Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hal Clement's "Blot" (novelette, first contact): When Asimovian robots failed to distinguish "human" from "robot"

Quote from short story Blot by Hal Clement
While there are many stories featuring robots that don't follow any "laws", the ones that feature "laws" seem to be almost exclusively about Asimov's 3 laws. Besides "Blot", I can off-hand recall only 2 stories that have laws-following robots but laws aren't Asimov's:
  1. One of Asimov's own Spacer novels where robots are tweaked to recognize only some people as human - I think by recognizing the accent of their voice.
  2. Jack Williamson's "With Folded Hands" (download MP3): A single law is enough!
This story has a twist on Asimov's laws: "Human" is defined as anything sentient & biological. In fact, some of the robots are of alien origin. It's their confusion on first contact with humanity that makes them label women as "human" & men as "robots" (or was it based on dress color? It's been some months since I read this.) So killing men is fair game.

Story summary.

First human expedition to Miranda, one of the moons of Uranus, comes across alien artifacts & alien (but humanoid-looking) robots guarding/handling them. Humans' curiosity trying to figure out artifacts & nature of robots provides some excitement in the story, & near death of a crew member at the hands of a robot. But all ends well.

Fact sheet.

First published: Martin Greenberg (ed)'s "Stories in Honor of Isaac Asimov: Foundation's Friends" (anthology, 1989).
Rating: A.
Related: Stories of Hal Clement.


Rich said...

I knew there was a reason I added your blog onto my favorites! I love Hal Clement! But I haven't gotten to read too much of his, only the 3 or 4 I could find in the local libraries.

Larry said...

No link to the story?
I have one Cle,ment noivel on my bookshelf-Iceworld-must read it sometime and find a copy of his famous Mission of Gravity!

Tinkoo said...

Thanks, Rich.

Yes, Larry - no link. Most of his fiction is still under copyright. I know of only one or two of his online short stories, as part of some of the magazine scans I've linked; will get to their ToC sometime.

Some more comments here.

Rich said...

Yes, Larry, you really MUST read some Hal Clement! I've never read Iceworld, but I'm sure it's a good read!