A Record of the Balloon War, Ca. 2xxx
In the distant future, balloons were just invented. They were made of silk, thread and glue. A visionary young businessman named Escrow secured the patent rights, and sought a clever way to introduce them to the market. He consulted toy makers, market researchers, legendary babysitters and psychologists, and slender-cheeked masters of aviation and industry. From these consultations he produced a business plan. And he was in the final stages of product testing when he rallied the investors, trumpeting a "rare and singular opportunity..."
The Balloon War follows Ecrow, a maverick entrepreneur who patents the first balloon dolls, as well as his assistant, an indebted pediatric psychologist, as they contract the playtime of children for product testing.
An Inquiry into the Robot Suicides
By the time the future came around, the neighborhood had changed. The old fellows were fading, keeping time under funereal grass, the survivors making endless pots of cardamom coffee under creaking wrist in dim shops and apartments. Newcomers claimed their abandoned landscapes. Young, callow to the austere old space, they packed in tightly to suit their poverty. It was not that Old Ioann and the mainstays in his barbershop resented them. But they resented the loss of their gilded old days, and pitied the newcomers their gaudiness and hubris. So in the barbershop they talked about the old times, improvising little paeans to their sacred events, wondering what happened to so-and-so, hymning over cloudy cups of ouzo as their numbers leaned...
An Inquiry into the Robot Suicides follows a statesmanly master barber and his apprentice as they witness the world change around them: a stolid way of life disappears; the inanimate world hatches subtle rebellions; robots come to angsty, unwanted consciousness, posing questions of purpose and meaning.