This story appears in my collection Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present, 2007
Flurb Magazine, August 2006
This story came to me while I was 20 meters down the reef-wall in the Coral Sea, off the coast of northern Australia. I think a turtle was involved.
The good ship “Spirit of Freedom” is the model for the “Free Spirit,” the ship in this tale. As far as I know, neither it nor its ship’s boats are sentient.
If I return to this theme, it will be with a story about uplifted cheese sandwiches, called “I, Rarebit.”
“I, Row-Boat” is a riff on my Hugo-nominated story I, Robot, and it concerns the theological wars between an Asimov-cultist AI boat and an uplifted coral-reef.
The reef made a tremendous grinding noise. “Yaah!” it said. “Get lost. Sovereign territory!”
“All those fish,” the woman said. Robbie had to stop himself from thinking of her as Janet. She was whomever was riding her now.
“Parrotfish,” Robbie said. “They eat coral. I don’t think they taste very good.”
The woman hugged herself. “Are you sentient?” she asked.
“Yes,” Robbie said. “And at your service, Asimov be blessed.” His cameras spotted her eyes rolling, and that stung. He tried to keep his thoughts pious, though. The point of Asimovism wasn’t to inspire gratitude in humans, it was to give purpose to the long, long life.