" In this universe the night was falling; the shadows were lengthening towards an east that would not know another dawn. But elsewhere the stars were still young and the light of morning lingered; and along the path he once had followed, Man would one day go again"

Arthur C. Clarke Against the Fall of Night

Sunday, April 14, 2019


  My buddy Doug sent me a clip of this advance in robot locomotion. 10 years of progress in Boston Dynamics robotics GIF.


I have to admit I found it somewhat frightening. My comment to Doug was, "Pretty cool I would feel even better if I did not think it was probably designed to kill me in my bed. Too much SF, maybe." Doug suggested that I would hear it coming. All the more reason to allow all three dogs to sleep in the bed, (like they would move anyway). But hearing it coming and doing anything about it will, I suspect be two very different things.

  I have been thinking about robots a bit, in part because they appear in so much of the science fiction art I see, in part because they were a huge element in the first science fiction I read. 

  Asimov's robots were my first memorable introduction. But they were constrained, we hoped, by the 3 laws. Then there were lots of robots, good bad and indifferent, but for me the next really memorable robots were Simak's. 

They were everywhere, often as domestic help. Jenkins in City looks after the dogs, Richard Daniel in All the Traps of Earth is a servitor who has outlived his owners, Elmer in Cemetery World is a free robot who earned his living as a construction robot. Then you have the superseded robots who have adopted earthly religions that men have mostly abandoned, Simak must have liked this idea, they appear in in a number of this novels including Project Pope and A Choice of Gods.

But mostly they seemed to have entered domestic service. As this cover for Special Deliverance featuring a tea making Jurgens can attest. 

Jack Williamson in the story "With Folded Hands" indicated the even well meaning robots could go bad, but let us not go there for now.

Jurgens' shape above, was the robot shape I expected, bipedal, head, two arms, two legs, pretty much us in armour with a couple flashing lights.

Some even acted like us.


The first ones we got, in my home town of Windsor were not metal us, but basically arms with tools grafted on. They could not move freely or communicate, they didn't even have heads or legs. They could only perform simple repetitive tasks and violate, a cynic might say, all three laws.

This idea of robots and machine culture in general has progressed of course with golems, drones and AI's getting citizenship in Bank's Culture or Asher's Polarity series. And Well's Murderbot does seem to blur the line a bit, human? machine?, though we all love her and wish her well.


Inhuman robots are still scary. They can really push our buttons.

Which is why I absolutely loved this CLARKSWORLD cover "We are the Robots" by Waldemar Kazak.


Any robots in your life?

Cover Credits;

Caves of Steel, Pyramid (1962) cover by Ralph Brillhart

I, Robot, cover by Robert E. Schulz

"Aesop", Astounding (1947) cover by Alejandro
Project Pope, cover by Rowena Morrill

A Choice of Gods, (1972) cover by Michael Hinge, you can tell it was the 70's I had shirts with these colours like this, sigh.

Special Deliverance, cover by Micheal Whelan

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science fiction, one of Mel Hunter's Lonely Robot covers, but in this one he has a friend.

The Case Against Tomorrow, cover by Richard Powers

City, (1958) cover by Ed Valigursky, possibly the king of robot illustrators for this period.

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