Author ~ Asta Idonea
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 25th May 2016
Genre ~ Science Fiction M/M Romance
London bartender Fane thinks he’s hit the jackpot when he finds a rare and expensive service Bot discarded in a dumpster, and he takes it home to get it working again. The Jo-E brings some much-needed companionship to Fane’s lonely life, but there’s something different about this Bot, as indicated by its odd behavior. Fane’s developing feelings toward Jo-E trouble him, and things go from bad to worse when a robotics engineer arrives on Fane’s doorstep, demanding the return of his property. Fane is forced to choose between a hefty reward and following his heart. Giving in to his forbidden desires might get him killed—or change his life forever.
Over years of reading sci fi and spec fic I have enjoyed many stories about robots, cyborgs and artificial intelligences, but this short story from Astra Idonea is the first ever romance.
Set in London in the not too distant future – 2045 – Fire Up My Heart concerns Fane, the bartender in a run-down gay bar, who is his way home one night when he makes an amazing discovery. In a dumpster in an alleyway he spots what he initially thinks is a corpse, but when he investigates he realises that it's not a human body but the discarded shell of a service robot that is so top of the range that only the very rich can afford one. Since it's in a dumpster – which obviously means it's not wanted – and nobody is about, he does the obvious thing and helps himself. Who knows? He might be able to get it working again. Of course he does and discovers that this particular Jo-E model has some very unusual features – features that make Fane feel very vulnerable indeed. Then trouble comes to their door and Fane is faced with some terrifying choices.
Fane and Jo-E are two absolutely sweet and very memorable characters, the villains are – well, villainous but they have their reasons, and the word building is cracking. The near future setting means that the author doesn't have to do too much describing of the nuts and bolts of day to day living. There are some speculative touches but most are logical progressions from today's brand new technology. The art of robotics is the most outre thing, and I was pleased to see a nod to Heinlein and Asimov in that there are Rules to be observed, the most relevant of which to Fane and Jo-E is that 'thou shalt not shag your artificially intelligent help'. Sex with robots has become a major taboo, which I liked because the courtesy of protection should be extended to any entity without the right or ability to make an informed consent. This ban, and Fane's determined observance of it, added some interesting tension to the growing relationship. There's a threat from outside the relationship too and their means of solving it was fun and inventive.
For such a short story quite a lot was packed into it, including the necessary happy ending. I found the story very satisfying and just about the right length, too. Great fun and a good introduction to the work of this author.