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About the Author
Mr. Morris tells us: "Retired teacher of college English and speech. I've published fiction and nonfiction since 1963. I have a story in the current issue of VINCENT BROTHERS REVIEW and three books available at www.ebooksonthe.net. Two of those are sf, although one of that pair is listed as straight fiction."
The Perils of Artificial Passion
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Kreuzer said, "A quote from the Song of Songs in the Old Testament, Glenda. I'm surprised it didn't call you Rapunzel because your hair is like straw."
"Hans, those blonde jokes can lead to a harassment suit that. . . ."
"Are you a blonde, Glenda?" Peewee interrupted.
"A natural blonde," the psychometrist told the robot.
"I can't distinguish. You all look alike to me. A woman is a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke."
Again, only Glenda failed to laugh. Kipling didn't play quite so well, Kreuzer noted: 8.8882.
Jane Greer, network standards representative, blonde by choice instead of birth, asked, "Cornell, why isn't it insulting or threatening when Peewee says that stuff? None of the men here would dare, but Peewee is funny articulating the unthinkable."
"And the illegal?" asked Carmen.
"Not necessarily. We aren't mindless censors. Why did I laugh?"
Cornell said, "That's the province of the psychometrist. Why did Jane laugh, Glenda?"
Glenda said, "I have no idea. I didn't laugh."
"Hans, you know that robot better than any of us. How does Peewee get away with it?"
"Dr. Asimov's Laws. A robot is incapable of harming humans. You and I know better of course, Cornell. Low-level AI devices such as self-guiding explosives carriers kill people. But the more advanced machines have Dr. Asimov's laws built into their basic circuitry."
"Aristotle, can your department work within the parameters?"
The senior writer said, "Easier than within most. We'll have to dumb down the references, of course. Whoever heard of Yeats or Wordsworth besides writers? Still, it's a marvelous concept. I see R and D designing a special robot. If Glenda is psychometrist to the stars, Hans Kreuzer can become programmer to one star."
Glenda stood and said, "If you're determined to go ahead with this disaster, Cornell, my presence is unnecessary. I categorically advise against it."
"You're in love, Hans," said Peewee.
"How do you know?"
"You've cut your coffee intake to four cups per morning. Carmen Osawa disapproves of caffeine addiction. You've changed your aftershave three timesbut not since the day she said you smelled sexy and kissed your cheek. You and she hold twice as many conferences about 'The Perils of Artificial Passion' as the normal show demands."
Kreuzer said, "'Perils' isn't a normal show, Peewee."
"Beware of Glenda, Hans."
"Why? She walked out the day you introduced the concept."
Peewee asked, "Why does she remain part of MMI?"
"I don't know. Cornell seems to like. . . .Is Cornell in love?"
"AI cannot distinguish among the degrees of human passion, Hans. Yours for Carmen has an element of concern for her that Cornell's for Glenda lacks. I found ancient literature very confusing. It isn't advantageous to me for you to lose your job, however."
"You're able to interact with any human."
"It's the ability of humans to interact with me that I find unpredictable."
AI led to ANartificial neuroses. They weren't neuroses in the true psychological sense, but they indicated a confused process. If Peewee suffered from AN, Kreuzer could understand why. Getting updated for the latest trends in pop culture every three months must strain its circuitry.
The robot had been right about Kreuzer's feelings for Carmen, however. She'd become head writer on 'Perils,' with a concomitant increase in salary. He was programmer to Marcello, the star of the forthcoming show. Not all their conferences were serene. Carmen had a creative temperament. When Kreuzer asked what he considered perfectly rational questions, she often responded emotionally.
They'd fought over the robot's name, a quarrel that had come close to turning physical. Aware that Multicultural Megamedia would put no ethnic jokes on the air, he'd objected to the Italian moniker.
"You wouldn't call it Riley," he said. "That would get the Loyal Order of St. Patrick down on MMI. You wouldn't call it Juan. Every Hispanic in the western hemisphere would sue or riot. You won't call it Cheng or Sven or Ivan or Abdullah or Moishe or Gunther or. . . ."
"Hisnot its, but hisname is Marcello."
"You never heard of the Knights of Columbus? You don't think the Sons of Italy exist? You believe the Mafia can't make a comeback?"
"You aren't Italian."
She said, "If you were Italian, you'd understand."
"You're Japanese and Spanish. What makes you think you understand?"
"Peewee analyzed the data from test audiences."
"I don't recall. . . ."
"You were giving Marcello a squeaky wheel so women know he's coming. Peewee programmed himself to my specifications."
"Peewee is my. . . ."
"Peewee belongs to MMI."
"You're devious," he said.
"Ethnic slur. Orientals are supposedly devious."
"You also have a nasty temper."
"Another slur. Spanish women are firecrackers. Did anyone tell you German men are stubborn blockheads?"
"Then quit acting like one," Carmen suggested. "The test audiences demonstrated conclusively that, as a group, Italian men value their image of aggressive masculinity over all other characteristics. Palermo, Livorno, Turin, and Genoa are vying to adopt Marcello as an honorary citizen."
"Did you wash down your sushi with Amontillado?"
"Did you overdose on sauerkraut?"
They battled until he checked the survey results with Peewee. They spent the weekend making up. The robot's name remained Marcello.
"If 'klutz' hasn't entered the Italian vocabulary," Cornell said after viewing the final tapes of the first three shows, "'The Perils of Artificial Passion' will entrench it."
Glenda stamped out of the viewing room when Marcello cracked its first blonde joke.
In the international market, any share over 20 was considered a blockbuster. Heavy promotion and a Tuesday night slot worldwide got "Perils" a 24. On Wednesday, it looked as if various chapters of the Sons of Italy and Knights of Columbus would file defamation suits. Then the results from the Old Country came in. A soccer match between teams from Palermo and Genoa turned into a riot as both sides claimed Marcello as mascot. The passionate robot who never met a human woman it wouldn't chase was a hit.
The second show got a phenomenal 37 worldwide. Advertisers clamored for spots. Rates quadrupled before agencies could close a deal with MMI. Kreuzer and Peewee moved into an office larger than those assigned to half the corporation's vice-presidents.
"We did it, Peewee," Kreuzer said. "You did it."
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