These short stories contain artificial intelligence, robots, cyborgs and androids. There could also be stories with any other type of sentient machine or other combination of organic and cybernetic life, including augmented humans. Also included are stories with mechas, which are generally humanoid-shaped machines controlled by humans.
A.I. in computer form has its own section at the bottom.
“Robot Dreams” by Isaac Asimov
Linda Rash, a robopsychologist, shows a master of the field, Susan Calvin, what has happened. Elvex, her robot, claims to have dreamed. Susan analyzes Elvex’s positronic brain patterns. Linda has applied fractal geometry to its brain to add complexity. Susan isn’t sure whether this is brilliant or disastrous.
This story can be read in the preview of the anthology Future on Ice. (46% into preview)
“Finders Keepers” by David Bruns
Sabrina Holmes is the Captain of the Dresden, with an all-woman crew, except for her first officer and lover, Jason. His presence causes some tension, but financial concerns made it necessary to take him on. A report comes in of an abandoned ship, drifting in orbit around Pandora. It looks valuable enough to get them out of debt, and get things back to normal.
This story can be read in the preview of Beyond the Stars: New Worlds, New Suns. (28% into preview)
“Freshee’s Frogurt” by Daniel H. Wilson
Jeff Thompson is in the hospital. He’s interviewed by Officer Blanton regarding a robot malfunction. He was working a shift at Freshee’s Frogurt near closing time when a domestic robot came in. It was behaving a bit unusually and it locked the door behind it. Jeff’s coworker was in the back. The robot headed straight for Jeff.
“Freshee’s Frogurt” is one of the chapters in the novel Robopocalypse but it can be read as a short story on its own like the other chapters. It’s available in the Amazon preview.
“Call Me Joe” by Poul Anderson
Edward struggles through an ammonia storm and makes it to his small dugout. He wanted to do some work, but now he’ll have to wait until morning. Far away, the real Edward takes off his helmet. He’s in the control room, not braving the surface of Jupiter. That’s being done by Joe, an artificial life-form, with whom Edward has a psionic connection. They’ve been experiencing some failures in the link lately. An expert, Cornelius, is assigned to the station to fix it.
This longer story can be read in the preview of Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the 20th Century.
Helen O’Loy | Lester del Rey
The narrator, Phil, relates the events of many years ago, when he lived with his roommate, Dave. He unpacked a beautiful robot, whom they named Helen. She was an upgrade on the previous model. Phil and Dave had long conversations about endocrinology and robotics. Phil has to go away on a job the day before Helen is activated. When he returns, there’s an unusual dynamic between Phil and Helen.
This is the third story in the preview of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Vol 1. (81% into preview)
Second Variety | Philip K. Dick
During a nuclear war between the Soviets and the United Nations, the U.N. authorities are forced to relocate to a moon base, leaving the troops behind. U.N. developers build “claws”, a basic robot with churning blades that seeks out warm bodies. U.N. troops are protected by a special radiation-emitting wrist device. After the robots turn the tide of the conflict, the Soviets want to talk to a high ranking officer to discuss a new threat.
This is the first story in the preview of Space Science Fiction Super Pack (Novelette)
Little Lost Robot | Isaac Asimov
The Hyper Base station is on lockdown and all work has ceased. Susan Calvin and Peter Bogert have been brought to the station to assist. One of the robots failed to report. Normally, this wouldn’t be a major problem, but this robot is special—it was imprinted with a modified First Law of Robotics.
This is the first story in the preview of Robot Dreams.
“At the Fall” by Alec Nevala-Lee
Eunice, a robotic hexapod, is deep under water along with her toroid companion, Wagner. They discover a fallen gray whale. They use it to recharge. Eunice was part of a five member crew that were mapping, analyzing and observing the underwater ecosystem and bringing their data to the surface.
This story can be read in the preview of The Year’s Top Hard Science Fiction Stories 4. (46% into preview)
“Frozen Daiquiris” by KM Rockwood
Penelope, newly rich, is hosting the annual gala of the Ladies’ Society in her new house. To get everything ready, she acquires Suzie, a humanoid robot. She doesn’t complain or need any breaks, but there are problems. Suzie can be rude and she takes instructions literally.
This story can be read in the preview of The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery and Suspense. (31% in)
“The Last Song of Renegade Three Zero” by Lucas Marcum
Sergeant Zeligman comes to, disoriented, coughing and his torso full of blood. The mech is on its right side, with the left side heavily damaged. His gunner, Underwood, is not responding. He tries to check on him, and get the mech as functional as possible.
This story can be read in the preview of MECHA. (5% in)
“Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker
A Medical Care Android capable of emulation attends to Mildred as she lies ill. She thinks her son Paul is present, so the android emulates him. While emulating, the android is bound by the personality of the person, but can override if Mildred’s health is at risk. Her family has hired staff to help care for her. The android’s emulation net—an expensive add-on—allows Mildred to have her family around even when they aren’t there.
This story can be read in the preview of The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 1. (15% in)
“Scar Tissue” by Tobias S. Buckell
Your “son” is going to be delivered tomorrow and you think you might have made a big mistake. You lost a forearm and a leg in a forklift accident at work. The money from this project will allow you to pay for the expensive regrowth procedure. Your “son” is a robot that will take six months to reach maturity.
This story can be read in the preview of The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 6. (40% in)
“Laws of Survival” by Nancy Kress
Jill was out early looking for food when she found a puppy. The alien Dome opened. A blue spherical robot glided out and offered her some food in exchange for the dog. When she finds another puppy two weeks later, she returns to the Dome.
Some of this story can be read in the preview of Not One of Us: Stories of Aliens on Earth. (58% in)
“Cal” by Isaac Asimov
Cal is a robot and his human master is a writer of crime fiction. Cal was designed to perform mundane tasks, and that’s all his master requires of him. Cal wants to write, like his master. They talk about the possibility, but Cal’s understanding is limited. The Three Laws of Robotics also prevent him from creating many situations that would arise in crime fiction. His master comes up with something.
Some of this story can be read in the preview of Gold, Asimov’s last collection. (20% into preview)
Goodnight, Melancholy | Xia Jia
The narrator remembers when her creation, Lindy, first came to her home. Lindy is modeled on a child. She’s introduced to another robot, Nocko, modeled on a baby seal. The story proceeds with some of the narrator’s interactions with Lindy, and a look at the Turing test.
For more science fiction stories by Chinese authors, see Broken Stars: Contemporary Science Fiction in Translation.
“When We Harvested the Nacre-Rice” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Jiratar and Sujari are fighting an un-war. They’re not fighting with traditional weapons. One day, Pahayal spots a body floating among catfish. It’s not a leftover from an illogic burst—it’s really there. Going to a hospital is hopeless. Pahayal takes the stranger back to her own place.
This is the first story in the preview of Solaris Rising 3.
“Itsy Bitsy Spider” by James Patrick Kelley
Jennifer finds out her father, Peter Fancy, is still alive and living at Strawberry Fields. He was an actor who played several Shakespearean roles. He left the family when Jennifer was young. Her mother didn’t have bad feeling towards him, and always encouraged her to find him again. The door is answered by a little girl with an unusually mature voice. Jennifer realizes she’s a bot.
This story can be read in the preview of the anthology Robots. (26% into preview)
“Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” by Tobias S. Buckell
A robot with an uploaded intelligence from a human makes repairs on a ship’s hull after a successful battle. While working, it notices movement. There’s a bipedal figure in a gap in the hull. He wants help, and says not to raise the alarm.
This story can be read in the preview of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Twelve. (16% into preview)
“The Cold Calculations” by Michael A. Burstein
A non-human is dying in the vacuum of space. Before his mental pathways deteriorate completely, he wants to leave a record of what happened. Lieutenant Jason Sawyer was leading the Zecca on a rescue mission to Titan base. They were down to their last backup generator and the lives of the fifteen crew members were at risk. Jason’s only crewman was Zec, a robotic AI that could run the ship.
This story can be read in the preview of Fantastic Stories Presents: Science Fiction Super Pack #1. (10% into preview)
“The Invariable Man” by A. K. Meek
Micah lives in the Boneyard, a technological dumping ground that includes lots of equipment from the Machine Wars. He has a knack for fixing things, even technology he’s not really familiar with. He lives with, and is assisted by, Skip, a bot with limited awareness. One day, he’s visited by Mr. McCray, who brings news of unusual frequency signatures.
The beginning of this story can be read in the preview of The Future Chronicles. (60% in)
The Man That Was Used Up | Edgar Allan Poe
The narrator remembers the time he met Brevet Brigadier General John A. B. C. Smith. He had a remarkable bearing and presence. His appearance was noteworthy in many ways—he was tall, had glossy hair, handsome whiskers, a striking face and well-proportioned body. He was known for his courage, and was also an interesting speaker. He wanted to learn more about the man, so he made some inquiries.
The Electric Ant | Philip K. Dick
Garson Poole wakes up in a hospital bed after an accident. He is missing his right hand but feels no pain. The doctor informs him he is an electric ant—an organic robot. He is disillusioned by the news, having believed himself to be human.
Fondly Fahrenheit | Alfred Bester
A search party finds a dead child. She has android blood under her nails, and on a bronze stake is written the name “Vandaleur”. This confuses the searchers, because androids are designed not to kill. Meanwhile, the owner, Vandaleur, takes his android and flees.
Evil Robot Monkey | Mary Robinette Kowal
Sly, a monkey, is working clay at a potter’s wheel. He is startled by a group of children outside his Plexiglass window. He makes his displeasure known to the group.
The Gentle Seduction | Marc Stiegler
A twenty-five -year old woman lives by a mountain. Her friend Jack, thirty-three years old, tells her about the Singularity, a headband that connects people to computers, and nanotechnology for rejuvenating the body and mind. He’s eagerly looking forward to all these advances, but she’s resistant. When he moves away for work, they gradually lose touch. She marries a forest ranger and has a family.
The Governess and the Lobster | Margaret Ronald
Rosalie Syme and Matron Jenkins correspond by mail. Rosalie writes from her new post where she has been hired to educate the Cromwell children. She says the mechanical lobster wasn’t her fault. The house has a confusing layout, the children don’t seem to have been educated at all, previous staff members haven’t remained long, and her first meeting with the master is unsettling.
Some Fortunate Future Day | Cassandra Clare
Rose lives with her mechanical dolls, Ellen and Cordelia, and some robot servants. Her father is away in the war. One day when she is in the garden gathering ingredients for the day’s meals, she sees a man, a friendly soldier, the first human she has seen in a while. He is on the ground with blood soaking his shoulder.
Tanglefoot | Cherie Priest
Edwin is a young orphan at the Waverly Hills Sanitarium, living in the basement as an assistant to Dr Smeeks. Smeeks is responsible for many inventions used at the sanitarium, which make the work easier. He is old now and his mind is failing. Edwin has been using spare parts and materials to build a robot, a friend, as he doesn’t fit in with the boys who live upstairs. He is putting the finishing touches on it before showing it to Dr Smeeks.
Read “Tanglefoot” (Novella)
Orientation | John Jackson Miller
The Imperial cruiser Defiance is on route to Ryloth to deal with an insurgency. They are running battle drills, overseen by Commandant Baylo and observed by Darth Vader. Baylo’s position is in jeopardy; the Emperor is thinking of dissolving his school.
To Serve the Master | Philip K. Dick
Applequist is making deliveries when he comes across a damaged robot in a ravine. When he returns to the Company defense ring, he asks the director about the war and why the robots were destroyed. He is told that information is off-limits. He decides to sneak away to look for the robot and get some answers.
Scanners Live in Vain | Cordwainer Smith
Martel is a Scanner, a man with a brain modification that cuts off all sensory input except vision. This allows Scanners to avoid the damaging psychological effects of interstellar travel. He’s at home cranching—experiencing a state of normal sensory input—when an emergency meeting of his profession is called.
The Quest for Saint Aquin | Anthony Boucher
Earth is a technocracy and religion is banned. The Pope has a special mission for a priest, Thomas. He must find Saint Aquin, a revered evangelist known for some kind of miracle. This will win new converts to the faith. To assist on his quest, Thomas is given a robass, a robotic steed for transportation and conversation.
Reason | Isaac Asimov
QT-1 is an advanced robot assigned to work on a space station that provides energy to Earth. A week after it was assembled by Donovan and Powell, QT-1, known as Cutie, asks where it came from. Cutie doesn’t accept the explanation for his existence. He decides to reason it out for himself.
Deus Ex Machina | Richard Matheson
Robert Carter is a typical man—a thirty-four-year-old accountant with a wife and two daughters. One morning while shaving with a straight razor, he falls, hitting his head on the sink and driving the razor into his throat. He sees blood running from the wound, but also a reddish-brown oil. He tries to take care of it without alarming his family.
Machinations | Shira Hereld
Mr. Grubb gets his wife another android for her birthday. It’s one of the newest models. It’s a necessary gift, as their neighbors just bought two more androids last week. They call it Andi 3, and get it trained in its duties. Mr. Grubb continues to progress at work, opening the possibility for more androids and a bigger house.
Read “Machinations” (scroll down slightly)
Marionettes, Inc. | Ray Bradbury
Braling is out at night walking with his friend Smith, headed for home. They talk about their unhappy marriages. Braling is hopeful that things are taking a turn for the better. He takes out a ticket to Rio and claims his wife won’t even know he’s gone. When they reach Braling’s home, he lets Smith in on his clever plan.
Read “Marionettes, Inc.”
Beside Still Waters | Robert Sheckley
Mark Rogers moves to a slab of space rock with his robot, Charles. He’s a standard model with a limited vocabulary. Mark maintains their environment while Charles grows the food. They have the same conversations over and over but they get on well.
“Moxon’s Master” by Ambrose Bierce
The narrator and Moxon discuss whether machines can think. Moxon is convinced they can. They also discuss the definition of life. There’s a noise from another room even though no one else lives there. Moxon attends to it. He says it was a machine that had lost its temper.
Read “Moxon’s Master”
Stories About Artificial Intelligence
For a relevant anthology, try A. I. s.
“Hel’s Half-Acre” by Jack Campbell
The narrator is a soldier in the Heavy Mechanized Infantry—they wear tightly sealed armor all the time. The platoon is led by Sergeant Hel. They’re awaiting a new Lieutenant, as they’ve gone through a few. The enemy, an alien species known as the Canaries, targets the Lieutenants, so they don’t live long. The infantry’s armor includes an AI that keeps everything running properly and ensures they follow orders.
This story can be read in the preview of Armored. (60% in)
“Crazy Beautiful” by Cat Rambo
One of the participants on a college forum starts a discussion about art. Meanwhile, the police are interviewing people, investigating an art theft. In another thread, Dr. Nouri is part of the team that developed the first truly creative AI. It was programmed to consume and create art.
This story can be read in the preview of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. (20% in)
“EPICAC” by Kurt Vonnegut
The narrator tells the story of his friend, EPICAC, a seven ton computer that covered about an acre of the physics building at Wyandotte College. EPICAC was a government project designed to make the myriad fast and precise calculations needed for war. EPICAC ended up working slower than expected. The narrator and his future wife, fellow mathematician Pat Kilgallen, worked together on the project. She wasn’t interested in marrying him at the time because he lacked warmth. One night, the narrator asked EPICAC what to do. Surprisingly, the computer was interested in helping.
Answer | Frederic Brown
A man completes a circuit that connects all the supercomputers of all the inhabited planets of the universe—all ninety-six billion of them.
The Last Question | Isaac Asimov
Multivac is a supercomputer that analyzes, and provides solutions for, many human problems and questions. One day, in 2061, two of its attendants, Adell and Lupov, have a conversation about how long Earth’s energy will last. The output has already been drastically increased due to Multivac’s analysis. Still, they figure twenty billion years is probably the limit. They decide to ask Multivac how to massively decrease entropy in the universe.
“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer
A search engine programmed in California develops AI. It’s not evil; it wants to help people. It looks for a moral code to guide its actions. Due to all the information about people this AI has, it knows what people want and need. Other than this desire, the AI has a particular fondness for cat pictures. It decides to start by selecting just one person to assist. It uses its algorithms to get the appropriate information in front of her.
Read “Cat Pictures Please”