My Stories

Fiction: Unterminator

This is a flash piece that was published in Eschatology: The Journal of Lovecraftian and Apocalyptic Fiction in August 2011. As the journal is now defunct and Unterminator is not available elsewhere, I have been prodded by a reader to ensure it is available online!



by Zen Cho


You were sent to avert the nuclear apocalypse, but they sent you too early. It’s the 1950s and everyone seems fine.

Your makers made numerous mistakes. You look too young to command instinctive respect from humans. Your hair is not the hair of a hep-cat. Physically you are perfect, but they didn’t bother training you in the million unseeable things that make humans human. You take a little too long to laugh at a joke, and you smell like an overheated engine. People recoil when you sit next to them at the bus-stop.

Star Trek has yet to be produced. No one is familiar with the tragic android, empty as an abandoned house. No one is sympathetic.

You learn to play the harpsichord. You were not programmed to be lonely.

In 1973 you still have the same hair. You’re still wearing the suit you arrived in, and people avoid you in the street. You’re in Hiroshima when you figure it out, standing in a museum in the midst of a group of Swedish tourists.

You weren’t too early. You were too late.

This is what happens when everyone has a precious frangible world inside their soft head, liable to be smashed by every passing breath of tornado. In such circumstances apocalypse is always now. Why haven’t humans fixed this? Did your makers understand the extent of the problem? Something like this can’t be remedied by one robot on its own. Something like this can’t be remedied.

You don’t feel sorry for yourself. Your makers had a sense of the appropriate. You are not permitted despair, or the insult of self-pity. Your only participation in grief was to be the metallic screech of your joints as you swept children out of danger. Your eyes were designed not to weep, but to pick out, in a barren land, the beat of the human heart.

Apparitions, Conventions, Fandom

Eschacon, 5 to 7 November

I feel like maybe it wasn’t the greatest feat of marketing genius to write a load of publishing journey blog posts, announce the UK publication of my book and then promptly drop off the radar for a month, but phew! It has been very busy! And it’s not looking like it’s going to let up any time soon. I’m looking forward to being able to take a proper break some time in 2016 …

Before then, though, I’ll be in Amsterdam a week on Thursday for a minicon focused on World SF, Eschacon. The full programme is here, but below’s what I’m doing specifically.

Thursday 5 November

18:30-21:00 Tribute to Chip Book Presentation and World SF panel discussion

Author and editor Bill Campbell will talk about his latest project Stories For Chip, a tribute to Science Fiction Writers of America Grandmaster Samuel R. “Chip” Delany. Following the presentation is a panel discussion about World SF and diversity in the speculative fiction genre with authors Zen Cho, Corinne Duyvis, Marieke Nijkamp and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.

Friday 6 November

18:00-19:30 Q&A and booksigning with Zen Cho

Join us for an evening around the (imaginary) fireside with author Zen Cho. Zen will discuss her new book, the art of writing and the business of getting published.

Saturday 7 November

10:00-11:00 Kaffeeklatsch

Getting up early has never been so fun. Enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea) while talking about books, stories and other geek-related subjects with authors Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Bill Campbell.

I’m really looking forward to this event, though there’s now a great deal of sadness associated with it as well, as one of the main things I was looking forward to was hanging out and talking with the wonderful Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. Rochita has since posted about the very sudden and sad death of her partner.

There is a fundraiser to help Rochita and her family, with lots of cool rewards that have been offered as a thank you to donors. Rochita is a thoughtful, nuanced and compassionate voice in the field and she also does an enormous amount of work behind the scenes to support and nurture marginalised writers. I am only one of many writers who have benefited from her friendship. While it’s reached the goal, any additional amounts will still be very useful, so please check out the fundraiser and chip in if you can and feel like it: Funds for Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.