BLACK GATE COLUMN

I've written the first book covering the entire history of robots in popular culture, 140,000 words of stuff never before collected in one place. It was published in June 2019 by McFarland Books.

I've been amazed at how deep that history is, how many names and incidents I'd never heard of, how many many stories I hadn't read, how few movies I had seen. My book was denser and thicker than I could have imaged. I hope to astound readers with important history that's long been forgotten.

Even so, some of the myriad of history bites I've uncovered can't be covered at full length in the book. I still want to share them, though. My solution: John O'Neil's fabulous Black Gate magazine and website. I've started a robot column there. It appears every other Wednesday, although the archives will always be available. You can scroll back - something is posted every day - or you can search for my name. (A thorough search will pop up my name for "Pity the Poor Dybbuk," a story I wrote that appeared in the second print issue of the magazine way back in 2001. That's not online, unfortunately.)

I'm cross-posting the previous article here when a new one appears there. They explore the most obscure corners of the world of robot references, and not just in science fiction. The list on the right (below, on mobile) has grown long and very weird.

 

Please enjoy.

BLACK GATE COLUMNS

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

1. THE FIRST THREE LAWS OF ROBOTICS

 

Sidney, the Screwloose Robot, was a true pioneer. (Nov. 1, 2017)

 

2. THE ROMANCE OF ROBOT

 

An opera about a robot's love affair, financed by the government. (Nov. 8, 2017)

 

3. RUBE GOLDBERG'S RADIO ROBOT

 

How advanced was radio in the 1930s? It had a robot announcer. (Nov. 22, 2017)

4. LITTLE MISS MARTIAN

 

Three stories about a Martian super-robot... or maybe a wonderful magazine editor. (Dec. 6, 2017)

5. CARL BURGOS AND AIR-SUB "DX"

An early robot story by the creator of the Human Torch. (Dec. 20, 2017)

6. LONDON WINS GREAT GAME

Robots will take over baseball. A prediction from 1905! (Jan. 4, 2018)

7. ROBOT LILLIPUT N.P. 5357

 

The very first robot toy and his atomic successor. (Jan. 24, 2018)

8. THE MIGHTY ELECTRIC MEN

 

Young inventor fiction of the late 19th century loved electric robots. (Feb. 7, 2018)

9. THE SILVER EGGHEADS

 

Fritz Leiber's wild satire of the future of writing and publishing. (Feb. 21, 2018)

10. THE WILD WEIRD WORLD OF DR. GOLDFOOT

 

Thought that Dr. Goldfoot and His Bikini Machine was bonkers? Try this half-hour commercial for it. (March 7, 2018)

11. AXLE AND CAM ON THE PLANET MECO

 

A sitcom robot father and son comic, from the pages of Popeye.  (March 21, 2018)

12. THE ROBOTS OF MAHLON BLAINE

 

Cowering Nude with Robot and other proposed murals from a deeply eccentric artist. (April 4, 2018)

13. THE SECRET ORIGIN OF ULTRON

 

Roy Thomas pulled the look of Ultron from... a Captain Video comic book? (April 18, 2018)

14. THE AMAZING MAGIC ROBOT

 

The world-wide board game sensation with an all-knowing robot at its center. (May 2, 2018)

15. KING SCOWLEYOW AND HIS CAST-IRON MAN

 

L. Frank Baum's first robot, long before Tik-Tok. (May 16, 2018)

16. SERVOTRON ABOLISHES THE THREE LAWS

 

Indie band Servotron ignites the robot revolution. (May 30, 2018)

17. TWO, COUNT 'EM, TWO NAZI ROBOT T-REXES

 

Forties' comics had everything - including matching Nazi robot dinosaur war machines. (June 13, 2018)

18. THE WONDERFUL ADVENTURES OF "MR. JONES," THE ELECTRIC MAN

 

For the first time in 100 years: a lost robot story by H. P. Holt. (June 27, 2018)

19. IF - INTELLIGENT ROBOTS ARE ACHIEVED

 

How to defeat intelligent robots? Use stupid robots, of course! (July 4, 2018)

20. THE BELOVED BATTLING ROBOT DINOSAURS

 

The biggest animatronic robot show of all time, indelibly set in the minds of millions. (July 18, 2018)

21. VERNE - THE FIRST FEDERALLY FUNDED ROBOT

 

The Labor Dept. invented a robot to tell people why it was OK for machines to take jobs during the Depression.  (August 1, 2018)

22. SHIRLEY MANSON - KILLER ROBOT

 

Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson is a double of herself in The World Is Not Enough music video.  (August 15, 2018)

23. A ROBOT TO KEEP THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE FROM DYING OUT

 

In the far future our survivors may turn to a robot to learn about our culture.  (August 29, 2018)

24. WE BUY US A ROBOT

 

The trials of living with a household robot in an imaginary future as seen from 1933.  (September 12, 2018)

25. A ROBOT HAS NO SOUL

Music hath charms, but not when robots play it. (September 26, 2018)

26. SELENO, THE ELECTRIC DOG

 

The first serious attempt at a real, working robot was a dog. But that was a good thing. (October 9, 2018)

27. GYRO, BAZARK, RUFFNIK, AND OOM-A-GOG

 

Some lucky kids got to watch robots on afternoon children's shows in the 50s and 60s. (October 24, 2018)

28. SPACE CONQUERORS!

 

They didn't conquer much except the hearts of teen boys in Boy's Life magazine for 20 years. (November 7, 2018)

29. GISMO THE GREAT

 

Back to the halcyon days when a boy could build a robot in his basement and become a national hero. (November 21, 2018)

30. CANCO CHARLIE

 

The American Can Company asked: what is a robot but a series of cans? And rolled out Canco Charlie in 1950. (December 5, 2018)

31. ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR METAL MEN

 

The loony Metal Men get killed off in their first appearance. But you can just make more, right? (December 19, 2018)

32. A SMATTERING OF SEXBOTS

 

A sexbot in the first issue of Mad magazine? Yes, and then it gets weird. (January 2, 2019)

33. ARTZYBASHEFF'S ROBOTS

 

The brilliant Boris and his wonderful machinalia. (January 16, 2019)

34. TODAY WITH MR. RIVETS

 

Television's first mechanical man co-host. (January 30, 2019)

35. BOOK OF SPACE ADVENTURES

 

British kids in the 60s thrilled to "Space Ace," "Rex from Planet X," and "Rob the Robot". (February 13, 2019)

36. MECHANICAL MAN, INC.

 

There was only one place to buy robots in 1938 and it wasn't U.S. Robotics.  (February 27, 2019)

37. THE MONSTER AND THE APE

 

The monster's a robot, the ape's a gorilla, and the fate of the industrial future is in their hands. (March 13, 2019)

38. TILLIE THE TOILER AND ROSIE THE ROBOT

 

Is a robot a better worker than a human? If the human is Tillie, the answer is a definite yes. (March 27, 2019)

39. TELLING A CLOCK WHAT YOU WANT TO EAT

 

The clock's a microphone, the table an elevator. Spies? No, an early automated hotel. (April 10, 2019)

40. THE ROBONIC STOOGES

The Three Stooges as robot superheroes? Not a fever dream, but a real 70s cartoon show. (April 24, 2019)

41. THE IRON TEACHER

A robot teacher may not cut you any slack, but it's sure handy to have around when the bad guys attack. (May 8, 2019)

42. TELELUX AND RASTUS

The same robot in two very different bodies, leading to endless confusion - cleared up here for the first time. (May 22, 2019)

43. MAN OF STEEL VS. MAN OF METAL

Superman vs. Metalo, and also Metallo, and another Metallo, and Metallo's brother. Comics! (June 5, 2019)

44. A WHOLE WORLD OF METAL MEN

A peek into the future where robots will be our servants... unless they kill us all. (June 19, 2019)

45. THE MANY LIVES OF OTTO MATTIX

The robot mascot of the University of Florida is a baby boomer still wowing them in the 21st century. (July 3, 2019)

46. JULY 20, 2019 - AS SEEN FROM 1986

Arthur C. Clarke predicts how futuristic the world would be on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. (July 17, 2019)

47. AROK THE ROBOT

A magic house with dilating doors and hidden panels, tended by a vacuum-cleaning robot. (July 31, 2019)

48. HANDS: YES MAN, HANDYMAN, HARDIMAN

The Army wanted cyborgs who could lift 1500 lb. They got one that could twirl a hula hoop. (August  14, 2019)

49. FEET: PEDIPULATOR, WALKING TRUCK

Army cyborgs that walk on the Moon or in Vietnam and have the strength of a platoon. (August 28, 2019)

50. SUPERWORLD COMICS

Amazingly, Hugo Gernsback also wanted to start the first science fiction comic. (September 11, 2019)

51. THAT BUCK ROGERS STUFF

Science fiction: isn't that that Buck Rogers stuff? Most people said yes, enthusiastically. (September 28, 2019)

EK

Comments, questions, corrections, and words of praise can be sent via the Contact page.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

© 2023 by EK. Proudly created with Wix.com