Robots and Artificial Life: Androids vs. Automatons

Now, I love artificial intelligence stories, especially ones where not all the robots are evil, soulless, villains bent on destroying humanity because we’re not ‘perfect’ or something like that.  Not that those aren’t fun of course, but I think the most successful stories like that, at least for me, is when thought the villain may be a computer one of the heroes is as well.  Like Tron and IRobot, or most recently Almost Human and Extant.  Okay, so I’m a big fan of one of the main characters not being human.

I was never a big fan of science fiction growing up, I liked fantasy far more, and my interest in it is more recent.  And I think that when most people, myself included, think about artificial life science fiction comes to mind.  That makes sense, robots tend to be an extension of computer technology which is something we have within the realm of our world that we can understand and interact with without any magical or supernatural influence, the hallmark of sci-fi.  I like the words robot and android, to me they’re specifically sci-fi in nature; an artificial person created through the use of science and technology.  To me ‘android’ suggests some element of ‘looks very human and perhaps can be passed off as a human’ while ‘robot’ tends to be a little less specified.

But there are other words, aren’t there?  Automaton, homunculus, golem.  Now, these are fantasy words.  Automaton makes me think of Ancient Greek myth, great guards created of bronze or copper to protect treasures, sometimes created by the gods themselves.  A homunculus is a person created through alchemy (which is one of those gray area sci-fi or fantasy because yes alchemy is technically a science that was studied similar to chemistry but whenever it’s used in fiction it tends to be a branch of magic).  And a golem is a creature made of stone or clay or metal animated specifically through magic.

Of course, there’s nothing saying one cannot mix concepts or genres in their writing.  I’m planning something with clockwork automatons, steam punk sci-fi influence, in Medieval France, needing some element of magic to it.  Your world, and your characters, are what you make of them; the rules are yours to create.