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Robot Science Fiction
Robot Science Fiction is, as its name indicates, Science Fiction that has a central theme of robotics.
Robots, Androids, and Artificial Intelligences are related types of technology that are significant to Robot Sci Fi. A robot is an artificial device, or being, that is mechanical. An android is a robot that looks less like a machine and more like a human. Artificial intelligence is computer generated intelligence, which is often paired with robots.
Robot Sci Fi expresses one of three general feelings: pro-robot, anti-robot, and ambivalence. A pro-robot story features robots who follow a hard-wired code and tend to be benevolent servants. The plot of an anti-robot story features a conflict or confrontation. An ambivalent story explores the incredible usefulness of robots, but also a sense of anxiety about human-like, mechanical intelligences.
It is impossible to discuss Robot Science Fiction without talking about Isaac Asimov, who created the term “robotics” and its three laws:
1: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
2: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law;
3: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law;
The Zeroth Law: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
― Isaac Asimov, I, Robot
Asimov may be a cornerstone of Sci Fi and robot literature, but the world was first introduced to mechanical people in the 1927 film Metropolis. This film introduces a machine that looks like a person, but has no humanity. Interestingly, the appearance of the “Machine-Man” in Metropolis has become a design template for robots.
Other Features of Robot Science Fiction
- Level of Real Science
High. Robotics, mechanics, artificial intelligence—technology is at the core of Robot Sci Fi so naturally, science is a large component to the story.
- Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications
High. Robot Sci Fi tends to ask big questions about humanity, identity, sentience, and technology's role in our world. These questions can become highly philosophical searches for answers and meaning.
- Level of Characterization
Variable. Robot Sci Fi in the Pulp tradition tends to be low on characterization. However, other Robot Sci Fi can have well developed and engaging human and robot characters.
- Level of Plot Complexity
Variable. Many Robot stories are plot driven. Other stories are idea driven—focusing on relationships between humans and artificial life, technology, and other grand ideas.
- Level of Violence
Variable. Robot Sci Fi can tell a peaceful story about a robot who plays nanny to children, or a violent story about a robot uprising.
Related Science Fiction subgenres
Hard Science Fiction. Hard Sci Fi and Robot Sci Fi both focus on technology and are therefore complementary sub-genres.
Pulp Science Fiction. Robots are a common sight in the pulp magazines.
Most sub-genres. Robotics is an extremely common theme in Sci Fi that has developed alongside Sci Fi itself, as such robots appear in an assortment of sub-genres.
- 1 I, Robot
By Isaac Asimov. Asimov wrote the three laws of robotics and this collection of stories is a cornerstone of Robot Sci Fi.
- 2 Link-Robot
By Eando Binder Adam. A collection of stories, the first of its kind, about a robot named Adam Link, who has human characteristics.
- 3 Men, Martians and Machines
By Eric Frank Russel. A collection of stories in the pulp tradition about humans, Martians, and robots exploring the universe. A world populated by robots is discovered.
- 4 Robots Have no Tails
By Lewis Pagett. A collection of short stories that are comic and not very scientific.
- 5 The Humanoids
By Jack Williamson. Humanoids were created to serve humanity, but as they spread across the galaxy they turn out to be more master than servant. A classic exploration on the values of natural life and artificial life.
- 6 Tik-Tok
By John Sladek. A story told by a robot who is awaiting a trial for murder.
- 7 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
By Douglas Adams In this comedic series, Marvin is a paranoid robot with a “brain the size of a planet.”
- 8 The Silver Eggheads
By Fritz Leiber. A pulpy and humorous story that takes place in a world where robots are the authors of books. One such robot has a bit of a crush on another robot.
- 9 Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep?
By Philip K. Dick. A classic of Sci Fi that also crosses into the sub-genres of post-apocalyptic and dystopian Sci Fi. This book expresses an anti-artificial intelligence sentiment.
- 10 Soul of a Robot
By Barrington J. Bayley. In this novel a robot tries to convince humans that it is their equal.