The Last Poet and the Robots • 1934 • SF short story by A. Merritt

★★

Narodny, the “last poet”, has evolved to a god-like state. He and a small, selected handful of scientists separated from the rest of the world and built a world of caverns where they create aesthetic experiments. Historical screen plays and futuristic art forms of every kind, are their thing. The outside world has been taken over by sentient robots with humans as slaves. Only when their music becomes distorted by an alien force, they take action, because “it occurs to me that the robots have never produced a poet, a musician, an artist.”

Abraham Merritt wrote for the pulps, and a typical pulp this story is: just ideas, no real characterizations, lack of believability, oversimplified plot resolution, and all the tropes: mad scientist, death rays, unlimited power, etc. What fascinated the readers are the ideas, here the conflict and marriage between art and science. Nowadays, A.I. is capable of producing very good haiku, e.g.

eons deep in the lake
I paint all time in a whorl
bang the sludge has cracked

They also create art, and music, and certainly will become better at it – just use your favourite search engine to dive into that fascinating subject.

Meta: isfdb. Published April 1936 in the Fantasy Magazine. Read in The Big Book of SF. Available online.

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