Isaac Asimov coined the term Frankenstein Complex to describe the people’s fear for mechanical men. The uneasiness for artificial humanoid is an ancient archetypal feeling that has found, in the twentieth century, a modern embodiment in robotic literature. Since the play RUR : Rossum’s Universal Robots by Karel Čapek has appeared in 1920 a negative concept of robot has spread out. Only at the end of the thirties things began to change; three short stories were published and robot started to gain sympathetic personalities. I’d like to introduce readers to them.
1) Helen O’Loy is a 1938 short story by Lester Del Rey. It tells the story of two friends – Phil and Dave – who determined to solve the lacking of emotions in mechanical men. The first was an endocrinologist while the second a technician who owned a repair shop in Messina, Italy. Once they met it was only a matter of time before they started to blend their knowledge and to develop a robot capable of human passions. The first experiment with Lena – the robotic housemaid – encouraged them to keep searching and pushed them to buy a new better model; once assembled they called her Helen O’Loy.
“She was beautiful, a dream in spun plastics and metals, something Keats might have seen dimly when he wrote his sonnet.”
The experiment succeeded perfectly and she started to act exactly like a human and eventually she fell in love with Dave who finally accepted her as his wife. The story is narrated by the aged Phil who, received the news of his friend’s death, prepares himself to accomplish the last Helen‘s will.
2) I, Robot is a 1939 short story by Eando Binder, which was the pen-name of Earl Andrew Binder and his younger brother Otto. It is about the Dr. Link creation of a robot – who he called Adam (Adam Link) – after twenty years of researchers. Since the first week of his awakening the creature showed human abilities which encouraged the doctor to unchain and free him. Dr. Link himself supervised his education and in a few months Adam was ready to be introduced into society as an adult citizen. Unfortunately an accident happens and Dr. Link died. Believed to be the murderer, Adam is hunted by community and forced to escape with Terry the dog as his only companion. Finally hidden in the Dr. Link house he’s now writing down his memories ready to switch definitely off his young life.
“Ironic, isn’t it, that I have the very feelings you are so sure I lack?”
3) Robbie is a 1940 short story by Isaac Asimov. It tells about the friendship between Gloria, a 8 years old girl, and Robbie her mechanical playmate. They are two years now that they spend time playing hide-and-seek and telling stories: Robbie loves Cinderella and the Gloria‘s ability to tell him it over and over again. Unfortunately Grace, Gloria‘s mother – under the influence of neighbours opinions – grows unhappy on the robot’s presence in the house and finally she persuades her husband to sell Robbie back to the factory. Gloria gets sad and her parents attempts to make her mind change are unsuccessful. Finally a visit to the robot factory leads Gloria back into the arms of his old friend.
“Robbie’s chrome-steel arms […] wound about the little girl gently and lovingly, and his eyes glowed a deep, deep red.”
Some of my robot stories reviews are available at bestsciencefictionstories.com