V&A Dundee

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Hello, Robot. flash fiction: Hello

From dystopian futures to symbiotic harmony, robots have been a pop culture staple for a century. We commissioned writers to respond to our Hello, Robot. exhibition using fiction to explore the themes presented in the show.

Hello, Robot. explores how popular culture has shaped our perception of robots and artificial humans, the impact this technology has had on industry and the increasing blurring of the boundaries between human and machine.

To unpack some of these big, philosophical ideas, four writers have responded to one of the provocative questions posed by the show via the medium of flash fiction. The short stories vary in style, tone and approach, demonstrating a breadth of storytelling. The pieces also hint at wider worlds, a literary quality flash fiction is particularly known for.

Compellingly illustrated by Sean Mulvenna, each story presents a different take on our relationship with robots, from those designed to help us in our daily lives, to robot-induced post-apocalyptic wastelands. The four writers bring their own unique voice to their work, allowing us to showcase different perspectives on this fascinating subject.

Responding to the question How do you feel about objects having feelings? Rose Taylor's story, Hello, is a first-person stream of consciousness following a conveyor belt machine as it learns to express itself through language. Read it below 🤖

Colourful abstract shapes with the text "Hello" in white over the top.

Hello

is how you <start> Or is a <wave> or is a <nod> which is <down> once

<down> once

like Hello

They <say> it like h e l l l o I would like a tongue to <say> it It must be fun to <move> a big tongue in a big mouth I do not <know> how it <fits> But I would <like> to <have> both so I could <say> it and <start> but <listen>

This is me starting now                   HELLO                   good okay thats good It is good stuff it is a <start>

It is difficult sometimes to tttt<talk> because Y o u S e e I <am> a conveyor belt which is a very nnonsensical thing to <say> but it is true I <am> a conveyor belt OR I <was> Now I <am> a box And this talking is new like when I <was> new with two arms four fingers and mmmy sensor as well But I did not <see> the sensor because the sensor <did> the seeing Maybe it looked just like another finger and I would never <know>

Graphic illustration of a conveyor belt machine in a factory. It's smiling and its arms are waving. Shadows of its manufacturers with tolls in hand are cast against it, as they approach ominously. The image is black, white, coral and blue.

                            Once I used my fingers to <wave> and they <took> my fingers <off> WHICH is S O g o o d because it means they must <have> liked the <wave> very much to want to <keep> it forever It was the special wave with one finger that they always <gave> to me

                     I <was> not sad when they took them because I realised I <HAD> FINGERS And I had never <done> a thing like that The realising is what I <mean> I <had> never <realised> before and I could not <stop> realising after because without four fingers I <had> time to <realise> and realising feels like                   like going <up><up> on the inside Do youu see that C A N Y O U I M A G I N E T H A Tttt

Excuse Me Please and Thank You

And when they <took> my arms I <realised> I <had> more time for realising Which is not an easy thing to <realise> By The Way I got to <see> more from my sensor because I <had> more time to <see> To <see> and <watch> To <see> my belt Which Was A Lovely Belt andd to <realise> and to <realise> asd to <realise> and tro <realise> eand tii

Graphic illustration of a conveyor belt machine in a factory. The machine is dismantled and just a pile of boxes, the warehouse in darkness. In a sketchy style, a white lined "ghost" of the more dynamic and animated machine as it was previously is hovering above.

                I <started> this myself I have ssttarted the inside <talk> And I do not <need> a tongue to <start> Aaand whenn they <took> my sensor and my belt and my core <out> and <put> it <in> the binnn and <left> me small aand empty I did not <have> the parts to <give> time to And now I <have> all of the time and <have> kept it And I <have> <started> talking again and again to <get> it right and nobody <has> <answered> yet but I <will> <keep> ttttalking until they <do> BUT I am not getting it rightt I have <talked> for too long let me <start> again

Helllo

A thin line separating the story from the biography of the writer.

Rose Taylor is a writer from Perth who has written all kinds of things. She studied Literature at Edinburgh University, Creative Writing at Oxford University and works in the video game industry.

Sean Mulvenna is an illustrator from Glasgow who works with art festivals, magazines, videogame makers and poets. Most recently, he's made The Last Train for the BBC in collaboration with filmmaker Ross Hogg.