If you need some free, online fiction to distract you on your lunch break, look no farther than Daniel "How to Stop a Robot Uprising" Wilson's first work of science fiction, a short story called "The Nostalgist."
Wilson is known for his funny science writing about robots and general science, always packed with tons of pop culture references. So it makes sense that he would eventually turn to writing fiction. Especially fiction about robots.
Set in a kind of Bladerunner-esque world of implants and synthetic creatures, the story captures a scary, melancholy moment in the relationship between a man and his grandson. With a very cool twist. Here's how it starts:
He was an old man who lived in a modest gonfab, and over the last eighty hours his Eyes™ and Ears™ had begun to fail. In the first forty hours, he had ignored the increasingly strident sounds of the city of Vanille and focused on teaching the boy who lived with him. But after another forty hours the old man could no longer stand the Doppler-affected murmur of travelers on the slidewalks outside, and the sight of the boy's familiar deformities became overwhelming. It made the boy sad to see the old man's stifled revulsion, so he busied himself by sliding the hanging plastic sheets of the inflatable dwelling into layers that dampened the street noise. The semitransparent veils were stiff with grime and they hung still and useless like furled, ruined sails.
The old man was gnarled and bent, and his tendons were like taut cords beneath the skin of his arms. He wore a soiled white undershirt and his sagging chest bristled with gray hairs. A smooth patch of pink skin occupied a hollow under his left collar bone, marking the place where a rifle slug had passed cleanly through many decades before. He had been a father, an engineer, and a war-fighter, but for many years now he had lived peacefully with the boy.
Everything about the old man was natural and wrinkled except for his Eyes™ and Ears™, thick glasses resting on the creased bridge of his nose and two flesh-colored buds nestled in his ears. They were battered technological artifacts that captured sights and sounds and sanitized every visual and auditory experience. The old man sometimes wondered whether he could bear to live without these artifacts. He did not think so.
You know you want more. You can read the whole story for free online, thanks to Tor.com!
Illustration by Sam Weber.