Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the fifth one: “Sustainable Development” by Paula R. Stiles:
Normally, selling peanuts in Boubara is a job mothers send their children to do in the marché. As the spider heads up the steps into the bar, I try the usual way of calling a child—crooking my fingers at the robot. “Tsst! Petit! Viens ici!”
The robot approaches me. Someone has left a carefully scrawled sign on the tray, “10 CFA par tas—10 Francs per pile.” Village prices. I pull out a 50 CFA coin for all five tas and toss it onto the tray.
The robot tilts the tray forward until the tas begin to slip. It probably has a weight measurement control inside that calculates the coin.
“Prenez tous, grand merci—Take everything, thank you,” it says in a flat, metallic voice. I scoop up the tas and dump them on the dusty cement of the bar. After I empty the tray, the robot hurries off through the empty marché.
Talk about tech dumping. Who got the bright idea to dump intelligent robots in a small African village? My predecessor, that’s who. He got them to help the men grow cash crops. Scooping up my peanuts, I stand and follow it.
Excerpt from “Sustainable Development” by Paula R. Stiles. Copyright © 2010 by Paula R. Stiles.
Possessing a quixotic fondness for difficult careers, Paula R Stiles has driven ambulances, taught fish farming for the Peace Corps in West Africa and earned a Scottish PhD in medieval history, studying Templars and non-Christians in Spain. She has also sold fiction to Strange Horizons, Writers of the Future, Jim Baen’s Universe, Futures, @outshine and other markets. She is Editor in Chief of the Lovecraft/Mythos ‘zine Innsmouth Free Press. You can find her at: http://www.geocities.com/rpcv.geo/other.html or on Twitter (@thesnowleopard).
Sustainable Development by Paula R Stiles brought a huge smile to my face; in her future vision it is still the women who do all the hard work!
Sustainable Development by Paula R Stiles had me smiling. Very tongue-in-cheek and very clever, Stiles plays with stereotypes in a small, impoverished, African village where the men are seen never to be doing any of the hard work, but the women are constantly working and seemingly working themselves into the ground. It’s a very small story, but again it’s well edited and cleverly written, so that the final scene makes you smile that slow steady smile of happiness.
A short and funny story with a twist about African women using considerable ingenuity to help with their backbreaking work.
Paula R. Stiles’ Sustainable Development envisions robots in unlikely roles in West Africa.
Sustainable Development by Paula Stiles, about robots taking over the “women’s work” of a West African village, is rather too much of a happily-ever-after story, especially given the social dislocations that often accompany sudden technological changes.
There are also stories which are quite competent , but simply fail to be striking, such as Sustainable Development by Paul R. Stiles and Scheherazade Cast in Starlight by Jason Andrew.
An interactive map of SHINE story locations: