“Teddies Rule, OK?”

Sweets from a Stranger coverThe final story in the collection, and the only one that seems particularly directed towards a grown-up reader. The narrator is a writer, one that we can take as a proxy for Fisk, and he relates a story about the family of his landlord, technocrat Lucius Kern.

Kern’s daughter, Mandy (age 6), has a teddy bear, Tugsy, that she adores more than anything in the world — certainly more than her father, it seems. Tugsy is her Hobbes. In an attempt to win her affection, Kern has his engineers develop an AI that can be implanted in Tugsy, thinking (perhaps) that if he can bring the bear to life for real, Mandy will recognise his generosity and return his love. He sneaks into Mandy’s room one night to insert the computer into Tugsy.

It is easy to imagine what happened in the morning.

Mandy woke. She said, “Come on Tugsy, get up. Don’t be lazy.”

And the bear spoke! “Good morning,” it said.

She said, “What?” and the bear repeated “Good morning.”

Perhaps Mandy’s eyes and mouth opened wide in amazement. If they did, they were very soon brought under control. As she always did, she washed and dressed herself, without help, and went down to breakfast. (149)

It’s very noticeable that we’re never allowed into Mandy’s point of view in this story; everything the narrator is not present for is speculation, and not all of it is accurate. When things inevitably don’t unfold as Kern hoped, it’s a rebuke, or perhaps a note-to-self on Fisk’s part: your science fiction, the story says, can’t match up to a child’s imagination.

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