In our weekly foray into free sci-fi at DUST, we found “Rewind” (13:36 min, set in December 2043)
An elderly woman, Sheila, whose daughter has been in a high-conflict zone in a military environment, learns to manage with a robot—ordered apparently off the internet, with a manual—that can learn to do housework and hang Christmas decorations.
It’s an agreeable story and good Christmas fare!
That said, the robot is obviously a guy in a “robot” suit. He learns to do housework, appreciate snow—and to deal with tragedy a robot could never really understand.
A robot can’t deal with things that are non-computable because non-computables cannot be programmed. This is a fact often overlooked by heady futurists. But don’t let that spoil the story for you. It’s good clean fun, though a touch sad.
This is your old writing teacher speaking: If you want to make your character a ghost, a dog, or a robot, fine. But if you also intend your character to do human stuff, that approach usually works best in short settings like this one. Over an hour or two, the story risks falling apart or becoming unintended parody.
Here’s a general rule for fiction (film, plays, novels, whatever): The alternative character—the ghost, the dog, the robot, etc.—should remain “in character.” If the ghost is playing the stock market, the dog is scheming to unseat the dog-hating mayor, or the robot is writing a philosophical dissertation “against the critique of pure reason,” a reasonable question arises: Why isn’t this character just a human being with these interests or aspirations? What is achieved by shipping all the human facts to some exotic destination?
Anyway, this one is both short and good. Enjoy!
Other reviews from the “We are but DUST” files:
Sci-Fi Saturday film: “Speed of Time” at DUST A computer nerd writing a pizza delivery program discovers that his work is way more important than he, or anyone, thought. Imagine what happens when an accomplished ground warrior busts in from another time on a quiet family at the breakfast table…
Sci-Fi Saturday film: “Alone” at DUST. Space engineer Kaya Torres, the only survivor of a black hole, contacts an “interstellar penpal” to keep her company until she dies. She manages a desperate escape but then experiences one of the astonishing implications of time travel.
Sci-Fi Saturday film: “The Beacon” at DUST. Refreshingly realistic, especially the harrowing Arctic encounter where the grieving husband finds out what really happened. The dialogue is refreshingly realistic. Not to be missed is Mark’s encounter with the bureaucrat from hell.