I come from a big family. Like, really big. My nuclear family consisted of my mum, dad and brother. Sure, that might not sound as colossal as your own set up, with your three sisters and six brothers and twelve dads. But I haven’t included the robots … and there were a lot of robots. Every time I opened a book or comic or turned on the TV or went to the cinema or let my imagination wander, there they were, waiting for me, ready to entertain, engage and inspire – androids, automatons, machines and mechanoids galore. I’m not sure whether I adopted the robots or the robots adopted me, but as far as I was concerned, those mechanical marvels were as much my family as my mushy, organic relatives.
My robot family looked nothing like my human family. They were considerably more metal, with blinking lights and whirring servos and wheels for feet. They also had much cooler names (which I’m definitely not listing just to increase the word count of this blog) – how could my organic kin hope to compete with ‘bots named Twiki, Zax, T-Bob, Nono, Marvin, Robby, Rosey, Johnny 5, 7-Zark-7, K9, H.A.L. 9000, H.E.R.B.I.E., F.L.U.F.F.I, C.H.I.P., B.U.G., S.A.M.A.N.T.H.A., V.I.N.C.E.N.T., Old B.O.B. (don’t ask me what any of their names stand for – families don’t ask), Machine Man, Robotman, The Iron Man/Giant, Vision, Ultron, Jocasta, The Human Torch, Red Tornado, Hewey, Dewey, Louie, Optimus Prime, Megatron, and, of course, R2-D2 and C-3PO?
My robot family was not an assortment of mindless machines, however; K9 and C-3PO were the sort of patronising, know-it-all uncles that tend to drive you up the wall. T-Bob and Nono were little brothers who, for some reason, had been programmed to be annoying at least 96% of the time. Vision and Jocasta were older siblings who were slightly distant and aloof, but So. Unbelievably. Cool. Optimus Prime was a very serious parent, always ready to dish out wisdom or drop a moral message, while Megatron was, let’s face it, a far more fun father figure, if you ignored all the global conquest and/or domination (which, looking back, probably set a bad example for an eight-year-old keen to make an impression upon the world.) Indeed, in every way that counted, my robot family was just as human as my human family, if not more so. The fact that they weren’t actually human made them even more relatable … even more human. The fact that a robot’s humanity must be learned and earned perhaps makes it even more profound. Plus, Megatron was a hoot at Christmas, always shouting “I’ll crush you with my bare hands, Earthlings!” whenever anyone had more than their fair share of pigs in blankets.
In my new book, SCRAP, robots are given the job of preparing the far-off planet of Somewhere 513 for the arrival of human colonists. But, when the robots decide they want to keep the world for themselves, humanity itself is outlawed. As the robots reject their programming to become more human, the colonists are banished. Now, one lonely, rejected robot finds himself tied to the humans’ fate, when he discovers two children, Paige and Gnat, are still stuck on the planet, and desperate to escape. As Scrap and the children find family ties bind them together, Scrap must decide whether to reawaken the best side of his own humanity.
So, here’s to my robot family, and robot families everywhere, always ready to teach us more about ourselves.
Even if they have wheels for feet.