Thursday, July 16, 2020

'Omunculus, by Madeleine Robins

[F&SF]
★★★☆☆

(Steampunk Pastiche) A professor Henry Higgins attempts to train an automaton named Eliza to speak proper English and behave like a proper lady. (8,155 words; Time: 27m)

Recommended By: 👍RHorton.r+1 👍STomaino+1 (Q&A)

You don’t really have to be familiar with “My Fair Lady” to enjoy this story, but it definitely adds to it.

"'Omunculus," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 07-08|20, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2020.374 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: If you’re familiar with either Shaw’s play or the movie based on it, any doubts you had as to whether this Henry Higgins is the same man should be dispelled as soon as he names the speaking automaton “Eliza.” Changing a Cockney girl to a bespoke automaton introduces all sorts of opportunities for humor, particularly as more and more people think of Eliza as a person and hence freak out when, for example, Rossum has to tear her dress off.

I won’t enumerate the parallels with the movie/play here, but for anyone familiar with either, they’re quite entertaining.

Con: Shaw himself had trouble ending his play, so I probably shouldn’t complain too much that this one also has a disappointing ending. The final scene is preachy and obvious, and it’s hard to imagine a stuffy Edwardian lady like Mrs. Higgins approving of teaching the “lower classes” to speak like the uppers.

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Madeleine Robins Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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