I can still remember my first sight of the unrelenting, seemingly unstoppable Borg. Talk about creepy villains. It wasn’t just their lack of emotion that made them such deliciously awful opposition, but the very real threat of being assimilated, of losing free will. You don’t just get defeated by the bad guys, you become one of them. You go from fighting them to helping them assimilate the people you care about.
When Picard gets grabbed, that scene where he’s being refitted got a major, emotional boost when that single tear trailed down his cheek. You knew that somewhere inside he knew what was happening to him and he hated it. Talk about tapping into our deep fears and giving them a big squeeze!
Are automatons the forerunners to the Borg? Can they, do they, tap into the same fears and chills? Is it an either or equation, or just two different ways to look at the same thing? Is it their lack of humanity that chills? That they can’t be reasoned with? Can’t feel our pain?
The books I’ve read seem to focus the most on the unrelenting, rigorously obedient aspects of the automaton, though What Ho Automaton, a steampunk pair of novellas by Chris Dolley goes for the intelligent automaton called Reeves (a pastiche on PG Wodehouse that is a cute, fun read).
And there are romantic possibilities when automatons become sentient. We have the modern version of the cyborg with MechMan by LJ Garland and Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair. And in the steampunk/romance vein, there is Heather Massey’s soon-to-release The Watchmaker’s Lady.
I will admit to taking a stroll through automaton land in my steampunk/science fiction romance mashups (Steamrolled, Steam Time, Kicking Ashe), but I can’t help but feel there is a lot of untapped, automaton ground left for me to explore. I think I see a cyborg character in my future. 🙂
What about you? What are your favorite cyborg/automaton reads and movies? Let’s finish with an automaton movie trailer, shall we? Perilously,
Pauline Baird Jones likes to mix and mismatch across the genres and galaxies. To find out more about her and her books, pop over to www.paulinebjones.com and look around. There’s free stuff and sometimes a contest or drawing.