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Bibliography for GURPS Robots
Androids and robots have been appearing in science fiction since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. There are far too many novels, TV shows and films featuring robots to list in this brief space. Instead, here's an annotated list of the works that, in the author's opinion, feature the most enjoyable, inspirational or gameable examples of robots, androids, artificial intelligences or nanotechnology. For more references, see the Campaigns chapter.
Asimov, Isaac, I, Robot. The earliest and best of this prolific writer's many works featuring robots, introducing the three laws of robotics and robot psychologist Susan Calvin. Asimov was the first to write stories in which robots did more than just rebel against their creators.
Asimov, Isaac, The Caves of Steel. A human and robot detective have to learn to work as partners. There are many sequels, some by other authors.
Banks, Iain, Use of Weapons. "The Culture" is a utopian future society in which humans and AIs work as partners. Several prequels and sequels.
Bear, Greg, Blood Music. The accidental release of biological nanomachines leads to apocalyptic events. One of the best "nanotechnology" novels, written just before the word came into use.
Bear, Greg, Queen of Angels. A cop investigates a murder in a Los Angeles in which nanotechnology is a fact of daily life.
Bear, Greg, The Forge of God. Earth is caught in a war between two groups of Von Neumann machines.
Benford, Gregory, Great Sky River. An alien machine civilization owns the stars. On a distant world, a small band of human cyborgs struggle to survive and reclaim mankind's destiny. Sequel: Tides of Light; other related books featuring robots: In the Ocean of Night and Across the Sea of Suns.
Berry, Stephen Ames, The Biofab War. An energetic space opera that begins on 20th-century Earth and races off into a multi-dimensional conflict between organic and machine intelligences. Many sequels.
Blish, James, The Seedling Stars. Radically-modified humans are used to colonize alien worlds.
Cherryh, C.J., Cyteen. The main focus of this story is on human cloning, but the way Cherryh's cloned "azi" are treated and controlled can easily apply to biological androids.
Dick, Philip K., Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The novel that inspired the movie Blade Runner (see below). The book has less cyberpunk atmosphere but more depth.
Gibson, William, Neuromancer. The cyberpunk classic. A streetwise computer hacker and a street-samurai are manipulated by an AI computer. Sequels: Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive.
Hansen, Karl, War Games. Describes a rebellion of gene-engineered variant humans that parallels Viet Nam. Not for the squeamish, though. Sequel: Dream Games.
Heinlein, Robert A., Friday. The adventures of a biological android who works as a secret agent. The best of Heinlein's later novels.
Hogan, James, Code of the Lifemaker. An alien probe seeds one of Saturn's moons with self-replicating machines. When human explorers arrive, they find a robot society.
Laumer, Keith, Bolo: The Annals of the Dinochrome Brigade. Classic anthology featuring giant robot supertanks.
McCaffrey, Anne, The Ship Who Sang. The story of Helva, whose brain is integrated into a starship. This has recently become a "shared universe" featuring other cyborgs.
Milán, Victor, The Cybernetic Samurai. The birth of an artificial intelligence amid corporate wars in future Japan. Sequel: The Cybernetic Shōgun.
Norton, Andre, Android at Arms. An android struggles with the question of his identity. An excellent "juvenile" novel.
Rucker, Rudy, Software. The Boppers are robots created to serve humanity on the moon. A human helps them become sentient, and all hell breaks loose. A quirky, darkly-humorous novel. It has been collected into an omnibus with its three sequels.
Saberhagen, Fred, Berserker. The berserkers are robot starships programmed to destroy all life. Humanity struggles for survival. The book spawned numerous sequels and a shared-world anthology.
Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. An android is driven to rebel against its creator.
Simmons, Dan, Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion. A pilgrimage to an alien world sets the stage for an epic conflict between humanity and artificial intelligences.
Smith, Cordwainer, Norstrilia. This classic novel features a society in which bio-engineered animal-humans serve humanity.
Sterling, Bruce, Crystal Express. This anthology contains several stories set in the Shaper/Mechanist future, where the solar system is torn between rival human cultures, one based on cybernetics, the other on bioengineering. The novel Schismatrix is set in the same background, and Schismatrix Plus collects all of the Shaper/Mechanist material in one volume.
Stine, G. Harry, Warbots. In the 21st century, the U.S. Army forms mixed units of humans and robots. Mostly notable for the number of sequels it has produced.
Thompson, Amy, Virtual Girl. What it's like to be a robot.
Williams, Walter Jon, "Unto the Sixth Generation," in Wild Cards II. The creation of Modular Man, android superhero.
Zelazny, Roger, My Name is Legion. The award-winning story "Home is the Hangman" in this collection features one of the earliest and best depictions of a neural-net robot.
Asimov, Isaac, and Karen Frankel, Robots: Machines in Man's Image. A well-written book on the role of robots in both science fiction, industry and popular culture, with many photographs of "real" robots.
Drexler, K. Eric, Chris Peterson and Gayle Pergamit, Unbounding the Future: The Nanotechnology Revolution. The guru of nanotechnology explains how it works and what impact it may have on future society. It's somewhat more accessible then Drexler's first book, the classic Engines of Creation.
Levy, Steven, Artificial Life. Describes the melding of computer science, biology and robotics in the quest to create artificial lifeforms. A good primer on current trends in robotics.
Regis, Ed, Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition: Science Slightly Over the Edge. An irreverent look at nanotechnology, cryonics and other emerging technologies, with some fascinating speculation on the future of robots and mankind.
Movies and Plays
Blade Runner. A bounty hunter "retires" escaped androids, until he's forced to recognize that they are as human as he is. A loose adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The prototype "cyberpunk" movie.
Doctor Who. The long-running British time-travel show has had several episodes featuring recurring machine adversaries. The most notable were two races of machines, the Daleks and Cybermen. K-9, a robot dog, was one of the fourth Doctor's companions before leaving with Sarah Jane.
Eve of Destruction. A female neural-net robot programmed with its creator's memories has malfunctioned. Its inventor and a soldier must track it down and destroy it – before the nuclear bomb installed inside it explodes.
Lost in Space. This 1960s television show was the first live-action series to feature a continuing robot character. (The same robot also cameoed in the movie Forbidden Planet.)
Metropolis. The proletariat revolt under the messianic leadership of a female robot in this classic black-and-white movie.
Nemesis. Action movie featuring robot cops vs. robot terrorists, with a part-human cyborg caught in the middle. It has excellent robot vs. robot action scenes.
RoboCop. A police officer is transformed into a crime-fighting cyborg. The first movie is worth seeing. The sequels and comedic TV show are less inspiring. Reviews of the 2014 remake are mixed.
Runaway. A duel between a law officer and a terrorist who makes use of various robots as weapons.
R.U.R. Karel Capek's play about android workers gave us the world "robot."
Star Trek. Several episodes focused on robots or sentient computers, notably the second season's "The Doomsday Machine" and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Star Trek: The Next Generation. One of the series' stars was Data, a robot officer. Some episodes have detailed Data's origins, the alien Borg cyborgs, or out-of-control "nanite" nanomachines.
Star Wars. If you haven't seen it, do so. Star Wars provides an excellent model for integrating robots into a traditional space-opera setting.
Terminator. A robot assassin is sent back in time to kill a woman whose unborn child will be the key figure in a future conflict between man and machine. The result is a dynamic chase and a tender love story, and probably the best movie featuring either robots or time travel to come out of Hollywood.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day. A high-quality sequel to Terminator, featuring a fascinating "liquid-metal" robot. The third movie, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is notable for the presence of a female robot, and the TV series (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Seasons One and Two) is notable for abandoning the timeline of the third movie.
2001: A Space Odyssey. Alien machines guide our evolution, and humanity probes the depths of space to learn their secrets. 2001's most memorable character is the computer HAL 9000, the archetypical rogue computer.
Anime (Japanese Animation)
The Japanese have an ongoing love affair with robots. Thanks to the efforts of several subtitling and dubbing companies, more and more Japanese animation is available at video rental stores or specialist outlets like comic shops. The best of the translated anime featuring robots, cyborgs, androids or small battlesuits (as opposed to the giant human-piloted "mecha" of TV shows like Robotech) are:
A.D. Police. In 21st-century Tokyo, police struggle to deal with crimes committed by "boomers" – humanoid robots and cyborgs. Three subtitled videos. A prequel to Bubblegum Crisis (below).
Battle Angel. On a far future Earth, a doctor-turned-bounty hunter finds the head of a young female cyborg in a scrap yard. He rebuilds her, and she becomes the ultimate bounty hunter, until she falls in love. Based on the comic Battle Angel Alita. Subtitled.
Black Magic M-66. A pair of M-66 robot soldiers are misprogrammed and begin hunting for a target – the daughter of their creator. Army commandos and a scoop-chasing female reporter try to save her. The plot is a simple chase, but the M-66 is one of the most dynamic robots ever designed. One video, subtitled.
Bubblegum Crisis. The Knight Sabers – four women equipped with form-fitting battlesuits – wage a vigilante campaign against the ruthless megacorporation Genom, builder of robot "Boomers." The series features superior animation, good characterization and some of the best robot and suit designs ever. It also has a fantastic soundtrack. Eight videos, subtitled. Sequel: Bubblegum Crash.
Fight! Iczer-One. A superpowered android protects Earth from an invasion of horrific Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. An excellent source of ideas for a GURPS Supers campaign. Three videos, so-so dubbing. If possible, see it in the original Japanese.
Rhea Gall Force. The most visually dynamic of the Gall Force series, featuring a war between humans and robots.
Robot Carnival. A collection of vignettes by Japanese animators on robots. Many are affected or consciously arty, but the prize segment is a struggle between two 19th-century "Steampunk" giant robots and their inventors, one Japanese, one Western.
Transformers. The most well-known animated robot series, featuring transforming robots that can turn into everything from cars to toasters. Several American and Japanese shows in the tradition of Transformers can be still be found on Saturday morning TV, although most of them are aimed at young children.
Cyborg and robot supers are commonplace in comic books. The following series focus specifically on robot or android characters:
Appleseed, Masamune Shirow. An "optimistic cyberpunk" police story set in a world where humans, cyborgs and bioroids must learn to co-exist. This long-running manga serial is available in English translation.
Avengers, Marvel Comics. A team of superheroes that sometimes included the Vision, a density-changing android.
Battle Angel Alita, Yukito Kishiro. See the description of the anime. An ongoing series available in translation. In the third series, Alita becomes a cyborg gladiator.
Bubblegum Crisis, Toren Smith. New stories set in the BGC universe. Introduces the concept of the "neurophage," a novel means of creating a neural-net artificial intelligence via nano-technology.
Dirty Pair, Toren Smith. A cyberpunk reworking of the Japanese series. Two scantily-clad super-agents battle bioroid criminals, terrorist robots and renegade nanotechnology.
DNAgents, Marc Evanier. A team of bioengineered superheroes who work for the mega-corporation that created them.
Magnus, Robot Fighter, Acclaim (first published by Gold Key, 1963). A classic "humans vs. robots" serial that has recently been resurrected.
The Metal Men. A classic D.C. comics series featuring a team of robot super heroes. Hard to find, but fun.