This Rough Magic a SyFy Story

“What to do if your robotic parents don’t live up to your expectations.” I am so excited about this, and I was fascinated to hear this interview with Richard Manley about his play, This Rough Magic, a syfy story which deals with the relationship between a boy and his robotic parents (robotic as machine not robotic as uncool, inflexible and prehistoric).

Surely you’ve heard of George Eliot

The boy’s problem is that he needs to discuss nineteenth century literature with his “parents” but they don’t have that particular app installed. The boy has to get onto the supplier and buy it, before he can have a discussion with them about George Eliot. Rachel, the rep from the company that manufactured the parents, delivers my favourite line, “I’m sorry Mr Wallis, too much time around engineers.”

Ooo-er, Techno-horror: the New Scary SyFy

The concept is hilarious, but raises some serious issues about the melding of technology and organic, which is the new world we all inhabit. As Manley says, “These days you cannot write about life without science overlapping” and Dr David Wineland adds some insights about ethics. These themes are very close to my heart, since I explore them in my own way in my debut novel, Coded. I am keen for an agent to pick it up and run with it, because I feel certain the organic-techno interface will be white-hot in fiction trends. (In 2017, we see this is true.)

2017 Update

Since I wrote this article about This Rough Magic, a SyFy story, things have raced on. The Singularity not only approaches, it’s barrelling towards us at speed. Syfy has moved on faster than any genre, even dystopian, because of the alarming progressions in A.I. Since then, we’ve had movies like Ex Machina and Advantageous, TV series like Humans, and a whole galaxy more. Even so, A.I. and robotics remain fascinating and irresistible territory for writers to explore.

16 August Edited to add another with this theme. Her, about a man’s “relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.”

Excuse the urban slang, syfy. It should be sf or science fiction, and never sci-fi, the purists will tell you. All the critics are writing syfy now. Who am I to say we shouldn’t? I still have hopes Coded will be published, but I’ll have to get track record first.


Image: Line drawing by the author, of Pandora, a key character in my book, Coded, with Tess looking on in the background.

*Thanks to Science In Action on the The Strand, (scroll down, it’s under Arts & Culture) on the BBC World Service, for this piece (slide to 12 minutes in). My apologies if I spelt Wallis wrong.

First published in August 2012.