John Sladek: The Complete Roderick

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John Sladek The Complete Roderick
  • Название:
    The Complete Roderick
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Gollancz
  • Жанр:
    Юмористическая фантастика / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2001
  • Город:
    London
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    978-1857983401
  • Рейтинг книги:
    5 / 5
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The Complete Roderick: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Never before published in its entirety in the United States, is John Sladek’s masterpiece. Roderick is a robot who learns. He begins life looking like a toy tank, thinking like a child, and knowing nothing about human ways. But as he will discover, growing up and becoming fully human is no easy task in a world where many people seem to have little trouble giving up their humanity. The Complete Roderick The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction John Sladek was one of SF’s premier satirists, and is his masterpiece—a dark comedy of artificial intelligence, previously split into (1980) and (1983). Roderick is an experimental robot, a well-meaning innocent who grows up and learns what it is to be human in the comic inferno of modern America. Being human isn’t much fun: bullied at school, diagnosed as mentally unstable for saying he’s a robot, forever in trouble for applying logic to religion… Being a robot is tough: a sinister government agency is determined to destroy all AI “Entities”. Luckily their agents are hilariously inept—one assassin lying in wait for Roderick gets mugged for his laser-aimed sniper rifle. Like Voltaire’s Candide, Roderick moves wide-eyed through a world of insane commercialism: (Danton’s Doggie Dinette, the posh canine restaurant), fly-by-night religions (the Church of Christ Symmetrical), non-art (identical purple squares, meaningless when painted by Roderick, are praised as cutting-edge art), junk science (research into psychic pigeons is faked but generates a bestseller anyway) and—everywhere—people whose fads and tics and rigid prejudices make them more programmed, less truly human, than Roderick himself. This book is painfully funny, sprinkled with wild ideas and nifty one-liners: a surreal musical called ; marketing a dull book on fishing as ; the lady founder of Machine Lib, dubbed the Joan of Arc-welding; buying your jeans at Denim Iniquity… Beneath the dazzle, there’s some seriously comic discussion of artificial intelligence and why it fascinates us. Applause to Gollancz SF Masterworks for producing the first one-volume edition of this major SF satire. — Amazon Review

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John Sladek

THE COMPLETE RODERICK

Science Fiction Masterworks Volume 45

For Pamela Sladek

Enter the SF Gateway

In the last years of the twentieth century (as Wells might have put it), Gollancz, Britain’s oldest and most distinguished science fiction imprint, created the SF and Fantasy Masterworks series. Dedicated to re-publishing the English language’s finest works of SF and Fantasy, most of which were languishing out of print at the time, they were — and remain — landmark lists, consummately fulfilling the original mission statement:

‘SF MASTERWORKS is a library of the greatest SF ever written, chosen with the help of today’s leading SF writers and editors. These books show that genuinely innovative SF is as exciting today as when it was first written.’

Now, as we move inexorably into the twenty-first century, we are delighted to be widening our remit even more. The realities of commercial publishing are such that vast troves of classic SF & Fantasy are almost certainly destined never again to see print. Until very recently, this meant that anyone interested in reading any of these books would have been confined to scouring second-hand bookshops. The advent of digital publishing has changed that paradigm for ever.

The technology now exists to enable us to make available, for the first time, the entire backlists of an incredibly wide range of classic and modern SF and fantasy authors. Our plan is, at its simplest, to use this technology to build on the success of the SF and Fantasy Masterworks series and to go even further.

Welcome to the new home of Science Fiction & Fantasy. Welcome to the most comprehensive electronic library of classic SFF titles ever assembled.

Welcome to the SF Gateway.

THANKS

To Alan Jones of North East London Polytechnic, who helped me program a plot. Thanks to Jasia Reichardt, for conversations about robots, and especially for writing her excellent Robots: Fact, Fiction and Prediction (London: Thames & Hudson, 1978).

Special thanks to Ivan Klingels, without whose loan of an office for an entire year, this book would not have been written.

I’m grateful to the publisher for permission to quote from the English translation of ‘Les Fenêtres’ from Calligrammes by Guillaume Apollinaire © Editions Gallimard 1925.

RODERICK

or

THE EDUCATION OF A YOUNG MACHINE

BOOK ONE

I

There is no security against the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness, in the fact of machines possessing little consciousness now. A mollusc has not much consciousness. Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines have made in the last few hundred years, and note how slowly the animal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing.

Samuel Butler, Erewhon

JEAN HARLOW (as Kitty Packard): I read this book… the man says machines are going to take over every profession!

MARIE DRESSLER (as Carlotta Vance, looks her over): You’ve got nothing to worry about, my dear.

from Dinner at Eight

Spring came to the University of Minnetonka in the form of a midnight blizzard, spraying snow the length and breadth of the great campus, annoying people from Faculty Hill clear down to Fraternity Row.

At the meeting of the Ibsen Club a very old, tiresome guest began explaining that Boreas was — hee hee! — probably trying to get into the concrete barns of the Agricultural Science Department and impregnate the mares — oho! — only these days one supposed it was all done by machine, eh? Frozen sperm from some dead stallion, eh? Dispensed by some machine colder and faster and more ruthless than poor old Boreas — hee hee! — and so on, getting further and further from their discussion of Nora Helmer.

At home Dr Helen Boag, Dean of Persons, awoke and called out to Harry, her second husband: ‘Harry, what’s it? What’s it? That noise?’ But the lump of bedclothes beside her was Dave, her third. And the wind had already moved on.

At the University Health Service a yawning intern used a tongue depressor to mark his place in The Heart of the Matter (‘Somewhere far away he thought he heard the sounds of pain.’) and decided to order more flu vaccine — a wind like that. He scooted in his swivel chair to the console of the inventory computer and began playing its keys. In no time at all he was able to order three trillion — oops, thousand, 3,000 doxes — doses, damnit, doses!

Someone at Digamma Upsilon Nu invited the wind to blow, blow and crack its nuts, and laughed hard enough to spill more beer over the already damp player piano where the brothers had gathered to hoist mugs and sing ‘Roll Me Over’, their voices straining to compete with the mad howl outside. Indeed, they could hardly be heard by the lone brother who had crept upstairs to sit holding a loaded revolver and considering his Grade Point Average. The system, Christ it was so unfair, so damned unfair, getting graded by computers and all it was, it was degrading ha ha some joke some life, even if you get your horoscope done it’s all computers…

Even while he was hurriedly putting the gun away, the gust that had knocked at his window (sounding like a knock at the door) was far away, trying other doors and windows…

It whistled through the spire of the Wee Interdenominational Kirk O’ Th’ Campus, where there were no great organ pipes to thrill in response — pipes, organ and even organist having all been replaced by a single modest machine which (if Pastor Bean ever managed to get it programmed) would come to life only to sing the praises of the Wee Interdenominational God, on cue, by the numbers.

Near the Kirk lay a mutilated body; the wind covered her decently with snow to await the statistical work of the police computer and hurled on, roaring down the Mall, ripping at an old ballet poster, upsetting a litter basket — finally shrieking past the Computer Science building. There the wind pushed Dr Fong firmly against the door he was trying to pull.


‘Here, let me help.’ He heard the voice before he could make out the figure, a badly-handled marionette being pushed along on its toes. Rogers.

‘Oh, it’s you.’ He stood back, holding his Russian hat in place with both hands, while Professor Rogers wrestled with the door. Snow turned the air around them into a flicker of random dots; wind provided the white noise.

Inside, the two men stopped to stamp their feet and remove steamed glasses. ‘It’s you,’ Fong said again. ‘At this time of night?’

‘I couldn’t sleep. Thinking about… oh, every damn thing. About the viability…’ Rogers’s face held no further explanation. Indeed, without the tinted glasses, his face was simply long and blank, a peanut shell. Nothing in it but pock marks.

‘You wanted to look over the project?’

‘I wanted to explore — acceptability levels.’

‘Whats?’

‘To probe the infrastructure of your little group, you see? To look for a catalysable system-oriented — see I knew either you or your assistant would be here tonight…’

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