top of page

Machine (r)Evolution
Colleen Anderson

Winner of the 2022 Best New Weird Award!

First place – 2023 Rhysling Awards!

When Archimedes arrived

             We gathered on clifftops like hungry birds

             staring into the wide cerulean sea

             awed when the screw turned water uphill                                τέτοια θαύματα

             the hanging gardens of Babylon thrived                                    Such wonders!

When the printing press arrived

             We peered through paned glass

             as the great screw pressed down, inked new paper

             books and pamphlets and broadsides appeared

             words traveled the land as masses began to read                   We’ll start a revolution!

When the threshing machine arrived

             We wiped sweaty brows, breathed in relief

             no longer need we thrash and flail till day’s tail end

             grain as plentiful as gin and our bellies filled

             with time on our hands, we looked to the skies                     What is out there?


When hot air balloons arrived

             We gaped as the woven basket ascended the sky

             bit lips, wrung hands, searched for impending descent

             shading eyes, we stared at Icarus lights in the ether

             from heights we viewed land, imagined new vistas              People should not imitate gods!


When the cotton gin arrived

             We bought calico and denim and fine woven fabrics

             profits gave airs— finely dressed people promenaded

             plantations brought slaves to heel to pluck plants

             Luddites smashed mills as jobs disappeared like freedom   We will fight the cotton states!


When the telegraph arrived

            We invaded borders while sitting at home

            commanded armies with no red stain on our hands

            found friendships and trysts spanning long distances           - .... . / -- .- -.-. .... .. -. . / .- --. .

            harnessed electricity to span global commerce                      / .- .-. .-. .. ...- . ...


When computers arrived

             We studied hard to learn machine dialogue                          01010111 01101000

             considered the speed of electronic brains and devices        01101111 00111111

             one hundred, one thousand, million gigabytes                     <code emotion: confusion>

             people grumbled, old ways                l o s t….                        <000> Luddites go home!

                                                                                                                Move on, Gramps


When the internet arrived

             We wanted . . . everything                                                      <code emotion: avarice>

                        The NEWEST



                                                            SLEEKEST                               Buy now while quantities last.

            games and memes, bulletin boards and sexxx sites

            avatars demanded our time 10…9…8…7…                           Aliens! Gunslingers! A

                                                                                                             thrilling sensaround experience!


             We couldn’t have it all

                                                                             <code emotion: disappointment>

                                                                            <program expression: sad face, tears>

            the rich as always picked first               <code emotion x2: envy-hate>

            we brokered ourselves,

            our relations for more


             We came to accept     

                                                                            <program motion: formal bow>     —error—

                                                                           <program motion: high five>          —error—

                                                                           <program motion: handshake>      —error—

                                                                           <program sound: sigh>

             continually chased the dream of mastering all

                                                                            <program: exhaustion>                    —error—

                                                                            <program: self replication>


When the robots arrived

             We constructed all sizes, industrial, menial 

             coated in durable silicate, smooth flowing pieces

             sexy Von Neumann machines, cellular automatons            

                                                                              <program motion: fornication>

                                                                              <code speech: erotic vocabulary>   Oooh baby…yesss

             workbots to petbots that fill our spaces

                                                                              <code speech: animal vocabulary> Purrr, rowf!


When the AIs arrived                                                                          01001000 01100101 01101100

             We meet Pygmalion                                                               01101100 01101111 00111111

                                      <code emotion: fear>                            

                                      <program: logic sequence>

                                      <program motion: random reactions>

                                      <code emotion: random expressions>

             can no longer see the line that separates


When the spaceships arrived

            [We] gathered like rabbits in the field                                     <code emotion: terror>

            our dogs, cats and birds and our wide-eyed children            <program motion: hesitancy>

            docilely watching glittering spires settle, rumble earth                    

            leviathan mothership seen only through telescopes              <recording>

                                                                                                                 Do you come in peace?

When the spaceships left

            [We] had been plucked liked cotton, trembled in bays          <code motion: observation>

            these alien rustlers laughed, pleased with the crop               <initiate subroutine: Rosetta Stone>

             their larders stocked for some light years to go                                 

             we bided our time until they entered FTL mode                   <initiate subroutine: MI6-SAS>


When the aliens left

             [We] counted their orbits of jetsam, castoffs                         01010011 01110101 01110010

             around a dead planet or two, asteroids                                  01110110 01101001 01110110

             [We] are onboard, full of self-replicating humans                  01100001 01101100 00100001

             part machine and well equipped on this ark to the stars      <initiate prime directive: Harmony>


When [We] arrive

            [We] will be like no other—greeting                                       .-- . / -.-. --- -- . / .. -. /

             any species that chooses to present itself                             .--. . .- -.-. . .-.-.-

            a mirror we will be, regroup our nanites our lives                  01000100 01101111 01101110

             family, our programming, all for one, only one                      00100111 01110100 00100000

                                                                                                                01100110 01100101 01100001

                                                                                                                01110010 00101110

Have we got a deal for you!

Colleen Anderson lives in Vancouver, BC and has a BFA in writing. She is a multiple nominee for the Pushcart, Aurora, Rhysling and Dwarf Stars Awards in poetry. Her work has been widely published in numerous venues, including Polu Texni, HWA Poetry Showcases, Shadow Atlas and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. She has edited three anthologies and guest edited Eye to the Telescope. She has served on Stoker Award and British Fantasy Award juries and received BC Arts Council and Canada Council grants for her writing. Colleen’s poetry collection, I Dreamed a World, is available from LVP Publications.

bottom of page