Positronic Effigy

Marie Vibbert

Positronic Effigy

A lattice
     Swirled chains of salamander eggs encased in a mason jar
     Clotted synapses spread like cream on concrete
     Fingers search, graze unreadable Braille
Too far
     The gap electrons must cross


Marie Vibbert’s poetry has appeared in Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, and other cool places. She’s been nominated for the Rhysling Award four times and once even sold a poem that rhymed to a literary magazine. By day she is a computer programmer in Cleveland, Ohio.

Author’s Backstory and/or Crafting: My husband was designing a font called Positronic Toaster (it is available at MyFonts: https://www.myfonts.com/collections/positronic-toaster-font-brian-crick) and at one point he sighed in dismay, looking at his work in progress, saying, “This is more like a tombstone font than a toaster font. Positronic Effigy.”

I liked the sound of that, and decided to write an elegy for an AI. I tweaked the poem quite a bit over the years, most recently decided to format it so that the lines had as many words as prime numbers. Though the editors added an “a,” and hey, nothing has to be rigid.

Editor’s Comments and/or Image Credits: I think this poem can be classified as contrapuntal [cleave] yet with a unique format. “A positronic brain is a fictional technological device, originally conceived by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. It functions as a central processing unit (CPU) for robots, and, in some unspecified way, provides them with a form of consciousness recognizable to humans. When Asimov wrote his first robot stories in 1939 and 1940, the positron was a newly discovered particle, and so the buzz word “positronic” added a scientific connotation to the concept. Asimov’s 1942 short story “Runaround” elaborates his fictional Three Laws of Robotics, which are ingrained in the positronic brains of nearly all of his robots.” [Wikipedia]

It is interesting to note that “an earlier sense of effigy is “a likeness of a person shaped out of stone or other materials,” so it’s not surprising to learn that effigy derives, by way of Middle French, from the Latin effigies, which, in turn comes from the verb effingere (“to form”), a combination of the prefix ex– and fingere, which means “to shape.” Fingere is the common ancestor of a number of other English nouns that name things you can shape. A fiction is a story you shape with your imagination. figments are shaped by the imagination, too; they’re something you imagine or make up. A figure can be a numeral, a shape, or a picture that you shape as you draw or write.” [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/effigy]

The image is from scifi.radio that considers making robots think as humans [https://scifi.radio/2013/07/17/darpa-working-on-sentient-robots-with-positronic-robot-brains/]

Richard Magahiz

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