J. Robert King


Rob Becomes an Angry Robot

For a long time, the robots have had it in for us.

Right now, my kids are snickering their way through a DVD of Wall-E, a doe-eyed robot’s view of humanity in all its self-destructive and hilarious decadence. In fact, my eldest son finds Wall-E not so much a cartoon parody but a sad reality–that humanity has become a race defined by its ability to sit on couches.

But this is just the latest android assault.

Think about the robot Sonny in I, Robot, who looks at humanity with those same doe-eyes, wanting to be like us and yet reviling who we are.

Think about the robot NEXUS models from Bladerunner (“Do androids dream of electric sheep?”) who are so dangerous because they want to become us–but luckily have only a hamster’s life span.

Think about the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica and the Cybermen and Daleks in Doctor Who, who have it in for humanity because of our chronic failure to be who we pretend to be.

Think about–yes–R2D2 and C3PO, who bumble through six movies trying to understand us and often end in a state of exasperation summed up by a single word: “Typical.”

So, why have I become an angry robot, much like these illustrious forebears? Of course, in part, it’s because Angry Robot Books has just signed me to two books (and they are awesome–the books and the publisher).

But the main reason that I have become an angry robot is that angry robots have always done what writers and artists and prophets have always done–look at the world from the point of view of a pariah and say what humans are getting wrong and what we are getting right.

Because that’s the thing about robots. They are oh-so-critical of human life at the same time that they’re oh-so-wishing they were human.

Just like writers.

It takes a strange mind, an outside mind, to see the world differently than anyone else. It takes a writer’s mind to engage in the kind of “double living” that allows one to write a blog while others gleefully watch a movie in the other room. It takes a robot mind, with those doe eyes that take everything in while simultaneously reflecting tragically on it all–to see the rottenness of being human while wishing with all our android hearts to be human.

So, I have become an angry robot. Or, more precisely, I have discovered that I am a NEXUS model of angry robot, which means I look human and act human even though I have superhuman powers–and the lifespan of a hamster.

April 12th, 2009
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