Friday, August 28, 2015

"Reverse Logic" by Sierra July

A community of robots, whose "minds were a trifle eccentric, as best minds are," wandering the solar system seemingly independent of humans (have we died out? abandoned them? they us? — there are hints, or more accurately there is a feeling, but I believe nothing definite), settles on Pluto where they produce an artistic genius: the ice sculptor RL. In beautifully elliptical form — "Everything happens by means of short cuts, hypothetically; narrative is avoided," as Mallarmé said of his very different kind of writing — the story traces the successive waves of joy, pleasure, disillusionment, and destruction that this causes: in RL, in the rest of the robots, and even in the physical medium and the increasingly depleted Pluto itself.

"Starving for purpose (except in Robot minds), the sculptures hollowed out." It is tempting to take that parenthetical equivocation as meaning that if only humans (who July pointedly refers to as "Man") were present things might have been better, but I think it best to resist this temptation. Humans, as the creators of the robots, may have provided some larger context, some external sign of...something, but our presence would perhaps only have deferred the problem. I do not wish to suggest that the robots' problem is our own — I won't disrespect the specificity of what July has created by reducing it to some generalized metaphorical mirror — and RL's struggle is specifically robotic. But what, after all, are we doing? "He no longer saw Paradise. He saw Desolation. He saw Collapse. And he could do nothing to stop it, no matter how he yearned to. Reverse Logic. He kept consuming."

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