Mother of Invention (ed by Rivqa Rafael & Tansy Rayner Roberts, Twelfth Planet Press)
Artificial intelligence (AI) and its physical manifestation, the robot, are science-fiction perennials, and they’re ideas that have always resonated beyond just fiction. In 2016, Microsoft gave its learning chat bot, Tay, access to Twitter. Twenty-four hours later, it was writing like an anti-Semitic, misogynist racist. Computers may not have ethnic, cultural or gender identities, but people do, and this collection of 21 stories and one essay highlights the possibilities that offers. The stories are short, sharp and diverse. They look beyond the usual white, male, heteronormative perspectives to ask what a more diverse group of creators—straight and queer women, cis- and transgender women, women from different places and times—would give to their AI creations. What results is a Pandora’s box of ideas. In one moving story, a girl programs an AI with the metadata of her dead friend in order to understand her suicide. There are stories about women who bake or knit their creations and stories that question how AI technology can change the definition of motherhood and death. While some of the stories have sexual references, they are not gratuitous, and this collection is suitable for late teen readers as well as adults interested in technology, equality and diversity. It’s a short book that readers will think about for a long time.
Stefen Brazulaitis is the owner of Stefen’s Books in Perth