The God Complex: a cracking short story about a machine that thinks it is God

Pseudopod is a weekly horror podcast. And, I’m afraid to say, it’s often fairly hit and miss, with rather more misses than hits.

But this one story, The God Complex, by English author Neil John Buchanan, more than makes up for it. If it’s eligible for a Hugo award next year and doesn’t win, it’ll be a scandal. I won’t give too much away, but this excerpt reveals our heroine’s first encounter with a small robot that claims to be God:

“She recognized an Echo drone when she saw one. Probably a scout sent to investigate the crash.

‘Pheromone discharge detected,’ the suit chimed, and the helmet slammed shut. A moment later, a tube expanded from the drone’s underbelly, and a thin spray of liquid splashed across Nadia’s visor.

‘I am God,’ it pronounced. ‘Do you come in love?’”

And just thinking about the little God-robot has my flesh crawling all over again. It really is a tremendous story. Go listen to it!

Stories about parental relationships

The Day of the Dead Dad rapidly approaches. And, to get you in the mood, I have two stories for you about the nature of parental relationships.

For some time, I’ve been listening to a variety of podcasts. Some are non-fiction, such as the excellent Freakonomics podcast, Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time and NPR’s Planet Money. But all work and no play makes Fr Adam a dull boy, so I mix it up with some fiction. And one of the fiction podcasts I listen to is Escape Pod, which serves up science fiction stories.

Now, to be honest, Escape Pod is a bit hit and miss. Their stories are narrated rather than enacted. In other words, it’s a person reading a story rather than a piece of radio theatre. That makes listening more difficult, as you have to listen to every word in case it is salient. It can also stray a little bit into science fantasy for my liking. And some of the stories are very long. One recently was over 90 minutes, which is a pretty long time investment.

However, when Escape Pod gets it right, it gets it right. And two recent stories knocked me off my feet. Curiously, they both deal with the relationship between generations.

The Paper Menagerie describes a Chinese immigrant to the US who is particularly skilled with origami. But her son finds her Chinese ways embarrassing and begs her to be more American. The story charts his path towards realising how foolish he was.

And The Homecoming is about an estranged son who seeks reconciliation with his parents. Mur Lafferty, who created Escape Pod and hosts this episode, said that Mike Resnick, the author of the story, tends to make her cry and did so again with this story. I don’t regard myself as nearly so sentimental. There was no way he was going to make me cry. But, at the end of the story, I found myself wandering up Kingsway bawling my eyes out.

Neither is particularly long, and if you don’t fancy listening to the podcasts, you can read the stories in full on the website instead.