EP196: Evil Robot Monkey

By Mary Robinette Kowal
Read by Stephen Eley

First appeared in the Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, vol. 2 edited by George Mann.

Special closing monkey music by George Hrab

Sliding his hands over the clay, Sly relished the moisture oozing around his fingers. The clay matted down the hair on the back of his hands making them look almost human. He turned the potterโ€™s wheel with his prehensile feet as he shaped the vase. Pinching the clay between his fingers he lifted the wall of the vase, spinning it higher.

Someone banged on the window of his pen. Sly jumped and then screamed as the vase collapsed under its own weight. He spun and hurled it at the picture window like feces. The clay spattered against the Plexiglas, sliding down the window.

Rated PG. Contains one angry chimp with a potty mouth. Sort of.

Comments (17)

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  1. Rachel says:

    ^^;; I found three technical problems.

    1. Chimps are not Monkeys they are apes. The teacher should know better especially if taking kids to a zoo/chimp location. My grade school teachers would correct kids who said, “look at the monkey.”

    2. The keeper talks to Sly while picking up and holding a dish, but the keeper and sly are talking through sign language… which requires hands… so there is a technical issue there.

    3. Chimps are, by nature, social animals and need other chimps to groom them, take care of them, etc. Neither Sly, the keeper nor other chimps seemed to be doing these basic functions… so it does beg the question… Is Sly grumpy because he has Chimp lice and no relief?

    Other than that, it was a cute short.

  2. phignewton says:

    please play the code monkey song.. pleeease pllllay the code monkeeey song… errrg, curses, my tinfoil brain ray hat iss a failllure! [throws feces]

  3. Wilson says:


    I think a teacher who could allow her students to provoke a chimp 0known to have enhanced intelligence – and then blame the chimp for reacting! – could easily be guilty of primate ignorance.

    Plenty of teachers should know better than they do, even now, let alone in the future, when the children now being taught by bad teachers (not all, by any means, but they do exist) become teachers themselves…

    I didn’t even notice the sign language issue, but now that you point it out … hey, yeah!

    On another topic: I was hoping that there would be a link posted to the website of the featured singer…

  4. Ack, this oversight is unforgivable on my part. I will update the post with a link crediting the singer immediately.

  5. Code Monkey says:

    I think this story is less about how humans are cruel towards primates, but more about our inability to see other creatures as equal to us. The monkey in this story is isolated from both worlds by his intelligence. It is only the keeper that sees beyond the outward appearance that is truly human

  6. Holiday says:

    I agree with you Code Monkey, The truely humane take the time to see beyond assumptions to observe and appreciate what is really there.

  7. MasterThief says:

    So, having finally caught up with all of EP (well, since “Friction”), I guess I can now comment. ๐Ÿ˜€

    For such a short and sparse piece with only one real scene, this was a very thought-provoking story. I think there are a lot of us who could sympathize with Sly’s plight of being caught between two worlds but not fitting in either.

  8. Brave Space Monkey says:

    Brave Space Monkey know what it like to be between worlds. In low orbit waiting for clearance to start re-entry procedures… Blinking lights and switches at the ready.

  9. scatterbrain says:

    I remmeber reading this in the library and thinking: That it?

    Minority opinion?

    Let’s just have a look at what the guy at Best SF, one of the leading short SF review sites, had to say about it:”…one of the shorter stories, and is very much a story from someone who has yet to breakout of the semipro ranks. A monkey with a digital implant, making it more human than simian, is upset by some schoolchildren who come to visit. Erm, that’s it.”

    In short: a good story that achives its goals, but, in my opinion, totally unsuitable for the title of Best Story.

    Where did all the really great and mind-boggling stories go–good SF unite!

  10. Howie Feltersnatch says:

    This story was much better than the previous monkey story. Oh, don’t get me wrong. This one totally sucked. It’s just that because it was so short, it didn’t suck as long.

    There is something seriously wrong with contemporary short story science fiction if this is the kind of junk that’s getting nominated for Hugos. I’m not a writer, but I guarantee I could sit here all day long and crank out story after story just like this.

    Once again, this would have worked better as a Twitter message:

    Cyber monkey likes to make pots and gets grumpy when folks stare at him.

    See? Even shorter, so there’s less opportunity for it to suck.

  11. Phoenixfyre says:


    Actually, you can speak sign with only one hand. There are modified versions of the two-handed signs that you can use when you only have one available. It would be possible to talk to Sly when holding the dish.

    Just thought I would comment on that.

    Otherwise, good stuff.

  12. gerard says:

    i really, really enjoyed this story; the author demonstrates a keen insight into what motivates sentinent beings; brilliant ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Rob says:

    BTW that comment about “look for some excellent Neanderthal-themed stories to come your way soon” really cracked me up ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. besucher says:

    I didn’t get the point of this story…

  15. Blaine Boy says:

    While I don’t wish to be so negative I must agree that the Hugo nominees have been somewhat disappointing so far. Actually, I remember last year being somewhat the same. Good stories are being put up as nominees but not the best, or at least I’m not hearing the best stories get nominated. Anyways, it was an okay story, but… meh whatever.

    Unfortunately sincerely,
    the Blaine Boy

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