Unrequited Love


Subterranean Press Cover
Subterranean Press,
Summer 2007




  • The epigraph for the story is from Shakespeare's 144th Sonnet.


"Unrequited Love" deals with a future where many couples cannot or choose not to have children, and some choose to have robot children instead. In particular, it deals with a robot girl, Roberta, and her flesh-and-blood friend, Julianne. Julianne adopts a robot dog (Robber) and Roberta a flesh-and-blood dog (Rover). Robber thinks he is a real dog; Rover knows better, that Robber is "a thing," not a dog, leading to the question of whether Roberta is a "thing." Wolfe has repeatedly allowed robots to be people, possibly even with souls, especially in the "Solar" cycle (e.g., Jonas in New Sun, the various chems in Long and Short).

Complicating matters is Wolfe's usual ambiguous narrator, who may be either a flesh-and-blood being or a robot. Very little is learned about the narrator as a physical entity. We know that he hates the clean, artificial society in which he lives, a "paradise for machines, in which the human race, though welcome, could not thrive." He also compares himself to the "evil dwarf" in a fairy story.

The narrator suggests to the girls that they swap pets for a few days, and they try it. But the swap makes them both unhappy -- though the dogs seem to prefer to be with their own "kind," and run away repeatedly after the swap is terminated. The narrator seems to be expressing some prejudice against mixture of flesh-and-blood and robotics, which contrasts with the societies in the "Solar" books, but might be of interest in comparison with, e.g., Mr. Million from Fifth Head and the gods of Mainframe in Long Sun.


  • All robot characters have names beginning with "Rob-". This leads to the question of whether the Robinsons (who adopted Roberta) are flesh and blood or robots. Textual evidence suggests that they are human, but this is not conclusive.

Unresolved Questions

  • Is the narrator a flesh-and-blood or a robot?
  • Are Roberta's parents, the Robinsons, robots, as the first three letters of their name would seem to indicate?
  • Why does the narrator compare himself to an "evil dwarf?"
  • The narrator refers to the house where "we" live; who are his housemates?

Return to Online Stories