A paperback short story collection I read in the 1992-2002 era included a story in which a man was sinking into dementia. Appreciating that the progressive nature of the disease would make it hard for him to recognize the right time, he programmed a robot butler with his values and memories. He secretly assigned the butler to help him choose a time to commit suicide that would be early enough that he would still be capable of doing so on his chosen terms, but late enough that his quality of life was below his target threshold. His wife thought it was just a routine robotic household/professional servant.

Story was probably written 1980-1995, and probably published in an SF periodical before being collected into a PB collection. Collection was probably author-centric, rather than theme-centric. I think it's on my shelves somewhere, but asking here is faster than skimming all my shelves volume by volume.

  • 3
    What does "PB" stand for when you say a "PB short story collection"? I am not familliar with the term
    – fez
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 8:11
  • 5
    What @fez, you mean to tell us you don't own a peanut butter collection?
    – SQB
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 8:44
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    Probably it means "paperback".
    – Pete
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 11:50
  • Any self-respecting reader has their own sandwich collection. I sort mine by color. Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 0:54
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    Thank you to whoever was kind enough to expand my abbreviation of paperback. You get a peanut butter sandwich!
    – john2two
    Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 4:27

1 Answer 1


Living Will by Alexander Jablokov, perhaps. This was published in Asimov's in 1991 and in the The Year's Best Science Fiction: Ninth Annual Collection in 1992.

This review says:

A very poignant story built around a simple premise: what if you could encode a simulation of your personality into a piece of software and let it make the decision when a disease had changed you so much (here Alzheimers) your old, encoded self wouldn’t want to go on living and burdening others and would tell you to kill yourself?

It's available here

Quote from near the climax of the story:

“Get the plastic sheet,” the computer commanded.


“The plastic sheet. It’s under the back porch where you put it.”

“I don’t remember any plastic sheet.”

“I don’t care if you remember it or not. Go get it and bring it in here.”

Obediently, clumsily, Roman dragged in the heavy roll of plastic and spread it out on the study floor in obedience to the computer’s instructions.

With a loud click the secure drawer slid open. Roman reached in and pulled out the pistol. He stared at it in wonder.

  • i like the simulation's impatience.
    – releseabe
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 22:13
  • It needs to get this done while the guy can still follow directions - and the computer is based on the guy's personality, so he's probably an impatient guy
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 22:14
  • If I mention Back to the Future, can you think of a sort of related scene? (II or III, not I)
    – releseabe
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 23:30
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    @Andrew, you get the shiny prize! Thank you! That is exactly the story I remember.
    – john2two
    Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 4:02
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    And voila! There it was on my shelf, in the theme-centric paperback collection titled 'Hackers', from 1996, as listed in sfdb, that @Andrew included.
    – john2two
    Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 4:37

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