For my last blog post, let's talk movies. In an extraordinary moment of good luck and good timing, DreamWorks chose to option Robopocalypse, and last November they announced Steven Spielberg would direct. Holy crap, right?
Now, I can't say what will happen in the movie. That falls way outside my lane. So for what it's worth, here are my two cents on robots in my novel and on the big screen:
1. Robots don't hesitate. If drama is the lifeblood of a movie, then dramatic pauses are the heartbeat. The dramatic pause is a distinctly human affectation, whether we're dramatically pausing to savor a victory, due to a moral conflict, or just to deliver a catchy line. Robot characters — especially mobile weaponry — have no such concerns. In Robopocalypse, the hero better stay on his toes because the robots won't stop to appreciate the look of terror on his face.
2. Form follows function. Robots are neat and we all know bigger is better. So, it's tempting to pump up those robot characters and add flashy extras that look really cool for no reason at best, or are really confusing and annoying at worst. Robopocalypse imagines a very realistic near-future, and the robots that inhabit this world have all been built for a reason. So, unlike an incredibly complicated Transformer, each robot is a logical product or weapon — and a seamless part of everyday life for billions of people.
3. Robots can be graceful. One definition of "robotic" is to move in jerky little surges that seem so very inhuman. It's an understandable definition when you look at the way early robots were able to move. Many robots in science fiction also move this way, like the venerable C-3PO and R2D2. The opposite would be to imagine an animal that is perfectly evolved for its environment (e.g., a leaping gazelle). As time goes on and the robots in Robopocalypse evolve, I envisioned them becoming more graceful in this way. They are not copying animals, but they are evolving independently to operate in different environments — and gaining the quality of "grace" as a result.
4) Robots don't have to care about people. In much of science fiction, robots are defined by their relationship to human beings. This is true whether they are slaves waiting on us hand and foot, or just irrationally hell-bent on eradicating the human race. (What are you going to do after the humans are dead, Skynet?) In Robopocalypse, robots are coming into their own as a species. They're killing us, sure, but that's a side product, not the main goal. Only by recognizing robots as an independent species with their own strengths and weaknesses can human beings hope to live side by side with them.
Okay, that's it! Thanks for reading my blog posts (and for reading Robopocalypse). I had a great time writing this stuff, and I hope you enjoyed reading it!
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Daniel H. Wilson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and earned a B.S. in computer science from the University of Tulsa and a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He is the author of Robogenesis, Robopocalypse, Amped, How to Survive a Robot Uprising, Where's My Jetpack?, How to Build a Robot Army, The Mad Scientist Hall of Fame, and Bro-Jitsu: The Martial Art of Sibling Smackdown.
Books mentioned in this post
Daniel H. Wilson is the author of Robogenesis