Eleven-year-old Niccolo Mazetti is dealing with a really boring day by pulling out his old Bard, a computer that takes Fairy Tale clichés and creates new tales every time you start it. It's a rather efficient device, but Niccolo has had it for years and listening to it again is almost enough to make him cry from boredom. Luckily, his friend Paul Loeb has decided to come over and share an idea.
Interested in the Bard, Paul asks Niccolo about the old computer, bragging that he will be getting a new/late-model Bard with visual attachments and sci-fi/mystery plots. Impressed with his own knowledge, Paul decides to fix Niccolo's Bard by combining it with a book he has on modern computers. That way, the stories should be new and relevant rather than old and strange.
While the Bard and the book are talking to each other, Paul explains about "squiggles". Squiggles are drawings that represent ideas, like numbers and names. Niccolo doesn't quite understand the point, but Paul convinces him that writing could be a code for a secret club.
Excited about the club, they take the computer book out of the Bard and listen to part of another story before turning it off again. Adding the computer stuff didn't change the genre, so they leave the Bard and go to Paul's house. The Bard is jostled as they go, and begins one more story, about a Bard that gets mistreated by his owners.
This story was adapted into a one-act play for Plays (website here) for their February 1958 issue and adapted into an audiobook by Spoken Realms in 2014. The original has been reprinted several times; Earth is Room Enough (1957), Dodici Volte Domani (1962), The Metal Smile (1968), Worlds Of Wonder (1969), Blast Off (1969), Is There Life On Earth? (1975), The Far Ends Of Time And Earth (1979), The Complete Robot (1982), Robot Visions (1990), The Complete Stories, Volume 1 (1990), Best Of Science Fiction And Fantasy (1991), and Living Space Science Fiction Triple Feature (2012).
Examples of tropes within Someday:
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Niccolo and Paul, children from a couple generations in the future, don't use books at all, having mechanical Bards that orally recite tales they've created from random combinations of plots and characters.
- Audio Adaptation: Audible and Spoken Realms created an unabridged audiobook in 2014, with John W Michaels as narrator.
- Broken Record:
- Niccolo and Paul disparage the story-telling computer, talking about how crude and out-of-date the Bard is compared to newer designs. They try loading data about modern history, technology, and so forth to get it to tell more interesting stories, but to no avail. When the boys leave, the robot tells itself a story, with a strange amount of feeling, about a computer owned by "cruel step-people" and that someday--someday--someday--
- In the art drawn for Infinity Science Fiction (and reused for the audiobook cover), the title is written over and over and over.
- Computer Equals Tapedrive:
- Conversational Troping: Niccolo complains about the Bard being stuck with the same story elements every time, like horses and Kings that make lightning when they frown. Paul tries expanding the vocabulary, but they quickly realize that adding computers to a Fairy Tale doesn't really change the genre.
- Fan of the Past: Paul gets Niccolo excited about learning reading and writing on the basis of having a secret code that other people don't know.
- Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue: Paul and Niccolo get a minimal description, but the bedroom where most of the story takes place is featureless except for a rug that Niccolo was laying on at the start of the story.
- Fisher King: One of the tales told by the Bard features a king whose displeasure causes clouds to gather and his frown causes lightning to flash across the sky.
- Hair-Contrast Duo: The first tale told by the Bard has two sisters, one with hair as dark as a raven's feather, and the other golden as the sunlight of an autumn afternoon. Both daughters were, of course, as beautiful as the day is long.
- Impossible Task: In one of the tales told by the Bard, a lion is demanding something incredible, involving a bird that flies over a mountain once every ten years, but the demand is interrupted by Paul and Niccolo talking over it.
- Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: The computer in this work seems to suddenly gain sentience after assimilating the information from Paul's book about computers. This is hidden from the boys and only revealed when they've left the room.
- No-Paper Future: Implied Trope, due to the lack of literacy in this story; even their books are read aloud for them. Paul shares the numerals one and two to explain how the squiggles were used to count. However, it remains an Averted Trope because of a casual reference to putting the squiggles on paper.
- Once Upon a Time: Every time the Bard begins a story, it starts with "Once upon a time..." and describing the main character of that story."Once upon a time, there was a little computer named the Bard who lived all alone with cruel step-people."
- Our Acts Are Different: The Story Machine is an adaptation of the Short Story "Someday", and both consist only of a single scene.
- Robo Speak: The Bard's voice is stilted and mechanical, more noticeable in the Audio Adaptation, but the original story points out the hint of emotion in the last tale never showed up before.
- Self-Insert Fic: The last story told by the mechanical Bard is about a computer owned by "cruel step-people" who one day learned that computers were getting better and better, smarter and smarter, and that someday—someday--someday--
- Show Within a Show: The mechanical Bard tells several tales in this story; Fairy Tale stories that it invents on its own. However, the main characters are bored of the old machine, complaining about the same story elements being reused and about the Moral Guardians limiting the types of stories.
- Sliding Scale of Living Toys: Once the two boys have left, because Niccolo accidentally triggered another story to start, the Bard begins another tale. But there are no humans in the room, and the Bard's voice becomes lower and more emotional, as it tells the story about a little Bard that was mistreated and learned about smarter computers who would someday... someday... someday...
- The StoryTeller: Niccolo owns a small computer called a Bard. Bards are designed with a database of plots and characters in order to invent stories extemporaneously. They're not expected to be sentient, but Paul adds self-referential information to the database.
- Title Drop:
- Used Future: Niccolo's Bard is a very old model, from when he was a kid (Niccolo is eleven). It has dents and corrosion, stemming from intentional and accidental physical abuse. He'd much rather a newer model, but his family can't afford one any newer.
- Wicked Stepmother: Presented in a rather gender-neutral sense in the stories told by the Bard. Stepfamilies are code for evil or neglectful, and have nothing to do with marriage. In the Bard's Self-Insert Fic, it lives with cruel step-people who viciously insult and beat him.
- A Year and a Day: In one of the stories told by the Bard, a princess walks for a year and a day until her iron shoes wore out.
- Zeerust: This story assumes computers with voice recognition software will completely phase out literacy. After many decades of working out the difficulties, we still haven't overcome all the challenges in Real Life.