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So You Want to be a Robot and Other Stories

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Step one: forget the convention and disregard the binary. Gender? Sexuality? Old words unsuited for new consciousness. The twenty-one stories in this book challenge the imagination as only acclaimed author A. Merc Rustad can. Pages of robots and AIs constructing lives and exploring "humanity"; wasted worlds with monstrous cityhearts; assassins and the perils of enchanted l Step one: forget the convention and disregard the binary. Gender? Sexuality? Old words unsuited for new consciousness. The twenty-one stories in this book challenge the imagination as only acclaimed author A. Merc Rustad can. Pages of robots and AIs constructing lives and exploring "humanity"; wasted worlds with monstrous cityhearts; assassins and the perils of enchanted labyrinths; and always the raw truths of love, loss, and devotion. Step two: read these science-fiction and fantasy tales as if they are the only stories you will discover on your bookshelf this day. Step three: dare to feel.


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Step one: forget the convention and disregard the binary. Gender? Sexuality? Old words unsuited for new consciousness. The twenty-one stories in this book challenge the imagination as only acclaimed author A. Merc Rustad can. Pages of robots and AIs constructing lives and exploring "humanity"; wasted worlds with monstrous cityhearts; assassins and the perils of enchanted l Step one: forget the convention and disregard the binary. Gender? Sexuality? Old words unsuited for new consciousness. The twenty-one stories in this book challenge the imagination as only acclaimed author A. Merc Rustad can. Pages of robots and AIs constructing lives and exploring "humanity"; wasted worlds with monstrous cityhearts; assassins and the perils of enchanted labyrinths; and always the raw truths of love, loss, and devotion. Step two: read these science-fiction and fantasy tales as if they are the only stories you will discover on your bookshelf this day. Step three: dare to feel.

30 review for So You Want to be a Robot and Other Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kaa

    I don't usually rate story collections five stars, because there are always at least a few stories that don't quite achieve that rating. Even though I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection, for instance, there were several that weren’t quite as amazing as the rest. However, So You Want To Be A Robot is more than just the sum of its parts. The stories come together to create an amazing book about humanity, gender, trauma, and recovery. There's a lot of darkness in many of the stories, but I don't usually rate story collections five stars, because there are always at least a few stories that don't quite achieve that rating. Even though I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection, for instance, there were several that weren’t quite as amazing as the rest. However, So You Want To Be A Robot is more than just the sum of its parts. The stories come together to create an amazing book about humanity, gender, trauma, and recovery. There's a lot of darkness in many of the stories, but I think ultimately it's a very hopeful collection. My favorite story was "How to Become a Robot in Twelve Easy Steps." I'd read it previously, but even the second time it nearly made me cry. This is a story that cut my heart to pieces, stomped all over those pieces, and then managed to restore it even stronger than it was before. Highly, highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    “This Is Not A Wardrobe Door”: I enjoyed the Monster’s Inc. / Narnia vibes getting twisted around and reimagined. The story was a little too pat overall for me. My favorite story in the collection was “Tomorrow When We See The Sun.” I want 3 novels and a movie and I want to reread it until my eyeballs are bleeding. It is sad and angry and happy and there is so much packed into it. Another of my faves was “The Sorcerer’s Unattainable Gardens”: I loved the two intertwined stories, and this was my fa “This Is Not A Wardrobe Door”: I enjoyed the Monster’s Inc. / Narnia vibes getting twisted around and reimagined. The story was a little too pat overall for me. My favorite story in the collection was “Tomorrow When We See The Sun.” I want 3 novels and a movie and I want to reread it until my eyeballs are bleeding. It is sad and angry and happy and there is so much packed into it. Another of my faves was “The Sorcerer’s Unattainable Gardens”: I loved the two intertwined stories, and this was my favorite use of 2nd person in this collection (yes there are several!). “The Android’s Prehistoric Menagerie”: After the end of the world, there are dinos and robots and they make beautiful lives for themselves. I didn’t like “For Want of a Heart,” but it did a beautiful job of slowly building up a nice solid Dread. “Once I, Rose” was another one that seemed a little too pat, but the concept was fascinating! “Where Monsters Dance” was another story that felt like it packed in an entire novel. I love everyone in this bar! “A Survival Guide for When You’re Trapped in a Black Hole”: I hate dog stories, but Merc made this one a bit more palatable than usual. “Thread”: When you’re enslaved by aliens made of light, darkness is suddenly very hopeful and cozy. “Under Wine-Bright Seas”: This was the only one where I felt like the description dominated all other parts of the story so much that I don’t have an opinion on the story itself. But I like the world. “Of Blessed Servitude”: Another favorite of mine that includes redemption and sacrifice and bravery in the face of sun-demons. “To The Knife-Cold Stars”: I’ve rarely read anything so desperately determined to grasp hope out of terrible circumstances. It’s also a sequel of sorts to “Of Blessed Servitude.” “Finding Home” was a really cool contrast between those always escaping and those who stay. “Winter Bride”: This story did NOT make me rethink my desire for all Fae to die in a trash fire. “To The Monsters, With Love”: An ode to all the monsters, monster-lovers, and monster-makers out there. “BATTERIES FOR YOUR DOOMBOT5000 ARE NOT INCLUDED”: It’s like a super-hero story, except about the super-heroes (and villains) after they’ve gotten out of the business and are still dealing with the aftermath. “….Or Be Forever Fallen”: YIKES. This was Elizabeth-Bear-Level of heartrending and oh-no-oh-no realizations and grim decisions to keep going. “Iron Aria”: Kyru can talk to metal, and the mountain full of iron is hurting. I LOVED the wordsmithing in this one. “What Becomes of the Third-Hearted”: It’s good. I’m nervous that saying anything about it will spoil the effect. “The Gentleman of Chaos”: This was possibly the Merc-i-est story in this collection. I love Merc stories because they’re so often about finding hope in places/situations where there is absolutely no hope at first (or second, or third) glance. “So You Want To Be a Robot”: Partway through reading this, the story grabbed me and made me cry and wouldn’t let me go. But in a good way. Overall, I loved this collection. It’s well-written, with lots of surprises both in the stories and in the word-choice – I LOVE the surprising ways Merc describes or shows things in the words they use. There are several stories that not only use second person but SUCCEED with it, although this both a praise and a quibble because a little second person goes a LONG way with me. Recommended for: any SciFi/Fantasy reader!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    This book was the winner of my first Patreon vote on what I should review next! It is a strong collection I would recommend. Lengthy review on my site, Bogi Reads the World: http://www.bogireadstheworld.com/book... This book was the winner of my first Patreon vote on what I should review next! It is a strong collection I would recommend. Lengthy review on my site, Bogi Reads the World: http://www.bogireadstheworld.com/book...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    A wonderful collection of (mostly) dark SFF. The themes seem to me to revolve around monstrosity, violence, and the reach for freedom from oppression. There are so many beautiful stories, with such an edge to them. I had read many of these when they appeared originally, but there were lots of news ones for me too, including the (basically) titular story, which closes out the collection and is just a devastating, triumphant read. I went in expecting a slightly...lighter tone than I found, so fair A wonderful collection of (mostly) dark SFF. The themes seem to me to revolve around monstrosity, violence, and the reach for freedom from oppression. There are so many beautiful stories, with such an edge to them. I had read many of these when they appeared originally, but there were lots of news ones for me too, including the (basically) titular story, which closes out the collection and is just a devastating, triumphant read. I went in expecting a slightly...lighter tone than I found, so fair warning, this was often difficult to read, but so well worth it. Loved the two-part story and would love to see more of the weird SF stories collected in one place because there were so many tastes of that setting that I wanted more. A great read!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bridget Mckinney

    I only discovered A. Merc Rustad in January when I read their lovely story, “This is Not a Wardrobe Door,” at Fireside, but I loved that story so much that this collection was at the top of my to-read list as soon as I found out about it. So You Want to be a Robot and Other Stories collects that story and twenty more in a showcase of Rustad’s consistently good ideas and solid execution. Personal favorite stories in the collection include: “The Android’s Prehistoric Menagerie,” “Where Monsters Da I only discovered A. Merc Rustad in January when I read their lovely story, “This is Not a Wardrobe Door,” at Fireside, but I loved that story so much that this collection was at the top of my to-read list as soon as I found out about it. So You Want to be a Robot and Other Stories collects that story and twenty more in a showcase of Rustad’s consistently good ideas and solid execution. Personal favorite stories in the collection include: “The Android’s Prehistoric Menagerie,” “Where Monsters Dance,” “Finding Home,” and “BATTERIES FOR YOUR DOOMBOT5000 ARE NOT INCLUDED.” Read more reviews at SF Bluestocking.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Geonn Cannon

    I have to admit, based on the title, I expected this to be more parody. It's one reason I waited this long to start reading. Once I started, though, I plowed through it. I'm sure I'll go back and revisit a few of these stories later (especially To The Monsters, with Love). Beautifully written stories, comparable to collections by Neil Gaiman. Very much recommend. I have to admit, based on the title, I expected this to be more parody. It's one reason I waited this long to start reading. Once I started, though, I plowed through it. I'm sure I'll go back and revisit a few of these stories later (especially To The Monsters, with Love). Beautifully written stories, comparable to collections by Neil Gaiman. Very much recommend.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Avery (Book Deviant)

    Avg overall rating was 3.73 stars Rounded up to 4 stars Favorite stories were: - The Sorcerer's Unattainable Gardens - Under Wine-Bright Seas - BATTERIES FOR YOUR DOOMBOT5000 ARE NOT INCLUDED - Iron Aria - The Gentleman of Chaos Avg overall rating was 3.73 stars Rounded up to 4 stars Favorite stories were: - The Sorcerer's Unattainable Gardens - Under Wine-Bright Seas - BATTERIES FOR YOUR DOOMBOT5000 ARE NOT INCLUDED - Iron Aria - The Gentleman of Chaos

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emmeline Solomon

    😭💖

  9. 5 out of 5

    Harris

    So You Want to Be a Robot was a moving, thought provoking collection of short stories that really highlight the ability of speculative fiction to explore the complexities of human experience and consider it in new ways, from the exciting to the disconcerting. After reading their story “Our Aim Is Not to Die” in A People's Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers, I was curious to read more of Merc Fenn Wolfmoor’s work, requesting their debut collection from So You Want to Be a Robot was a moving, thought provoking collection of short stories that really highlight the ability of speculative fiction to explore the complexities of human experience and consider it in new ways, from the exciting to the disconcerting. After reading their story “Our Aim Is Not to Die” in A People's Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers, I was curious to read more of Merc Fenn Wolfmoor’s work, requesting their debut collection from the library. They will definitely be someone whose work I will continue to look for in the future. Wolfmoor really has a knack for tackling a wide variety of genres, ideas, and tones, from the dark urban fantasy of “For Want of a Heart” to the post-apocalyptic sci-fi of “The Android’s Prehistoric Menagerie,” and the fantasy of “Iron Aria,” but using them to touch on deeper questions of existence in a way that really appealed to me. Their connection to themes that thread throughout the stories are impressively strong, in particular that of the titular robots, as well as monsters, linking them to questions of gender identity in ways that feels very effective and compelling. This is especially the case in the collections strongest work, the namesake story, a greatly affecting piece that really made me question how I feel about how society forces conformity in ways that hadn’t occurred to me before. In any case, it will be interesting to see their writing continue to evolve and what other places they will take us.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rhys

    While reading this short story collection, it occurred to me that I would be marking this as a favorite book here on Goodreads. So many of these stories hit close to home in such meaningful ways, exploring gender and trauma and relationships and being human. Or not being human. Which was, honestly, very touching and relatable as someone who, for many reasons (neurodivergency, trauma, gender, etc.), can find solace in relating to non-human entities and characters, and has for a long time. Although While reading this short story collection, it occurred to me that I would be marking this as a favorite book here on Goodreads. So many of these stories hit close to home in such meaningful ways, exploring gender and trauma and relationships and being human. Or not being human. Which was, honestly, very touching and relatable as someone who, for many reasons (neurodivergency, trauma, gender, etc.), can find solace in relating to non-human entities and characters, and has for a long time. Although I can't say every story was 5 stars, as a whole, this collection felt perfect to me. The mixture of fantasy and science fiction throughout worked so well, and the worlds felt so whole - it was like visiting these gorgeous, fully-realized realities. These worlds were not created just for the story that took place within them. The characters, the writing, the worlds - all of this was so well-done that I have to give this 5 stars and a place on my favorites shelf. So many of these stories felt like unspoken words from my own heart and it was cathartic and wonderful to read, even if some hurt; it was an experience and one that meant a lot to me.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Monika

    These speculative SFF stories are devastatingly beautiful and so full of heart! I wanted to simultaneously laugh with delight and also...just cry. These stories are all unique, so there was no slump due to homogeneity that you sometimes find in short story collections. Starting each story was like opening a gift, because I never knew what I was going to find, but I had a feeling it was going to be amazing and unlike anything I'd previously opened. The #ownvoices rep here (queer, ace/aro, ASD) re These speculative SFF stories are devastatingly beautiful and so full of heart! I wanted to simultaneously laugh with delight and also...just cry. These stories are all unique, so there was no slump due to homogeneity that you sometimes find in short story collections. Starting each story was like opening a gift, because I never knew what I was going to find, but I had a feeling it was going to be amazing and unlike anything I'd previously opened. The #ownvoices rep here (queer, ace/aro, ASD) really shines. It's full of the kind of love, care, and joy (even when the stories are dark) that simply cannot be matched. Can't recommend this highly enough!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Devon

    Beautiful, moving, queer SFF stories that made me cry in public more than once. These stories touch on some of my favorite themes of found family, queer folks supporting queer folks, and choosing love even when it's difficult. And Merc's writing is vivid, clear, and imaginative, too. There's some great representation of autism, as well. I've read some of Merc's short fiction outside of this collection, and I adored every story, and this collection only solidifies them as one of my very favorite S Beautiful, moving, queer SFF stories that made me cry in public more than once. These stories touch on some of my favorite themes of found family, queer folks supporting queer folks, and choosing love even when it's difficult. And Merc's writing is vivid, clear, and imaginative, too. There's some great representation of autism, as well. I've read some of Merc's short fiction outside of this collection, and I adored every story, and this collection only solidifies them as one of my very favorite SFF writers. I'm going to recommend this book to all of my friends.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Clara Ward

    I love stories that offer new perspectives, and this book can bend your mind--and bend it again with each successive story. I liked the last story best (How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps), but I think I appreciated it more for having bent my mind around the other stories that came before it. Definitely worth reading as a collection.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katie Spina

    I haven't been fond of short stories in a long time. I've felt like they were commercial length, when I wanted something with more guts. These short stories are incredible. I laughed. I cried. A lot. They absolutely gutted me and made me feel less alone in the world. I loved all of them. READ THESE STORIES! SHARE THEM WITH THE WORLD! I haven't been fond of short stories in a long time. I've felt like they were commercial length, when I wanted something with more guts. These short stories are incredible. I laughed. I cried. A lot. They absolutely gutted me and made me feel less alone in the world. I loved all of them. READ THESE STORIES! SHARE THEM WITH THE WORLD!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Ropp

    A fantastic collection of stories, some of which I had the great pleasure of rereading, and others I had the privilege of encountering for the first time. Merc has a gift with prose. Their stories are gorgeous and have real heart. I always look forward to reading more of their work.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Danni Green

    This book was REALLY REALLY GOOD and also REALLY REALLY messed with my head. Based on the title and the first story, I was ready for a book of stories that would be really good and also make me feel...happy. This, in fact, was a book of stories which were extremely good and also made me feel...like curling up in a ball and hiding under the bed forever. Get ready to feel every possible emotion and then a few impossible ones, and then to realize maybe you actually are a robot after all when all yo This book was REALLY REALLY GOOD and also REALLY REALLY messed with my head. Based on the title and the first story, I was ready for a book of stories that would be really good and also make me feel...happy. This, in fact, was a book of stories which were extremely good and also made me feel...like curling up in a ball and hiding under the bed forever. Get ready to feel every possible emotion and then a few impossible ones, and then to realize maybe you actually are a robot after all when all your circuits overload. Overall I absolutely loved this, I came away feeling like I dearly would love to be friends with the author, and I'd love to read anything else they ever write (even if I need to cry for a week after reading it). There was a lot of very heavy content in here and I didn't make notes on everything to warn for, but some content warnings include: graphic physical and psychological violence, child abuse, intimate partner abuse, transantagonism (in the context of characters who are villains displaying transantagonistic behavior to show how bad/evil they are), suicidality, one story where a dog dies, and one where sexual violence is described but does not actually occur.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Naseem

    Merc is one of the best short story writers I've ever read. These stories were ABSOLUTELY what I've been asking for in speculative fiction regarding queerness, which is to say: that it's there and unexplained and unapologetic and a natural part of the worldbuilding/story/everything. My heart is so full. Merc is one of the best short story writers I've ever read. These stories were ABSOLUTELY what I've been asking for in speculative fiction regarding queerness, which is to say: that it's there and unexplained and unapologetic and a natural part of the worldbuilding/story/everything. My heart is so full.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Austin Archinal

    I had to take breaks after, like, half of the stories in this collection to wipe away tears and/or generally collect myself. They bounce between a few genres, often involve tension around identity and self-construction. "In a black hole, memory is cyclical, endlessly repeating its birth and destruction as your mass collapses." (p90) I had to take breaks after, like, half of the stories in this collection to wipe away tears and/or generally collect myself. They bounce between a few genres, often involve tension around identity and self-construction. "In a black hole, memory is cyclical, endlessly repeating its birth and destruction as your mass collapses." (p90)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    Wow, this is some gorgeous writing! I’m adding it to my queer women protagonists lists because some of the characters id that way but this is an excellent for NB/trans rep as well as some lovely, beautifully crafted sf, f and h short stories. Read it for the representation, read it for the stories and read it for the craft. Highly recommended!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Forestofglory

    I let this go back to the library half-finished. These stories are really well written but many of them are very grim and I had trouble motivating myself to read more. Sorry all the lovely people who recommended this to me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    BuzzingLeader51

    Got bored ngl

  22. 5 out of 5

    Denise Cameron

    I wanted to like this collection, but it just wasn't my thing. I wanted to like this collection, but it just wasn't my thing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Moira-ji

    these stories are needle-sharp. they will stitch you up; they will pierce you through.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Just_ann_now

    Really ingenious short-story collection; I would happily read several of these as full-length novels.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristīne Vītola

    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... http://www.bogireadstheworld.com/book... https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... http://www.bogireadstheworld.com/book...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Corey

    Average rating: 3.8 stars Favorites: The Sorceror's Unattainable Garden, When Monsters Dance, How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps This Is a Not Wardrobe Door - 3.5 stars Tomorrow When We See the Sun - 4 stars The Sorceror's Unattainable Gardens - 5 stars The Android's Prehistoric Garden - 3.5 stars For Want of a Heart - 3.5 stars Once I, Rose - 4 stars When Monsters Dance - 4.5 stars A Survival Guide for When You're Trapped in a Black Hole - 2.5 stars Thread - 3.5 stars Under Wine-Bright Skies - 4 stars Average rating: 3.8 stars Favorites: The Sorceror's Unattainable Garden, When Monsters Dance, How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps This Is a Not Wardrobe Door - 3.5 stars Tomorrow When We See the Sun - 4 stars The Sorceror's Unattainable Gardens - 5 stars The Android's Prehistoric Garden - 3.5 stars For Want of a Heart - 3.5 stars Once I, Rose - 4 stars When Monsters Dance - 4.5 stars A Survival Guide for When You're Trapped in a Black Hole - 2.5 stars Thread - 3.5 stars Under Wine-Bright Skies - 4 stars Of Blessed Servitude - 3.5 stars To the Cold Knife Stars - 3.5 stars Finding Home - 3.5 stars Winter Bride - 4 stars To the Monsters, with Love - 3.5 stars BATTERIES FOR YOU DOOMBAT500 ARE NOT INCLUDED - 4 stars ...Or Be Forever Fallen - 3.5 stars Iron Aria - 4 stars What Becomes of the Third-Hearted - 4 stars The Gentleman of Chaos - 4 stars How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps - 5 star

  27. 4 out of 5

    Olliver

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Siener

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dani

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