cover image So You Want to Be a Robot

So You Want to Be a Robot

A. Merc Rustad. Lethe, $20 trade paper (246p) ISBN 978-1-59021-641-5

Swaying freely between science fiction and fantasy, diverse in setting and tone, this debut collection by prolific short story author Rustad is creative, often whimsical, and deliciously inclusive. An element of queerness enhances many of the stories, always delivered as unobtrusively and naturally as hair color; characters’ genders and orientations sometimes guide the plot but are rarely the central focus. In the touching and layered “Iron Aria,” a young autistic trans man uses his magical ability to manipulate metal to save his small town from a weak dam. “Batteries for Your Doombot5000 Are Not Included” is, on the surface, a humorous tale of the postretirement life of a supervillain, but is touched with seriousness when she seeks compassionate aid from a former nemesis, hoping to revive the woman who was once her lover. The stories are all crafted with the deft and loving touch of an author who knows firsthand what it is to live in their characters’ skins. Each piece in this unmissable collection shimmers with bright explorations of love, loss, and the quest for hope. (May)