In our blog, we have already shown you how robots have influenced our culture. They are not only a part of our scientific world, they also have an impact on our films and music. But even before the golden age of cinema robots were already popular in another entertaining part of our lives. That’s why we want to introduce you to the most interesting examples of robots in fictional literature.
It all started centuries ago when the first stories about artificial beings were told. But these creatures were not really similar to the image of a robot that we have today. It took some time and a technological evolution until a more familiar image of the robot came up. The term "android" was coined by French author Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam in 1886. In his novel "The Future Eve" he introduced the character Hadaly, a mechanical woman who was powered by electricity. The term "robot" was coined much later. It was used in the 1920 drama "R.U.R. – Rossum’s Universal Robots" by Czech author Karel Čapek. It is about artificial beings which are installed as workers but soon start a rebellion against mankind.
When we write about robots and literature we need to include Isaac Asimov (✝1992). He is not only one of the most famous science fiction authors, he also introduced us to the three laws of robotics which he wrote down in his short story "Runaround" in 1942. The Russian-born Asimov who also worked as a professor of biochemistry had a passion for science fiction and started to write short stories when he was young. During his lifetime, Asimov published several non-fictional books, detective stories and robot literature like the compilation of short stories with the title "I, Robot" from 1952.
Technical documentations are not the only medium to find interesting works about robots. Fictional stories of robots can be found in several literary genres. One great peace of literature with a robot as a minor character is "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury. It features mechanical hounds that are trained to chase public enemies and book owners in a dystopian world. One of the funniest robotic characters in history is probably Marvin the paranoid android from Douglas Adams’ "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy". He is constantly depressed and bored and gives us great quotes like "Pardon me for breathing, which I never do anyway so I don’t know why I bother to say it, oh God, I’m so depressed. Here’s another one of those self-satisfied doors. Life! Don’t talk to me about life."
More literature about robots that we can recommend:
"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (1968) by Philip K. Dick
"The Humanoids" (1948) by Jack Williamson
"The Soul of the Robot" (1974) by Barrington J. Bayley
"Roderick" (1981) by John Sladek