Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hugo Award Nominee: "Evil Robot Monkey"

Evil Robot Monkey
Mary Robinette Kowal
Nominated for the Hugo Award: Short Story

“Evil Robot Monkey” is a heartbreaking and surprising story. The title might suggest a little robot monkey being destructive and nasty, but Mary Kowal tells a different and unexpected story. The titular monkey is introduced working a potter’s wheel, making a vase. Then…

Someone banged on the window of his pen. Sly jumped and then screamed as the vase collapsed under its own weight. He spun and hurled it at the picture window like feces. The clay spattered against the Plexiglas, sliding down the window.

Though the monkey sometimes gives into his more animal urges and rages, Sly can think and express emotion like a human. Sly can speak.

Sly scowled and yanked his hands free. “I’m not like the other chimps.” He pointed to the implant in his head. “Maybe Delilah should have one of these. Seems like she needs help thinking.”

Oh, this is a beautiful and heartbreaking story. In fewer than 1000 words Mary Robinette Kowal just killed me. The opening paragraphs paints a picture of a monkey in a pen trying to do nothing more than make pottery but because Sly is a monkey, people think it is okay to hit the glass walls of his pen. The pottery brings the monkey peace. The other aspect of the story that wrecks me is the conversation between Sly and Vern, the handler, about what happened and why and what the consequences are.

Damn, “Evil Robot Monkey” is good. It’s so short, but the story is exactly as long as it needs to be. The story lingers.

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