This is the first time I’ve set up an advance release date on a story — maybe patience DOES come with age!
A Pornodroid’s Tale is a 99 cent short story single, about 3900 words in length. That’s about 15 1/2 standard paperback pages, for those of you unused to thinking in word lengths.
Here’s the blurb (THERE’S ALSO A 30% PREVIEW BELOW THE LINKS):
Jimmy Babe has it all — he’s an interplanetary pop star. He has the adulation of billions, a starship that doubles as a mansion, a pornodroid devoted to his every physical need. But stardom has become a burden to Jimmy, and he’s looking for a way out. Perhaps his awakened AI pornodroid can help — if his record label will let her, that is.
Where you can preorder it (or buy it, if you’re reading this on or after January 2nd, 2015):
Smashwords: Available now.
iTunes: Available now.
Barnes & Noble: Available now.
Kobo: Available now.
Amazon: Available now.
Jimmy Babe sat facing a blank corner, face in hands, back to his mirrored makeup station, the entertainer console, the catering cart with its trays of local-planet fruits and cheeses, traditional teas from Earth, sparkling waters, and light wines. A dressing room was the only place other than his bedroom aboard ship that he had to himself; anywhere else he went, he was attended by company droids—co-performers and servants, yes, but also monitors, listening devices.
Jimmy was alone in body, but the chant of the waiting audience penetrated all of the barriers between it and him in the coliseum, shaking the walls, vibrating the roots of the building with his name: Jim-mee Babe. Jim-mee Babe. Jim-mee Babe. The chant was an omnidirectional roar, distorted by its passage through plastic and metal, muffled and muddied, barely intelligible. A sound like the rumble of coming thunder. Once, he had found the chant thrilling, intoxicating, sensual. Tens of thousands of living, breathing human beings calling his name out in passionate, near-sexual frenzy.
But that was seven years ago, when it was all new. When Jimmy had been plucked out of the Interplanetary Recording intern stable by an executive with an eye for salable looks and a voice that would respond well to autotuning. Now those seven years of performing meant nothing but thirteen more ahead of him, singing the same formula of novarock-pop in front of the same faces.
He hadn’t expected it to turn to drudgery, when he started. If someone had told him that it would, he would have laughed at them. Stardom and adulation, boring? Impossible. But though the songs he performed slowly changed with the years, they all sounded the same to him now. They all tasted the same as he sang them out, ashes in his mouth. And the faces in the crowd, from planet to planet to planet: oceanic masses of screaming teens, boys and girls too young to vote, the same hair, the same clothes, the same empty worship eyes filled with not him, but his plastic image, the marketing image that Interplanetary Recording pushed year after year. No matter how different the songs and the voices and the faces were, they were all the same.
All change in Jimmy’s life had ceased. Except for the one he would return to, after the show. She was the only thing he had that felt real.
The door opened with a click, his cue. Jimmy stood. Two of his tender droids waited on the other side of the door. Jimmy followed them out. The tender droids were identical and faceless, literally. They were bodyguards, backup dancers, stagehands, personal assistants. Foremost among their functions, they made sure Jimmy met his contractual obligations.
“Curtain in ten, Jimmy,” the one on the right said as they walked deeper into the roaring chant.
“The city is First Landing. It’s the capital of Bondar’s World. Named for the first Canadian astronaut, if you can believe it,” the one on the left said. “The names are on the back of the amp closest to your mark.”
Jimmy sighed, bouncing on his toes as he went, trying to force a surge of adrenalin for the stage. Ten meters down the hall and, as usual, he couldn’t tell which one of the androids had said what. They were identical, artificial intelligences in constant communication with each other and each other only. Which was which wasn’t important. For some reason it mattered to Jimmy, though. At one time he had tried labeling them with tape and giving them each a nickname, but they always removed the tape once they were out of his sight, so he had given up. They were all identical for a reason: marketing focus. Faceless so Jimmy’s would be the only face on stage. They were black-haired to serve as foils to Jimmy’s honey brown hair, large and strongly muscled to emphasize Jimmy’s slender frame, stubbled (their sole facial feature, a dark sculpted band of five o’clock shadow faintly absurd in the absence of nose and lips and eyes) and masculine in contrast to Jimmy’s androgynous look.
Once behind the curtains only a few steps from the stage, the fans’ chant was a bellowing comber of sound that erased meaning, a wave that crested and crashed whitewater onto the stage but refused to ebb. Jimmy popped smartplugs into his ears to damp the decibels, and his name resolved itself from the roar. The repetition of the chant quickly reduced his name to meaninglessness again as he stretched, danced a few warmup moves, sang scales into the tiny gold hovermics that sprang from their case to halo his head.
The curtain rose, and Jimmy walked out into screams that rose impossibly louder, becoming a physical force that pounded his bones like drums. JIM-MEE JIM-MEE JIM-MEE. Jimmy waved his hand over his head, plastic grin pasted from ear to ear, hollow behind blue eyes.
The curtain fell at the close of the third encore and the chant rose again, pursuing Jimmy to his dressing room like an animal. He slammed the door on it, left his sweat-soaked clothes on the floor, walked through a cool shower, let his tenders drape a robe over his naked body as he fled down the private performers’ hall to his car.
He reclined, eyes closed, and the car rose through the roof of the auditorium toward his ‘starfaring mansion’, as the entertainment rags put it. The tenders handled the piloting, strapped into the cockpit seats securely. It was a skill they’d discouraged him from cultivating, though he’d found simulators that would run on his personal tablet and practiced late at night. In defiance, at first, only doing what was discouraged because it was discouraged. Later, with the vague hope that one day it would be a skill he’d need, that he might, in some unlikely future, need to go somewhere alone one day.
“Will you want anything prepared for you?” the tender that wasn’t driving asked as they rose above the atmosphere. “The jacuzzi, your pornodroid, a meal?”
“A light meal, in my room. Mint tea. And the pornodroid,” he said. ‘The pornodroid’ was terribly impersonal, it felt wrong to call her that. But they didn’t know she was more. At least, Jimmy was pretty sure they didn’t.
“The amount of time he’s spending with the pornodroid is still trending up. Curve’s flattening, though. Like his popularity,” Miller Zapata said a few hours later on Earth, flicking graphs into the air from the face of his tablet. The graphs hovered side by side, three-dimensional, slowly rotating, steep half-mountains showing the gentle rounding of imminent peaks.
“Any more glitches?” Kenya Zhaopeng asked, eyes flitting from graph to graph. Jimmy Babe was still grossing well, selling out concerts, new album still holding near the tops of the charts in twenty-three planetary markets. He was big enough to rate his own team at Interplanetary Recording: Zhaopeng and Zapata, plus a few interns who came and went with the natural rhythms of the scholastic year.
“Glitches?” Zapata mimicked, and chuckled. “The pornodroid glitched once, six months ago. It happens. It didn’t glitch today and it won’t glitch tomorrow.”
“It doesn’t just happen,” Zhaopeng said, enlarging the profit and loss statement of the last concert with both hands. “Pornodroids are precision devices that practically date back to the dawn of the computer age. They’re too refined to glitch.”
“Well, it glitched. And it’s fine now. If it happens again we’ll swap it out.”
“He’ll notice if we do that,” Zhaopeng said, shaking her head.
“So? The whole purpose of the thing is to give him a secret to play with for a little while…”