Love, Murder & Mayhem – When My Brain Goes Future Noir

By Lois Spangler

Listen: the moment you utter science fiction and love, murder, and mayhem all in the same breath, my brain immediately goes future-noir. And future-noir bubbles up in my mind as a cyberpunk detective story.

Great! A detective tries to solve a murder whose motives lie in love. But that’s a broad canvas, with all kinds of variables. So I thought about the love angle. Romance immediately came to mind, but I’d just seen a run of old films with the usual detective-dame dynamic, and to be completely honest, I’ve never tried romance—I haven’t had the guts. So I thought about other kinds of love, and the bonds of family came immediately to mind.

Another topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is artificial intelligence, and robots in general. A few years ago, a friend of mine helped put together an interactive installation that was all about the common cultural perceptions of robots and how humans are learning to respond to them, and the problems that arise from a dearth of empathy for things that can be dismissed as mere machines.

And that’s when things started to gel. What if the murder centered around the affection and respect shown by a human to an android? What if that human treated this android like family? And what if other members of the family were not at all happy with that?

There’s an approach in neurology that posits that all human emotions are just chemical reactions, just physics in action. If we take these emotions seriously, and if they are just complex and glorified electro-chemistry, then how are the perceptions and processes of complex artificial intelligences any different? Can they understand what it is to be loved? Can they love in return? Does guilt have any meaning for them, or does it exist at all? And if empathy from an android to a human can be written off as programming, can the same be said for empathy shown from one android to another, if mutual preservation protocols are not expressly written into their code?

My story for the Crazy 8 Press Love, Murder & Mayhem anthology, titled “A Matter of Principle”, is an exploration of the choices people make about things that can be said to be sapient and sentient, what happens when those choices clash, and what happens when these sentient and sapient things make choices about themselves.

Love, Murder & Mayhem from Crazy 8 Press will be on sale both in print and digital formats in July. Stay tuned for updates!

Lois Spangler is a Mexican-American ex-pat currently living in the antipodes. Some of her stage works have been performed in New York City, and her short fiction has appeared in ReDeus: Native Lands, and will be appearing in works produced by Tiny Owl Workshop. When she’s not at her day job or tooling around doing narrative design research, she’s likely trading stabs and cuts with friends using centuries-old sword manuals, and occasionally translating bits of those manuals for folks to use.


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