*A Presentation on Leah Cypess’ “BLU3RD” by Melissa Alter
Have Fun Storming the Castle: You Guys Ready for Some Summarizin’?
This story takes place in the distant future, focusing on one woman’s relationship with her robotic husband, BLU3RD. Things seem to be going pretty well for them until she asks if he will love her for the rest of his life. While he says that he loves her at that moment, he knows that he is incapable of loving her forever, as he is immortal and will eventually move on since his programming requires him to love.
The woman has to report to the College, which ensures that the BLU3RD unit remains fully functional and will not decide to turn on the humans, as had happened before during the Robotic Wars. BLU3RD is summoned for his yearly exam, and his wife occupies herself with looking into his past memories, where she is confronted by the knowledge that he has loved several women before her, and will continue to love others long after she is gone. When the woman is questioned about BLU3RD’s love for her, she replies that she knows he loves her; however, the scans say that she is lying, so he is deactivated.
This all happened in the past; in the present, the woman is undergoing therapy, claiming to still be guilt-ridden over her role in causing BLU3RD’s deactivation, but also wanting to relive memories of their time together in the memory-hypnosis chamber. During one of her sessions, the therapist claims that BLU3RD never loved her, as he is a robot and incapable of love; the woman protests, saying that he knew what love was better than she ever could. She breaks off the therapy sessions and goes to see the public terminal in which BLU3RD’s memories are on display, but ultimately chooses to focus on her own memories of their time together and walks away.
The Cliffs of Insanity: How’d She Pull This Off? Let’s Talk Craft and What You Can Steal
Leah Cypess isn’t afraid to tackle the big questions, discussing the meaning of life and the nature of love. There are no unsympathetic characters in the story; rather, the main conflict is that of confronting the inevitable. This year, we have talked a lot about characters’ driving forces. In making the narrator’s primary goal something unattainable – for BLU3RD to love her forever – conflict is generated from the conditions of the world itself.
Fact: The narrator loves BLU3RD, and BLU3RD thinks he loves her.
Fact: The narrator will die, and BLU3RD will not.
Fact: BLU3RD will move on.
From the initial mention of BLU3RD’s immortality, the reader knows not to expect a happy ending. We are led to believe that it is impossible for the narrator’s main wish to be fulfilled, because something designed to love forever must eventually move on. Yet Cypess does an excellent job of subverting expectations, because in the end, the narrator’s wish is granted – BLU3RD does love her until the end of his days. The only problem is that ‘the end of his days’ is exponentially shorter than it was at the beginning of this novel. This would be an interesting tool to steal: the character gets what he/she wants, yet must give up more than that goal was worth. Reminiscent of the ‘be careful what you wish for’ adage, this technique works well to provide an unhappy ending for the characters, yet similarly satisfying for the readers.
On a similar thread, Cypess’ handling of irony is particularly pleasing. His ability to love is what saved BLU3RD from being destroyed after the Robot Wars; yet his need to love was also what ultimately got him deactivated. Having the very thing that enables a character to survive be the same thing that kills him would make for both a meaningful commentary on human (or robot) nature and an impactful death scene.
Speaking of humans and robots and the inherent nature of each, let’s discuss the humanizing and dehumanizing factors in the story (the humanizing ones are highlighted in yellow, while the dehumanizing ones are highlighted in gray). By placing the elements so closely together, Cypess blurs the distinction, as she gives traits of man and machine alike to BLU3RD; he has both “sad and tender eyes”, seemingly exhibiting human emotion, yet he also was “not created with the ability to lie”, another subtle reminder of his differences from humankind.
Cypess takes themes such as love and loneliness and places them in a futuristic context, reminding the reader of their timelessness. She raises unanswerable questions and fosters interesting relationships, expanding beyond the scope of human nature and questioning the essence of all things.
The Pit of Despair: Your Turn to Answer Some Questions!
- The narrator claims that BLU3RD “knew more about love than I ever did.” Do you agree? Did BLU3RD love her? Could he?
- To answer the therapist’s question: What is the difference between mattering and being loved?
- Is it more ‘human’ to love forever, or to have the ability to move on? Is love temporary? Is it permanent? Does it always have to be one or the other?