There are the small objects that clutter our lives, that clutter the cities that hold us; things as intimate as the coffee cup that meets your lips to systems that move mountains and split atoms, that climb skies with hundreds of tons in tow. In many ways, we are them and they are us, and neither would have the shapes they do without the other. They are the world we’ve made; the literal world-building that surrounds us. Only, when we tell stories, they are often background matter. At once set and dressing, but most of all, inert without a person putting them into action.
They don’t have to be, though. They can transcend being merely things to become architects of destinies all their own. Some of these characters are robotic—familiar aliens wearing bodies much like our own, but that see the world(s) through very different eyes. Some are more fundamentally other, ranging from thinking furniture to sentient starships, digital entities that never leave the realm of code and signal; that seem so much closer to the thing side of the thing/person spectrum, but that can’t seem to escape the many trials of being alive. Here are five stories about the lives of artificial objects, finding their own paths, making their own mistakes.