1939: I, Robot and Other Amazing Stories

 I, Robot is a name that many people are familiar with. But this I, Robot is not what you think it is. It is not the Will Smith blockbuster film. Nor is it any of the short stories from the collection of the same name by famous robot fiction author Isaac Asimov, who’s work inspired that film. It’s not even the novelized script from the unproduced film written by Asimov and another famous sci-fi author, Harlan Ellison.

While unrelated to the previously mentioned works, this story came first and did influence Asimov’s work. It was Asimov’s publisher who chose to call the collection of work I, Robot, against the writer’s objections.

This is the story of Adam Link, as told by brothers Otto Binder and Earl Andrew Binder under the suedodym Eando Binder (E and O Binder). 

You I had initially heard of I, Robot while reading about the Asimov collection, and became interested in reading it after watching a Outer Limits episode based on it. What I found was a book called Adam Link – Robot. I thought that this was a reprinting of the story under a different name. What I did not know was that this was a collection of Adam Link stories and that I, Robot was only the first.
Though only 7 are collected here, Adam appeared in 10 stories total, published from 1939 – 1942, in Amazing Stories.

This came as both a surprise to me, as well as an explanation. I felt throughout reading this that it read like a collection of Superman issues from the 50’s. He jumps around from one cockamamie adventure to the next. At one point he’s a detective, then he’s a spy, then an athlete, encountering everyone from evil scientists to the mob to larger robots to aliens. I can just as easily see Superman in any of these situations in the 50’s, taking on an array of villains, fitting a plethora of genres, and having fun while doing it.

Most similar to Superman was Adams search for humanity. A little contradictory at times, this was the driving force of the story. Right from the beginning Adam strives for recognition as both a human being and an American citizen. In brains and emotions Adam, and in later stories his companion Eve, are identical to humans. They struggle with doubt, morality, fear, anger and pursue love, happiness and belonging. In physical abilities they are both far superior to humans, just like superman. At times Adam will compare his abilities to those of “mere humans” when it is convenient, but will balk at any suggestion that he be less than human.
Also like Superman, Adam has a strict more code. He will not kill a human. He will allow others to be killed around him for the sake of a greater number of lives if he absolutely has to but he will never kill a human himself. Funnily, this code does not apply to alien invaders, whom he will gladly slaughter.

My final comparison to Superman is the number of times we are made to think that A) he has seriously compromised his morals, or B) someone one has died. Every little trick they try to play on us I can easily see being portrayed in an old cover. Coincidentally, one of the brothers, Otto, went on to write comics for Captain Marvel comics and Superman comics.

 In reading this book this week, I had a lot of fun reading this. Beyond the initial 2 stories, I, Robot and The Trial of Adam Link Robot, they doesn’t hold themselves as being as thought provoking or logical as some robot stories, such as Asimov’s, but I don’t think that’s what they were going for. These, for me, were simply stories to entertain. And I appreciate them for that.

As mentioned, The Outer Limits entrepred I, Robot into an episode, twice. Both in the 60’s and the 90’s series. These were a little more serious, expanding on the trial of Adam more than on his creation, but the meat is still there. Like the original story, and not unlike the Will Smith film, they focus on a robot who has to prove to the court that he is innocent of murdering his creator, and that he should be treated with the same legal standing as any man. I especially advise watching the original series episode.

The other point of interest is that both episodes star Sci Fi Legend – Leonard Nimoy. The first cast him before he made it big in Star Trek, the other well after those days. He plays different versions of different main characters in both, and it is quite refreshing to see him play a different role.

 I wouldn’t recommend either this book or these episodes to anyone just getting into Sci Fi, but for a fun read that gives you a taste of Sci Fi pulp, as well as a good experience of 60’s Sci Fi tv, this is a great story to turn to. It also gives a little bit of a larger picture to the Asimov works that came later.

Thanks for reading!

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