Short Story Review: “Freebot” by R. M. Graves

3 of 5 stars.

This humorous vignette sits uncomfortably between speculative sci-fi and allegorical spoof of modern life. Our lives are monitored–on camera, as keys strokes in search engines, our bluetooth connections to the apps reporting our comings and goings. Our digital auras linger waiting to be read.

Danny Clark is not going to make it to the hospital in time. But the freebots that surround him announce the birth of his child to him while congratulating him. This isn’t how he wanted to experience this moment. The freebot are ranging forms of artificial intelligence and programmed response bots that inundate bystanders with ads and notices and updates. Spam at its worst–following people down the street.

There’s no escape, even in a bar where Danny cowers to imbibe a celebratory pint of stout. The bots lure and bait, checking his work history and credit report which is low. He cannot afford the fee to turn them away. Robotic worms even crawl to his shoes to retie his laces into patented knots he won’t be able to pay to have unknotted. [Think: Mansanto.] Luckily, he’s able to kick them away . . . For jobless Danny, this is a nightmare. He has almost nothing left to give . . .

This contest-winning tale appears in Writers of the Future 32 edited by David Farland. It’s illustrated
by contest-winning artist, Dino Hadziavdic. I received this new anthology from Netgalley.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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