What are the most imporant modern robot stories and books?

I’m writing the first comprehensive history of robots in popular culture. Obviously, science fiction plays a huge part in that.

I’ve got a pretty good handle on classic sf, with a database of over 300 stories from Gernsback to the early 1960s. That’s when the f&sf world exploded and moved from being short story based to novel based, although the sheer number of shorter works published remained huge.

I can’t read everything (though I’ve read a majority of those early works) and can’t include everything, so I’m asking for help. What would your nominations be for the critical robot stories and novels that I have to include? Please try to limit works to those which feature humanoid artificial robots or androids. I’m drawing the line at electronic brains, sentient computers, cyborgs and brain-machine hookups, virtual brains, and all the other variants. The robots also need to be a major character or otherwise the point of the story. Societies with robots in the background may be interesting but secondary.

Primarily, I’m looking for works that have something to say about the relationship between humans and things/beings/people created in their image. The technological, societal, and personal aspects all are important. What do you recommend I read? (Read. Watch is a separate thread.)

In recent work, Robopocalypse is a good option.

Charles Stross’ Saturn’s Children and Neptune’s Brood, which depict an all-robot society.

David Brin had a couple of stories about societies with both humans and robots: “Lungfish” is probably the most relevant, since in that one, new robots are mentored by humans who take a parental role, but “The Warm Space” may also be of note.
Egan used a similar idea in “Singleton” in which a robot is raised from infancy by humans (the brain emulates an infant brain, in an artificial body that looks like (but is much tougher than) a human infant body (http://www.gregegan.net/MISC/SINGLETON/Singleton.html).

Dan Simmons’ robots who love Shakespeare and Proust (in “Ilium” and “Olympos” are notable, too.

Thanks. I’ll be adding these to my list.

Some of Bank’s Culture novels feature humanoid avatars of Minds as characters, which may qualify - Excession & Hydrogen Sonata come to mind. There’s Feril in *Against a Dark Background *as well, although it’s not a Culture novel.

The most interesting novel I’ve read for year which features robots is Autonomous by Annalee Newitz. Just out from Tor.
Set in 2144, featuring a society with all sorts of robots with varying skills and levels of independence. Most are indentured labour, as are many humans, although a rare few have achieved autonomy. It’ll be on my personal shortlist of books of the year, I’m sure.

This is a comprehensive review (which probably gives away too much if you just wanted to read it for enjoyment)

One of the best robots of the 1940s is Gnut, the giant robot of* Farewell to the Master* by Harry Bates. The story was the basis of the 50s film The Day the Earth Stood Still and its later remake, both of which ruined the impact of the story by changing the amazing ending in which we learn concerning Klaatu and Gnut just who who was the master and who the servant. Its one of the seminal robot stories in SF.

Note that the “moravecs” are not robots, per se - while they are manufactured beings with extensive mechanical and electronic components, they also have human brains, sensory organs and presumably other body parts. I think I recall them eating, too.

Not one of the most important, but I bring it up because I know the author – Alloprene appeared last year in Analog.

Hm. I don’t think the moravecs have biological brains (though they do have some biological components); they routinely do things (like reading “Remembrance of Things Past” multiple times (in multiple languages) in a very short time) that meat brains couldn’t.

Have you read “I, Row-Boat” by Cory Doctorow? It’s a short story homage to Asimov’s robot stories.


Interesting how themes keep appearing. This was a major theme in early 50s stories.

Thanks, but lets keep the timeline to the 60s and later. Since most of these recommendations are fairly new, I’m wondering if you (plural) can fill in stuff from the 1970s and 1980s.

While I’m wondering, have them been any Hugo or Nebula winners about robots since Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s “The Darfsteller”?

Well, there’s John Sladek’s Roderick & Roderick at Random. Also Tik-Tok. Very popular (in the UK at least) when they came out in the early 80s.
The first was a nominee for the PKD Award and Tik-Tok for the JWCampbell.

In Ken MacLeod’s recent trilogy, beginning with Dissidence, one of the main characters is a robot.

Looking at Hugo novel winners, I’m not seeing much. Robots of Dawn was nominated in 1984. Neptune’s Brood was nominated in 2014. The Ancillary Sword/Ancillary Justice/Ancillary Mercy trilogy (won 2014, nominated 2015 and 2016) involves ship AIs that use mindwiped humans as drones. A Closed and Common Orbit (nominated 2017) has as a lead character a ship AI that has been retrofitted into a humanoid robot body.

vN (2012) by Madeline Ashby might be worth a read. It’s mostly an action/adventure story, but it has some depressing themes around how the androids are used by humans.

Tanith Lee, The Silver Metal Lover and its sequel Metallic Love. I don’t know how “important” they are, but they were the first (and so far, the only) titles that sprang to mind.

The Bicentennial Man won the Hugo novella in 1977. In 2001 Agape Among the Robots was a nominee, which I haven’t read, but here is a thumbnail of it.

Right. I should have stipulated in the OP that I already knew about Asimov and the huge industry of robot books using his name and even the ones continued by his wife. It’s like it was so obvious I couldn’t see it.

I assume that includes Robot City?