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Robbie by Isaac Asimov

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This is a guest post by Marco Crosa – who is enjoying re-reading Asimov’s robot stories so much that he offered to write yet another review.

“His entire ‘mentality’ has been created for the purpose. He just can’t help being faithful and loving and kind. He’s a machine – made so.”

“Robbie” is a 1939 sci-fi short story by Isaac Asimov and his first one of the robot series. It describes the friendship and the attachment of a little girl to her robotic playmate.

Gloria Weston is an eight years old girl and since two years she spends her best playtime with Robbie, a robot that has been developed to be a child companion. However, pushed by neighbors opinions, Gloria Weston’s mother (Grace) grows day by day more uneasy over the strange fellowship and finally she convinces the exhausted Mr Weston to sell back Robbie to the factory. After the separation the little Gloria Weston gets sad and depressed and any attempt of her parents to make her friend forgotten fails. An eventual visit to the robot plant – apparently planned to change Gloria Weston’s mind – leads her to the arms of her mechanical fellow and it persuades Mrs Weston to accept Robbie until he rusts.

“Robbie” is the first Asimov’s story about sympathetic robots and on the human psychological resistance to accept them. It contains some elements that opened the doors of later Asimov’s universe.

About the Story and where to find it

  • “Robbie” was first published in September 1940 in Super Science Stories with the title “Strange Playfellow” and then it was collected – revised and with its original title – in I, Robot(1950), The Complete Robot (1982) and Robot Visions(1990).
  • It is often wrongly referred as the first sympathetic robot story ever. It has been preceded by Lester del Rey’s Helen O’Loy in 1938 and Eando Binder’s I, Robot in 1939.
  • In the revised version Susan Calvin – the robo-psychologist of later Asimov’s stories – has been included: she makes her first appearance as a teen girl taking note in New York’s Museum of Science and Industry.
  • You can read the story in the Robot Visions collection available online (pdf) at ebooktrove.com.

About Marco Crosa

I have a degree in philosophy of science and, let’s say, I’m curious about anything. I love literature and especially sci-fi. I keep a blog at Ma.Cro Mind.