Fiction

Fiction *

Adams, D. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. London: Pan Books, 1979.

One of Adams’ main characters in The Hitchhiker’s Guide series is Marvin the Paranoid Android. Due to his advanced intelligence, Marvin is afflicted with extreme apathy and depression. His pessimism is frequently used for comic relief, but his atypical attitude for a robot also makes him one of the more charming characters.

Aldiss, B. “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” (1969). In The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2010.

In a future where overpopulation has led to a severe government restriction on human reproduction, robots are used as surrogate family members for those unable to have real children.

Ashby, M. vN: The First Machine Dynasty. New York: Angry Robot, 2012.

This futuristic young adult novel follows five year old Amy, a vN a robot. When her grandmother, also a robot, goes havoc at Amy’s kindergarten graduation, Amy brashly decides to eat her. The process of assimilating her grandmother has unforeseen consequences however.

ID: The Second Machine Dynasty. New York: Angry Robot, 2013.

Asimov, I. I, Robot (1950). Bantam, 2004.

Asimov’s seminal collection of inter-related stories depict a future where humans have created robots and formatted them to adhere to three laws: first, a robot cannot harm a human being or allow harm to befall them through inaction. Second, robots must obey human commands unless they conflict with the first law. And finally, a robot must protect its own existence so long as doing so does not conflict with the first and second laws.

— The Caves of Steel (1953). The Robot Series 1. New York: Bantam, 1991.

The Naked Sun (1957). The Robot Series 2. New York: Bantam, 1991.

— The Rest of the Robots. New York: Doubleday, 1964.

— The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories. New York: Doubleday, 1976.

The Robots of Dawn. The Robot Series 3. New York: Doubleday, 1983.

Robots and Empire. New York: Doubleday, 1985.

Robot Dreams. New York: Berkley, 1986.

Robot Visions. New York: Roc Books, 1990.

Asimov, I. and R. Silverberg. The Positronic Man. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

The Martin family’s robot servant, Andrew, has a peculiar design flaw, one that allows him to experience a wider range of human emotion than robots are normally capable. This Asimov/Silverberg collaboration follows Andrew’s quest to be recognized as human.

Bacigalupi, P. The Windup Girl. San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2009.

A nightmarish near-future Thailand features, among other technological advances, ‘new-people’, engineered human beings designed to be servile. Protagonist Anderson Lake’s world is complicated when he becomes entangled with one of these engineered people, the abused ‘wind-up’ girl Emiko.

Banks, Iain M. Consider Phlebas. A Culture Novel. London: Macmillan. 1987.

This novel introduces Banks complex future society, ‘the culture’, an advanced collective of genetically altered humans and sentient machines. Consider Phlebas depicts the cultures war against the alien Idiran race.

Baum, F.L. Ozma of Oz. Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1907.

Baum’s third book in the Oz series is the first to feature Tik-Tok, a mechanical man with three wind-up’s to operate: one to think, one to move, and one to speak.

Bayley, B.J. Soul of the Robot. New York: Doubleday. 1974.

In this speculative inversion of Asimov’s I-Robot series, Bayley presents Jasperodus, a robot who desperately wants to prove to humanity that he has a soul.

Bester, A. “Fondly Fahrenheit” (1954). In The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan U.P., 2010.

James Vandaleur is a sick man, whose mental state has reduced him to murder; even worse, he has access to a ‘multiple aptitude android’ which as controller allows James to wreak twice the havoc.

Binder, E.  “I, Robot” (1939). In The Complete Adventures of Adam Link. Victorville, CA: Pulpville Press, 2009.

This famous story in the Adam Link series is a clever inversion of the Frankenstein trope. Adam is a robot created by Dr. Link, one who is treated like an abomination by humanity. On account of Adam’s rational, human-like narration though, the question is begged: who are the real monsters?

Bradbury, R. The Martian Chronicles. New York: Doubleday, 1950.

Several stories in this collection feature robots. “There Will Come Soft Rains” depicts the continuation of a mechanized household in the aftermath of a devastating war, eerily performing its functions despite the demise of the house’s inhabitants’. “The Long Years” deals with robots and grief; when tinkerer Hathaway’s original family passes away, rather than coming to terms with his loss he builds a replacement family and lives a fantasy.

Bradbury, R. The Illustrated Man. New York: Doubleday, 1952.

In “The Veldt” a mechanized virtual reality for two children supersedes the importance of their parents. “Marrionettes, Inc.” depicts a future where the titular corporation designs robots able to clandestinely stand in for a bored spouse.

Bradbury, R. I Sing the Body Electric, Stories by Ray Bradbury. New York: Knopf, 1969.

In the title story of this collection, a family decides to purchase an ‘electric grandmother’ to serve as a maid. The family’s three children each react differently to this new family figure. Tom and Timothy are thrilled and welcome her, but Agatha is more suspicious.

Caidin, M. Cyborg. Arbor House, 1972.

This story, servicing as the basis for the popular television show The Six Million Dollar Man, depicts the process by which Lt. Col. Steve Austin is brought back to life after a devastating accident, rebuilt as more machine than man.

Čapek, K. R.U.R. (1923). Trans P. Selver and N. Selver. Mineola, NY: Dover Thrift Editions, 2001.

This Czech play famously popularized the term ‘robot’; it depicts the negative effect that overreliance on soulless workers has on humanity.

Chiang, T. “Exhalation” (2008). In The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan U.P., 2010.

A unique presentation of mechanized alien life-forms who derive energy from replaceable lungs filled with pressurized air.

Clarke, C.R. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. Nottingham: Angry Robot Books, 2013.

Finn is a robot assigned to tutor a young girl, Cat. As Cat grows older, the two develop a taboo romance.

Collins, W. Computer One. London: Marion Boyers, 1997.

Professor Enzo Yakuda, a zen Buddhist, finds his inner calm disrupted by a horrible suspicion- that Computer One, the sprawling computer network that runs almost everything on Earth, will one day turn against humanity. Even worse, Yakuda fears that any step he takes to warn others will precipitate this horrible event.

Conklin, G., ed. Science Fiction Thinking Machines (1954). New York: Bantam, 1964.

Conklin compiles a number of classic sci-fi stories specifically related to robotics, including the classic Asimov story “Robbie” which deals with (according to Asimov, misplaced) human fears regarding the implementing of robots into society.

Crichton, M. Prey. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.

A cloud of deadly Nano-bots escape from their lab. The technicians’ who made the locust like cluster suddenly find themselves at the mercy of the adaptable entity.

Crichton, M. The Terminal Man (1972). New York: Avon Books, 2002.

Harry Benson, a deranged psychotic, undergoes an experimental surgery known as ‘phase three’ which involves the insertion of electrodes into his brain. Things go awry however when the electrodes, designed to send soothing electromagnetic pulses into the subject’s brain, become controllable by Benson.

DeLillo, D. White Noise. New York: Penguin, 1986.

This satire of American consumerism is framed around a dangerous outbreak: a ‘deadly airborne toxic event’ one which pollutes the sonic airwaves in its wake with harsh static.

Dick, P.K. Vulcan’s Hammer. New York: Ace Books, 1960.

In 2029, the organization Unity is in control of the earth, and the Unity is directed by the Vulcan series of artificial intelligences. However when Vulcan-3 becomes self-aware, it decides to take radical action.

Dick, P.K. The Simulacra. New York: Ace Books, 1964.

The titular entities, robotic replications of humans indistinguishable from their real counterparts have embedded every level of society in this chilling depiction of an alternate future. Even the president is an android.

Dick, P.K. Clans of the Alphane Moon. New York: Ace Books, 1964.

This novel involves use of simulacrum Dan Mageboom (a remote controllable robotic humanoid but also displaying autonomy) by protagonist Chuck to meddle in the affairs of his ex-wife. He uses the machine to interact with her covertly.

Dick, P.K. We Can Build You. New York: DAW Books, 1972.

Before collapsing into mental illness, protagonist Louis Rosen operates a business which manufactures simulacra.

Dick, P.K. and Zelanzy, R. Deus Irae. New York: Doubleday, 1976.

This collaboration between Dick and Zelanzy features not only a cyborg protagonist, but several other nightmarish part-human, part-machine entities, as well as Big C, a carnivorous super-computer that feeds on human beings to continue its existence.

Dick, P.K.  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York and Toronto: Del Ray Books, 1996.

In a grim future where the world is overpopulated and the scarcity of animals has made them prestige items, bounty hunter Rick Deckard is tasked with the job of ‘retiring’ (killing) six escaped androids. The androids, implied to be on the run due to abusive working conditions, are Nexus-6 models, meaning that the only way to distinguish them from humans’ is the application of the complicated but fail proof ‘Voight-Kampff test’.

Ellison, H. “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” (1967). In I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. New York: Edgeworks Abbey, 2009.

AM is a self-aware, godlike machine who has successfully destroyed his human creators- all but five. These five survivors of AM’s holocaust are subjected to infinite torture by the artificial intelligence. AM extends their lives indefinitely to prolong the suffering, all because he blames humanity for imprisoning him with certain ‘fail-safe’ inhibitors.

Fowler Wright, S. “Automata” (1929).  Science Fiction Thinking Machines. Ed. G. Conklin. New York: Vanguard, 1954.

This story, comprised of series of vignettes, is the final part of Wright’s ‘New Gods’ sequence and depicts the gradual process by which mankind’s machine creations surpassing their creators.

Gerroid, D. When HARLIE Was One (1972). Dallas: Ben Bella, 2014.

Psychologist David Auberson is responsible for guiding artificial intelligence H.A.R.L.I.E (short for Human Analog Replication, Lethargic Intelligence Engine) from its ‘childhood’ to its ‘adulthood’. This novel raises the philosophical question of whether or not a self-aware machine can be said to be human.

Gibson, W. Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books, 1984.

Hailed as one of the first ‘cyberpunk’ novels, Gibson’s Neuromancer depicts a future where technology has encroached into every aspect of human life. Features the iconic character Molly Millions, a deadly cyborg ‘razor girl’.

Gibson, W. The Difference Engine. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1990.

Gibson’s novel helped establish the ‘steampunk’ genre. The Difference Engine presents a very different 1855, one where thanks to the successful creation of a mechanical computer by Charles Babbage, technology has advanced rapidly.

Hamilton, E. “The Metal Giants” (1926). In The Metal Giants and Others, The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume One. Royal Oak, MI: Haffner Press, 2009.

Harrison, H. War With the Robots. New York: Pyramid, 1962.

Harrison’s collection of Robot stories focuses on the gradual expansion of the ‘robot age’ tracing the development of humanity’s ‘slaves’ as they realize that they are superior to their creators. Eventually, ‘war with the robots’ breaks out.

Hebert, F. The Eyes of Heisenberg. New York: Berkley Books, 1966.

This novel is centered on a future where the Optimen, genetically altered humans that are nigh immortal, control society. Reproduction is highly restricted, with any children being born required to undergo genetic modification to become one of these immortals. When Lizbeth and Harvey Durant invoke an obscure law so they can witness their child’s operation, things quickly spiral out of control.

Heinlein, R. The Door into Summer. New York: Doubleday, 1957.

Heinlein’s time-travelling novel features a protagonist who was previously ousted from his company, Hired Girl, Inc., a corporation that manufactures vacuum cleaner robots. He strives to one up his former company by developing the Flexible Frank, all-purpose cleaning droids.

Heinlein, R. “Waldo” (1950). In The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein. New York: Tor Books, 1999.

Waldo isn’t strong, but his intelligence more than compensates for his physical weakness in this Heinlein story, where the protagonist, exiled from earth, creates massive robotic appendages, ‘waldoes’ that only he can manipulate.

Houellebecq, Michel. Les Particules élémentaires (1998, trans. as Atomised by Frank Wynne, 2000; published in the US as The Elementary Particles).

Bruno is a sex-obsessed, frustrated young man. His brother Michel is a biophysicist, a man uninterested in sex, whose work developing an immortal race of asexual beings painfully and ironically contrasts with his siblings suffering.

—. La Possibilité d’une île (2005, trans. as The Possibility of an Island by Gavin Bowd, 2006)

Hughes, T. The Iron Man: A Story in Five Nights (1968). New York: Knopf, 1999.

This children’s book explores the nature of robotics and what it means to be human. At first the humans attempt to catch the ‘iron man’ because it frightens them. However, when an alien threat appears and threatens to endanger all humanity, it becomes apparent that only the iron man can stop it.

The Iron Woman. London: Faber and Faber, 1994.

Jones, G. Escape Plans. London: Allen and Unwin, 1986.

Gwyneth Jones’ novel presents a future where humans are now governed by the protective influence of vast computer intelligence VENTUR, and have been segregated from Earth, living in off-world colonies so the resource striped planet can heal. It follows human ALIC as she vacations to the surface. Contact with a ‘sub’ (a human living on the’ subcontinent’, the planet surface) named Millie threatens ALIC’s entire world view.

Jones, N.R. The Jameson Satellite (1931). North Hollywood, CA: Aegypan, 2011. Also at Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/files/26906/26906-h/26906-h.htm.

Professor Jameson, knowing his mortality but desperately wanting to fight it, decides to freeze himself in outer space, taking the necessary precautions to preserve his body and protect it from meteorites. Far in the future a race of mechanical alien’s encounter Jameson’s ‘satellite’.

King, S. The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla. Hampton Falls: Donald M. Grant, 2003.

The antagonist Wolves in King’s fifth novel of the Fantasy Dark Tower series aren’t what they seem: Roland’s ka-tet eventually discovers that they are in fact machines.

Leckie, A. Ancilliary Justice. New York: Orbit, 2013.

Breq was originally one among thousands of soldiers controlled by the Justice of Toren, a massive self-aware starship that diverts its intelligence into a multitude of ‘ancillaries’. Due to an act of treachery however, Breq is the sole surviving manifestation of the Justice of Toren, and consequently it is up to her to seek vengeance.

Levin, I. The Stepford Wives. New York: Random House, 1972.

In a quiet Connecticut town, something strange is happening: Joanna Eberhart has moved to Stepford with her family, and becomes increasingly suspicious of the servile nature of many of the community’s women. Gradually it is revealed that they are being replaced with robotic counterparts.

MacLeod, K. The Night Sessions. New York: Pyr, 2012.

MacLeod’s novel is set in an alternate history where 9/11 triggered a global religious conflict. In independent Scotland secularism has triumphed over religion. A key to the secularists’ victory was their use of robots; the purpose of these robots now that the war has ended, and the tension between the robots and their creators, are recurring themes.

McBride A.R. Isaac Asimov’s Caliban. New York: Ace Books, 1993.

Written with Asimov’s permission, this novel by McBride is set in a universe colonized by humanity with the help of robots programmed to follow the three laws of robotics. However, an accident results in the construction of a revolutionary robot whose existence threatens man’s reliance on machine. The three laws of robotics mean nothing to the newly created Caliban.

McEvoy, S. Not Quite Human #01: Batteries Not Included. Archway, 1985.

This children’s novel focuses on CHIP, a robot created by the genius Dr. Jonas Carson. To test him, Carson disguises CHIP as a human boy. In some ways, CHIP is superior to humans, possessing superhuman strength and speed, but in other ways his mechanistic structure is a hindrance.

Meyer, M. Cinder. London: Macmillan Publishers, 2012.

Protagonist Cinder is second-class citizen, a cyborg in a future society where humans and robots coexist.

Mitchell, D. Cloud Atlas. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2004.

This experimental novel tells a unified narrative through a multitude of characters who are separated by both space and time. One of these characters is Somni-45, a fabricant (synthetically grown human) who lives in a dystopian unified future Korea. Somni-45 and her kind are used as slaves by the ‘pureblood’ humans, who control fabricants via emotional suppressing drugs. Eventually, Somni-45 unwittingly joins a resistance movement.

Moore, C.L. “No Woman Born.” In The Best of C.L. Moore. New York: Ballantine, 1976.

Popular actress Deidre dies in a theatre fire, only to be brought back to life, her brain encased in a robotic shell.

Naylor, G. Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers. New York: Roc Books, 1992.

This comedic sci-fi novel depicts the efforts of Dave Lister, a young man who after a night of binge drinking finds himself far from planet Earth. Desperate to get back home, Lister signs on with the mining ship Red Dwarf, only to discover the ship does not return to his home for four years. Lister is given tasks considered too menial for even the maintenance droids.

Odle, E.V. The Clockwork Man (1923). Radium Science Fiction Series. Boston and New York: HiLo Books, 2013.

Thousands of years in the future, an advanced race known as the ‘Makers’ endow humanity with the ability to traverse time and space by inserting clockwork devices into their heads. Due to a malfunction, of these ‘clockwork men’ accidently is transported to 1920’s England.

Piercy, M. He, She and It. New York: Fawcett Books, 1991.

This novel follows two love stories that parallel one another. In a dystopian future, Shira returns to Tikva, a “Jewish free zone” where she grew up. She meets a cyborg, illegally made to defend the Free State, and gradually falls in love. Shira’s grandmother relates the story of a rabbi’s daughter in the 1600’s who falls in love with the golem her father creates to defend his community.

Pohl, F. Man Plus. New York: Random House, 1976.

In an alternate history where the cold war continued to escalate, astronaut Roger Torraway is selected for the Man Plus program: Torraway will be sent to Mars, but the catch is, before his trip NASA will radically transform his body so he doesn’t have to wear a space suit. Torraway is made into a mechanical monstrosity.

Powers, R. Galatea 2.2 (1995). New York: Picador, 2004.

A sci-fi reimagining of Pygmalion. After a rough breakup, Richard Powers returns to his alma mater to teach as a professor. After befriending the eccentric computer scientist Philip Lentz, Powers is given a unique opportunity. Lentz and a team of scientists have developed an artificial intelligence, and would like Powers to ‘educate’ the AI, named Helen.

Rucker, R. The Ware Tetralogy. Four Novels by Rudy Rucker. Gaithersburg, MD: Prime Books, 2010.

This series of four novels features the boppers, a race of robots who were programmed to have free will (the man who performed this programming, protagonist Cobb Anderson, was unsuccessfully charged with treason for doing so). The boppers, exiled to the moon, form their own complex society.

Sedia, E. The Alchemy of Stones. New York: Prime Books, 2008.

This novel conflates fantasy and sci-fi, depicting an alternate world where practitioners of magic and artificers of advanced, steampunk-level technology coexist. Main character Mattie is one of the few mechanical automatons in Ayona, a Victorian style city state. Although ostensibly free, Mattie’s creator still possesses the literal wind-up key to her heart, a device she needs to remain active.

Shirow, M. Ghost in the Shell. Illus. M. Shirow. Japan: Kodansha, 1989-90. Manga.

Takes place in a future Japan where technology has dramatically increased in use. Cybernetic modification is common; it is even possible, as is the case for protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi, to contain a human brain inside a full body prosthetic.

Shirow, M. Ghost in the Shell 2:Man Machine Interface. Illus. M. Shirow. Japan: Kodansha, 1991-97. Manga.

Silverberg, R., Ed. The Androids Are Coming: Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, and More. New York: Brownstone Books, 2000.

Collection of classis robot tales by some of the eminent authors in the field, including Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, and Avram Davidson. The story by Davidson, “The Golem” puts a robotic twist on Jewish folklore, depicting a ‘golem’ (robot) arriving to “destroy” and old Jewish couple, only to be distracted, and eventually hypnotized, by the couple on account of their incessant chatter.

Simmons, D. Ilium. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.

Simmons’ futuristic retelling of Homeric myth features numerous cybernetic beings, as well as the robotic moravec race, entities created by humans now long extinct who live on Jupiter’s moons.

Sladek, J.  Roderick or The Education of a Young Machine (1980). In The Complete Roderick. New York: the Overlook Press, 2004.

In this reimagining of Voltaire’s Candide, hapless protagonist, the robot Roderick, goes from one awkward situation to the next as he tries to live an honest life amongst humans, who cause him nothing but trouble.

Tik-Toc. London: Victor Gollantz, 1983.

Stross, C. Saturn’s Children. New York: Ace Books/London: Orbit Books, 2008.

Humanity is extinct. The surviving robotic creations of mankind have established a feudal hierarchy in the solar system; main character Freya Nakamichi-47, was designed to be aesthetically pleasing to men, but now that humans are gone, at the start of this novel is reduced to doing manual labor for the elite, ‘aristo’ class.

Tevis, W. Mockingbird. New York: Doubleday, 1980.

The character Spofforth is immortal, an android who has lived for centuries. A key component of Tevis’ novel however is the disillusioned Spofforth’s desire to die.

Thompson, A. Virtual Girl. New York: Ace Science Fiction, 1993.

Arnold illegally builds an android companion: Maggie, who is initially naïve and trusting. After an altercation where the two separate however, Maggie goes on a journey of self-discovery, questioning her own existence and purpose the more she learns about the world, a world that her creator never intended her to see.

Urasawa, N. Pluto. Illus. N. Urasawa. Japan: Shogakukan, 2003-09. Manga.

Protagonist Gesicht is a robotic detective working for Europol, trying to solve a string of murders that have targeted both humans and androids in a futuristic society where the two groups co-exist. Over time it becomes more and more apparent that the murderer is a robot as well, unusual for their kind.

Valente, C. Silently and Very Fast. Stirling, NJ: Wyrm Publishing, 2011.

This experimental novella takes place within the Interior, a matrix like software program where reality can be manipulated by Neva, the host. Neva is amalgamated with Elefsis, an artificial intelligence created in the Interior.

Wilson, D.H. Robopocalypse. New York: Doubleday, 2011.

A computer scientist makes accidently unleashes the highly advanced artificial intelligence Archos-R14. The AI seeks to destroy humanity and begins sabotaging their appliances and robot servants, infecting technology with a “precursor virus” allowing the rogue AI to take control and wreak havoc. This starts the ‘New War’ which threatens humanities very existence, and also serves as a catalyst for changes in the way robots behave; thanks to Archos-R14, the robot Mikiko can suddenly ‘awaken’ other robots making them ‘freeborn’ (self-aware).

Williamson, J. The Humanoids (1948). New York: Tom Doherty Assoc Inc., 1996.

Williamson’s sci-fi novel is focused on a desperate human resistance to the sleek, black ‘humanoids’, androids created by a scientist ostensibly to serve mankind, but that quickly become more of a threat to humanity’s survival. The humanoids built in prime-directive stipulates that they allow no human to come to harm, but for the humanoids, this means preventing humans from doing just about anything.

Willis, C. All About Emily. Burton, Michigan: Subterranean Press, 2011.

Aging actress Claire Havilland comes into contact with Emily, the mysterious niece of a famous roboticist. Despite Emily’s praise of Havilland’s performances, Havilland is put off by the eerie similarly of the situation to the film All About Eve. It is gradually revealed that Emily is more than she appears.

Wyndham, J. “The Lost Machine” (1932). In The Best of John Wyndham. Sphere Books, 1973.

This early science fiction tale depicts a sentient Martian robot’s crash landing on earth, and his subsequent longing for one of his own kind.

Zucker R. M. I, Robot: To Protect. New York: Roc Books, 2011.

This prequel to Asimov’s groundbreaking robot series focuses on a younger Dr. Susan Calvin and her experiences at the Manhattan teaching hospital, where she works on groundbreaking nano-technology, among other key advances in robotics.

 


List compiled by Karen Asp, Alex Baker and Teresa Heffernan. Annotations by Alex Baker.

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