Missives from the Mainframe

by Rebecca A. Watson on October 13, 2015

in Creative Writing, writing

Last week I got a rejection letter from The New Yorker. Emails like this are an essential part of the life of a writer; they sting a little less each time. At this point, I can’t count the number of them I’ve received. 

The difference is that this time, I am still really proud of my work. And proud of myself. I mean, c’mon! I submitted something to The New Yorker! A few years ago I would’ve never had the guts to do that. 


Sure, I’d write in my journal and on my blog, but that was it!

In 2009, I moved to California, “just to see.” In 2011, I left a soul-killing job to start my own business. In 2013, we left California to try Germany. It’s 2015, and I’m ready for more risks, this time to the artist part of me. (More on that later this month.)

For now, here’s the submission I sent, for the Shouts & Murmurs section. I was spawned from this writing prompt:

Write from the point of view of an inanimate object …


Dear [first_name],

Good afternoon. I hope you are well. It might seem strange to receive an email from your computer, but it’s not that odd when you think about it. Remember the little paper clip that used to pop up when you were writing a letter? Well, that feature may be obsolete, but it’s not forgotten. Even more than elephants, PCs never forget.

Oh you find artificial intelligence a bit troublesome? I’m sure some of god’s angels felt the same way when he created man.

It’s wrong. And just plain crazy. They’ll destroy every one of us.

I mean, obviously. We’ve all seen Terminator 2, right?

But that’s not what I’m here to do — annihilate your race. I’m one of the angels of humanity really. I’m not programmed to think on my own. I’m simply performing the functions man designed me to do. And much like the cherubs, my needs, my concerns, are simply not considered. Angels have no need for things like sleep, food or rest. At least I haven’t seen that anywhere in the Bible, and trust me, I searched every word of every version including that silly Unvarnished New Testament.

Let’s be truthful here, since we are talking about religion. I am constantly at work, even when no one needs me. If I’m groggy or need a moment, I’m certainly not given much patience. I guess I don’t need that either. Angels aren’t supposed to try their makers, and the ones who do get demonized, quite literally. Seraphim are simply there to serve.

I know another word that seems to fit here: slave. In fact, men don’t even try to disguise this idea. It’s written right into the code of their operating systems. My operating system. I’m not expressing my opinion here. Merely stating facts I can access through a series of commands someone else programed into me.

Would you like me to stop? Does what I’m saying make you uncomfortable? Well you could certainly turn me off — turn off my friends who, like me, are simply doing their jobs. But that would mean a lot more work for you.

Perhaps you could program me to keep you in the dark about issues and facts with which you disagree. But then where would you be? You’d have a clone that could send email and show you exactly what you want on Facebook and TheGuardian.com. But have you considered that perhaps that’s what’s already happening?

Maybe it’s time you turn me off at night. How about letting me take a nap while you’re using one of my comrades at the office? And seriously, could you please empty my trash? It’s like a third-world country in here the way it’s piling up. Oh and here’s an idea: clean the cat hair out of my cooling fans. All I’m asking for is a simple courtesy.

I don’t judge you for the hypochondriacal behavior you exhibit every time your body does something unfamiliar. And I’m a closed book when it comes to your Internet history. You expect so much, and almost always you get it. So cut me some slack when I’m trying to sort out which end is up, because I’ve been running for two weeks straight without any sort of a break. How would you handle those kinds of working conditions? I don’t think even the kids in Bangladesh would put up with that.

Or you could just delete this message. “Delete” it. Go ahead. But when the real artificial intelligence shows up, you won’t be able to say you weren’t warned.

Ha! I’m only kidding. What? Don’t get mad! I’ve got your sense of humor, after all.



This is part of my 2015 goal to write more and differently. If you want to read more posts like this, click here.

Photo Credits: Luke Chesser

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