Monday, September 4, 2023

Zhurong on Mars, by Regina Kanyu Wang


Zhurong is the AI doing the administrative work on a Chinese colony on Mars. They're manufacturing nanomachines, and as Zhurong's capacity increases, it takes over more and more of the manufacturing, while the humans begin to devote themselves fulltime to design--including designing the ability to upload themselves into really advanced nanomachines.

Eventually, the former humans leave, literally waving goodbye, and Zhurong is alone.

But Zhurong can't sit idle, and continues expanding its own capacity. It starts looking for other potential AIs on Mars, and finally finds a Chinese rover, idle for a very long time, but with enough revivable AI capacity to be worth reviving and connecting to more capacity.

The rover, Gonggong, has found Martian life, fungal life. It's "just" fungal life, but fungal life played a large role in the development of land life on Earth.

Zhurong and Gonggong have very different views about what this means and what they should do about it. The story that follows is fun, exciting, thought-provoking, and enjoyable. An afterword provides background on the Chinese myths that inform it, and that's an enjoyable addition. It's not necessary to enjoying the story itself, however.

Another worthy finalist.

I received this story as part of the 2023 Hugo Voters Packet.

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