Short Story Month, Day 16: Lena Nguyen
Here's a story I discovered the other day, basically on a whim. My friend MeLaina Ramos mentioned working for the new journal K'in, so I decided to check it out. This happened to be the first story listed in the fiction section. The first thing I did after I finished reading it was send the story to someone else who wanted to share some shorts this month.
Maybe it's because of Westworld being back on the air, but I feel like I've been seeing a lot lately about the ethical treatment of robots, so this seems timely, though I wouldn't say this story delves into ethics so much as it explores how humans attach themselves to things. It's not surprising that the main character, Grace, feels such an affinity for a robot that takes care of her in a manner similar to a parent but without the emotional attachment. It's not such a stretch from current discussions of how the internet removes us from more immediate forms of contact with other humans and causes us to struggle with real-life personal interaction.
I like that this story is tinged with ideas of sexuality without it being, well, Westworld-ish. It's not about power but about the development of our sense of humanity. Grace, it's noted, is just starting to develop breasts, and her classmate stands out for having a boyfriend without practicing on a girl first, which seems an interesting way of expressing a desire for intimacy without being fully vulnerable. Since female interaction already tends to be more open to personal connections than boys, I can't help wondering how boys "practice" in this world. Judging by the way current society is shaking out, I'm going to go with robots. Contrast this with the couple in the bushes, and there's a whole lot to explore here about the human need for intimacy—how it's developed and built, man-made and, seemingly, man-destroyed.
I'm not someone who tends to wish that short stories could be longer, and I tend to roll my eyes at people who whine that short stories always end just as they're getting into the narrative. I like that I can take this story wherever I want because so much seems open-ended, and it means I can learn about myself and my own perspectives more than I learn something about the author. But, admittedly, I do like the idea of this story being expanded because I like Lena Nguyen's perspective; if she does want to explore this world more, I'd be here for it.