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  Viper Wire by Richard Kadrey

Iron Wit

Machines are constantly puzzled and saddened by people. "Why do they make us," the machines wonder, "and why do they give us such keen senses of humor when they seem to have none?"

Machines love to tell their owners jokes. Whenever a car stalls or a hard disc crashes or a toaster doesn't pop up or a lamp won't turn on, it's telling its owner a machine joke. At night, all night long, all over the world, junkyards are full of cast-off appliances telling each other blown-tube stories and burned-cord one-liners. When they think of people, though, the machines grow quiet. Chernobyl, Three Mile Island those were real hoots, the machines say. The Exxon Valdez? A great bit. Monster laughs.

Then some teeny-bopper comes by and shot-puts an old radio to the far side of the junk pile. The radio lands with a Crack!, spilling wires and circuit boards in the dirt. Sometimes the machines wonder why they even bother. Inevitably, somewhere, an elevator stalls, and all the machines snigger and giggle. A sense of humor, they remember, is its own reward.


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Richard Kadrey is the author of Accelerate, a four-part series from Vertigo Comics. His new novel, Angel Scene, illustrated in collaboration with Marne Lucas, is due this year from RE/Search. His previous novels are Metrophage, (1988) and Kamikazi L'Amour, (1995). Metrophage and the short story Horse Latitudes are available free of charge on the Internet.

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