The Robot Stories Critical Essays

Isaac Asimov


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Asimov’s robot stories represent a transition from the lurid, sensationalist magazine science fiction of the 1930’s—exemplified by the material in Hugo Gerns-back’s Amazing Stories—to the more sophisticated so-cial science fiction demanded by John W. Campbell, Jr., in his magazine Astounding Stories (later titled Astounding Science-Fiction). It is thus not surprising that Campbell rejected Asimov’s story “Robbie” as too much in the tradition of the bug-eyed monster stories of the juvenile magazines. Campbell helped Asimov to develop the Three Laws of Robotics, thus earning the epithet of “Godfather of the Robots” Asimov bestowed on him in the dedication to I, Robot.

Asimov’s basic theme in his robot fiction, as in all of his science fiction, is the unwavering belief that science and technology will create a utopian future for humanity. The robot stories are an attack on those who believe that humans will develop technological monsters that will come to haunt and destroy them. Asimov was contemptuous of people with such Luddite views and considered them to be afflicted by what he called the Frankenstein complex. Such characters populate his robot stories from the first and are always shown as mean-spirited or as well-intentioned buffoons.

The Three Laws are a distillation of the basic ethical principles of all cultures—not to harm and to protect fellow creatures, to obey reasonable...

(The entire section is 463 words.)