Years ago, my wife recounted to me a short story that she had read even longer ago which I'm minded of by this sudden new craze for roboVacs.

Essentially - as today - roboVacs were suddenly the must-have household gizmo. Better still, they were ecologically sound, being self powered — digesting the dust, spiders, etc., on which they "fed."

After a while, however, householders noticed that small household pets were disappearing mysteriously — and the denouement was when a mother found one feasting on the face of her baby.

I'm not certain if this was a sub-plot for a fuller story or novel — but it would certainly have made a memorable short. She thinks the story may have been called "Dove" or "Doves", or something (beware, though, unless it was the robots' brand name, "Dove" might just be a complete red-herring — as I've been learning below).

Does anyone remember this story? I would love to dig it out and reread it — perhaps use it to unnerve a friend of mine who is considering buying a roboVac for his flat.

(Incidentally, I did find there is already a true story in the press about an unfortunate Korean lady who fell asleep on her living room floor, waking to find her roboVac busy ingesting her hair: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/09/robot_vacuum_cleaner_eats_woman/)

  • Possibly 25 years ago or so? Blink of an eye, when you're fifty-odd.
    – Eric
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 11:54
  • At least 20 years ago, anyway.
    – Eric
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 12:07
  • Wonderful! Thanks so much. Gonna have a hunt around and see if I can find it.
    – Eric
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 12:28

2 Answers 2


"Doves" is the title of a 1988 short story by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, which was reprinted in her 1995 collection The Eleventh Jaguarundi and Other Mysterious Persons. I have no idea if it matches your description; I haven't read it and know nothing about it.

In fact, I'm inclined to doubt that this is the story you're looking for. For one thing, the ISFDB says that collection is "a signed, limited edition of 250 copies." Moreover, from the table of contents it seems that "Doves" is only two pages; the story you describe sounds more like a full length short story.

  • I guess that, because it is limited edition, it will be hard to find. I've had no luck so far. If I had Kindle, though, I could "borrow" it for €6.50 or so. Strange world. Because such a limited edition, I'm thinking you're probably right that it's not the same story.
    – Eric
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 17:39
  • I found 5 copies listed on abe.com, one of them priced reasonably at $11 + shipping if you want to take a chance on it. If it's not what you want, maybe you can resell it.
    – user14111
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 21:58
  • Thanks, guys. I might out of interest — but I'm now convinced that this is NOT the story I'm hunting. The word "Doves" made for a red herring. This author sounds less like science fiction and more modern Gothic: "Salmonson's..interested in pattern and shape here, image and sound, not sense and plot, character and reason, and so, as you read, existence becomes increasingly ambiguous, startling, and identity becomes increasingly unstable. Before long a gentle vertigo settles over these remarkable fictions which are bathed in an absurdist humor and a delightfully eccentric understanding.
    – Eric
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 9:42
  • '..the ability to tell a shocking story with every sentence ("There were men with plows and mules scoring the land; and as I watched, they lay down between furrows and turned to bones”).. something European in the pared lyrical prose...surprises around every clause as we follow a being (possibly an angel, possibly a virus, possibly something else) lost in a vague labyrinthine structure, a narrator rewriting the history of Guy de Maupassant's suicide, a Chinese puzzle-box of four interpenetrating dreams of desire and escape...murderers and lesbians, doppel-gangers and a flock of orange doves..'
    – Eric
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 10:07
  • So thanks once again for your research, 14111. But I'll keep hunting. That said, I am intrigued by the review. Though these stories are clearly not the killer robot kind of sci-fi, Salmonson could make for a unique read.
    – Eric
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 10:22

The Ice People by Maggie Gee.

In this novel, Maggie Gee speculates about the survival of love between men and women in a frozen future world where children are rare, child-size robots run out of control, and homosexuality is the norm. Far into the the 21st century, civilization has broken down in the face of the deepening cold. An old man, Saul, lives in a disused airport with a gang of wild boys, who spare his life only because of his skills as a storyteller. Saul tells of his youth, days of fierce heat and dwindling fertility. Men and women live separately, the women cluster around the rare children, and men turn to each other or to robot "pets." But Saul is different—he falls in love with Sarah.

One of the types of robot "pets" are the "doves", which indeed start attacking people.

I told her as much as I could remember about the Doves. They were dogsized or toddlersized, like household pets. They looked vaguely like stumpy winged birds, but the TV camera hadn’t lingered long enough for me to tell. They could dust, wash floors, recycle rubbish … And the cost was pitched low enough for everyone to buy one (the Outsiders could never have afforded them, of course, but then, they had no homes to clean). No more than the cost of a cheap car. I remembered the slogan: ‘A Dove in Every Home.’


‘Juno was right,’ his mother was raging. ‘They’re – completely unnatural. They’re wrong. They’re perverted. Do you know, one ate a sleeping cat?’
‘Nonsense,’ I said blankly, ‘that’s utter nonsense.’
‘It was on the news,’ Luke said eagerly, with a child’s enthusiasm for horror.


It was a chicken breast, oval and pink, and I was just thinking that it looked like a face when a voice that had been weaving through my head and somehow becoming confused with the chicken breast suddenly said, quite clearly, ‘Tonight the manufacturers categorically denied that a Dove could feed off a living face. A spokesman for the company pointed out that Doves had long been especially valued for their excellent safety record with children. Meanwhile the baby is in intensive care and we await developments. Tonight women picketed …’ Et cetera, et cetera.

I've searched for the name of this book online too. Finally found the answer.

  • 5
    Can you provide more details that suggest there similar? Spoilers are highly encourage as the presumption is these books have already been read
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 20:14
  • Thanks. That is absolutely the book I was looking for. My wife recognised it at once. I've read it now, I and I can attest that it's a very good read. Apart from her often poignant and poetic turns of phrase, it is quite striking, now, how many of her predictions (from around 1996) have come to pass in Britain or America over the lat fifteen years — all except, of course, the refreezing of the ice-caps. Watch this space.
    – Eric
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 21:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.