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Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Coolest (and Lamest) Robots in Fiction - Sean C. Sousa + giveaway

Science Fiction author Sean C. Sousa Presents:
 The Coolest (and Lamest) Robots in Fiction! 

…because when they eventually enslave us, this post just might appease them. 

With the upcoming robots-versus-monsters goodness that is Guillermo del Toro’s film, “Pacific Rim,” and the recent launch of my robot-ariffic novel The Forever Saga: Flash, it seems like a good time to honor the mechanized characters that we love so much (and perhaps don’t so much). Let’s start with the benchwarmers!

Five of the Worst Robots in Fiction

HAL 2001, worst, robot
5. HAL, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Maybe he’s more an artificial intelligence than an actual robot, but one thing’s for sure: he was quite dull and he eventually tried to kill people. While he is a compelling character for the thinking-man’s science fiction, HAL’s droning, faceless talent for “meh” has been emulated in many things – WALL-E’s pilot AUTO and Batman: The Animated Series’ HARDAC, to name a few. In fact, ever boring robot you’ve ever heard of has been inspired by HAL - that’s like getting a lifetime achievement award from the Razzies. 

Borg Queen, worst, robot
4. Borg Queen, Star Trek: First Contact. A study in “what the?!” contrasts. For a cybernetic race that happens to need organic hosts, I’m not sure why they’d pick a mostly human-looking chick to lead them. She’s the supreme leader, but she’s also the only female at sausage-fest Borg parties. She’s hooching it out for Data, but her complexion is janky and she has tubes coming out the back of her head. Is she supposed to be attractive? ‘Cuz if she be trick-or-treatin’ this candy store is closed.

Cyborg, superman, worst, robot3. Cyborg Superman, The Death & Return of Superman. At the time, the 1994 storyline where the Man of Steel finally bit the speeding bullet hit my 12 year-old self like a locomotive (see what I did there?). Yet after the convoluted story featuring 4 possible “real” Supermen, I finally stopped caring. Cyborg Superman seemed like the real thing to me at the time, but now I know he was just a lame imitation that could talk to machines; we have the Internet for that, and it’s not nearly as ugly. 

Scooter, Go Bots, worst, robot
2. Scooter, Challenge of the Go-Bots. As a fan of robots in fiction, I’m not hating on Go-Bots – in fact, I used to watch their movie team-up with the Rock Lords on VHS, kickin’ it old school. But Scooter is a combination of every sad sack sidekick you can imagine, from Donkey in Shrek to Screech from Saved by the Bell. Scooter converted into, well, a scooter, and made up the worst of the three main good guy characters.

But while Leader-1 was a sweet fighter jet, and Turbo was a rad race car, Scooter talked like a dweeb and did nothing to improve Vespa sales.

The Architect, Matrix Reloaded, worst, robot

1. The Architect, Matrix Reloaded. Oh Colonel Sanders, y u talk so fancy instead of making chicken? Okay, so this guy may be more a software program than a robot, but he still deserves to be punched in the virtual throat…after he does my chicken right.

Five of the Best Robots in Fiction: 
Honorable Mention: Grimlock (Transformers), Mega Man (from the video game series of the same name), Lieutenant Commander Data (Star Trek), Gort (The Day the Earth Stood Still – not the one with Keanu), Colonel Saul Tigh (Battlestar Galactica), and, of course, Voltron. Because Voltron just owns. Your face.

Johnny-5, Short Circuit, best, robot5. Johnny-5, Short Circuit A military experiment with a heart of gold (possibly literally; gold is a great electrical conductor), Johnny-5 lives it up with Ally Sheedy, the crazy girl from the Breakfast Club – only this time with much less dandruff. When Johnny-5 goes on the run from his would-be captors, he learns what it means to be human, and be a better actor than Steve Guttenberg. 

What sets Johnny-5 apart is that while he is meant to be a Cold War weapon, he decides to live a peaceful existence. This doesn’t stop him from whuppin’ on his weaponized robot counterparts – he not only held his own, but hurled amazing insults like, “your mother was a snowblower!”

If I were a robot and he said that to me, I’d self-destruct in shame. 

T-800, best, robot, terminator4. The T-800, Terminator series Arnold Schwarzenegger may never be known as the greatest actor who ever lived. Perhaps it is fitting, then, that his most iconic role was that of a robot – a killer robot. 

The Terminator films are almost singlehandedly responsible for shaping a Western attitude that robots in fiction are mostly a threat to mankind. While Johnny-5 made this list because he bucked that trend, the T-800 eats it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and fourth meal.

At least, he did until T-2: Judgment Day. Embracing the theme of a killing machine that went against its programming, Arnold found himself protecting the targets he was once meant to assassinate. T-2 hit surprisingly emotional beats between Arnie and a young John Connor, even inspiring tears for reasons other than boredom, bad acting, or getting popcorn butter in your eye.

When a robot elicits emotions from human beings, you know that sci-fi can transcend This Island Earth and Pluto Nash.

Iron Giant, best, robot3. The Giant, Iron Giant Another example of “robot turns from his destiny as Killbot3000,” The Iron Giant is a neglected animated classic and a product of the great Brad Bird, known to most audiences as the director of Pixar’s The Incredibles and later, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. A touching tale of a robot crash landing in a sleepy 1950’s town and befriending a lonely young boy, The Iron Giant also includes the most compelling performance by Vin Diesel, who voices the Giant. Vin Diesel, people!! 

As an animated film that wasn’t produced by Disney, The Iron Giant does a heck of a job making a good time out of Cold War-era, aw-shucks Americana. The Giant, whose only link to humanity and the preciousness of life is the young boy Hogarth (yes, that’s his name), is capable of awesome destruction – and yet he learns from Hogarth as a child would. In-between conflicted scenes of defending himself, the Giant idolizes Superman and does a killer cannonball into a lake.

I won’t spoil the ending, which perfectly melds the Giant’s value of human life with the paranoia of nuclear destruction of the era, but do yourself a favor and watch this film. The Giant, as a powerful robot, makes a far more compelling character than most you’ve seen recently, animated or no. Yes, even including recent Pixar films. The (Brad) Bird is the word. 

Deckard, Blade Runner, best, robot2. Deckard, Blade Runner. This falls into the “is this true/a spoiler-alert/why are you making my brain hurt” category, but bear with me. In director Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Harrison Ford plays a “blade runner” whose job it is to hunt and “retire” replicants - androids who are banned from living on Earth in the future. 

The major question for those who have read/watched the related works is this: is Deckard himself a replicant (and therefore a robot)? I don’t consider this a spoiler any more than “Luke – I am your father,” and in fact watching Blade Runner for the first time with this in mind may actually make it more entertaining.

For the sake of this piece, let’s assume Deckard is a replicant. He gains a spot on this list because he ties together what may be the best science fiction film ever made. The moody atmosphere of a future Earth, where multiple cultures collide in a dreamy-yet-gritty urban sprawl, is almost a character in itself. Yet as Deckard traverses the city in pursuit of his replicant targets, he has to question the value of a replicant’s life – though limited, should they die just for existing in the “wrong” place?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of action and shoot-y stab-y stuff. Oh, and Admiral William Adama himself, Edward James Olmos, appears as Deckard’s partner. Throw in a great performance by head replicant Rutger Hauer and a pre-cray-cray Sean Young, and Blade Runner has serious nerd cred to spare. Yet it’s Deckard who gains serious perspective in the midst of his “one last job” adventure – and we’re all the better for it.

That, and you never have to wonder whether Deckard shoots first. Take that, Han. 

Optimus Prime, best, robot, transformers
1. Optimus Prime, Transformers The quintessential “good guy” robot to fans all over the world, and headline star of Michael Bay’s amazingly-successful-yet-critically-filleted film series. Optimus Prime is a childhood hero and fan favorite to millions of people across the globe, spanning several generations. 

Not bad for a guy who moonlights as a Mack truck.

Optimus Prime is self-sacrificing when it comes to humans, and acts as the voice of wisdom and reason for not one, but two races. He is a little like the ideal Dad to a lot of kids growing up – not so with-it when it comes to what’s cool (he is from another planet, after all), but he’s a stand-up guy who will always do the right thing, and always say the right words at the right time.

The original (and best) voice actor for Optimus, Peter Cullen, said he created Prime’s voice by mimicking that of his brother, a former Captain in the US Marine Corps. His brother also told him, when auditioning for Optimus, to have a quiet strength about the character, not a scream-and-yell kind of quality. Cullen took this to heart and, through just his vocal talents, created one of the most iconic animated characters – and perhaps the best known and most beloved robot character of all time.

Since Transformers has undergone multiple animated series and feature films, Optimus’ habit of sacrificing himself for the greater good has almost become a parody, and that’s no good. Prime is at his best when he’s leading by example and being assertively awesome – even if that means tearing other robots apart with his bare hands. But as we’ve already covered, he’s much, much more than that, and that is why he takes the top spot. That, and he can step on every other robot on this list.

The meep-moopy smorgasbord is over! Want more? Sign up here today (April 11th only) and get a FREE e-book copy of my robotalicious novel, The Forever Saga: Flash, and learn more at

The Saga: Flash, cover, Sean C. Sousa, science fictionLong ago, the first reign of Grigori Geist nearly destroyed the Earth.

Returned from exile, Geist is secretly rebuilding his kingdom beneath Antarctica, assembling his robotic Vaucan race to war against mankind. Only one obstacle remains: the war hero known as Brian Renney.

Yet Brian is losing a battle against his fears. Scars of heart and mind linger from his days in Vietnam, fueling his failures as husband and father. This embitters his youngest son, Jason – a star athlete torn between pursuing the love of his life, and meeting the demands of a father who is far from the storied army captain he once was.

And all the while, Geist is coming for them.

In this dark hour, Brian and Jason encounter a war to end all others... and an unexpected ally who, once meant for evil, shall forever be a force for good.

-To date, Flash has received 19 five-star reviews and a 4.7 out of 5 star average rating on Amazon, where the novel is available in e-book and paperback formats.

author, image, science fiction, Sean C. Sousa
About the Author:
Sean C. Sousa never planned on writing a novel – that is, until the idea for The Forever Saga came along. He first conceived it as a video game design concept, then a screenplay, and finally a written work of fiction. His debut novel, The Forever Saga: Flash, marks the end of one six-year journey toward publication, and also the beginning of another: to bring his stories to a worldwide audience.

His dream is to see fiction inspire positive social change in the world, calling attention to issues of social justice and mobilizing his readership to meet the needs of those afflicted.

Mr. Sousa resides in Southern California with his wife, Shelley, and when he is not writing further adventures about the Renney family, he is usually up to socially acceptable mischief with his friends and family.

Today only (April 11)! 
Everyone who signs up for Sean's newsletter gets a free e-copy of The Forever Sage: Flash


  1. I also liked R2D2 from Star Wars.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  2. Me too Debby. Look at all the things he could do for such a little robot, and at the same time make us laugh.

    evanlea at gmail dot com

  3. My favourite and awesomest Robot is Andrew Martin. I love Isaac Asimov's Robots :D

    felinewyvern at googlemail dot com

  4. Congrats to Sean on his series! Thanks for sharing! I grew up with Optimus Prime, so he's always going to be one of my fav robots :)

  5. I have to agree with R2D2. He was somehow cute AND smart and robot-y all at the same time. Who else can communicate so much with just beeps?

    Good choices, Sean, on the list!

    Joleene at joleenenaylor dot com