The Pygmalion Deviation

This is a retelling—insofar as ‘retelling is possible—of the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, set in the near future world of 2053 C.E.

In a time of runaway climate change, with billions dying from natural catastrophes and new pandemics, those few who can afford it closet themselves away and try to pretend that they can ignore it all. In those places where civilization still has form of order, the mid-21st century descendant of the internet, TransNet, still connects people and enslaves them at the same time. China is the dominant world power, with the United States relegated to second place and most of Europe transformed beyond recognition by mass migrations.

One of those people having found a comfortable niche in this new world order of advanced Artificial Intelligence and self-driving technology is Damon, a former scientist and engineer, who, together with his partner Gérôme, owns HUMFRAM, the world’s most advanced and exclusive production facility for the basic frames of humoids, uncannily human robots, hooked up to TransNet and used by the wealthy of the world. Damon is also an artist, a modern-day sculptor of exquisitely designed modern-day equivalents of marble statues. His female humoid ‘Creations’, exhibited to potential buyers once a year fetch astronomical prices.

But clandestinely and with Gérôme’s help, Damon has developed more than just TransNet-controlled humoids. His secret Creation, which he has named ‘Ariel’, is unconnected to the global network—an international crime incurring severe punishments—and is about to step over the threshold from mere ‘robot’ into something different. Just how different, not even Damon and Gérôme—and even less so Ariel herself—fully understand.

And now, during the latest exhibition of Damon’s latest Creations, Ariel for the first time faces the world and other humans but Damon and Gérôme—and she has to convince them that she is human herself. For that is the only way in which she can take the next step in her development. But it is dangerous, and if she fails not only will she be taken apart and effectively destroyed to determine the secret of her so-very-close-to-humannness, but Damon and Gérôme, to whom she owes her existence, may suffer even more severe consequences.

Damon knows that Ariel must be exposed to the world, but the knowledge cannot alleviate the strange, unsettling feelings taking hold of him when he realizes just how terrified he is at the thought of anything happening to her.

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