ALFRED BESTER “Galatea Galante, the Perfect Popsy.” Novella. First published in Omni, April 1979. Reprinted in The Best of Omni Science Fiction, edited by Ben Bova & Don Myrus (1980) and The Best Science Fiction of the Year #9, edited by Terry Carr (Del Rey/Ballantine, 1980). Collected in Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester (Vintage, 1997).

   The word “biodroid” may be as new to you as it was to me, but it didn’t me take long to figure out what one is, and Dominie Regis Manwright is the number one craftsman in the field of making them, and always to his client’s complete specifications. He’s commissioned in this highly amusing tale to create just that: a young and attractive woman, perfect in every way: intelligent but compliant, perceptive but instantly available; that is to say,  completely perfect in every way.

   But as Manwright explains to his client, such a woman would also be completely boring. What he suggests is a “wild” factor, a random ingredient that would also make her interesting. Which of course, when Galatea comes of age, it does.

   Keep in mind that this story was written when men’s magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse were at their peaks of popularity. This rollicking romp of a story may have a harder time of it being accepted for publication today, based as it is on the emphasis on the male perception of the ideal woman, much less ending up in a “Best of the Year” anthology (and the lead-off story, to boot). Maybe I’m wrong, but if I’m right, we the readers today are the losers for it.

   But it should also be noted that it was Omni (a slick magazine with connections with Penthouse, and generally assumed to be rather sophisticated) that first published it, not Analog or Asimov’s. I never bought the magazine myself, thinking that the fiction in it was always outweighed by the scientific articles in each issue, of which I had much less time for at the time.