around them.

“Go away! Shoo! Beat it!” she yelled, “Go pick on someone your own size!”

One eyed her, raised its arm, set fire to the bushes, and headed towards her. Razor-Bot meant business, and she was its first order of destruction.

“KNOCK IT OFF,” she yelled back, and grabbed a piece of rubble. She flung it hard and fast, sending it directly into Razor-Bot’s eye.

“I’m fed up! Do you hear me–FED UP! I created you! How dare you treat me with such disrespect! Get out of here – NOW!”

Fed Up Woman

One more fling of her lab’s foundation smacked into Razor-Bot’s face. It sent a stream of fire in response. Fortunately, its siblings took off for the field next door, seeing newer venues to destruct. And they were heading right for her friend’s anti-battalion defenses!

“Oh, god…I better’d tell Susie! She’s going to be really pissed if they mess with her nuclear rockets. She just finished putting a new hood on the silo, too.”

She picked through the rubble of her lab and managed to locate her phone. Thank goodness it remained close to the surface. Pressing the speed dial number, Radsusky reached Susie quickly and explained the situation.

“When are you gonna learn?” Susie said, sounding as if she’d had enough of her shenanigans. “I’m really sick of having to chase after your experiments.”

“This’ll be the last time,” Radsusky promised.”

“Liar,” said Susie, and hung up the phone. In her living room stood her munitions cabinet. She glanced at the most suitable tactical anti-bot devices and selected the perfect destroyer.

Not a moment too soon.

Her floor rumbled and wavered. China clinked in the closets. The swag light swayed. “Guess that’s my signal to clean up this mess,” she said, and headed out the door.

Razor-Bots lumbered at a quick clip across her field, heading directly for her nuclear armaments.

“Not today,” Susie said as aimed right for the intruders. She gave the Bot Blaster’s trigger a tight squeeze and shot four times.

Shooting woman

The earth shook as their bot-bodies tumbled and fell, leaving welts in the field where they lay. For a moment, whirring noises could be heard from their insides, until a tall column of steam spewed forth.

“Guess it’s over with,” Susie mumbled as she headed towards them. She kicked the sides of each one of them, hearing only the echo of an empty body of graphene and the ruined promise of an ill-conceived accident gone awry.

Copyright Gretchen Weerheim June 15, 2016

 

 

Snap Science Fiction   Leave a comment

Space Lady

Since I have nothing else to write about, I’d thought I’d come up with a flash sci-fi story written especially for you! Oh, don’t worry, it’s complete with illustrations, so if you don’t like my prose, you have pictures to stare at!

Ready? Here we go…

Pay Day

“You little weenie! I’m gonna blast the f—— s— out of your freakin’ ass,” Trish Walker muttered. Not one to mess around with unscheduled attacks, she wrapped her fingers around the zapper.

Alkazoid taunted, “You couldn’t hit the side of chettle dock if it sat on your face. Why dontcha show some sense and give up like your pal, there?”

“Jim? What’s he got to do with anything? He’s all wheezed out after sucking down that bottle of potato water he stuffed in his pack. Fell out of the lander and bashed his helmet. Idiot.”

“What, so you’re picking up his mess? What are you, the cleaning lady?” sneered Alkazoid.

“Yeah, and I’m gonna finish the job right…now,” Trish said, giving the zapper an extra hard squeeze as she let loose. Crackling streams of electrodes sizzled Alkazoid smack in the center of his eye.

“Jeez! That f—— hurt!” Alkazoid screamed. “For that, you’re gonna pay.

Trish glanced at her colleague, Jim. A worthless sot, half the payload of their space cruiser hid his devil juice. Tossed out anything his drunken brain considered disposable, including food, munitions and air caches. Of course, she discovered this far too long into their misguided journey. They’d gotten word a wormhole existed only 37.65° left of Kronos. Jim steered the ship that many degrees to the right. Out of fuel and resources, they wound up on some hunk of rock with one insane piece of teal-shaded talking flesh.

“With what?” Trish yelled, continuing to lay on her zapper. “Buttons or good looks?”

“Ohhhh…god…my…head…” groaned Jim, entirely unaware of the jam Trish sought to end.

“Shut up!” Trish yelled, thrusting him downward with her unoccupied hand. She gave him a good, hard thunk on his helmet, hoping it inflicted even more pain.

“Aaaay…gimme a break…” Jim uttered as he passed out.

“No…you’ll pay with this,” Alkazoid said.

The last thing Trish saw was the reedy smile of his snaky lips as he tossed a red octagon towards her. Then…nothing…

retrofuture3

She figured a couple of hours passed, maybe more. Her eyes fluttered open to an inexplicable vision of insane red madness. She and Jim were now babies, and instead of him sucking vodka out of a straw, he seemed to be ingesting it from the homelike teat of a maniacal machine. Its faint alcoholic odor drifted under her nose. He seemed utterly contented, laying on his back on the shelf lap of this metal mama. Its tentacles massaged Jim in a rather intimate fashion. Nearby, a kid played with what seemed to be a miniature version of their space cruiser. He chanted, in a sing-song manner, a little something about naughty people getting punished, becoming doomed and answering to karma’s deep, lingering force.

“Say…wait a minute,” she said aloud. She glanced down and around. “Something’s not right here.  Am I…is Jim…are we…babies?” Her feet dangled in air, her body held captive by a mesh sling as her arms stuck out from its sides. Nearby, a mechanical gizmo resembling a machine with an arm, lay on the ground.

“Mmmmm,” said Jim, happily slurping on his tubular teat.

“What’re you so happy about? We’re prisoners in metallic nursery,” said Trish.

“No,” said Jim. “We’re living in my fantasy. You see, when I saw that red thing come crashing in my direction, I remember thinking about a dream I had back on home base. When I woke up, I figured that dream might’ve been running through my sleep time again. But you know what? It’s real. We’re here. And if I remember correctly, that thing you were zapping at said something just before you passed out.”

“Me? You were already history,” Trish said.

“No…that teal thing-man gave up a few more words. Said better race towards your dreams – whoever gets there first wins. So I guess I won. Pretty sweet, huh? I can go on like this,” he said, sighing with pleasure.

Trish pressed her lips in anger. That bastard wasn’t going to win. It was then she became aware of a hard cylinder in her grip. She raised her hand and read the tiny inscription on its side: to go out, pull here.

“Whatcha doin’?” asked Jim, noticing Trish pulling on an object with her teeth.

“Game over,” Trish said, and spit out the pin into the grass.

When Reality Mirrors Science Fiction, or Vice Versa   Leave a comment

Why make things up when reality is just as entertaining? Here’s a few inspiring snippets for your sci-fi/reality consideration. Become inspired and write your own story based on what you see below!

 

New Horizons Spacecraft

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker

New Horizons has left Pluto and gracefully exited out into extended space, lurking around the Kuiper Belt in search of, well, new horizons.

Chinese Riot Robot

Credit: People’s Daily, China

This egg-ish thing is actually a Chinese riot control robot, capable of mowing down people on flat surfaces while ambling along at 11-ish miles per hour and work without complaint (I’m assuming anyway) for 8 hours.

SpaceX Mars Ship

Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX to launch unmanned mission to Mars in 2018. The above ship is no relation to the above Chinese riot control robot.

Hall Thruster

Credit: NASA

Aerojet Rocketdyne will develop an advanced solar electric propulsion system, or SEP, for deep space exploration. Mars, and other exotic extraterrestrial locations.

Hope you found a few good ideas!

‘Bots, Books and Literary Competitions   Leave a comment

Robot Typing On Keyboard

Photo credit: ft.com

They say if you stick a bunch of typewriters in front of a roomful of monkeys, they’ll eventually churn out Shakespeare. Now, I’ve never seen that proven but here’s a fact: artificial intelligence is now composing prose.

I like to read Engadget . It keeps me updated on technology of all sorts, no matter who or what developed it. So a story caught my eye the other day: AI-written novel passes first round of a literary competition. This competition, taking place in Japan, marked the first time an AI-human collaboration garnered serious consideration.

The Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award opened up its competition to artificial intelligence for the first time this year. Out of 1450 submission, 11 were human/AI collaborations.

Now, it’s not like the AI came up a great storyline all on its own. It had help, of course. Humans gave the AI the necessary components to create a story: vocabulary, a basic plot outline, sentences and phrases. With these ingredients, AI worked its muse and put forth a pretty darn good entry. Of course, it was science fiction – what else?

Competition judges read through the AI/human and deemed it good enough to pass onto the next round. I’m willing to be that made the authors quite proud. All the while, the judges never knew The Day a Computer Writes a Novel was anything but a human invention. Alas, while the story turned out to be well-structured, imaginative and inventive, it failed the character development test, leaving someone else (human, I’m assuming) to win the coveted prize.

So while this particular entry to the Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award competition didn’t garner first place, it did come out a winner of sorts. Imagine if you were one of the writers who got left behind and this robot beat you out. Part of me would feel kind of pissed off, insulted maybe, and yet, I’d be scratching my head. Has the sci-fi market gotten to the point where the objects of its plots are now the ones creating the new stories? If left to its own (plot) devices, what sort of plot will an AI write? Steampunk? Electrifying thrillers? A Cyborg in shining armor saving the day?

Kind of gives a whole new meaning to Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, eh? I mean, if a robot write a really bad story, who’s being harmed – the art, the robot or humans subjected to reading it?

Furthermore, will us humans be cast aside in favor of those who can churn out story after story, without food, water or air? No, wait…that’s pretty much every writer I know.

It’d be pretty interesting to watch how this plot develops.

MST3K Is Back! Yay!   Leave a comment

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know this news hardly pales in comparison to the other big release occurring at the end of this week. But hey, those who can really claim to be sci-fi geeks and connoisseurs of wit know where the good stuff is.

Who doesn’t remember the iconic show from the latter part of the last century? I used to catch it on Comedy Central, and later on, the former Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy).  It was just so silly, part film commentary, part comedy sketch. I latched on to each episode just to watch a kidnapped janitor and his ‘bot buds watch absolutely horrible films (a goodly portion I had already seen) and wisecrack nonstop.

MST3K’s story reads like a movie plot too. Begun in Minneapolis, MN in 1988 on KTMA, it later moved to Comedy Central and ran for six years until it was cancelled in 1997. A fierce letter campaign to bring it back revived the brilliant show until 1997 on Sci-Fi, when it met its cable demise in 1999. Recipient of the Peabody award in 1993 and named by Time Magazine in 2007 as one of the best television shows of all time (in the top 100), it leaves you wondering why this show was cancelled in the first place. Chalk that up to network execs usual interference with what they want vs. what the creatives envision, and the result is a battle that never ends well, at least for someone.

After the airing of “Danger: Diabolik” on August 8, 1999, MST3K went out of business, although it did go into syndication and if you were lucky, you could pick it up again here and there.

But, like anything worth remembering and savoring, this show had life in it yet. By the modern miracle of crowd funding, the show’s originator/creator, Joel Hodgson, raised $5,764,229 in a month. Add $425,000 raised outside of Kickstarter et voila! We’ll be seeing  14 new episodes in the near future. What’s telling about all of this is show never really went away, it only drifted out to space. Facing a fierce gravitational pull by its devoted fans both old and new, money flowed the instant the Kickstarted campaign started and in the process, broke all crowd funding records.

It still hasn’t been announced when the new episodes will air, but they’ll feature the likes of Patton Oswalt and even Jerry Seinfeld might to do a cameo. So stay tuned! Whether you’d like to revisit old episodes or keep in touch with MST3K happenings, an official channel lives on YouTube.  If you’d like to contribute, here’s their dot-com site. It has all the latest information, merch for sale and all the FAQs you’d ever want answered.

Happy viewing!

 

Android/Anime Absurdity   1 comment

Steampunk surrounds itself with proto-modern examples of past ingenuity updated for today.  Take, for example, the above video.  It’s described as the best steampunk robot of 2014.  I didn’t fact-check to make certain it was, I merely took its word.  What’s obvious is any steampunking robot has to prove its worth by dancing…and it does…to great accolades from the audience.

A category woefully underrepresented is animated Steampunk.  James Lopez, a former Disney animator, has set about to create his dream, Hullabaloo.  He crowd funded the project and updates are regularly found on the Hullabaloo Facebook Page and official website.  Using 2-D techniques instead of computers, this project does homage to the past by actually recreating it – by hand drawing the cels, just like they did back in the day.

Has anyone seen this?  It’s been making a tour of Facebook pages over the globe.  How do I know?  Just Google it and you’ll see.  Here’s dancing of a sort, although I must admit I have no idea what’s the purpose.  Sure, the guy in silver seems to be a superhero type, beating up the Godzilla-ish beast, but how does the bear-y thing justify jumping hysterically while clutching Godzilla’s tail?  I mean, what’s really going on here?

This, my friends, is a classic.  I first saw this Kikkoman anime around the turn of the millennium.  A friend sent it to me when emails were still kind of new and fresh, as was the internet.  As far as bizarre things go, this one definitely holds the test of time.  The accompanying tune is unavoidably infectious – just try to not hum, “Kikkoman, Kikkoman, show you, show me…”  It shows even better if you’re altering your own reality through artificial means, too.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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