Tactical Infantry Bot 37 Dreams of Trochees is the story of a robot in touch with their inner poet, embroiled in a decades-long war with no end in sight. The story begins in the midst of a battle with bullets flying left and right, shells exploding hills of sand, and the gore of death permeating the battlefield. Amidst it all, a robot considers the history of the war and the strangeness of the human language. They are much hated by the human soldiers who have no respect for their skills or their essential place in the war.
It’s always interesting to see a robot become enlightened and in this instance, we get to see a bit of poetry (something you don’t see often in science fiction). The group of robots communicate with each other and realize war isn’t something they’re interested in anymore. They can’t remember the beginning and they are confident there will be no end. They begin to recite original poetry amongst themselves, creating this beautiful and haunting moment where their humanity shines through.
There’s a deep conversation here about the soul of a robot and how they tie into the human condition. On the one hand, they possess personality upgrades that give them empathy and some form of human emotion. On the other hand, they become creative on their own through adept poetry. Who’s to say they’re not as human as the soldiers marching toward their inevitable demise?
This is also a fascinating take on the war poetry genre that came to prominence during World War I. Owen and Sassoon come to mind with their gory recounts of the horrors of war and the effect on human lives often forgotten in the greater scheme of things. Getting that perspective from a robot adds an emotional depth to the story. We think of these beings as unfeeling machines and seeing the war affect them so prominently is a true testament to the horrors of battle.
Tactical Infantry Bot 37 Dreams of Trochees
Written by Marie Vibbert
Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine