“Mika Model,” by Paolo Bacigalupi

“Mika Model,” by Paolo Bacigalupi. Slate.com, April 2016.

Recommended by Gardner Dozios in Locus as “an example of a first-rate SF story popping up unexpectedly in an unusual place.”

CONTENT WARNING: I haven’t read the story yet, but there are some pretty disturbing images accompanying the text.

Read the story:


7 thoughts on ““Mika Model,” by Paolo Bacigalupi”

  1. I feel like this is more of a meandering argument than it is a story. "Is she a person, and therefore liable, or is she not?" The story asks this over and over, but it doesn’t really add information or nuance – it just keeps asking the question, again and again.

    A few things about the story bugged me.
    – A story where the POV keeps noting how stupid he’s being and how overwhelmingly he’s attracted is a REALLY tough sell for me. It just feels like big red flags reading "don’t respect me, I renounce any claim to be controlling my most basic actions."
    – The screwdriver makes zero sense. There should a remote control switch. That feels like it was put inmm just to be gruesome and evoke sympathy for the Mika.

    Ultimately, if the author gets to decide *exactly* how human and how sympathy-inducing Mika is, the question "is she human or not" is somewhat moot. The answer is "whatever the author determines." And it’s not like the story spends any time considering how one might tell the difference or come to a decision (unless "Bad people think X, therefore you should think not-X" seems like a good strategy to you.)

    I DO think the issue of corporate vs. personal responsibility is a HUGE, important modern issue, certainly worthy of serious consideration. So much of our life now is in the hands of corporations who can’t be reasonably held to taking the best possible care of us – from Facebook showing us chirpy photos of relatives we’re still grieving for, to self-driving cars getting in a crash, to crucial government systems that are mandatory and also have security flaws.
    But I don’t feel this story really does anything besides raise the question, baldly and explicitly. And *repeatedly.*

    1. …you’ve pretty well managed to elucidate my problems with the story. It’s been some time since I read it. I do remember thinking that the screwdriver could have been taken in a direction of warning us about what excessive emotional manipulation does to us as humans; it coarsens us, forces us to discount our own emotions, turns us into unfeeling monsters. But there needed to be more setup for that conclusion.

    2. I agree, though, that the story doesn’t seem to support it.

      Holly is a superior, patronizing lawyer, not somebody we’re meant to sympathize with. She ends the story chiding Rivera for being taken in, for feeling important. The story ends on the line, "Let it go, detective. You can’t save something that isn’t there." — still focused entirely on whether Mika is a person; not on what effect she has on us.

      A story about suppressing emotion as a defense against overwhelming manipulation sounds REALLY intriguing. But you’re right, this story isn’t that.

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