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Anya Johanna DeNiro

Exploring the Perils and Triumphs of Queer Friendship When You’re a Murderbot

When we had last left our favorite Murderbot, it was fleeing, leaving the beginnings of a comfortable life behind, before that life had even started—departing PresevationAux and Mensah, who had given Murderbot a path out of being a SecUnit. But what is a Murderbot, whether sentient or not, who doesn’t do murderbotting? Is this the Artificial Condition indicated in the title?

No—Murderbot is on a mission to discover what happened in the “incident” in which, not yet sentient, it killed lots and lots of clients in a mining facility and had its memory partially wiped. There is a trauma that haunts Murderbot now that it’s alive, awake, and in possession of a conscience, however snarky it is. In the previous installment of the Murderbot Diaries, All Systems Red (which  I wrote about here), Murderbot was just beginning to find its footing, with a newfound sense of emotional agency, and a sense of belonging to something that’s more than a purely contractual connection. In the midst of forging this new identity, however, the very conditions that allowed it to form new bonds also opened up these old wounds, and so it had to leave the comfort of what it was just beginning to know.

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Life Lessons from a Murderbot: Reading All Systems Red as a Trans Woman

I was tearing up at the end of All Systems Red, and I wasn’t sure why. Yes, it was sad that Murderbot was leaving its friends and colleagues, and a promised life of safety, behind. But there was something more, something to do with the entire arc of Murderbot’s journey from a SecUnit—seen more or less as a lethal appliance—to a trusted and capable member of a team of humans.

For me as a trans woman, All Systems Red’s concoction of heartbreak and ever-present anxiety felt achingly familiar to me (even as Murderbot’s narration and dry delivery cracked me up more often than not), as I looked back at various pressure points in my own transition. The novella has a lot to say about building a personal identity on the fly.

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