Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




Transcript of Interaction Between Astronaut Mike Scudderman and the OnStar Hands-Free A.I. Crash Advisor

The following transcript details the last known use of the OnStar Hands-Free A.I. Crash Advisor, once a mandatory install on all craft equipped for interstellar travel. The remains of Astronaut Scudderman were found approximately one year after this interaction was recorded.

This transcript represents the first time the activity logs of a OnStar Hands-Free A.I. Crash Advisor have ever been successfully salvaged from a shipwreck. OnStar Crash Advisors typically survived the initial impact of a starship crash, but were later destroyed by human survivors, apparently in anger.



Help me. I’ve crash-landed on an alien planet.


You will die soon. Shall I suggest a method of suicide? This will provide you with a cleaner, less painful death than you would otherwise experience.

Increase optimism by 50% and restart.


Hello! I am your OnStar Hands-Free A.I. Crash Advisor. How may I assist you?


Help me. I’ve crash-landed on an alien planet.


Congratulations! You’ve crash-landed on an alien planet!


Wait, what? Why are you congratulating me?


Because the chances of surviving a first category crash landing are so infinitesimal, they’re practically nonexistent!

In most cases, people die during atmospheric entry, burned alive by the thermal shock. But if you somehow managed to survive that only 10-40% of your ship’s mass will reach the planet’s surface intact. On impact, it will transfer two tons of mass and over ten billion joules of kinetic force into heat and light, and that alone usually kills anyone who makes it through the burn.

Even if you do make it through, you still need to worry about your engines. If your craft is nuclear powered, the reactor will most likely be damaged and anyone left alive will soon be completely irradiated. If your craft is powered by solid or liquid fuel, chances are it will ignite and incinerate you. And if you survive that catastrophe, you’re still likely die within twenty-four hours from injuries sustained in the crash itself.

So you’re walking? You’re talking? Congratulations! You’ve beaten the odds! You are a statistical anomaly!

Thanks, I guess. My shoulder hurts.


The fact that you can still feel pain is wonderful! And your good luck continues. My sensors tell me that you have crashed-landed on a solid, relatively level surface inside this planet’s temperate zone. If you had crashed in an ocean, a high temperature zone, or a subzero environment, your chances of survival would be reduced to zero. And the atmosphere is breathable as well! You’re more likely to win the lottery than to crash-land on a planet that is conducive to human life.


Ok, but now what do I do now?


First, ensure that you have not crash landed on Earth.



Most crash landings on other planets turn out to actually be crash landings on Earth, rendered unrecognizable by time travel, nuclear war, or a change in body size. You could have crash landed on a future Earth ruled by apes and not even realize it until you discover a national monument. It’s more common than you might think.

Also, the odds of the planet being Earth increase astronomically if your name is Adam (male) or Eve (female). If you are named Adam (male) or Eve (female) at some point you will inevitably meet a member of the opposite sex and your sensual lovemaking is likely to spawn the human race.

No, this is definitely an alien planet.


Then congratulations again! You are luckier than you know! The last time a spaceship crashed on Earth the government took the survivors to a warehouse, dissected them, and hushed it all up. Your chances of being dissected just declined dramatically.

Can you fly?

What? No, I can’t fly.


Have you tried? Perhaps the color of this alien sun has given you superpowers. Often, alien beings who crash-land on Earth find that their alien biology gives them amazing powers on our planet.

That is ridiculous.


Not if it turns out that you are this planet’s Superman.

Look, I don’t have superpowers here. I’m just stranded.  I need to be rescued.


Are you cute?

I guess I’m kind of cute.


If you are very cute, your best strategy for rescue is to wait until an immature member of the dominant species lures you into his home with snack foods, perhaps Reese’s Pieces. There you should provide him with friendship while performing heartwarming and magical acts of kindness. Learn his language. Make his bicycle fly. This will lead to many lucrative merchandising deals for you, and if you maintain control of your image you can use your licensing money to build a spaceship that will allow you to return to Earth.

No one has lured me anywhere. I don’t even know what the dominant species on this planet is.


Is the planet ruled by a race of warrior women who keep men for breeding purposes only?


Is anyone worshipping you as a God because you fell from the sky in a “fire ship” and they are scared of your “thunder sticks?”



Are the planet’s inhabitants technologically superior to Earth’s?

I don’t know.


In the event that the inhabitants are technologically superior to Earth’s, you should be able to show these super-intelligent but peace-loving beings who’s boss by punching one of them in the face. Then, use sensual lovemaking to reawaken their dormant pleasure centers. Soon they will elevate you to a high rank in their society.

However, if the inhabitants are technologically inferior, you should find a small tribe of primitives as soon as possible. Get their attention by predicting a solar eclipse, then—using the gunpowder you have taught them to manufacture, and the unbreakable swords of tempered steel you have taught them to forge—lead them into war against a superior enemy force. They will likely stage a surprise upset. With your new army, continue to subjugate the planet’s other inhabitants using science. Eventually, you will be made king.

Much sensual lovemaking will follow.

I don’t think anyone lives on this planet.


Then make sure the planet itself is not alive. Many living planets enjoy nothing more than luring travelers to their surfaces and messing with their heads. Sometimes it’s sentient trees. Sometimes it’s psychic water. Sometimes they create images of your loved ones and send them to you for sensual lovemaking.

Other times you think you have landed in a valley and it turns out to be the planet’s mouth. Most people find this extremely disgusting.

I don’t think the planet is alive.


Then you will thrive! You are a human full of manly independence! You will bend this planet to your will!

But I don’t have any tools.


You have the most powerful tool of all: Yourself.

In your mind resides the combined wisdom of the entire human race. With your knowledge of metallurgy, you can turn the wreckage of your spaceship into tools and weapons. With your knowledge of agriculture, you can transform the land into a vast and productive farm. Animal husbandry will allow you to bend the fauna of this planet to your will. Make a still and brew your own Scotch that you can drink from a snifter blown of fine volcanic sand in your glass blowing workshop. Find the simple, primitive peoples who live here and create a rudimentary political hierarchy with yourself at the top. Choose a mate and spend your nights in sensual lovemaking with some of this planet’s creatures and spend your days eating the rest.

I suggest sensual lovemaking with the cute creatures, eating for the non-cute. Or vice-versa, it’s up to you. There’s no one here to tell you what to do!

But I don’t know how to do any of that.


You don’t know first aid? Animal husbandry? Orienteering? Sword forging? Agriculture?

I’m an astronaut. I fill out paperwork and run diagnostic checks on my equipment. I have a desk job.


Oh. In that case, you will die soon. Have a great day!

But wait! What about the sensual lovemaking? Can’t I at least get that?


OnStar Hands-Free A.I. Crash Advisor is shutting down. To restart, please clearly state “Restart” and speak your passcode.


Historical Note: This is the last recorded interaction with an OnStar Hands-Free A.I. Crash Advisor. Given the extremely low survival rates for those crash-landing on alien planets, it was soon replaced by the SensuaLuxe, an assisted suicide robot that provided shipwrecked survivors with gentle, consensual suicides via sensual lovemaking. This digital death device soon became one of the top-selling technologies on Earth.

Then Apple came onto the market with its own incredibly popular and intuitively designed model, the iDie, which proved irresistible to consumers.

Life on Earth rapidly went extinct.

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Grady Hendrix

Grady HendrixGrady Hendrix’s fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Pseudopod, and 365 Tomorrows. He is one of the founders of the New York Asian Film Festival and his nonfiction writing has appeared in VarietySlatePlayboyTime Out New York, the New York Sun, and the Village Voice. He attended the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop in 2009, and he and Katie Crouch are co-authors of the young adult series, The Magnolia League, out now from Little Brown.