Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Robots?




"Have you ever written anything about robots?"

That's what Bernard Sell, my co-author and all-around writing buddy on many projects, asked me last weekend.  I had to answer that other than an abortive short story, I never really have done a story about robots.  Which frankly, surprises me.  I like robots well enough, I suppose a story just never came to me.  Well, not a good one, anyway.

I have an affinity for the cheesy optimism of 1950s robots as in the above photo that I found on Tumblr after a quick Google.  Actually that was taken in 1961.  The robots were made by a sheet metal worker in Peoria, IL.  They have a built-in tape recorder that can deliver a message while the robots move their arms and heads.  As a kid, I remember reading the 1950s projections that we would all have robot servants in our homes that would look roughly like the ones in the picture.  Ahh the future that never came to us.

So where else would I look for inspiration of the robotic persuasion?  The classic I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, wherein the fundamental Three Laws of Robotics were outlined? Of course not.  Why would I seek out quality?  No, I'm talking about "Mr. Roboto" by Styx.

That's right.  That pallid yet catchy song from all the way back in 1983.  I remember singing it to myself in grade school on the way to the bus stop (my one and ONLY time singing along to a Styx song I can bloody well assure you), mulling over its lyrics.  They told the story of a robot that does menial work in a prison.  At least I think that's it, who the hell can tell?  Anyway, the song is told from the POV of somebody who really wants out of there, a real "let's escape this joint" vibe.  So our protagonist escapes inside the shell of a robot to fool the guards.  He then reveals that he is really "Kilroy." Or something like that.

During that same time frame, the miniseries V was being shown on television, something I was glued to at the time and even own DVD copies of today.  It told the story of a creeping takeover of the Earth by aliens.  Why not merge these memes together?  Or so my 12 year-old mind said.  I would write a story about...get this...computers taking over the world.  I'm sure nobody's ever done a story like that.  I had preconcerted an entirely new subgenre of science fiction!

Then I saw Ridley Scott beat me to it with Blade Runner and James Cameron came soon afterward with The Terminator.  That ended that.

Anyway, how did I get on all this?  Oh yeah, robots.  That's right.  


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