Borovsky's Hollow Woman

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Dress, Nancy, and Jeff Dautermann. "Borovsky's Hollow Woman." Omni October 1983. Reprinted Cybersex anthology, our source for this citation so far and text for the annotations below. Also reprinted Souls in Silicon: Tales of AI Confronting the Infinite. Jeff Dautermann, editor. Scottsdale, Arizona: Copperwood Press, 2016. For other reprints, see the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, as of February 2023, the page linked here.[1]

Important story.

• Setting: near-Earth space station, the "George Eastman Nexus"[2] run by a large, locally omnipresent "combine." Upscale areas alluded to, but we're among the "steelwalkers": "roughnecks" or "ironworkers" in 20th-c. terms. So: the beams reaching further into space, mostly: their work area. Also,
 •• A working-class automated bar.
 •• A whore house, fairly high-tech except for the actual sex part.
 •• A worker's domicile pod, that of Mikhail Borovsky.
• Cast: Almost entirely men we'd call "hard-hats," plus one boss, all males. All the sex workers seem to be women. The protagonist space-suit (sic: see below) is gendered female, and the one or two lesser suits we see are in that area, but there is a theme of (macho) manhood here with men intertwined with technology — and one American Indian in the tradition of work on high-steel construction and a spiritual connection with a wider natural reality (a matter the protagonist relates to soul). 
• Threatening machines: In a fight between the protagonist space suit and an ELM "handling machine" (pp. 401-403, pp. 408-09), we see the possibility of work machines — plural — as "soulless death tool[s]" (p. 403), for which cf. and contrast the EVA pod HAL-9000 uses for a murder in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (film) and novel.
• Preeminently, the protagonist space suit, Laura, who is in appearance a machine, but one with depth, so to speak: literal layers that allow mechanical operations, sentience, and finally, a soul that her man Borovsky buys for her. The plot moves her to a conflict of obedience to the man inside her and to retaining a soul she'll lose if she kills (i.e., kills a human, given that only humans are around for killing). She resolves the conflict, indicating a degree of free will (cf. human free will). She is also capable of sex when her man is inside her, and love. Also empathy, when she perceives the souls of (some) humans around her.  

Cf. and profoundly contrast spacesuits, Power Armor[3] as in Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers (but not the 1997 Vorhoeven film) and Haldeman's The Forever War, exoskeletons as in ALIENS or the "soldier boys" in Haldeman's Forever Peace.

See in The Mechanical God: Machines in Science Fiction (1982) Leonard Heldreth's "In Search of the Ultimate Weapon: The Fighting Machine in Science Fiction Novels and Films" (pp. [129]-52; ch. 12).

RDE, Initial compiler, 15Feb23