UNIX-based A.I. and a Siemens Artificial Womb for Men

Need a quick dose of weird, brainy science fiction but don't have time to commit to an entire short story collection? Then consider a new kind of book, from Aqueduct Press, which you might call a short story single, with an A-Side and a B-Side (though both stories get an A from this reader). Plugged In contains "The Man Who Plugged In," by L. Timmel Duchamp and "Kingdom of the Blind" by Maureen McHugh. Both authors were guests of honor at Wiscon in May, and I grabbed a signed copy at that event. We hear that it will soon be available from Aqueduct. Here's what awaits you.

McHugh, who won accolades for her novel China Mountain Zhang, has written a funny, thoughtful story about what would happen if the middleware you ran on your giant UNIX network achieved a form of consciousness on the level of a shark. How would you debug it when it started behaving in a shark-like manner and randomly messing with your data? Would it be unethical to revert the system?

And Duchamp, whose Marq'ssan Cycle earned praise from Samuel Delaney, writes about the first man to be fitted with a wearable artificial womb that feeds nutrients to his baby via a placenta-like filter that siphons his blood into the baby's body. It's a really weird story, in part because it deals mostly with how this fairly manly guy deals with being pregnant — and with his wife's ambivalence about having children at all. This is not at all your usual gender-role-switching story. Highly recommended.

Plugged In [via Aqueduct Press]