|Cover artist||Edd Cartier|
|December 2, 1950|
|Media type||Print (hardback)|
|Followed by||The Rest of the Robots|
The Complete Robot
I, Robot is a fixup collection made up of science fiction short stories by American writer Isaac Asimov. The stories originally appeared in the American magazines Super Science Stories and Astounding Science Fiction between 1940 and 1950 and were then collected into a 1950 publication Gnome Press in 1950, in an initial edition of 5,000 copies.
The stories are woven together by a framing narrative in which the fictional Dr. Susan Calvin tells each story to a reporter (who serves as the narrator) in the 21st century. Although the stories can be read separately, they share a theme of the interaction of humans, robots, and morality, and when combined they tell a larger story of Asimov's fictional history of robotics.
Several of the stories feature the character of Dr. Calvin, chief robopsychologist at U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc., the major manufacturer of robots. Upon their publication in this collection, Asimov wrote a framing sequence presenting the stories as Calvin's reminiscences during an interview with her about her life's work, chiefly concerned with aberrant behaviour of robots and the use of "robopsychology" to sort out what is happening in their positronic brain. The book also contains the short story in which Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics first appear, which had large influence on later science fiction and had impact on thought on ethics of artificial intelligence as well. Other characters that appear in these short stories are Powell and Donovan, a field-testing team which locates flaws in USRMM's prototype models.
The collection shares a title with the then recent short story "I, Robot" (1939) by Eando Binder (pseudonym of Earl and Otto Binder), which greatly influenced Asimov. Asimov had wanted to call his collection Mind and Iron and objected when the publisher made the title the same as Binder's. In his introduction to the story in Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories (1979), Asimov wrote:
It certainly caught my attention. Two months after I read it, I began "Robbie", about a sympathetic robot, and that was the start of my positronic robot series. Eleven years later, when nine of my robot stories were collected into a book, the publisher named the collection I, Robot over my objections. My book is now the more famous, but Otto's story was there first.— Isaac Asimov (1979)
- "Robbie" (1940, revised 1950)
- "Runaround" (1942), (novelette)
- "Reason" (1941)
- "Catch That Rabbit" (1944)
- "Liar!" (1941)
- "Little Lost Robot" (1947) (novelette)
- "Escape!" (1945)
- "Evidence" (1946) (novelette)
- "The Evitable Conflict" (1950) (novelette)
At least three of the short stories from I, Robot have been adapted for television. The first was a 1962 episode of Out of this World hosted by Boris Karloff called "Little Lost Robot" with Maxine Audley as Susan Calvin. Two short stories from the collection were made into episodes of the British series Out of the Unknown. These are "The Prophet" (1967), based on "Reason"; and "Liar!" (1969). Both episodes were wiped by the BBC and are no longer thought to exist, although video clips, audio extracts and still photographs have survived. Repurposed robot costumes from the former appeared in the 1968 Doctor Who serial The Mind Robber. The 12th episode of the USSR science fiction TV series This Fantastic World, filmed in 1987 and entitled Don't Joke with Robots, was based on works by Aleksandr Belyaev and Fredrik Kilander as well as Asimov's "Liar!" story.
Both the original and revival series of The Outer Limits include episodes named "I, Robot" but these are adaptations of an unrelated work by Earl and Otto Binder under their joint pseudonym "Eando Binder". The Binders' story introduced a recurring character, the robot named Adam Link.
In August 2023, David S. Goyer revealed that he had gotten permission from FOX head Lachlan Murdoch, a self-professed fan of Apple TV+'s Foundation, to adapt concepts from I, Robot to the series' 2023 second season, in "tying [Demerzel/Daneel] into the I, Robot laws [and] doing a spin-off mini-series that specifically delves into our version of "The Robot Wars".
Harlan Ellison's screenplay (1977–1978)
During the late 1970s, Warner Bros. acquired the option to make a film based on the book, but no screenplay was ever accepted. The most notable attempt was one by Harlan Ellison, who collaborated with Asimov himself to create a version which captured the spirit of the original. Asimov is quoted as saying that this screenplay would lead to "the first really adult, complex, worthwhile science fiction movie ever made." Ellison worked on the project from December 1977 to December 1978. Asimov himself advised Ellison as to the scientific validity of some elements of the script.
Ellison's script, taking inspiration from Citizen Kane, began with reporter Robert Bratenahl tracking down information about Susan Calvin's alleged former lover Stephen Byerly. This provided for a framing sequence to adaptations of Asimov's stories. These differ from the originals in that they more strongly center around Calvin as a character. Ellison placed Calvin into stories in which she had not appeared and amplified her role in ones in which she did.
Although well-regarded by critics, the screenplay is generally considered to have been unfilmable for practical reasons, given the technology and average film budgets of the time. Asimov also believed that the film may have been scrapped owing to a conflict between Ellison and the producers: when the producers suggested changes in the script, instead of being diplomatic as advised by Asimov, Ellison "reacted violently" and offended them.
The script was serialized in Asimov's Science Fiction magazine in late 1987, and appeared in book form with illustrations by Mark Zug under the title I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay, in 1994 (reprinted 2004, ISBN 1-4165-0600-4). Both Ellison and Asimov received credits.
The film I, Robot, starring Will Smith, was released by Twentieth Century Fox on July 16, 2004 in the United States. Its plot uses elements of "Little Lost Robot", a few of Asimov's character names and the Three Laws. The plot of the movie is actually original, though, and based on the screenplay Hardwired by Jeff Vintar, a script not based on Asimov's stories and has been compared to Asimov's The Caves of Steel, which revolves around the murder of a roboticist (although the rest of the film's plot is not based on that novel or other works by Asimov). Unlike the works by Asimov, the movie featured hordes of killer robots.
The Asimov estate asked Mickey Zucker Reichert (best known for the Norse fantasy Renshai series) to write three prequels for I, Robot, since she was a science fiction writer with a medical degree who had first met Asimov when she was 23, although she did not know him well. She was the first female writer to be authorized to write stories based on Asimov's novels.
Berkley Books ordered the I, Robot prequels, which included:
- I, Robot: To Protect (2011)
- I, Robot: To Obey (2013)
- I, Robot: To Preserve (2016)
Popular culture references
In 2004, The Saturday Evening Post said that I, Robot's Three Laws "revolutionized the science fiction genre and made robots far more interesting than they ever had been before." I, Robot has influenced many aspects of modern popular culture, particularly with respect to science fiction and technology. One example of this is in the technology industry. The name of the real-life modem manufacturer named U.S. Robotics was directly inspired by I, Robot. The name is taken from the name of a robot manufacturer ("United States Robots and Mechanical Men") that appears throughout Asimov's robot short stories.
Many works in the field of science fiction have also paid homage to Asimov's collection.
An episode of the original Star Trek series, "I, Mudd" (1967), which depicts a planet of androids in need of humans, references I, Robot. Another reference appears in the title of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "I, Borg" (1992), in which Geordi La Forge befriends a lost member of the Borg collective and teaches it a sense of individuality and free will.
In the film Aliens (1986), the synthetic person Bishop paraphrases Asimov's First Law in the line: "It is impossible for me to harm, or by omission of action allow to be harmed, a human being."
An episode of The Simpsons entitled "I D'oh Bot" (2004) has Professor Frink build a robot named "Smashius Clay" (also named "Killhammad Aieee") that follows all three of Asimov's laws of robotics.
The animated science fiction/comedy Futurama makes several references to I, Robot. The title of the episode "I, Roommate" (1999) is a spoof on I, Robot although the plot of the episode has little to do with the original stories. Additionally, the episode "The Cyber House Rules" included an optician named "Eye Robot" and the episode "Anthology of Interest II" included a segment called "I, Meatbag." Also in "Bender's Game" (2008) the psychiatrist is shown a logical fallacy and explodes when the assistant shouts "Liar!" a la "Liar!". Leela once told Bender to "cover his ears" so that he would not hear the robot-destroying paradox which she used to destroy Robot Santa (he punishes the bad, he kills people, killing is bad, therefore he must punish himself), causing a total breakdown; additionally, Bender has stated that he is Three Laws Safe.
The positronic brain, which Asimov named his robots' central processors, is what powers Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as other Soong type androids. Positronic brains have been referenced in a number of other television shows including Doctor Who, Once Upon a Time... Space, Perry Rhodan, The Number of the Beast, and others.
Author Cory Doctorow has written a story called "I, Robot" as homage to and critique of Asimov, as well as "I, Row-Boat", both released in the 2007 short story collection Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present. He has also said, "If I return to this theme, it will be with a story about uplifted cheese sandwiches, called 'I, Rarebit.'"
Other cultural references to the book are less directly related to science fiction and technology. The album I Robot (1977), by The Alan Parsons Project, was inspired by Asimov's I, Robot. In its original conception, the album was to follow the themes and concepts presented in the short story collection. The Alan Parsons Project were not able to obtain the rights in spite of Asimov's enthusiasm; he had already assigned the rights elsewhere. Thus, the album's concept was altered slightly although the name was kept (minus comma to avoid copyright infringement). An album, I, Human (2009), by Singaporean band Deus Ex Machina, draws heavily upon Asimov's principles on robotics and applies it to the concept of cloning.
The Indian science fiction film Endhiran (2010) refers to Asimov's three laws for artificial intelligence for the fictional character "Chitti: The Robot". When a scientist takes in the robot for evaluation, the panel inquires whether the robot was built using the Three Laws of Robotics.
In Episode 15 of the Netflix series Young Sheldon, Dolomite, Apple Slices and a Mystery Woman, Sheldon is seen reading I, Robot.
- Asimov, Isaac (1979). Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories.
- "Realm of the Spacemen". The New York Times Book Review. February 4, 1951.
- Conklin, Groff (April 1951). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 59–61.
- Book Reviews. September 1951. pp. 124–125.
- "IMDb list of actresses that have played Susan Calvin". IMDb.
- (in Russian) State Fund of Television and Radio Programs Archived September 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- DavidGoyerFoundation (August 2, 2023). "AMA: Hello Reddit! I'm David S. Goyer, showrunner of Foundation on Apple TV and Director of episodes 202 and 203. Ask me anything!". Reddit. Retrieved August 2, 2023.
DavidGoyerFoundation: Will we do anything more with tying Demerzel into the I, Robot laws? Yes, for sure. Keep watching this season. We've even discussed doing a spin-off mini-series that specifically delves into our version of "The Robot Wars". No idea if we'll ever get there or if Apple or the audience have the appetite for it. Depends on S2 reception and beyond. Maybe we do that – or maybe we try to incorporate that storyline within one of the seasonal arcs.
- Weil, Ellen; Wolfe, Gary K. (2002). Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press. p. 126. ISBN 0-8142-0892-4.
- Isaac Asimov, "Hollywood and I". In Asimov's Science Fiction, May 1979.
- Topel, Fred (August 17, 2004). ""Jeff Vintar was Hardwired for I, ROBOT" (interview with Jeff Vintar, script writer)". Screenwriter's Utopia. Christopher Wehner. Archived from the original on August 31, 2018. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
- "Robbie, Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, 15 Minute Drama - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "Reason, Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, 15 Minute Drama - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "Little Lost Robot, Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, 15 Minute Drama - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "Liar, Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, 15 Minute Drama - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "The Evitable Conflict, Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, 15 Minute Drama - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "Isaac Asimov's 'I, Robot': Omnibus - BBC Radio 4 Extra". BBC. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "Fantasy author to write new 'Isaac Asimov' novels". October 29, 2009. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
- "Area author continues works of Isaac Asimov". Kalona News. May 25, 2011. Retrieved November 9, 2014.[permanent dead link]
- Kreiter, Ted. "Revisiting The Master Of Science Fiction". Saturday Evening Post. 276 (6): 38. ISSN 0048-9239.
- U.S. Robotics Press Kit, 2004, p3 PDF format Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- Wellman, Henry M. (December 3, 2019). Reading Minds: How Childhood Teaches Us to Understand People. Oxford University Press. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-19-087868-9.
- M. Keith Booker (2006). Drawn to Television: Prime-Time Animation from the Flintstones to Family Guy. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 122. ISBN 0-275-99019-2.
- Doctorow, Cory. "Cory Doctorow's Craphound.com". http://www.craphound.com/?p=189 (retrieved April 27, 2008)
- Doctorow, Cory. "Cory Doctorow's Craphound.com". Retrieved April 27, 2008.
- Official Alan Parsons Project website Archived 2009-02-18 at the Wayback Machine
- "Reviews". Live 4 Metal. Archived from the original on October 19, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
- "I, ROBOT".
General and cited references
- Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923–1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. p. 299.