Wednesday, June 9, 2010

2010 Hugo nominee, novelette: "Eros, Philia, Agape" by Rachel Swirsky ( 3/09)

I thought this was one of the most successful short stories I’ve read from the nominees so far this year. The title refers to three of the Greek words for “love;” they distinguished between romantic love, familial love, and a sort of deeper love (important to know when you’re, say, translating the Bible, most of the original of which was in Greek). The distinctions are pretty clear even to we modern non-Greeks, though the lines also blur in interesting ways, and this story really focuses on when and where those blurrings take place.

So, it’s a love story, and the focus switches between the two lovers at various points in their relationship. Adriana is a young woman overshadowed by an abusive father who decides to buy herself a robotic lover, Lucian. Lucian is, of course, programmed to love and serve Adriana, but eventually, a genuine relationship develops between the two, and they adopt a child. However, Lucian is unsure who he really is; he was literally born to love Adriana, and he has never lived without her. So, he embarks on a quest to find his true self. The strength of this story is Swirsky's amazing character work. It’s a brief series of vignettes, but I really felt like I got to know Lucian and Adriana (and their young daughter Rose…and a bird who plays a fairly important role). I wanted to read more about them. The sf elements are used to perfection, as Lucian can represent and highlight a lot about human emotions through his articficial situation.

The story is available for free (and as an audio podcast, which I like for shorts) from I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good character piece.

Grade: A-

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