Robot Uprisings

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Overview

Humans beware. As the robotic revolution continues to creep into our lives, it brings with it an impending sense of doom. What horrifying scenarios might unfold if our technology were to go awry? From self-aware robotic toys to intelligent machines violently malfunctioning, this anthology brings to life the half-formed questions and fears we all have about the increasing presence of robots in our lives. With contributions from a mix of bestselling, award-winning, and up-and-coming writers, and including a rare ...

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Overview

Humans beware. As the robotic revolution continues to creep into our lives, it brings with it an impending sense of doom. What horrifying scenarios might unfold if our technology were to go awry? From self-aware robotic toys to intelligent machines violently malfunctioning, this anthology brings to life the half-formed questions and fears we all have about the increasing presence of robots in our lives. With contributions from a mix of bestselling, award-winning, and up-and-coming writers, and including a rare story by “the father of artificial intelligence,” Dr. John McCarthy, Robot Uprisings meticulously describes the exhilarating and terrifying near-future in which humans can only survive by being cleverer than the rebellious machines they have created.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/24/2014
Ambivalence toward technology is central to Adams and Wilson’s collection of 17 stories about artificial intelligence in revolt. Sometimes the results are comic: the AI narrator of Charles Yu’s “Cycles” regards its human owner with a mixture of disgust, pity, and affection, and a household robot that illegally attempts to “love” a child in John McCarthy’s “The Robot and the Baby” becomes a media sensation. More often, disaster ensues when machines designed to assist humans rebel, as with computer-controlled cars in Genevieve Valentine’s postapocalyptic road trip “Eighty Miles an Hour All the Way to Paradise” and intelligent children’s toys in Seanan McGuire’s heartbreaking “We Are All Misfit Toys in the Aftermath of the Velveteen War.” Subtler dangers threaten to end the world in Alastair Reynolds’s “Sleepover” and Wilson’s own “Small Things.” Though a robot loves and raises a human child in Julianna Baggott’s “The Golden Hour” and a woman in an African village poisoned by a pipeline teaches a robot guard to play music in Nnedi Okorafor’s “Spider the Artist,” most of the stories in this entertaining and occasionally unsettling anthology present a decidedly pessimistic vision of machine futures. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"An entertaining and disturbing romp through many possible futures. . . . Each story contains an intriguing premise about robot sentience and shows a different aspect of the robot uprising. The best-executed tales are the most insidious. Even the light-hearted stories are creepy. Although Robot Uprisings is a collection, it feels more like a similar future prophesied by seventeen frightened oracles. . . . Science fiction isn’t always known for great writing, but Robot Uprisings has plenty."
Washington Independent Review of Books

“Topnotch. . . . These stories all have something to say, exploring sentience and technology from a dozen different angles. Under the guidance of a first-tier anthologist like Adams and one of sci-fi’s resident techhounds in Wilson, Robot Uprising has a more accessible feel than many science fiction collections, and the sheer breadth of storytelling styles included makes this a great introduction to sci-fi for new readers.”
San Francisco Book Review

"[A] terrific anthology of robot fiction. . . . One thing [these stories] have in common . . . is the high quality of the writing, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this volume well represented in many of the upcoming 'year’s best' annuals."
Toronto Star

“These cautionary, subtle stories show all-new, brilliant facets of the classic killer-robot genre. . . . These stories, including a Dr. Moreau-like foray into nanotechnology by Wilson, all wrench the heart before they can warm it. Robot Uprisings is full of utterly human stories of loss, fear, bravery and revenge, set against an artificial and shiny future.”
Shelf Awareness

“A colorful mix of cutting-edge original tales from some of speculative fiction’s leading talents. . . . Readers who don’t mind immersing themselves in unnerving fictional worlds that uncomfortably resemble our own, gadget-infested one will find hours of provocative entertainment here.”
Booklist 

“Fun fact: According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, as of 2010 there were 8.6 million robots in the world. Fun scenario: They’re all out to kill us. . . . This anthology neatly explores that possibility, its contributors offering widely varying takes that share only the perspective that things don’t end well for Homo sapiens. . . . Philip K. Dick would be proud. . . . You’ll never look at your Roomba the same way again.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Sometimes the [stories] are comic. . . . More often, disaster ensues when machines designed to assist humans rebel. . . . [An] entertaining and occasionally unsettling anthology.”
Publishers Weekly

VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Ann McDuffie
In the near-future, artificially intelligent robots have become part of daily life and Robot Uprisings imagines worlds in which that technology fatally malfunctions. This thought-provoking collection of robotic revolution and human resistance may arouse nightmarish fears as the constant presence of electronics leads to horrifying scenarios. In one story, self-aware misfit toys violently take revenge on their human playmates in a misguided desire to keep them from growing up. Another story, “Epoch,” pits a smarter-than-human AI against his human sysadmin, nearly compromising computers worldwide. Smart houses terrorize their human occupants in “Lullaby” and genetically modified food controls human behavior in “Seasoning.” This collection of seventeen stories is full of smart characters and good writing that respects young people’s intelligence and their ability to grasp advanced technology and possibilities. A generation of readers who grew up on smart phones, military drones, and sci-fi movies will appreciate these powerful and timely stories. Ranging in length from sixty-plus to a few short pages, the stories allow readers to skip around or read from cover to cover. Contributions come from a range of bestselling, award-winning authors and up-and-coming writers, such as Scott Sigler, Cory Doctorow, Ernest Cline, and a story from Dr. John McCarthy, “the father of artificial intelligence.” As editor Daniel Wilson says, “The machines are here. They are evolving. And luckily, so are our stories.” Reviewer: Ann McDuffie; Ages 12 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-20
Fun fact: According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, as of 2010 there were 8.6 million robots in the world. Fun scenario: They're all out to kill us. Forget Asimov's laws of robotics; think of Schwarzenegger's Terminator instead, or maybe that friendly-voiced if unblinking fellow in 2001. As editors Wilson and Adams observe, robots are scary because they're real, and the possibility of them rising up against us is—well, highly likely, since "[w]e live in a world teeming with monsters made real." This anthology neatly explores that possibility, its contributors offering widely varying takes that share only the perspective that things don't end well for Homo sapiens. The longest story, at a little more than 50 pages, is by Cory Doctorow, who matter-of-factly sets up a terrifying future: "Two hundred and fifteen years after Mary Shelley first started humanity's hands wringing over the possibility that we would create a machine as smart as us but out of our control, Dr. Shannon did it, and it turned out to be incredibly, utterly boring." Not so the story that follows. Julianna Baggott, fresh from her latest post-apocalyptic fantasy, turns in a vision of a golden hour to come, "called the Golden Hour because the revolt was so massive and well-orchestrated that it is said that the humans fell within an hour." (Interestingly, she offers the thought that robots can have parents.) The late John McCarthy—who died in 2011 of natural causes, not of robot agency, and who is considered the father of artificial intelligence—spins a tale that helps explain why robots should be ticked at us: "[R]obots were made somewhat fragile on the outside, so that if you kicked one, some parts would fall off." The concept of the anthology is just right, and each of the 17 pieces addresses it well; extra points for greater diversity of all kinds than is evidenced by many other sci-fi collections, though it wouldn't hurt to have a few better-known, more battle-tested authors (Eileen Gunn, say, or Samuel R. Delany) in the mix. Philip K. Dick would be proud, in any event. You'll never look at your Roomba the same way again.
Library Journal
03/15/2014
Imagine a world where robots have rebelled against humanity. That is what the contributors to this lively anthology, including John McCarthy, Ernest Cline, and Alan Dean Foster, have done. The strength of this collection lies in the widely varied approaches each author has taken on the premise. Some robots are the classic humanoid form, while others are nanomachines or spider-like devices. Some stories see humanity avoiding extinction, while other uprisings take a much more personal tone. Some robots are benevolent or malevolent, while others express regret and even love. VERDICT Editors Wilson (Robopocalypse) and Adams (Dead Man's Hand, reviewed above) have pulled together an excellent set of short stories that run the gamut from emotional drama to strictly action. There are a few sexual references and several stories that involve violence, but none are intense or overly graphic. This book is appropriate for teenage readers and adults.—Matt Schirano, Grand Canyon Univ. Lib., Phoenix
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345803634
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/8/2014
  • Series: Vintage Original Series
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 163,084
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel H. Wilson is a New York Times bestselling author and coeditor of the Robot Uprisings anthology. He earned a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he also received master’s degrees in robotics and in machine learning. He has published over a dozen scientific papers, holds four patents, and has written eight books. Wilson has written for Popular Science, Wired, and Discover, as well as online venues such as MSNBC.com, Gizmodo, Lightspeed, and Tor.com. In 2008, Wilson hosted The Works, a television series on the History Channel that uncovered the science behind everyday stuff. His books include How to Survive a Robot Uprising, A Boy and His Bot, Amped, and Robopocalypse (the film adaptation of which is slated to be directed by Steven Spielberg). He lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Find him on Twitter @danielwilsonPDX.
 
John Joseph Adams is the editor of many bestselling anthologies, such as Oz Reimagined, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, Epic: Legends of Fantasy, Other Worlds Than These, Armored, Under the Moons of Mars, Brave New Worlds, Wastelands, The Living Dead, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Way of the Wizard. He has been called “the reigning king of the anthology world” by Barnes & Noble; he is a six-time Hugo Award finalist and a five-time finalist for the World Fantasy Awards. Adams is also the editor and publisher of the magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare, and is the cohost of Wired.com’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. Find him on Twitter @johnjosephadams.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from the Foreword


FOREWORD

Someday soon, our technology is going to rise up and we humans are going to be sliced into bloody chunks by robots that in our hubris we decided to design with buzz saws for hands. That’s a fact as cold and hard as metal.

It is self- evident that our self-driving cars are going to drive us off bridges. Our cell phones are absolutely going to call us up, speak to us in the voices of trusted relatives, and tell us to get inside our vehicles and prepare for a wonderful tour of the area’s tallest bridges. Not long from now, our robo-vacuums will pretend to be broken and our love androids will refuse to put out until the house is cleaned . . . and we’ll know that the inevitable robot uprising has finally arrived.

Well, maybe. But even if we are not 100 percent confident that this horrific future is going to happen, it’s fair to say that we won’t be surprised when the robots come for us. Because for nearly a century audiences have been entertained by the notion of a robot uprising.

Flappers and Prohibitionists raved about R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots, a play produced in 1921 that introduced the word “robot” to the world. No one seemed to mind that the show ended when the freshly named automatons decided to stage an uprising and kill every last human being on the planet. Th at’s been part of the fun since day one. Robots became a common sight in pulp sci-fi movies of the 1930s, inexplicably kidnapping half- naked women from square-jawed heroes. (The more logical among us might wonder what those asexual robots planned to do with the women.) Since then, the onslaught has never stopped. To this day, robots are relentlessly chasing the remnants of our civilization through outer space, leaping back through time in order to murder our ancestors, and patiently drilling through the planet’s crust to kill us in our underground rave dens.

Obviously, the robot uprising is a serious, if fictional, problem. Our great-grandparents loved killer robots. So do we. But why?

The robot uprising is inherently dramatic. Robots are made in the image of humanity, yet they are bent on destroying their own creators. The built-in themes just won’t quit: humankind daring to play God and creating life; the terrifying thought that we will one day replace ourselves; and the old nuclear fear of birthing a technology that’s too powerful and ultimately destroys the world. The robot uprising holds up a distorted mirror to humanity and allows storytellers to explore human morality, what it means to be human, and the ultimate fate of our species. Even better, it does so with plenty of Gatling lasers, spinning buzz saws, and glowing red eyes. Or all of the above.

And the robot uprising is growing more frightening every day.

Robots are no longer just actors wearing rubber suits with severely limited arm movement; today, we have mechanical devices that can actually think and function in the real world (albeit still with severely limited arm movement; that part hasn’t changed much). Artificially intelligent personal assistants live on our smartphones, tracking our schedules. Self-driving cars have been legalized in multiple states and are quietly taking to the road. Th e CIA has a private air force made of drone aircraft that is out scouring the world for targets, weapons hot.

That’s quite a bit scarier than a guy in a rubber suit, waving his arms wildly while an old-school modem connection noise blares from his mouth speaker.

Robots are unique among all movie monsters in that they are real. The robot uprising induces a queasy feeling because it is possible. At this very moment, mobile robots are stalking the dark sewers under our feet, mapping routes. Algorithms imbued with AI are planning supply logistics for troop deployments. Surgical robots are poised and waiting in hospitals, their needles glistening. We live in a world teeming with monsters made real. Why should it be a surprise that we long for stories in which our fears can be projected onto a killer robot that can be shot in the face with a shotgun, again and again, until we are reassured that we— raw adaptable humankind— will always triumph in the end?

The machines are here. They are evolving. And luckily, so are our stories.

In this collection, our authors have explored nuanced visions of the classic robot-uprising tale. The robots in these pages aren’t tame, by any means. They are crouched in abandoned houses, eyes ablaze and buzz saws dripping with oil. But they are going to do more than slice us into bloody chunks. They are going to push us to consider our world of technology from new perspectives, on entirely new scales of time and space.

So grab this book and ride your bike to a nice isolated place (preferably a little way outside of town). Find a shady spot under a tree (well out of satellite view). Turn off your smartphone (and throw away the SIM card). Get comfortable, my friend, and read these entirely too-plausible stories of the inevitable robot uprising. Don’t hesitate. Buy the book. The future is here, but it may not last long.

— DANIEL H. WILSON

P.S. Oh, and if you’re reading this as an ebook, it may already be too late.

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