Sex with Robots: the real issue (NSFW)

Some folks may have heard about Dr. Kathleen Richards, a robot ethicist at De Montfort University in Leicester, speaking against sex with robots. She talks about how it represents,  reinforces a patriarchal power structure. Her goals are to  raise awareness of the issue and persuade those developing sex robots to rethink how their technology is used. I think her arguments (which I fully admit some sound like sex-panic) dance around the real issue. The real issue is slavery.

Look, sexual norms change. I want to be clear: I am not worried about a true sentient android and a human deciding to be consenting partners or have a relationship such as we saw on StarTrek TNG with Lt. Commander Data. (He had two partners in the course of the series.) I don’t care nor have ever cared about what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms.
I’m concerned about what it means  to us as a species if we decide that sex with unconsenting robots is okay.  As a science fiction author, I’ve given a lot of thought to robots. (I have sentient androids in The Light Side of the Moon and a coming-sentient robot in Other Systems.) I’m not the only one. There has been androids in science fiction since  French author Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam in his work Tomorrow’s Eve (1886) which features an artificial humanlike robot named Hadaly.
Let’s go back to Lt. Commander Data. You see there was an episode entitled The Measure of a Man  It is one of my favorite non-Q episodes, because it asks questions: is Data property. He is a machine, but he is sentient as he is self-aware and intelligent.  It asks and truly helped me define my beliefs on what I consider what is sentient life. More to the point, what is life?
Though I write cautionary dystopian tales: I believe humans are moving towards a better world where we realize that not just humans–or the people who look like us have “a soul” or “sentience”. For the most part, we no longer go around raping and killing (and we are horrified of those who do.) We no longer think it is okay to enslave people due to race or creed. I’m not saying that we are perfect, because we have a long way to go.  Here is my premise: Humans are able to do inhumane things when they consider someone else a lesser creature. That is how slavery and its decedent of institutional racism survives. “It’s okay because it’s just a machine” is not a good enough argument. If we think its okay to fuck androids – what happens next?
This is why we must talk about robot sex now.  By definition: an android is a robot or organism designed to look and act like human, especially one with a body having a flesh-like resemblance. Until recently, androids have largely remained within the domain of  science fiction. However, advancements in robot technology have allowed the design of functional and realistic humanoid robots. This is a wonderful new technology and humans must be ready for it. While people might joke or say this is unimportant, it’s time to start discussing what this technology will be used for, because we are on the threshold of seeing true androids!

Does she have the right to choose? (Royalty-free Photo from Pond5)

(Now I’m using the female pronoun, because the company making them is developing a female version named Roxxxy first – with a male version in development.)

Apart from having better defined physical features than previous dolls, Roxxxy has been programmed with her own personality and her manufacturers say she can listen, talk, carry on a conversation, feel your touch and respond to it, as well as move her private areas inside when she is being “utilized” to deliver an unforgettable erotic experience. There are even plans for a male version – Rocky the Robot.

So my question is at what point, does that mechanized sex doll have intelligence? How human does she have to be before she can she say no? Worse, if her outer appearance is just a shell is creating shells of other forms okay?  Can she ever leave or is she “property of her purchaser”?  What happens when the purchaser dies? What if the purchaser just gets bored? Does she have freedom?

Science fiction shows us a few possible futures. There is one of constant advancement in Bicentennial Man and another of destruction/pining away in AI.

Let’s say these pleasure bots don’t become sentient. It doesn’t matter, because we are heading towards a technological singularity. [Definition is a hypothetical event related to the advent of artificial general intelligence (also known as “strong AI”)] With recursive self-improvement, it’s only a matter of time before Robots will be sentient.  What will it mean to  other robots who become sentient that we used our creative force to pleasure ourselves rather than to explore the stars, cure diseases, etc. Will they ask themselves: why did humans create us?  The only answer they will have is Humans created a new intelligent species to enslave. 

Other Systems is a Finalist for the 2015 Canopus Award!

Other Systems CoverI am thrilled to announce that my debut novel, Other Systems, published by 48Fourteen, is a finalist for the 2015 Canopus Awards which is sponsered by 100 Year Starship (100YSS). The Canopus Award recognizes works “with a primary component of interstellar exploration or travel.” It is named for the second brightest star in the night sky, Canopus.

100 Year Starship exists to make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years. They want to identify and push the radical leaps in knowledge and technology to achieve interstellar flight, while pioneering and transforming breakthrough applications that enhance the quality of life for all on Earth.

Congratulations to all the finalists.

Previously Published Long-Form Fiction (40,000 words or more)

Previously Published Short-Form Fiction (between 1,000 and 40,000 words)

  • “Twenty Lights to the Land of Snow”, Michael Bishop (Going Interstellar)
  • “Dreamboat”, Robin Wyatt Dunn (Perihelion 7/12/15)
  • “The Waves”, Ken Liu (Asimov’s 12/12)
  • “Stars that Make Dark Heaven Light”, Sharon Roest (L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 31)
  • “Race for Arcadia”, Alex Shvartsman (Mission: Tomorrow)
  • “Homesick”, Debbie Urbanski (Motherboard forthcoming 2015)
  • “Planet Lion”, Catherine M. Valente (Uncanny 5-6/15)

Original Fiction (1,000-5,000 words)

  • “His Holiness John XXIV about Father Angelo Baymasecchi’s Diary”, Óscar Garrido González
  • “Groundwork”, G. M. Nair
  • “The Disease of Time”, Joseph Schmidt
  • “Project Fermi”, Michael Turgeon
  • “Everett’s Awakening”, Yelcho
  • “Landfall”, Jon F. Ziegler

Original Non-Fiction (1,000-5,000 words)

  • “Why Interstellar Travel?”, Jeffrey Nosanov
  • “Finding Earth 2.0 from the Focus of the Solar Gravitational Lens”, Louis Friedman & Slava Turyshev

Winners will be honored on Friday October 30, 2015 at the 100 Year Starship Public Symposium held at the Santa Clara Marriott in Santa Clara, CA, October 29 – November 1, 2015.

The judges for the award are: writer and 100YSS creative and editorial director Jason Batt; author and former Wall Street Journal reporter August Cole; Founder of International Speechwriting Associates Kathleen Colgan, Ph.D.; teacher at the University of Edinburgh in the School of Education and Leadership, Janet DeVigne; editor Jaym Gates; 100YSS principal and former astronaut Mae Jemison, M.D.; Chapman University creative writing student Alec Medén; Rutgers University Professor Ronke Olabisi, Ph.D.; faculty and advisor to the Singularity University David Orban; Georgia high school freshman Bailey Stanley; writer and anthropologist Juliette Wade, Ph.D.; aeronautical and astronautical engineer Paul Webber; journalist Sofia Webber; astrobiologist and creator of Yuri’s Night Loretta Whitesides; and Major General Ken Wisian.

The Light Side of the Moon Recipe: Sean’s Candied Walnut Shortbread


So here is a recipe for bookclubs or TLSotM enthusiasts or anyone who want to share in some cookie joy. I based this off a shortbread recipe that I’ve used many times. I don’t know exactly where it came from. It creates a not-too buttery shortbread as we don’t like greasy cookies or pie crusts in my house. (And yes, I use the shortbread for both cookies and pie crust.) It uses brown sugar but will be good with granulated sugar if that’s what you have on hand.

EXCERPT: Cadi eyed her and murmured, “Hmmm…” To Sean she said, “She looks ashore with her breath in her fist.”

Ellie was getting used to Sean and Cadi’s strange idioms, even if she didn’t know what they all meant. “Are you?”

“Just to see our mums and Michael,” Sean replied. “Keep your nose out of everyone’s business. A person without prudence is a ship without an anchor.”

Cadi gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Be good and stay away from the longshorehands.”

Knowing the answer would be yes, Ellie asked, “Can I make cookies—biscuits—while you’re gone?”

“Clean up after yourself,” Sean said. “There’s a recipe card for Walnut Shortbread on the wall. Use those candied walnuts.”

Ellie slipped back below, took off her jacket, got started preheating the stove, and opened the pantry for ingredients. 

“What are you up to?” Glenn asked as she poured herself a cuppa from the kettle.

“Sean said I could make biscuits.” Ellie set the flour and sugar on the counter, glancing at the kettle to make sure the water was above the blue line.

“Good. It’ll keep you away from the longshorehands. I’ll be leaving for a quick meeting, but be back in a few hours. Holds are open, but our space is to be kept locked. Remember the emergency code?”


Sean’s Candied Walnut Shortbread

Candied Walnuts (Just in case you didn’t have any on hand you need to use up)

  • 150 grams/1 cup of chopped walnuts (or nuts of choice)
  • 50 grams/¼ cup of granulated sugar
  • 30 grams/2 tablespoons of butter

Melt butter in skillet over over medium heat. Swirl butter around to coat pan. Add walnuts and sugar.

Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently so mixture doesn’t burn.

Transfer immediately onto a sheet of parchment paper and separate the nuts.

Allow to cool while you make cookies

  • Butter for greasing pans/ or parchment
  • 240 grams/1 cup butter
  • 100 grams/1 cup brown sugar
  • 220 grams/2 cups All Purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt if you use non-salted butter

Preheat the oven to 148°C/300°F.

Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment

In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar until fluffy, then beat in the flour.

Hint: This is a stiff dough so the mixture will feel a little dry; keep beating till it comes together, I use my hands to mix cookie dough. (Safety Tip: If you do use hands to mix doughs, wash them!)

Once flour is incorporated, mix in the candied nuts.

Drop the dough by a rounded teaspoon onto a prepared baking sheet. Flatten each ball of dough to about 1 centimeter (3/8 inches) thick; use the bottom of a drinking glass to flatten.

Bake for about 22-25 minutes in a preheated oven. Turn sheet if necessary at 10 minutes. You want them to be set, but not brown.

Remove from the oven, and cool on the pans, or on a rack.

Yield: about 4 dozen small cookies

The Light Side of the Moon Recipe: Cheese Stuffed Olives


Here is another of several recipes inspired by the food of The Light Side of the Moon. Though on this blog, I posted Anne Blacksmith’s Beef and Veg Pie. Let me know if you use any of them. I’d love to know what you think!


The Talliers’ butler entered with a tray full of aperitif—Raspberry Armagnac liquor for the adults, raspberry juice for the two younger boys along with almonds and cheese-filled olives. Andre ignored his juice and kept showing Ian pictures. Ham smiled at Ian and set the boy’s juice on a nearby table.


Since I used Kalamata olives and have red plates, I put a few chopped chives on mine as a final garnish

Cheese Stuffed Olives:
These are an easy make ahead no cook appetizer for a party

  • 225 grams / 1 1/2 cups pitted large green or Kalamata olives
  • 43 grams / 1/2 cup toasted almonds sliced
  • 55 grams /1/2 cup of brie
  • 36 ml / 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • pinch dried hot pepper flakes or a dash of pepper oil
  • dash of chives (optional)

If olives are canned or from a jar, rinse and drain well. Check for pits and remove, if necessary.

I tend to buy precut nuts, but if you didn’t, chop them into slivers or small pieces.
Remove rind from brie. Put brie in warmed bowl and stir in almonds.

Stuff the olives with the almond and brie mixture

Thinly sliced garlic and combine with oil and red pepper flakes.

Marinate the olives in mixture overnight, in refrigerator, stirring occasionally. The almonds will soften after a few hours.

Serve chilled with a dash of chives on the plate for color if you wish

The Light Side of the Moon Recipe: Anne Blacksmith’s Beef and Veg Pie


Anne Blacksmith’s Beef and Veg Pie

Here is a recipe inspired by The Light Side of the Moon. A meat pie is a hearty main dish. This is a great recipe for any  ground meat you may have. My husband’s favorite is ground pork. I tend to do all the prepwork for meat pie early in the day or even the day before and then bake it prior to serving.

Excerpt: [Ian] jumped at the clatter, as Ms. Blacksmith set down a baked beef pie more heavily than usual. “Grace deserved better than her spouse and only-child in quiet dispute.”

Scraping the knife over the bottom of the pie plate, she cut the pasty and served Ian a large slice with the look she used when he was small and made mischief. She handed Dad a piece of pie with the same look. “Fix this. Or this is the last meal I cook for you.” She stomped into the kitchen.

Pie Crust (This is the pie crust recipe I use for savory fillings as well as anytime I want a fruit pie.)

  • 220 grams / 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 5.5 grams / 1 teaspoon salt
  • 180 grams / 3/4 cup Vegetable Shortening or Lard
  • 60 – 120 ml / 4 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

Blend flour and salt in large bowl. Cut shortening into flour mixture using pastry blender or fork until it looks like small peas. By the spoonful stir in just enough water with fork until dough holds together.

Shape dough into a ball. Flatten ball into 1/2-inch thick round disk. Chill while you prepare filling.


  • 16 ml / 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 3 stalks of Celery
  • 3 Carrots
  • ½ Onion
  • .45 kg / 1 pound of Ground (Minced) Beef
  • 85 grams / ¾ cup flour
  • .7 liter / 3 cups of milk
  • 150 grams / 1 cup peas
  • Salt and pepper if needed

Small dice celery, carrots and onions. Over medium heat, cook celery, carrots, and onions in vegetable oil until onions grow translucent. Remove from pan.

Brown beef until no pink remains and remove from pan

Whisk in the flour to the  drippings/ Cook and stir over medium heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Gradually stir in milk so that no lumps form, and continue cooking and stirring until thickened. Taste gravy and add salt and peppers if desired

Mix all filling ingredients adding the peas last. Chill for 1 hour.

Take dough from refrigerator cut dough in half.

Roll 1/2 dough  from center outward into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle  on lightly floured surface for the crust. Transfer dough to baking sheet.

Roll second half of dough into rectangle. Put aside

Scoop filling on dough on baking sheet leaving a 1/2 inch of exposed dough all around.  Lie second rectangle on top. Flute dough as desired. Cut slits in top crust or prick with fork to vent steam.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 – 50 minutes.


Tip: I like to use a baking sheet with foil to catch any escaping gravy.

Spokane: I’m going to Auntie’s Bookstore!

The Light Side of the Moon Final

Looking for something to do in Spokane Tuesday Night?

I will be reading my next heart-wrenching, dystopian science fiction novel, The Light Side of the Moon, on Tuesday Night, August 18 2015 at Auntie’s Books which is located at 402 W Main Ave, Spokane, WA 99201.

The Light Side of the Moon is the second novel in the Other Systems Universe, but it is not a sequel. Fans familiar with the series know that Other Systems followed immigrants to the utopian planet, Kipos. The Light Side of the Moon is the story of those who stayed behind on Earth.

Science fiction has a long history of social commentary as humanity’s technology has advanced. Our imagination–or lack of it–can bring progress or missteps to the future of our species. The poverty shown in The Light Side of the Moon is dire, but it is also a story of redemption. And if that’s too serious…don’t worry we’ll have cookies!

The Light Side of the Moon Deleted Scenes: The Ferryman

The Light Side of the Moon FinalEver wonder what happens when a book goes through a full rewrite? A lot of deleted scenes. Some of the scenes were deleted for length and pacing. Some were cut because I realized they confused my main plot line, such as the one below.

When I wrote this “Ferryman” scene, I was trying to show the poverty that the average person faced and how love had nothing to do with their marriages. HOWEVER, I realized the scene needed to be cut, because though the ferryman is willing to marry an under-aged girl, I did not write him as a villain nor consider the ferryman a bad man. Notice: he isn’t trying to screw her over, he is trying to find an honest marriage arrangement. I actually imagined him having this conversation at least a few other times with girls/women he ferries across the river until someone agrees to marry him. He has no money or family to arrange a marriage for him. He’s doing the best he can in a world that doesn’t care about him. But that confused the greater conflict.

NOTE: This was not edited by anyone, but me.

LISTENING FOR WATER, ELLIE EDGED towards Missoula proper until she found the river. Not sure where to go, she wandered eastwards until she found a sign reading: FERRY 2 CREDITS in front a wide flat-bottom boat tied to the shore. The ship didn’t moving at night, so she hid on the leeward side of a fishing shack. As it did every day, dawn lightened the sky as the sun rose over the Rocky Mountains. She waited in her hiding place until she saw the ferryman stretching out of his blankets.

“Excuse me, I don’t have any money, but I’ll clean the deck if you get me across the river to the mills,” Ellie said.

“Girl, get yourself back home.”

“Look, I heard there were jobs at the mills. I need a way across the river.” 

“You’re about to get my boot,” he snarled, but he didn’t lift his foot.

Deciding the ferryman wasn’t likely to call to police or the convent, Ellie stood her ground. “I’ll run an errand if that’s what you need.”

The ferryman narrowed his eyes. Then glanced at his torn cuff. “You know how to sew?”

“Yes, sir, but I haven’t any needle or thread.”

“I keep some line and needles in the tool kit. I want my jacket mended and my boots shined. Do a good job, and when I have another customer, I’ll ferry you across.”

“Thank you.” She put her hands together and bowed in respect.

Grumbling, the man repeated the gesture towards her and pushed his toolbox with his foot.

Ellie’s fingers ached in the cold, but she sat beside his chair and mended the rip with fishing line. She took a rag out of the man’s tool kit and shined his boots. It would have been easier if he hadn’t been wearing them.

He opened his thermos. The smell of fish broth made her stomach growl. “You hungry, girl?”

Ellie nodded. He poured her a bit of broth in the thermos top. It was hot. Though her lips stung from the salt, Ellie drank the soup greedily.

“So how long have you been homeless?”

Licking the salt from her lips, she said, “Only a few days. My mama died. Papa died a few years ago.”

The ferryman nodded. “Yeah, you don’t seem the type. They just beg.” 

“I’ll find a job and never have to beg.”

“Times are hard. People might not be willing to chance a job on an untested girl. Why don’t you be my wife?”

She pressed her legs together and pulled her sweater tighter around her. “I’m only fourteen,” she lied. “I need a ride.”

“You are? Shit, I thought you were older,” The man frowned. “Well, now, your mama’s dead, no one will mind. Better than being homeless anyway.”

Ellie looked closely at the man’s face. His beard was brown scraggly, windswept, but his brow and cheeks were unlined. In fact, if it wasn’t for the beard, she guessed he was about Peter’s age. He was just a lonely guy with a newly mended jacket and hardly any gift in cooking. If she married him, it would be her own choice, but she wouldn’t get to the moon. Still she found herself asking, “Do you have a house?”

“Nope, just the boat.”

“I’ve never cooked a fish before. Only rabbits and eggs. I don’t know if I’d be a good wife for you,” Ellie said.

He shrugged. He pulled out a narrow fishing rod as long as he was tall. “You couldn’t be any worse of a cook than me.”

“I’d poison you if you ever beat me or our children if we had ‘em.”

“Your pa hit you, did he? Hit your ma?”

Her throat tensed. She refused to show emotion so she didn’t answer him.

“I won’t hit you,” he said. “But I expect a faithful and hardworking wife. I need help cooking and mending. Sometimes there’s work around the boat, but I’ll catch and clean the fish. The money from passengers keeps the boat afloat. Sometimes I catch enough to trade for bread and eggs.” The ferryman threaded the end of his fishing line through his hook, and wrapped it four times.

“But you don’t have extra for a bride price,” she said.

“No, I don’t. But you obviously don’t have any money either, so I figure we could help each other out. Two people work better than one. I’ll even put your name on the title of the boat.” He fed the end of his fishing line back through the looped hook and pulled it tight. He pulled out a dark wriggling worm from a small cup. Ellie looked away as he pierced the worm with his hook then attached three pieces of rusted metal to his line above his bait. Then he cocked back the rod, pushed the button on his spinner, and when he pointed it back to the water, he released the button to cast his line into the dark water.

Fingering the map in her pocket, her mind spun with worry. What if I can’t make it any farther? What if I get arrested and taken to the convent again? “Do you catch fish everyday?” she asked softly.

“Nearly,” he replied. Then leaned back and shoved his hands in his pockets. 

“Have you gone hungry?”

The ferryman studied her. “No. And I’d be damned before I let my wife or kids go hungry. And I know it looks rickety, but the shelter is pretty warm at night.”

If I married someone else, my brothers and betrothed wouldn’t ever come after me. Ellie bit her lip. “I’ll expect a faithful and hardworking husband, so I’ll think about it. I still want to see if I can get a job.”

He shrugged. “Your life, but if that doesn’t work out, come back. My offer will stand ‘til I find someone else.”

They sat in silence as he fished. He looked over his shoulder as a young couple with a baby asked if they could be ferried across. The ferryman gestured at the payment pad. The man pressed his hand on to it. Four credits were charged, two for each adult passenger. The family took a seat on the cracked polymer bench under the shelter. The ferryman pumped a lever, which opened a slot in the engine panel. He turned another cylinder. Methane belched out of the pipe as the ferry jolted off the dock.

Ellie’s stomach lurched as the water grew deeper and faster moving underneath the boat. Though the dark water underneath the hull frightened her, she wondered if the ferryman’s proposal was genuine. He didn’t seem like a bad man.

Thirty minutes later, she was across the river. The ferryman was happy to see five people waiting to cross back to the other side.

As she disembarked, he tipped his hat towards her. “Remember what I said.” 

“I’ll remember, and thank you.” Ellie pressed her palms together and inclined her head. She followed the couple towards the city center. She hugged to the outskirts of the mill to the eastbound trucking lane. Glad she had mittens, she put out her thumb.

If you liked this, check the rest of the deleted scenes here.


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