Czech writer Karel Čapek’s 1919 Play R.U.R. — which is about a hostile worker robot rebellion in the future year 1969 that leads to the extinction of the human race — is known for both its introduction of the word “robot” (R.U.R. was translated into English as “Rossum’s Universal Robots”) and also as insightful commentary into social class structure. R.U.R. is often cited as the influence for many science fiction novels that include robots.
More directly, it inspired filmmaker James Kerwin to make the film R.U.R.: Genesis, set in Čapek’s alt-history 1969, complete with ’60s styles and go-go dancers. Groovy, man.
The following serves as both a standalone short film and as a teaser for the forthcoming fill-length feature film.
What do you get when you cross robots with zombies? Jeremy Robinson knows one possible answer. It’s the plot of his new novel, XOM-B.
Here’s the synopsis and trailer:
A rising talent, Robinson is well-known in the community of action/adventure fans and has received amazing quotes in the past from big name authors like James Rollins, Steve Berry, and Scott Sigler. XOM-B is a riveting zombie novel with a great hook that is also an amazing plot twist, and is poised to bring him to the next level.
Freeman is a genius with an uncommon mixture of memory, intelligence and creativity. He lives in a worldwide utopia, but it was not always so. There was a time known as the Grind-when Freeman’s people lived as slaves to another race referred to simply as “Master.” They were property. But a civil rights movement emerged. Change seemed near, but the Masters refused to bend. Instead, they declared war. And lost. Now, the freed world is threatened by a virus, spread through bites, sweeping through the population. Those infected change–they are propelled to violence, driven to disperse the virus. Uniquely suited to respond to this new threat, Freeman searches for a cure, but instead finds the source–the Masters, intent on reclaiming the world. Freeman must fight for his life, for his friends and for the truth, which is far more complex and dangerous than he ever imagined.
Humans beware. As the robotic revolution continues to creep into our lives, it brings with it an impending sense of doom. What horrifying scenarios might unfold if our technology were to go awry? From self-aware robotic toys to intelligent machines violently malfunctioning, this anthology brings to life the half-formed questions and fears we all have about the increasing presence of robots in our lives. With contributions from a mix of bestselling, award-winning, and up-and-coming writers, and including a rare story by “the father of artificial intelligence,” Dr. John McCarthy, Robot Uprisings meticulously describes the exhilarating and terrifying near-future in which humans can only survive by being cleverer than the rebellious machines they have created.
Madeline Ashby is a science fiction writer, strategic foresight consultant, anime fan, and immigrant. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and IAM Sports & Entertainment. She has been a guest on TVO’s The Agenda multiple times. Her novels (vN and iD) are published by Angry Robot Books. Her fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity, and Tor.com.
Why Robots Are Cooler To Write About Than Vampires and Fairies
by Madeline Ashby
A while ago, someone asked me: “In a world full of vampires, were-creatures, angels, fae, and assorted other supernatural creatures, what made you choose robots (besides robots obviously being far superior)?”
Basically, I answered that the market was already saturated with stories about vampires and other supernatural creatures, especially by young female writers, and my contribution would likely go unnoticed. Second, I’ve never found vampires all that compelling as a story teller. I love consuming stories about them, but I don’t get much joy from creating stories about them. My ideal vampire story is about a vampire librarian, or a vampire museum curator, because that’s a really good job for immortal beings who can’t go outside. That, or some sort of IT job. Nobody wonders why you never seem to sleep; nobody questions how you get rid of annoying interns. Just use a SodaStream to funnel blood into another bottle of Code Red Mountain Dew, and you’re good to go.
…Now, does that sound exciting, to you? Does that sound dramatic? No. Of course it doesn’t. Because nobody wants to read about a vampire making a PowerPoint that explains how to boost CTR via social media widgets. People read books so they don’t have to think about that shit. But such are the extent of my vampire ideas. So, no vampires for me. Read the rest of this entry
Here’s Adam Marisett’s short film Amp. Grat effects (Marisett was an animator of District 9), though the script could use some work…
Here’s what it’s about:
10 years after leaving a war his father started, Quinn and Amp live in the slums selling illegal custom-tech just to afford the batteries that keep Amp alive.
When an old childhood friend tracks him down, Quinn is confronted with the dilemma of choosing to remain idle in a city run by the corrupt Coreley Corporation or finally finish the war he never wanted to be a part of.
Archaia Entertainment not only produces some of the most beautiful work in comics today, but they helpfully allow you to search their titles by genre (see the list here) so you can pick out a new book based on what you’re in the mood to read, even if you’ve never heard of the creators. Fantasy, Noir, SciFi/Adventure, Horror, and even Historical Fiction comics are neatly organized for your reading pleasure. That their catalog includes works from Jim Henson, Alethea Kontis, and a guy who wrote about a missing shoggoth tells me they’ve got a good sense of what genre fandom wants to read.
A prime example is volume one of Rust, by Royden Lepp.
Director Jake Schreier’s Robot & Frank was unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival and picked up by Sony. I have to admit, this (probably spoilery) trailer won me over instantly.
Robot & Frank is about an aging jewel thief (Frank, played by Frank Langella) who is suffering from dementia. His son (James Marsden) buys him a robot companion (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard)…who Frank then teaches to commit crimes. The film also stars Liv Tyler as Frank’s anti-robot daughter and Susan Sarandon as Frank’s love interest.
Robots. How about ‘em? They provide an endless source of fascination for the human race–though mostly we wonder how soon until they wipe us out. Cheery, right? That little Roomba keeping your floors clean? Could tomorrow become sentient, get tired of sucking dust and spark the Terminator/Skynet apocalypse. Best to just take it out back with a shotgun and give it the Ol’ Yeller treatment before it’s too late.
Science fiction writers often envision worlds where robots abound, performing tasks anywhere from household chores to acting as personal assistants to spaceship piloting to detective work and beyond. Plus all the sex, violence, and mayhem that tends to go along with unruly bits of technology. The following three books put robots in the spotlight, where they can beep, sputter, spark, and overthrow humanity to your heart’s content.
Brixton has degenerated into a disregarded area inhabited by London’s new robot workforce – robots built and designed to carry out all of the tasks which humans are no longer inclined to do. The mechanical population of Brixton has rocketed, resulting in unplanned, cheap and quick additions to the skyline.
The film follows the trials and tribulations of young robots surviving at the sharp end of inner city life, living the predictable existence of a populous hemmed in by poverty, disillusionment and mass unemployment. When the Police invade the one space which the robots can call their own, the fierce and strained relationship between the two sides explodes into an outbreak of violence echoing that of 1981.
Two acclaimed Korean directors unfurl three unique stories of human self-destruction in the modern high-tech era. In a hope to restore the humane compassion in the insusceptible modern age, the film displays an alternative form of genuine humanity. And thus you are stepping into the world of future, where a series of unexpected stories awaits you. All these stories originate from the earth. From the very earth you live on.
When robots become so ubiquitous that we enact laws against them, will sthey still be able to teach us what it means to be human? That’s the question raised by the touching story of No Robots, a beautifully done short film by Kimberly Knoll and Yunghan Chang.
IDW has announced a new Zombies vs. Robots prose ePub program called the “8×8 Plan”, which offers one new story each week for eight weeks. The program began on January 20th. Each titile is avilable for only 99 cents wherever fine eBooks are sold.
It’s really remarkable and exciting to learn about the research that’s happening on robots and artificial intelligence these days. It doesn’t get as much press as I feel it should, except when it manifests in odd and surprising places.
Siri, for example. One might argue that Siri — the conversationalist voice which comes with the iPhone 4S — isn’t true artificial intelligence, but frankly, I think it’s a matter of degrees. We humans are difference engines pulling from vast mental databases of information and past experience, making our decisions and our replies to the world. Is Siri any different?
Particularly when we begin taking these artificial intelligences with their responsive abilities and find a way to funnel the vast amount of information, personality, and life on the Internet into them (and find a way to make it USEFUL information. The Internet is many things, but considered as a mind, it’s a crazy person) we’ll very shortly find ourselves with some incredible intelligences.
Letter Never Sent looks at Fantasy vs. Science-fiction: “…fantasy is typically regressive and nostalgic. It represents a longing for the child’s world and an escape from reality…Science-fiction is prophetic where fantasy is sentimental. Science-fiction, since it encourages a more broad perspective, is more creative and interesting.”
Scalzi on Worldbuilding: “…I try to build my worlds at least two questions deep — that is, you make your creations robust enough to stand up to a general question and then a more specific followup question.”