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GG_Silverman's picture

The Last Dance

By GG_Silverman in Teleport Us

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Description

A robot caregiver to an elderly woman discovers old love letters from her long-departed husband, and attempts to process their meaning as she's dying.

Comments

Joanna Morgan's picture
Joanna Morgan February 13, 2013 - 9:54pm

Absolutely loved it - what a gem of a story!

 

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle March 4, 2013 - 5:56pm

Thank you so much! Grateful you took the time to read!

Neil W. Ahrens's picture
Neil W. Ahrens February 13, 2013 - 10:07pm

Nice job G! If in the future humanity has created such devices, they will be a boon. Nice to think of humans making technology that really matters, especially at the end of life...

 

Best,

Neil

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle March 4, 2013 - 5:57pm

Thank you!

Elizabeth Carson's picture
Elizabeth Carson February 13, 2013 - 10:53pm

Beautiful, perfect story.  I cried tears of poignancy mixed with memory of my father's decline by dementia.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle March 4, 2013 - 5:58pm

Thank you so much for taking the time to read. I'm super grateful.

Devin Griffiths's picture
Devin Griffiths February 13, 2013 - 11:21pm

Wonderful and moving story. As always, you capture the voices of your characters perfectly, and in reading the story, I felt connected to them both. You manage to present a robot with surprising emotion and humanity and an old woman dying with grace and beauty. Exceptional work.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle March 4, 2013 - 5:59pm

Thank you, Devin!

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading A Clash of Kings February 14, 2013 - 12:46pm

This was wonderful!  I love the way the exposition was revealed through the robot searching his memory.  It was "info dump" at it's best :D

 

My only gripe (and this is a small one), was the brief mention of Michiko being in prison at the very end. It was so sudden and unexpected (I assumed the "box-like apartment" was just a typical small Japanese apartment), it took me out of the story. I would like to have known more and earlier about this prison and why she was there. As it is, I felt the "prison" didn't add anything to my understanding of the story or the characters - just left me with confusion. It would be just as strong without it, but then again, it could also be expanded just a little so it's expressed earlier in the story.

 

Fantastic read!

 

--Christa

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 14, 2013 - 2:18pm

Thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback. You actually put your finger on the part of the story that I felt the least confident about, and glad to hear someone speak up about it. :)

I will definitely think on it and will most likely revise it.

THANKS AGAIN! Your kind words meant a lot!

-g

 

P.S. My husband agrees with you. ;)

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 14, 2013 - 2:41pm

Thanks again for your feedback, I went in and changed the word from "prison" to "complex," removing that story element completely for now, as it was throwing people off. Good call. A new version has been uploaded!

And I see that you have a story up too! I plan to read & comment on everyone's stuff over the weekend. Looking forward to it!

Best,

g

Dudley Bryan Jr's picture
Dudley Bryan Jr February 15, 2013 - 2:12pm

Wow. It's funny to run across this alteration after reading it.  It gives me another layer to the story.  Nice.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 15, 2013 - 8:26pm

Thanks!

Tom Montilli's picture
Tom Montilli February 14, 2013 - 12:55pm

Great story GG! I really enjoyed reading it. Well done.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle March 5, 2013 - 11:58am

Thanks, I'm grateful you took the time to read!

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 14, 2013 - 2:17pm

Thanks so much, everyone, so glad you enjoyed it!

AdamT1365's picture
AdamT1365 February 14, 2013 - 2:25pm

I loved this story! Having lived in Japan for a few years, this seemed to very nicely capture both the emotion and technological 'stuff' that fills the Japanese society. I also thought the author did a commendable job with the robot voice. Very authentic.

This could easily work as a longer piece, in my view.

Agree with above comment about expanding on prison element.

Cool story!

Adam

 

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 14, 2013 - 2:43pm

Thank you so much. I love Japanese culture. I want to be adopted by a Japanese grandmother. :)) Some day, I hope to be able to afford a trip there.

And thanks re: the prison comment. I just changed it to "complex" simplify the story for now, as it was throwing people off without a ton more exposition. And when I have the time someday, maybe I'll expand the story.

Thanks again!

-g

 

 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading 1927 February 14, 2013 - 2:26pm

This transcends the label of sci fi, in that while it obviously has elements of that in it, it is about so much more than robots or futuristic prisons.  It has a very human element to it, and I like the melancholic vibe you have woven through this.  I also love that the language you use is simple and honest, without the need for over-elaboration.  Very strong.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 14, 2013 - 2:46pm

Thank you! I appreciate your kind words, and you reading this so quickly.

I hope to read everyone's this weekend, as I just got on board with this whole thing yesterday. It looks like there are so many great stories in this challenge. SO MUCH FUN!

Thanks again!

-g

timbarzyk's picture
timbarzyk from Earth February 15, 2013 - 12:37am

I'm tired. It's been a long day. I started reading this, and couldn't stop. It's really beautiful. It just...wasn't even reading, so much as a direct translation into imagery and story. I immersed myself in it. 

Love the robot's analysis of what's going on -- objective enough to be artificial, but subjective and caring (even if programmed) enough to seem almost human -- like, I knew what it was thinking, but if I were the one interacting with it, it would almost seem human -- you pulled that off really well. I just got the sense that it would seem real, but knowing it's thoughts...well, it was powerful. 

But then there was that gradual evolution...what it chose to focus on -- the letter, the love stories, the movies -- it's like, those thoughts took over its programming (even replaced the prayer it was supposed to recite! what a great idea).

I don't know. It's writing like this that makes me wonder how people can come up with stuff like this. Well done.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 15, 2013 - 12:54pm

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I really appreciate your kind words. Thanks again!

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 15, 2013 - 3:56am

Masterfully written. Love that you kept it so true to the brief of the challenge, painting an engaging and riveting story in just a few, well applied brush strokes. This story feels complete.

Also, I love that you really conveyed dystopia without resorting to dark and drab, making the dystopia all the more dystopic. My story has a similar concept, but I failed to make my future as scary as yours. Of to ponder a revision for me. 

Thank you for one of the top stories so far. Great work. 

 

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 15, 2013 - 1:17pm

Aw, thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I'm excited to read your story when I can, and comment on yours as well. I hope to catch up with everyone's this weekend.

Thanks again!

-g

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 15, 2013 - 12:57pm

Aw, thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I'm excited to read your story when I can, and comment on yours as well. I hope to catch up with everyone's this weekend.

Thanks again!

-g

Louise Ann Knight's picture
Louise Ann Knight February 15, 2013 - 4:44am

Gorgeous work - I think you have found where your writing feels it is at "home". The dialogue tells us almost all about the characters, even though it is simple. The elegance and subtle turn of the prose is unexpected for this genre and yet it weaves gracefully and works really well. Fantastic work, loved the revised ending. Thank you for sharing it with us :)

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 15, 2013 - 12:58pm

Thank you so much! Glad you think the new ending works better. Grateful for your comments, as ever!

-g

 

adrenokrome's picture
adrenokrome from United Kingdom is reading Altered Carbon February 15, 2013 - 9:00am

A simple but effective premise but wonderfully written, I agree with a comment made earlier, the story transcends the sci fi theme. How the robot attempts to process the idea of death is very human and is something every one can or will one day relate to and you've captured this moment and explained it with heart and honesty. It is a pleasure to read.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 15, 2013 - 12:59pm

Thank you for taking the time to read it. I am eternally grateful.

Dudley Bryan Jr's picture
Dudley Bryan Jr February 15, 2013 - 2:30pm

Very nice story.  I especially love the smattering of cultural detail.  

There is definitely something to that cold detached interest in humanity, that finds itself inevitably drawn in by the nuance and texture of human suffering. This vaguely reminds me of a story I wrote in high school about a silent yet sentient wall mirror... except all grown up. As a lover of Asimov, it reminds me thematically of some of his short stories. The presence of dementia in your story adds a wonderful touch to the sense of alienation experienced by the companion.

I love the note of ambiguity at the end. In my mind, like a lotus flower placed skillfully in the center of a reflecting pool, the question was suggested... whose tears were they? 

Bravo!

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 15, 2013 - 8:25pm

Thank you, Dudley! I always enjoy your comments. And I haven't read Isaac Asimov's stories, but now I feel pulled to do so. A trip to the library awaits! Thanks again!

-g

Tom.Brewer's picture
Tom.Brewer from Cincinnati, OH is reading Cities of the Plain February 16, 2013 - 7:49pm

This is an excellent story. In short order, I felt for all of the characters. Your description was tight without dominating the story, and I was touched by a robot's humanity. Well done.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 17, 2013 - 1:38am

Thank you so much, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I'm forever grateful.

-g

Aly's picture
Aly from Narnia is reading Reached by Ally Condie February 16, 2013 - 7:59pm

That was an amazing story. It was beautiful and sad and moving. I liked how the robot was at first detached and emotionless, but then progressed to the point where part of it's memories had been erased to make room for knowledge about love and longing. And the idea of the robot actually crying was just touching. I felt like they were /my/ tears at the end! We all experience and interpret loss in our own ways and this was an excellent way to show one of them. 

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 17, 2013 - 1:49am

Thank you so much, I am so glad you liked it! Truth is, I fought back tears while I was writing this, I lost two loved ones this past year, and another the year before, so I think I was processing my own emotions on this one.

 

Thanks again for your kind words, they mean a lot.

-g

superhunter781's picture
superhunter781 February 16, 2013 - 8:44pm

Hey GG,

I'll begin by saying you are really good at showing rather than telling. That's something I admire in writers where the narrative really flows. I read that some of the comments said this was in a prison and that you changed it to a complex, which I recall reading, I think that really benefitted the story.

I feel the need to address this first in the critique, that the idea of a robot having trouble processing love I think is redundant in science fiction at this point, in some stories to the point of cliché. It didn't bother me so much here but I figured it was worth noting that it’s challenging breaking new ground with that theme by now. I’m not saying it can’t be done but it sure is an uphill battle. Bicentennial Man and Spielberg’s AI popped into mind immediately after I read the first page, just because it implied robot struggling to understand love was so pervasive over the whole story. Tvtropes.org—a great website for writers if you’ve never heard of it—has an entire page dedicated to this particular trope, titled ‘What is this thing you call love?’. What I found more interesting is what this robot might think of death. The idea of its batteries recharging, what might it think of going into hibernation mode? Will it miss the woman's death while it's recharging? The idea of this robot being in this complex after a great pandemic (which kind of bothered me why that wasn’t explained even a little) that there would be death everywhere. Questions like 'what does it think will happen when Michiko dies' are very interesting. But if you are going to portray the love angle, there needs to be more conflict, more complexity. If this robot is intelligent enough to understand other human emotions like sadness, then it should, (at least in my opinion), be able to acknowledge love, the fact that it’s a chemical in the brain and what not. However you can for instance, show that an artificial intelligence has trouble understanding why some people can’t move on after a love one has passed or cheated on them, even better yet, why someone would love a person who hurts them. But those are just examples. If you show the robot grappling with more dynamic real human moral dilemmas, your work will be a lot more engaging. “I accept my role as her artificial husband” I can’t help but feel like this is where the conflict of the story really begins for me, it begins with the dance and the connection with the letter. I feel this is the best part of the entire story. I wanted there to be more explanation as to why this was her favorite song and how it related to her husband, maybe perhaps the letter that the robot can’t seem to understand.

Secondly I would be really careful about the dementia aspect of the story. I've known editors that have stopped reading works that even mention this unless it's portayed extremely well. It verges on melodrama in seeing how helpless this person is. She has to be more of a character and less of a mere stand in for a condition. There’s a lot of fits of rage and anger with dementia, especially if someone might be dying with it.

And lastly just a technical aspect of it, I think it would benefit the story if the dialogue was placed in normal quotations instead of them being italicized. I often times confused their word exchange for thought markers.

All in all great work GG, I enjoyed reading.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 17, 2013 - 2:05am

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

Andy McGuire's picture
Andy McGuire from Los Angeles is reading Y: The Last Man February 17, 2013 - 5:21pm

My first thought was, "Oh god, another android story?!" (There are a TON in this challenge.) As I read it though, I was pleased that it had a very nice originality to it. Well done.
How did you attract some many comments, by the way? I have 2 submissions and barely any feedback/ratings.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 17, 2013 - 6:43pm

Andy, you are too funny. Yes, I'm a little embarrassed that I contributed to android-overload. But glad that you liked my story. I have been enjoying your comments on other people's work, btw. Thanks for the constructive feedback on everyone's work. 

Re: attracting comments, I simply asked people to read & comment via Facebook and Twitter. I didn't realize you had 2 stories up. I will look for them and read later. I'm trying to get some writing done this afternoon, but promise to get to them in the next 24 hrs. 

Andy, thanks again, and enjoy your Sunday!

-g

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 19, 2013 - 2:29pm

Good story. Not perfect/a bit heavy-handed (which is forgivable in a short story where a writer has only so much 'room') You've got talent...and just as importantly, the overall technical skills to back it up. Good job.

Keep writing!
-Shane Berryhill
In a society where owning books makes you an outlaw, literature is kept alive by "burners," those who wage war for books by reciting their pages in rap-style battles called "burns." BURN by Shane Berryhill features "Reader" on the night of the biggest burn in his life. Reader must face off against "Shakespeare" for the title of "Librarian" while the Tolstoys, the Austens, the Wells, the Vernes, and all the other burner gangs look on. BURN is a tribute to the work of Ray Bradbury and a love letter to the written word.
Read, rate, and review BURN here: http://litreactor.com/events/teleport-us/burn
 

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 19, 2013 - 2:47pm

Thanks, Shane, I appreciate the read and the comments!

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 19, 2013 - 5:26pm

Lovely. That was the one word that came to my mind as I finished this story. Just absolutely lovely. The part where the robot thinks about Longing and Love just floored me. Well done and a very strong thumbs up for this beautiful story!

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 19, 2013 - 6:26pm

Oh my goodness, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Your kind words mean so much.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 19, 2013 - 6:28pm

A big thanks again to everyone who's taking the time to read. I hope to get to as many stories as I can by week's end and comment on yours as well. :))

Harlem Snape's picture
Harlem Snape February 20, 2013 - 1:30pm

What can I say that the others above have not already said?  Great story!

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 20, 2013 - 1:36pm

Dear Mr. Snape, sir,

Thank you ever so much! Keep rocking that cape!

Vishveshwar Jatain's picture
Vishveshwar Jatain from Vishveshwar Jatain is reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan February 21, 2013 - 5:06am

The ending really takes the cake. I'm not enough of a critic to spot the negatives and suggest areas of improvement here... but I enjoyed the story!

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 21, 2013 - 11:21am

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate it!

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 21, 2013 - 10:05am

Wonderful story telling, and in a voice that's tender without becoming saccharine.  I loved the way the quote unfolded as it returns, keeping it from becoming stale, but doesn't dilute itself either.  Well done.

I was mildly distracted by the self-analysis of the android. It shows great human sensibility and awareness, but is all the while claiming to be a bundle of programming and hardware.  It didn't feel like a robot speaking of/to itself, but more the way a person would talk about a robot.  It was especially pointed for me when it claims to be doing what it has been "instructed," while elsewhere it refers to its programming.  If there is a subtle AI line being deliberately crossed, there's probably room in the word count to nod to that.  Moving the voice to third person would remove a lot of the intimacy of the piece, I think, but it does eliminate this problem for me when I tried substituting it.

It does not seem to have been an issue for anyone else, of course, and it doesn't detract from the delicate and tender story itself.  Thanks for posting this here.

-Matt

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 21, 2013 - 11:22am

Thanks, Matt. It's always good to have another pair of eyes on this, and more feedback. Thanks again!