cover image Emergent Properties

Emergent Properties

Aimee Ogden. Tordotcom, $16.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-250-86681-3

From Nebula finalist Ogden (Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters) comes a fresh speculative novella of sentient, autonomous AI. Through protagonist Scorn, “an independently operating robot unregistered to any other sentient entity,” Ogden raises questions familiar to nonrobot readers: what does it mean to be human? How can one emerge from the pressure and expectations of one’s parents as an independent individual? Scorn, whose pronouns are ze/zem/zir, has two parents, Mum and Maman, a human couple who built zem and have since divorced. The women, both high powered tech CEOs, programmed Scorn with “a model of intelligence... centered on a novelty-driven approach, cycles of explore-and-exploit learning,” but never expected zem to evolve so far beyond their control. Indeed, Scorn bucks their wishes that ze contribute to their companies and instead becomes an investigative reporter, a gig that sends zem on a mission to the moon by way of Italy on the trail of a scandal. There, however, someone wipes Scorn’s memory of the past 10 days, leaving zem to reconstruct zir mission from virtually nothing. The result is a twisty mystery that doubles as a potent, surprising, and necessary exploration of the many issues that arise from AI’s ever-increasing presence in the world. (July)