As speculative fiction has grown and evolved, the original sub-genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror have fractured into even more sub-genres. In this series of “SF subgenres,” I’ll not only identify and define these sub-genres, I’ll help you find resources for engaging with these sub-genres right here in Long Beach.
Science Fiction Robots and Androids Defined
In 1920, Czech playwright Karel Capek wrote R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). The play is one of the first uses of artificial human-like beings in art and literature. Interestingly enough, Capek’s robots were manufactured by biotechnology, not mechanics, which is what the term “robot” can come to be associated with in English.
The word robot comes from the word robota, which mean “serf labor,” but can also be used to mean “drudgery” or “hard work,” in Czech, Slovak and Polish.
In science fiction, the term “robot” is generally used to refer to artificial devices or beings created through mechanical means. When a robot starts looking more like a person and less like a machine, it is usually called a humaniform robot or android. As a side note, androids are male in appearance and a female android is technically a gynoid. The fusion of robotics and living tissue is a cyborg.
Examples of Science Fiction Robots and Androids
Novels: Isaac Asimov’s The Bicentennial Man, a poignant story about what it means to be human, started off as a novella, and later expanded into a novel. Robin Williams played the lead in the film adaptation. Asimov wrote many short stories and novels features robots and his Three Laws of Robotics. The first novel in his Robots series was The Caves of Steel, which was followed by The Naked Sun.
Short Stories: I, Robot is an anthology of Isaac Asimov’s robot short stories. Other anthologies of note include The Coming of the Robots edited by Sam Moskowitz, The Metal Smile edited by Damon Knight and The Robot and the Man edited by Martin Greenberg.
Film: The 1927 silent film Metropolis features a female robot/android. The Star Wars films have the now well-known robots C3PO and R2-D2. Blade Runner featured biologically engineered androids. Android, starring Klaus Kinsky, featured an android that I believe was an inspiration for Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Data. The Terminator series of films launched by director James Cameron features androids and robots out to exterminate humankind. Pixar’s Wall-E is a cute tale about a garbage collecting robot left behind when humans left Earth.
Television: Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation; St. Eve Edison from the 1992 TV Series Mann & Machine, Andromeda’s android avatar from Andromeda; K-9 from Doctor Who; The Robot from Lost in Space; Cylons from Battlestar Galactica; and Twiki from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
Robots, androids and cyborgs can also be found in art, comics, manga, video games and other forms of science fiction expression.
Long Beach Robots and Androids
3900 Via Oro Avenue
This company manufactures robots used in the automotive industry, from small assembly robots to much larger articulated robots. DENSO small industrial robots are used by companies worldwide.
Los Angeles Regional FIRST Robotics Competition
March 24-26, 2011
Long Beach Arena
This annual competition presented by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) gives kids the opportunity to develop analytical thinking skills while developing robots.
Do you see the world through genre-coloured glasses? For more science fiction, fantasy and horror news and information, check out The Genre Traveler, the travel resource for science fiction, fantasy and horror fans.