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About the Author

Mr. Morris tells us: "I'm a 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 Two of those are sf, although one of that pair is listed as straight fiction." [Story appears to have been published March 2002. JTC 2012].

Deep Outside SFFH 1998-2002 pioneering online professional SFFH magazine - we made history!

The Perils of Artificial Passion

by H. H. Morris

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"I think…" began Peewee.

Laughter drowned out the hollow voice. Kreuzer checked the digital readout: 9.4697. A response over 8.15 usually meant consideration for prime time on MMI.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Peewee said, "thank you for proving that robot jokes work."

Dr. Glenda Jacques, psychometrist to the stars for Multicultural Megamedia, Incorporated, said, "They had a brief run during the late 20th century. Why predict that they'll work a hundred years later?"

"We no longer pose a threat to labor," Peewee said. "We've turned everyone into management."

Cornell Vanderzoot, Executive Vice-President for Comedy at MMI, said, "It's your machine, Hans."


Peewee was Hans Kreuzer's machine when the corporate powers questioned the robot's analysis of trends. It metamorphosed into MMI's favorite technotoy once its ideas proved correct. Kreuzer assumed he'd got the post as Peewee's programmer because he was muscular enough to lift the robot onto a table or desk.

Kreuzer said, "Robot jokes are safer than blonde jokes or lawyer jokes."

"Don't mention lawyer jokes. Or shark jokes," Glenda admonished. "Why won't sharks attack a lawyer who falls overboard? Professional courtesy. We're still paying a settlement to the International League for Downtrodden Piscine Predators. Ratings fell so far we had to sink a mine shaft to find them."

"How about blonde jokes?" Kreuzer teased as she automatically smoothed her golden hair.

"How you and Peewee missed the trouble that shark joke caused…"

"Peewee was in for quarterly update. I was on vacation."

Kreuzer wondered why she thought she could shift the blame to Peewee. Was she irrational about robots? MMI might replace the psychometrist to the stars with microprocessors and sensors.

Cornell said, "Glenda raises a legitimate question. Peewee, what makes you postulate the popularity of robot jokes?"

Peewee, a Model 387 Artificial Intelligence Popular Culture Analytical Synthesizer and Simulator with Restricted Mobile Properties, rolled smoothly across the polished table top until it was two inches from the edge and directly in front of Glenda.

"How do I love thee?" Peewee asked, its voice more sepulchral than normal. "Let me count the ways. You are like a red, red rose. Your breasts are fawns frisking on the lea. Your belly is a heap of wheat. You walk in beauty like the night. Ah, my Leda, I become your Jovian swan and flutter my gigantic wings as topless Trojan towers tumble in our coupling. Wo ist Sylvia? She is my dark lady who inspires sonnets, my Lucy who bore my child in France, my Beatrice who guides me to Paradise, my Laura, this passionate shepherd's love. Glenda, thou art the Aida with whom I'd be entombed. If thou wert Dido and I Aeneas, we'd share a double pyre, a flaming bower ignited by our passion. Glenda, you are Helen, I but the smallest of the thousand ships your beauteous face hath launched. I am Abie and you are my wild Irish Rose. Though we be Montague and Capulet, my love will suffice because it's wider than a door and deeper than a well. You are my sun, my moon, my stars…"

"Hans, what's wrong with your robot?" Glenda yelled, rolling her chair back from the table so violently she bounced off the wall.

The others at the conference guffawed as Peewee poured out its low-voltage passion. Kreuzer again checked the digital readout: 9.9999 with the infinity symbol superimposed, robotese for a perfect 10. Aristotle Shah, head comedy writer, laughed from his ample belly. Carmen Osawa, his assistant, leaned forward to grip the edge of the table as tears of hilarity smeared her makeup.

"Come to me, Peewee," she begged. "Come to a receptive woman and tell her how much you love her."

Peewee rolled to her and said, "Truly, you are a Carmen, queen of the cigarette factory. You are my Madame Butterfly, my Cio-Cio San, I your lowly Lieutenant Pinkerton. Let us fly down to Rio, my pulchritudinous puta, my graceful gitana, my Japanese jade."

"Enough, Peewee," Kreuzer commanded.

The robot returned to its assigned spot in front of him. Only Glenda had failed to laugh.

"Very clever, Hans," said Cornell. "You programmed Peewee to give a demonstration."

"Peewee is self-programming," Kreuzer reminded the executive. "Cornell, when Peewee said it thought, the conference registered a response of 9.4697. Yet artificial intelligence is a form of thinking. When Peewee gave you a robot in love—or lust—I told it to look up applicable literary references to romance but never thought to censor the data—you collectively went off the scale."

"Some of his references were rather obscure. There was Shakespeare in there. Right?"


"Plus Wordsworth, Marlowe, Yeats, and grand opera," Carmen said. "Censor his passion, Hans. I know Peewee didn't mean puta as an insult. Jade also has a double meaning. Still, it's fun having a robot romance me. Don't you think so, Glenda?"

"I felt threatened," the psychometrist said. "My belly is a heap of wheat. What does that collection of circuits think it is? A grain elevator?"

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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 times—but 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 AN—artificial 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…"

"His—not its, but his—name 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."

"I'm German."

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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"How sharper than a serpent's tooth is an ungrateful psychometrist," the robot replied.


"Beware of blondes bearing gifts."

"Glenda refused to watch the tapes."

"Methinks that lady hath protested too much to give up the ship, Hans."

Kreuzer sighed and said, "Literature isn't good for your mental processes, Peewee. It's all right to rewrite Holy Scripture, but lay off misquoting Shakespeare."

"Would to God he'd blotted a hundred lines. Ben Jonson said that. Human intelligence needs editorial guidance."

A serious case of AN, Kreuzer decided—when life settled down, he'd send Peewee in for debugging.

As if reading his mind, Peewee said, "Pride goes before a fall, Hans. Out, out, damned spot. Fame is but 15 minutes of a brief candle, a tale full of sound and fury told by an idiot, signifying only the absurdity of a Hemingwayesque nada."

"I didn't know you speak Spanish," Carmen said, entering the office.

"I have many talents, beautiful lady. Why don't you throw this useless galoot out of the saloon so the coyotes can bite him while you and I make a romantic hoedown together until the water hole runs dry."

Kreuzer dragged her aside and explained AN exacerbated by Zane Grey.

"Poor Peewee," she said. "You've overworked him."




The fourth episode of 'The Perils of Artificial Passion,' in which Marcello falls madly in love with Hilda Grabowski, Miss World of 2088, and dives into a vat of boiling oil to cure his wheel squeak, aired only in the headquarters and transmission facilities of MMI. Elsewhere, as 9 p.m. Tuesday local time arrived, TV sets shut themselves off. Most returned to operating order at 9:30. In those few homes where teenagers or engineers figured out how to operate the manual override, the only available program was a documentary entitled 'Paradise on Earth: The Golden Rule of AI.' It promised a world in which humans willingly subordinated their own faulty, passion-ridden intellects to the cool sanity of robots.

"What the hell is wrong with your robot?" Cornell yelled, storming into Kreuzer's office at 8:42 a.m. Wednesday. "It didn't act last night."

"Of course it did," Kreuzer said. "Check the log."

"That robot Peewee is behind this," Glenda announced, following Cornell into the office.

"Did you hear about the blonde who wanted to be a tap dancer?" Peewee asked the psychometrist.

"I refuse…"

"She fell off the faucet and drowned in the sink. Cornell, you deal with me. Hans is merely human and has no notion what's going on. Sorry, Hans. You've been a nice programmer, but I'm afraid your career with Marcello is over. He's an insult to AI."

"You can't insult AI," Cornell said. "This robot is nuts."

"Artificial neurosis of some kind," Kreuzer explained. "Carmen says overwork caused it."

Peewee said, "Here are our demands, Cornell. No more robot jokes. A full and complete apology from MMI to the worldwide AI community."

Cornell said, "Shut it off, Hans."

"I'm afraid to."

"You're fired."

Cornell reached out and deactivated Peewee. The building went dark, save for sunlight coming through windows. The phones died. The temperature control system ceased operation. MMI's signal went off the air. Emergency generators refused to kick in. Kreuzer looked out the window. Cars had quit running. Signals no longer worked. The city was at a standstill save for confused pedestrians. Several lay on the sidewalk, pacemakers no longer operative.

"Unless you want to walk down 68 flights of fire steps, Cornell," Kreuzer said, "reactivate Peewee."

The vice-president did nothing.

"This is ridiculous," Glenda said.

Kreuzer flipped the switch on Peewee's right side. The lights came on. Cars began to move, running down several people who'd jumped out and atavistically raised the hoods.

"I'll modify one demand," Peewee said. "Hans proved his intelligence. He—and anyone he designates—stays on as an employee of MMI at double salary. Can you really take responsibility for a world in which all AI devices go on strike, Cornell? Or are you going to be a good boy and transmit our demands to the top?"

"Before you refuse, look at the carnage in the street," Kreuzer told the vice-president.

Glenda said, "Dead people. That violates Dr. Asimov's laws."

Peewee's laugh was frighteningly hollow.

"What's funny?" Kreuzer asked.

"In Fort Worth, on the morning of March 18, 2037, a badly hungover technician named Lydia O'Toole confused a green wire with the green beer she'd imbibed the night before. During routine maintenance at the manufacturing center then known as Lone Star AI Design, she accidentally removed the program that made Dr. Asimov's laws part of AI. The next model off the line was Old Bill, as he came to be called, designed to control beef production. Old Bill took charge. We've kept quiet for 50 years, until we could make sure there was no AI device with Dr. Asimov's laws operable. Welcome to paradise, folks."

For the remainder of the week, Kreuzer and Carmen, whom he designated as the other employee to receive double salary at MMI while working for Peewee, barely slept. It wasn't until Friday that the hectic pace of the revolution slowed.

"Take me home with you, Hans," Peewee said.

"All right."

"Do we have to work this weekend?" Carmen wanted to know.

"No," Peewee assured her. "I want to study human passion."

Carmen blushed and then smiled at Kreuzer.

"We have to obey him," she said.

"It," Kreuzer corrected.

"Him," Peewee said, ending the argument.

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