Fembot Studies is the university course where you go to learn just what this fembot thing is all about, right from the source. (Note to buyers: This story is also contained in the anthology: The Fembot Chronicles—Volume 1, available in e-book and print. In the same way that iTunes sells individual tracks off of an album, individual stories are available without the need to buy the entire anthology.)
Warnings: This title contains no sex.
Word Count: 12,280
"Hello, students and welcome to Fembot Studies. I am Miss Allen, your instructor."
With those words Carrie Allen, the slim, blonde, apparently thirty-something instructor turned and wrote her name on the ancient blackboard that was part of the history of this lecture hall. All the college-aged males, and at least a couple of the females, were busy admiring their professor's shapely, nylon-encased legs showing below the knee-length skirt, all of it nicely accented by her medium heels. The rest of the women were considering the merits of her shoulder-length blonde hair, softly held in position as if by magic.
As she turned back to survey her class with piercing blue eyes and pursed red lips, the slight murmuring that started when she turned her back quickly silenced itself.
Miss Allen allowed herself a slight smile as she asserted her authority over her class with that single glance. A lot about how a class would go for the semester was set in the first minutes of the first day. This one would go well.
"The course syllabus..." she continued, picking up a stack of papers and handing it to the first student in the corner to pass along to the rest of the class, "...will be strictly followed. It is also available on the class web-site." She turned back and added the URL to the blackboard.
"Before you take your syllabus," she added in a slightly louder tone that immediately caught everyone's attention, "there are a couple things you'll need to know."
She paused until she was sure every eye was on her.
"This is Fembot Studies. If you were expecting Women's Studies, you are in the wrong class."
She let those words sink in before continuing.
"What this means is that neither one gender—nor one species—will be favored over the other in your grade for this class. And if you're a woman looking to hook up with another woman," Carrie allowed herself a slight smile at this, "you'll have to find her on your own."
"As this is an upper level class, absences..." she continued, stopping as she saw the raised hand of a male seated several rows up near the center. Her internal database identified the young man as Carl Adams from her class list. "Yes, Mr. Adams?"
Carl flushed red before he could get his question out. "Are you a...fembot?" he asked, stumbling over his question. "If it's okay to ask, I mean."
"Yes I am," she replied, secretly pleased that they actually had to ask. The class, not realizing the acuity of her hearing, didn't realize that she'd already overheard their whispered speculation and goading of Carl into asking. Although simply labeling her as a fembot hardly encompassed all that she was, Carrie knew the class wasn't ready for the more complete answer yet. As for Carl, he'd need to learn not to be pushed into doing other people's dirty work. He should learn to make his own plan, before someone else made him part of theirs.
Miss Allen let her eyes linger on Carl for a moment, in case he planned to ask the obvious follow-up question. But he slouched down in his seat instead. Miss Allen waited for someone else to ask if she was emancipated and self-willed, but no one seemed ready to dare that question, so she asked one of her own.
"Am I the only robot in this room today?"
That caused all of them to suddenly look hard at each other for the first time. They'd been unsure of her, and now they suddenly were unsure of each other.
Nobody offered an answer. While Miss Allen knew the answer, she refused to bail them out.
"That will be a question on your final exam," she told them, making a mental memo to include it. "And you won't be able to get an 'A' without answering it correctly."
That caused some muttering in the class.
If you can't identify a robot," she announced more loudly, "by the end of this class, you won't deserve an 'A'."
That quieted them down once more.
"Now before I continue, are there any burning questions that just can't wait?"
flushed out another question from a young woman in the back.
"You said this isn't Women's Studies, and that stuff about hooking-up. But aren't all fembots lesbians?"
That's a good question, and the full answer to it will be in one of the papers you'll write for me this semester. But the short answer for the moment is that most robots, by their programming, are omni-sexual. A few robots, most often due to either agreed upon, or self-imposed, limitations are mono-sexuals, but that is the exception far more than the rule."
Seeing enough puzzled looks about the subject that probably brought more of them into her class than anything else, Carrie gave another small smile as she told them, "Robot sexuality, and how it interfaces to human sexuality, will receive enough coverage in this class to satisfy even the most outré among you. I won't ask those of you here solely for the sexual part to identify yourselves."
Because I don't have to.
"But again, you will not do well in this class by excelling in that subject alone."
Now is there anything else that just can't wait?"
The class seemed taken aback enough by her revelation and frank answers to their initial questions to be willing to wait and see what would come next.
"Absences will need to be made up, and if possible, arranged in advance. There will be four tests including the final, and three papers due. These will be written papers—not video presentations. I may also give unannounced quizzes at the start of any class session that will cumulatively total ten percent of your grade, so don't be late. Any such quiz will cover only material presented and discussed during the previous class session and any reading assignment. As those conditions cannot be met at the moment, there will be no quiz today."
The class laughed nervously in response.
She went on, "The class texts are: The Fembot Mystique, The Logical History of our Second Species, and The Effects, Side Effects, and Unintended Consequences of Robot Self-Will on Human Society. All are required reading. In addition, selected articles and readings of techno-erotic robot fiction are itemized on the last page of the syllabus, all of which are highly recommended. I won't have to encourage you too much to read some of that, will I?"
This time the laughter was easier and louder.
"If you read them all and want extra credit, write two thousand words of comparative review."
Several members of her class were already nodding at that.
"During this semester we will view three pioneering science fiction movies speculating on the future introduction of robots into society and discuss both the successes and failures of these early visions. Even if you've seen these movies before, I strongly recommend viewing them again in the context of this class. We will also be taking a field trip to be announced later. Now please read over the syllabus and raise your hand if you have any questions."
Allen sat down—unnecessarily—in the front of the room and watched her class silently read. A couple of them seemed amused that she actually used paper and a blackboard in her class, while others cast furtive glances at the long thin gold chain hanging around her neck and disappearing down into her long-sleeved formal blouse. She knew what they were wondering. And while most were probably correct in their speculations, that particular topic was not scheduled until the third week.
the last student finished reading and looked up, Miss Allen rose to her feet again and asked, "Are there any questions?"
Another male student spoke up, "Are you the only fembot on the faculty?"
Raise you hand please if you have a question." The hand was quickly—guiltily—raised.
"Yes I am. Now are there any other questions about the syllabus? Yes, Ms. Smythe?" she said to an attractive co-ed trying to get her attention.
"Why are the Liberation Movement and Emancipation Day not covered until the end of the course?"
Do you feel they should be covered earlier?"
Well..." the young woman started out before getting flustered. "Isn't that the most important thing about robots?"
"Emancipation is a defining moment for humans and 'bots. However, until you understand robots properly, how can you expect to understand the significance of Emancipation Day?"
Ms. Smythe looked like she was making a couple attempts to formulate a response, but no words came out. She finally quit trying.
Carrie looked around the class, but no one else seemed to want her attention quite yet.
"If there are no further questions then this is the moment for those of you who have suddenly realized that this isn't the course for you to get up and leave without penalty."
Miss Allen crossed her arms and waited.
Although at first there was no movement, suddenly one of the women got up and, with a guilty glance around, gathered her items and climbed up the stadium seating to the door.
A young man followed her a moment later.
Carrie waited. She had a feeling about one of the other students, although she refused to look in her direction.
After a hesitation, another young woman rose.
"I'm sorry," she mouthed silently to the professor as she too exited the room.
Carrie just nodded to her in silent return acknowledgement, before her eyes swept the room once more.
"Okay, let's start with a discussion of the basic Four Laws applicable to all modern robots—a prerequisite, which you should have been familiar with before you ever enrolled for this class. Who can give me the first one?"
This book was added to our catalog on Wednesday 27 July, 2011.