04 December 2019

I, Robot (Author)

I am delighted to have a story in the December issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine, my first appearance there.  "Robot Carson" is, I guess, the second time a story of mine began with what you might call a vision.  Not a dream, because I was wide awake.

The image that popped into my head was a woman answering the door and finding a chest freezer on her stoop.  Not literally a freezer, just an object of that size and shape.  Turned out to be a robot, working for the cops.

And as you may deduce, its name turned out to be Carson.

That's pretty much all I have to say about the story.  It's short.  Go ahead and read it and see what you think.  You can read the first page here.

My first encounter with robots (well, barring Lost in Space and similar kiddy stuff) was in the ninth grade when I bought a paperback of Isaac Asimov's I, Robot. It's a collection of short stories   (The movie of the same name, by the way, has very little in common with the book.)

The stories are loosely connected by an interview with Dr. Susan Calvin, who appears in some of them.  She is the chief robopsychologist for U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc.

Perhaps the most famous thing about these stories is the Three Laws of Robotics.  (And by the way, Asimov coined the word "robotics."  He assumed it already existed.)   Many other authors have silently adopted the Laws or otherwise played with the concept.  Here they are:

 First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
The worst from dozens of available covers.
Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Asimov found many clever ways to play with these rules (Example: If a robot could read minds, would hurting feelings count as harming a human being?)

Asimov went on to write a series of mystery novels featuring a pairing of human and robots, beginning with The Caves of Steel.

His robot cop appeared to be human.  As far as I know, none of his robots were ever mistaken for a freezer.  So I can claim at least that much originality.


  1. Congratulations!

    With trendy new refrigerators claiming to let you know when you're short of eggs, a robot freezer doesn't see so far out after all!

  2. Looking forward to reading this, Robot! I mean Rob.

  3. Freezer robot cop sounds plausible to me. And I, too, loved Asimov's robot stories. I especially loved "Victory Unintentional", where Jupiter natives assume that the robotic expedition sent by Earth were humans...

  4. Looking forward to your story Rob! My favorite robot is Robby from Forbidden Planet. Robby famously obeys Robot Law #1 by not being able to attack the monster from the Id, which is an extension of Dr Morbius.

  5. I'll have to figure out how to acquire that issue of Mystery Weekly.

    But to raise a different issue. I had, from the first time I read it (in the late 1950s), a problem with

    The First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

    Because there's an immediate and inherent potential contradiction. What if I am attempting to kill Rob Lopresti and the only way a robot can prevent it is by killing me? That violates the first part of the law. But failing to kill me violates the second part of the law. What's a poor robot to do?

    I actually wrote a letter to Asimov (in the late 1960s) asking him about that, and didn't get a reply. (Given that he had to be getting hundreds of letters weekly, I was not surprised.)

    (Incidentally, I love his Black Widower short stories.)

  6. Thanks for the comments. Yes, Don, I don't think Dr A. ever addressed that one. Could have made a good story. But he never did run out of material.

  7. I'm a little late to the party, but congratulations on your story in Mystery Weekly, Rob! That's terrific.


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