The Mechanical Turk

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The Mechanical Turk is a story written by shukyou. It ran in Issue 17 and can be found at and

This story was written in response to a request by susieoh.


An inventor is seduced by an artificial artificial intelligence.

Throughout the entire trip — from the hired cab to the docks, on the ferry across the Channel, through all three days' worth of train travel across what seemed like half the world, to the last ascent by horse-drawn carriage up into the verdant peaks of the Meček Mountains, right up to the great wrought iron doors of the ancient stone castle — Halston Barwick's one constant companion had been the slightly dumbfounded thought: How on earth did I get myself into this?


The Mechanical Turk is unconnected to other stories or universes. It is, however, the spiritual predecessor to c:\rano.bergerac.

Author's Notes[edit]

I'd actually been rolling a story like this around in my brain, only the original premise was going to be set in the future, where a guy fell in love with his VR lover, only to find that the VR was being controlled by an actual human being. However, when susieoh requested 'sexy scientists! preferably in the late1800s/early1900s or early atomic age', I knew a couple changes were in order.

"The Turk or Automaton Chess Player was a chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century, and exhibited from 1770 for over 84 years, by various owners, as an automaton but later explained in January 1857 as an elaborate hoax."[1] I borrowed Amazon's particular phrasing because I like the way it sounds: it wasn't as vague as just calling it 'the Turk', and the Automated Man in my story doesn't play chess. I suppose I could have called it the Automated Man, but I wanted the joke to be in the title.

The only downside, I suppose, is that if you know what the Turk was, the (first) punchline of the story is sort of spoiled for you. I don't consider that enough of a shocking twist to bother about spoiling, though.

I think 'Halston Barwick' is a great ridiculous English name. And man, there is nothing more fun than writing in pseudo-Victorian nonsense style ... even if it does occasionally make me slip into moralizing about how awful it was to be a fag in Victorian England. I think I missed the memo where this was supposed to be a light-hearted, funny story. Whups.


External Reviews[edit]

  • "Amazingly clever story! Automated Turks! Victorian scientists! Nobility! AWESOMENESS"
  • "UST in the name of Science!!!"