Saturday, September 15, 2012


  I submitted a couple of stories to a short story collection this evening. My track record is fairly good in this regard, in that I've had two stories accepted out of about eight submissions.

  Rejection is not something I particularly worry about. I'm unlikely to have to make a living from writing which is fortunate given the relatively low volume of my output, regardless of the quality of the writing. That said, publication is encouraging and something of a justification for continuing to write.

  I think if I tried harder at submissions I would have more stories in print so perhaps I should put more effort into this end of the business. However, I'm not sure that would make me happier with the quality of my writing so for the more moment I'm going to focus on writing more and better.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Quietly Efficient

One of my earliest stories, and another one about animals. This time round it's wasps.
Quietly efficient by Steve Dempsey

It was a hot afternoon in June. Even the bees were lazily going about their business. I was stretched out on a lounger on the patio, a drink slowly warming next to me in the sun and my book forgotten on the floor. The SupaPlant™ was quietly and efficiently tending the garden.

It had taken some getting used to at first. There are machines that look like machines, car welding robots and the like. They're OK. And they're are those, only still in science fiction, like C3-PO that act just like people, they're OK too. But somewhere in between is Uncanny Valley where there those that are not quite machines and not quite people and are really disturbing. SupaPlant™ was a bit like this. Most of the time it looked like a shiny white lawnmower, and was quite safe. But if need be, it could unfurl these arms from somewhere, stand up to prune trees, peer in at blemishes to diagnose disease.

Creepiest of all, when it was running low on power, it would send a text to the phone asking for the back door to be opened. The first time this happened, I was watching some sport on TV and I wandered out back to find it crouched outside. When I opened the door it blossomed into almost a person, like some Japanese cartoon, with glistening legs, arms and a short stubby head. As I stood back in surprise, it strode past me into the house, plugged into the nearest socket and recharged itself. My wife came in to find me sitting there watching it with a look of disgust on my face. She laughed.
   “Yeah, I did that the first time too,” she said.

It is really good though. It doesn't make cuttings. It squeezes all the moisture out of the grass which is puts back in the garden and produces these bricks of rough paperlike material which go in the recycling bin or somewhere. And it's really quiet. Even when mowing the lawn it hardly makes a noise.

So when this crunching noise came from the back of the garden, I was quiet startled. I sat up and there it was, it's long arms reaching up from the ground, pulling pieces of wood from the back fence. The strangest thing was that this was no panicky madness. Each tug at the back fence was exactly calculated to tear off a piece of wood just large enough to feed in it's mouth. It was even more menacing than had it run amok.

   I shouted down the garden at it, “Er, stop. SupaPlant™ stop!” But it didn't. It just carried on eating the fence. I ran to the house and shouted to my wife, “SupaPlant™'s gone all weird. Where's the remote control?” A few moments later she opened a window upstairs and looked out.
   “That is weird,” she said, “I wonder if it's getting it's nutrients”.

You have to understand that the new machines like the SupaPlant™ aren't just electronic. No, they have a tiny piece of brain matter that helps them make difficult decisions like whether a pretty white flower that it has found in a bed is too nice to be a weed. So once every month or so we have to feed it this brain food gloop.
  “I don't care if it's hungry. It can't eat the fence. Where's the remote?” I asked.
  “I think it's in the shed”, she said and went back to whatever she'd been doing.
I nipped over to the shed and pulled the door open. A few bees flew out. It seems that they'd been keeping out of the sun by building themselves a nest in the roof. They weren't the only ones who'd been busy. Across the back, where the shelves used to be, was a thing I'd never seen before. Like a 4' tall wine rack, but for tiny bottles, entirely made out of rough paper. I peered at it with a shudder. In each little hole, there was a tiny piece of twisted wire, a bit like some kind of insect pupa, each with a small cavity where a brain would go.

The remote! It was lying on the floor. As I bent over to pick it up I saw SupaPlant™ standing behind me. Where was the damn off switch?