The second trip back to the science-fiction archive on the fifth floor of the library was better than the first. We were given more time and freedom to do what we like, not to mention the experience of relaxing in an peaceful, silent, air conditioned room with an intriguing book in hand is just pure bliss.
I continued with my reading of the magazine Amazing Stories vol. 52, No. 3, May 1979 that I was reading before on the first trip. From this collection of short stories, two tales caught my interest: “Devolution” by Edmond Hamilton and “I, Robot” by Eando Binder.
Edmond Hamilton wrote for science fiction pulp magazines, and he was a pretty popular SF writer back in his days; in fact, he was awarded the first Jules Verne Prize by the votes of fans (Jules Verne Prize is the first SF prize before the existence of the Hugo Awards). It is interesting to note that Hamilton’s progress is similar to the Amazing Stories in which they both evolved from romantic, fantasy centered stories to more unsentimental and realistic stories (haffnerpress). “Devolution” plays with the idea of “what if humans are the devolution products of more advance lifeforms,” contradicting with Darwin’s survival of the fittest and evolution. When I was reading this, I imagine what it would be like if it were true, I found I was a little shock, angered, and sad. Deterioration gives me ideas of backward, destruction, chaos, and disappearance like the people of the short story “There Will Come Soft Rain.” I always look at evolution as an advancement for the better, the idea of deterioration and eventual disappearance is just sad.
Eando Binder’s stories often focus on superheros, and he is most well-known for his writing the scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures (wiki). However, the one that caught my eye is his story “I, Robot” which is the first of his Adam Link Robot short stories. These stories centers around a robot named Adam Link who is made in the likeness of human and gains self-awareness. Adam is not welcomed by the humans as they viewed him as a monster and a dangerous threat, and they are also nervous with the idea of a self-aware, intelligent robot among them. This ideas portrayed in this story makes me feel ironic, sad, and want to laugh. First of all, humans seem so feverent in creating artificial intelligence, playing god in trying to create another intellectual being, but at the same time, they are afraid of them and want to control this being. If an intellectual being is born, it can be considered another race, it has its own thoughts and feelings, and the act of controlling him/her/it will eventually lead to revolution and war. People want to play god, they want to dictate others, they want to be able to give, grant, or take power to or from others; however, when even if there is the slightest possibility that others might become just as or more powerful than them, they try to destroy or limit them. In this way, humans can be seen as puny, they just cannot seem to stand the idea that humans are not the top and center of the world.
Between these two stories, I think that “I, Robot” is my favorite, it really lets the reader think a lot. I understand that it is natural for intelligent beings to be wary of unknown, potential threats, but the quickness that humans pounce on it with intention of destruction or dictation just mouth-dropping. Makes me want to “Heh Heh.”