During science fiction's Radium Age (1904-33), writers dreamed up mechanical and quasi-organic humanoids so compelling that they continue to haunt today's scifi, forcing us to ask what it means to be human.
Forget WALL-E and GORT. Forget sexy Summer Glau and Tricia Helfer in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Battlestar Galactica. OK, don't forget them. But check it out: Long before Autobots, Fembots, and the Urkelbot, PGA SF authors obsessed over electricity-, steam-, and clockwork-powered machine-men or "robots" (a term introduced in 1921) that might free us from the burden of labor... or else run amuck and destroy/enslave us. Before Yul Brynner, Daryl Hannah, and Brent Spiner played troubled biomechs, replicants, and skin-jobs in Westworld, Blade Runner, and Star Trek: TNG, SF novels and stories published from 1904-33 asked what, exactly, distinguishes an "android" - a term, meaning "human-like," first popularized in an 1886 French SF novel - from one of us? And before the Six Million Dollar Man, the Terminator, and the Borg popularized the obscure 1960s notion of the "cyborg," PGA SF authors had already inserted human brains into machines, and vice versa, creating existential crises of every variety for their characters.
Here's a list - in no particular order - of 10 of the most compelling and uncanny robot, android, and cyborg-oriented novels, stories, and plays that were published in the decades immediately before SF's so-called Golden Age. There's a more complete list at the end, too. A version of this post originally appeared at io9.com.
1) L. Frank Baum, Ozma of Oz (Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1907). The third Oz book, and the first in which we meet one of Baum's most delightful characters: "He was only about as tall as Dorothy herself, and his body was round as a ball and made out of burnished copper. Also his head and limbs were copper, and these were jointed or hinged to his body in a peculiar way, with metal caps over the joints, like the armor worn by knights in days of old." From a printed card attached to its neck, Dorothy learns that Tiktok is a "Patent Double-Action, Extra-Responsive, Thought-Creating, Perfect-Talking Mechanical Man Fitted with out Special Clock-Work Attachment. Thinks, Speaks, Acts, and Does Everything but Live." Though one of the earliest fictional appearances of true machine intelligence, Tiktok (above, with Nome King) is not a free agent like his (equally metallic, yet living) new friend, the Tin Man, to whom he confides that "When I am wound up I do my du-ty by go-ing just as my ma-chin-er-y is made to go." Fun fact: Baum revisited this story for his 1913 musical, The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, in which Tiktok sings: "Always work and never play!/Don't demand a cent of pay!"
READ IT | OZ IMAGES
2) Karel Čapek, R.U.R.: Rossum's Universal Robots (1921 premiere as R.U.R.: Rossumovi univerzální roboti; in translation, 1923). This surreal morality play takes place in the 1960s or so, and it's set in the factory of a (USA?) manufacturing concern that has shipped hundreds of thousands of "Robots" - biological humanoids designed for cheap labor - around the world. (We'd call Čapek's Robots "androids," now; see Spock-like sketch of one from the '22 New York production, at left.) The Robots, which have a limited life span, are supposedly soulless. Not so, claims Helena Glory, a liberal activist who marries the factory's GM (who envisions a utopia in which humans won't have to do any work). At Helena's urging, R.U.R.'s scientists develop Robots tricked out with extra humanity... at which point they rise up and exterminate humankind. In an epilogue, Alquist, R.U.R.'s construction engineer and the last surviving human, give his blessing to two new-model Robots, Primus and Helena, who have discovered love. Warning them to avoid the sins that destroyed his own species, Alquist sends them forth to be fruitful and multiply. Fun fact: The term robot, coined by Čapek's brother, Josef, comes from the Czech for "serf labor."
READ IT | R.U.R. IMAGES
3) Thea von Harbou, Metropolis (1926; in translation, 1927). Set in a dystopian city-state, this Expressionist novel asks us to imagine a perverse synthesis of the era's seminal dichotomy: Henry Adams's dynamo-vs.-virgin question. Metropolis's Pharaonic master, Joh Fredersen, deplores those weaknesses that make his dehumanized laborers (they wear standard uniforms, and answer to numbers) inferior to machines. So he orders the mad inventor-magician, Rotwang, to build him "machine men." Instead, Rotwang constructs an alluring female-shaped machine whom he names Parody, or Futura: "The being was, indubitably, a woman... But, although it was a woman, it was not human. The body seemed as though made of crystal, through which the bones shone silver." After rendering Futura's face in the exact likeness of Maria (a flesh-and-blood woman who is both the conscience of the rebellious workers and the object of Fredersen's pinko son's affection), the villainous technocrats program their synthetic Virgin/Dynamo to act as an agent provocateuse. The workers revolt, and Futura/Maria is destroyed. But in the end, the Virgin (sentimental religiosity) triumphs over the Dynamo (technology-driven development). Hooray? Fun fact: Von Harbou and her husband, film director Fritz Lang, developed the scenario for Metropolis, then she wrote the novelization while he directed the brilliant 1927 movie.
LEARN MORE | READ IT
4) Frigyes Karinthy, Voyage to Faremido: Gulliver's Fifth Voyage (Utazás Faremidóba; Gulliver ötödik útj, 1916; in translation, 1965). It's 1914, and Jonathan Swift's Lemuel Gulliver is eager to go to sea again. He signs on as a surgeon on a British ship, only to be torpedoed in the Baltic, then picked up by a UFO and transported to Faremido, a planet ruled by intelligent machine-folk. They regard organic life as a loathsome disease of matter, so they're tickled about the Great War, which looks likely to exterminate humankind. Agreeing that the Faremidoans (whose society is peaceful, and whose fa-re-mi-do language is musical) are superior beings, Gulliver accepts an injection of their own brain-matter - quicksilver and minerals - into his head. Now a proto-cyborg himself, Gulliver is sent back to England, where he finds it difficult to adjust to the irrational horrors of everyday life. Fun fact: The sequel to this Hungarian novella is Capillária (1921), in which Gulliver gains insight into sexual politics when he visits a submarine civilization whose women dominate and eat their menfolk. Also see Karinthy's recently reissued autobiographical novel, A Journey Round My Skull.
BUY IT | READ IT (HUNGARIAN)
5) S. Fowler Wright, "Automata: I-III" (Weird Tales, September 1929). The first episode of this three-part series - by the British author of The Amphibians, Deluge, and Dawn - is set in the present or near future. Addressing the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the distinguished scientist Dr. Tilwin announces that humankind's prerogatives will soon be taken over by machines, which are already superior to us in certain ways. Intelligent machines are omnipresent in the second episode, set at some point after the 20th century. By this time, human procreation has almost stopped (Wright, a would-be Wellsian social prophet, was a fierce critic of birth control) and children are increasingly rare. In the final episode, one of the last humans on Earth is drawing a picture - one of the few tasks that machines can't perform, because it requires imagination. Alas, because he doesn't properly finish his assignment, he is condemned to be executed. Fun facts: Robots didn't come hardwired with systems of ethics until Isaac Asimov and John W. Campbell made it so in the '40s. Also, Wright translated Dante's Inferno and Purgatorio.
ABOUT SFW | BUY SFW BOOKS
6) Jean de La Hire, The Nyctalope on Mars (Le Mystère des XV, 1911). Léo Saint-Clair, alias the Nyctalope, is an indomitable Doc Savage-style crimefighter gifted with night vision. As we learn somewhat late in the series, he's also equipped with an artificial heart, which he gained after being tortured and nearly assassinated, and which prevents him from aging. In this, the first of a series of exploits published through the mid-1940s, the Nyctalope - pictured at left, in a different adventure - battles Oxus, leader of the sinister Society of the Fifteen, who is plotting to conquer Earth from his secret base on Mars. Later, however, he allies himself with Oxus and the planet's benign inhabitants in order to defeat H. G. Wells' evil Martians. Then he gets married. Phew! In subsequent SF adventures, the Nyctalope will travel to the planet Rhea, where he'll end a war between the day- and night-siders; discover a lost civilization of Amazons in Tibet; and have himself cryopreserved so that, 170 years later, he can defeat an enemy who has also been frozen (hello, Demolition Man and Austin Powers). A pioneering pulp superhero and cyborg. Fun fact: Nyctalopia is a real medical condition that causes you to see poorly - or well - in the dark.
LEARN MORE | BUY THE 2008 ENGLISH-LANGUAGE EDITION
7) Sax Rohmer, The Day the World Ended (London and New York, 1930). Three international crimefighters - Lonergan, an American secret service agent; Gaston Max, a dandified French police detective; and Brian Woodville, an English journalist - are investigating a series of strange events: radio silence in the USA, reports of man-bats in the Black Forest, the sudden death of everyone in a French village. It turns out that Anubis, a dwarfish evil genius, is plotting to establish a utopian society populated by surgically altered and highly conditioned humans (i.e., androids). How? By destroying the rest of the Earth's population with a sonic weapon. The trio infiltrate Anubis's German castle, populated by 7-foot-tall guards and "soulless" houris - hello, Westworld and Stepford Wives - and call in an air strike. Fun fact: Rohmer was best known for his (racist) thrillers about Dr. Fu Manchu.
BUY IT | ABOUT ROHMER | READ ROHMER |
8) Neil R. Jones, "The Jameson Satellite" (Amazing Stories, July 1931). In 1958, Professor Jameson arranges for his body to be cryopreserved - in a rocket orbiting the Earth - after he's dead. Forty million years later, a crew hailing from the planet Zor, whose inhabitants had "built their own mechanical bodies, and by operation upon one another had removed their brains to the metal heads from which they directed the functions and movements of their inorganic anatomies," discover the satellite. The Zoromes transfer Jameson's brain into a machine body, then take him to visit the lifeless Earth, an experience that nearly drives him mad, until he realizes that "He could be immortal if he wished! It would be an immortality of never-ending adventures in the vast, endless Universe among the galaxy of stars and planets." Indeed, Jones would publish 21 more "Professor Jameson" stories; cover illustration for 2d installment, at left. Fun fact: Isaac Asimov claimed the Zoromes, who are thoroughly objective, gave him his "feeling for benevolent robots who could serve man with decency."
READ IT | BUY THE BOOKS
9) Gaston Leroux, The Machine to Kill (1924 as Le machine à assassiner; 1935 translation). France's top police detective, Lebouc, is on the trail of a human-looking mechanical man (pictured at left) whose skull houses the brain of Benedict Masson, a guillotined murderer. Animated with radioactive serum, the cyborg - named Gabriel by its creator, a clockwork expert named Norbert - has carried off Norbert's daughter, Christine. She's the one who witnessed Benedict burying a corpse in his basement... so does Gabriel/Benedict want revenge? And what's with the Hindu vampire cult that kidnaps Christine - did they commit the murders for which Benedict died? G/B is captured by Lebouc, but escapes and rescues Christine from the cultists before destroying itself by leaping into a river. The End? No! Christine, who has fallen in love with the cyborg, reassembles G/B's remains, and prepares to reanimate it... only to discover that her husband has destroyed its brain. Fun fact: Leroux is best known for his 1910 horror tale, Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, on which the movies and Broadway show are based.
READ IT (FRENCH) | MORE LEROUX
10) W.K. Mashburn, "Sola" (Weird Tales, April 1930). Though he despises women and can't stand their company, Dr. Franz Dietrich desires them sexually. So he invents a flesh-like substance, which a sculptor helps him shape into a gorgeous female android. Having wired Sola with complex responses - the apparatus is supposed to react in particular ways, immediately upon perceiving his telepathically projected emotions - the mad scientist invites a group of colleagues over to dinner. Growing tipsy, Dietrich flies into an embarrassed fury, because he thinks Sola is unresponsive, and tries to destroy it. But his colleagues - and eventually, the entire town - pitch in to raise his self-esteem by treating Sola as a member of the community. Oh wait, I'm thinking of Lars and the Real Girl. What actually happens is that Sola's emotion receptors are activated by the professor's rage, and his own creation crushes him to death. A classic example of what McLuhan - in The Mechanical Bride (1951) - would call "the curious fusion of sex, technology, and death."
* E.T.A. Hoffmann, Der Sandmann (1814) - lifelike clockwork
* Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818) - human, assembled and reanimated
* Edgar Allan Poe, "Maelzel's Chess Player" (1836) - Poe disputes machine intelligence
* Edgar Allan Poe, "The Man That Was Used Up" (1843) - human, artificial body
* Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Artist of the Beautiful" (1844) - mechanical butterfly
* Herman Melville, "The Bell Tower" (1855) - automaton bell-ringer comes to life?
* Edward S. Ellis, The Steam Man of the Prairies (1865) - man-shaped engine
* H. D. Jenkins, "The Automaton of Dobello" (1872) - 14th-century automaton as ghost
* Julian Hawthorne, "An Automatic Enigma" (Belgravia, May 1878). Borderline SF, a reworking of "The Headless Horseman." Human disguised as automaton? See Hawthorne entry.
* E.P. Mitchell, "The Ablest Man in the World" (New York Sun, May 4, 1879). Babbage's analytical engine in head; first cyborg? See Mitchell entry.
* Jacques Offenbach, The Tales of Hoffmann (1881) - lifelike clockwork
* Don Quichotte, "The Artificial Man: A Semi-Scientific Story" (The Argonaut, August 16, 1884). The narrator meets a sickly, elderly-looking man who claims to be an 18-year-old artificial human being. He was reared, he says, in a bell jar and is nourished by chemicals inserted into his stomach. To prove his claim, he lifts off the top of his head and removes his brain. The artificial man claims he is the first step in the evolution of man into a superior type.
* Luis Senarens, Frank Reade and His Electric Man (1885) - electricity-powered mecha?
* Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Tomorrow's Eve (L'Ève future, 1886; full periodical publication in La vie moderne, 1884) — the novel credited with popularizing the word "android." See Villiers de l'Isle-Adam entry.
* Howard Fielding, "Automatic Bridget" (Manhattan Therapeutic Co.: New York, c. 1889). An advertising booklet for a laxative sold by Manhattan Therapeutic Co. One of the humorous sketches concerns a con man who discovers a dead inventor's automatic housemaid, a woman-shaped steam apparatus with three legs and long powerful arm-like appendages. The con man floats a stock company, but his stockholders insist that he turn on the machine... which proceeds to run amok, smashing things and killing people.
* Cyrus Cole, The Auroraphone (Charles H. Kerr: Chicago, 1890). Friends sightseeing in the Rockies come across the invention of a French scientist that transmits Morse code messages purportedly from Saturn. The Saturnian transmits his planet's cosmic perspective and utopian social order, and mentions that they possess "dummies," or human-formed robots manufactured to do grunt work. But now the dummies are in revolt! Communication ceases. Ten years later, the friends return to the Rockies and reconnect with Saturn, where it turns out that the dummies were incapable of defending against aerial attacks, and lost the war. They've been discontinued, and Saturnians do their own work again.
* William Douglas O'Connor, "The Brazen Android" (w. 1857, p. The Atlantic Monthly, April 1891). Steam-powered mecha? First steampunk?
* Jerome K. Jerome, "The Dancing Partner" (The Idler, March 1893; and in Novel Notes, Leadenhall Press: London, 1893). See Jerome entry.
* M.L. Campbell, "The Automatic Maid-of-All-Work" (Canadian Magazine, July 1893). Since Mrs. Matheson, the narrator, has difficulty keeping domestic servants, her husband invents a maid-of-all-work. The result is a creature with windmill-like arms, a face with numbered buttons, and an electric battery for power. It functions well enough, though ruthlessly — knocking people out of it way, dumping them out of bed, and so forth. When its controls are improperly set, the machine runs amok and damages the household.
* G.H.P., The Artificial Mother: A Marital Fantasy (Putnam: New York, 1894). See G.H.P. entry.
* Elizabeth Bellamy, "Ely's Automatic Housemaid" (The Black Cat, December 1899). A cautionary, humorous story in which an inventor creates Electric-Automatic Household Beneficent Geniuses, humaniform devices that perform household activities. They operate by means of springs and weighted wheels and are powered by electric batteries in their heads. When the narrator's son sets the controls for two robots to sweep the floor at the same time, the household is wrecked.
* Gustave Le Rouge & Gustave Guitton, La Conspiration des Milliardaires (The Billionaire's Conspiracy, 1899-1900). American billionaire William Boltyn uses Thomas Edison's "Metal Men" and the power of mediums to try to become master of the world. See Le Rouge entry.
* Harle Oren Cummins, "The Man Who Made a Man," in Welsh Rarebit Tales (The Mutual Book Co.: Boston, 1902). A knockoff Frankenstein tale, in which Professor Holbrok is believed to be a murderer, because a corpse was found in his lab. His assistant claims that Holbrok had discovered how to make artificial flesh and bone, constructed a man, and tried to animate it with electricity — but to no avail.
THE NINETEEN-OUGHTS (1904-13):
* L. Frank Baum, Ozma of Oz (Chicago: Reilly & Britton, 1907). See Baum entry; also see above.
* H.P. Fitzgerald Marriott, The Iron Detective of Germany: A Comedy of the Near Future (1908)
* Ambrose Bierce, "Moxon's Master" in The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, Vol. 3: Can Such Things Be? (Walter Neale: Washington, 1909). See Bierce entry.
* Henry A. Hering, "Mr. Broadbent's Information" (Pearson's Magazine, March 1909).
* Charles Hannan, The Electric Man: Being the One-Act Version of the Successful Three-Act Farcical Comedy of the Same Name (Samuel French: London and New York, 1910). Drawing-room farce in which Walter Everest is bequeathed — in his father's will — an electrically operated mechanical (clockwork?) man, which his father (an inventor) has instructed him how to assemble. Everest builds the man, whom he names Cyril, in his exact own likeness. Mistaken-identity comedy ensues. The automaton is incapable of speech, and both clumsy and destructive. It runs down spectacularly.
* Jean de La Hire, Le Mystère des XV (1911, later translated into English as The Nyctalope on Mars). See De La Hire entry; also see above.
* Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Monster Men (McClurg: Chicago, 1929). Published first in All-Story (November 1913), as A Man without a Soul. Androids! See Burroughs entry.
THE TEENS (1914-23):
* L. Frank Baum, Tik-Tok of Oz (1914). See Baum entry.
* Frigyes Karinthy, Voyage to Faremido: Gulliver's Fifth Voyage (1916 — or 1917? — novella, translated from Hungarian in 1966). See Karinthy entry.
* Perley Poore Sheehan & Robert H. Davis, Blood and Iron (The Strand Magazine, October 1917). See Sheehan entry.
* Jean de La Hire, Lucifer (1921-22). See De La Hire entry.
* Jean de La Hire, Le Roi de la Nuit (1923). See De La Hire entry.
* E.V. Odle, The Clockwork Man (1923)
* Karel Čapek, R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots): A Fantastic Melodrama (Doubleday, Page: Garden City, N.Y., 1923. Trans. from Czech by Paul Selver.) See Čapek entry.
* E.V. Odle, The Clockwork Man (Heinemann: London, 1923; Doubleday, Page: Garden City, NY, 1923). Edward Vincent Odle (1890-1942) edited The Argosy from 1926-38. "Of the many works of scientific romance that have fallen into utter obscurity," writes Brian Stableford, in Scientific Romance in Britain, 1890-1950, "this is perhaps the one which most deserves rescue." Eight thousand years from now, advanced humanoids known as the Makers will implant clockwork devices into our heads, devices which permit us to move through time and space — at the cost of a certain amount of agency. If one of these devices should go awry, a "clockwork man" (perhaps what we'd now call a cyborg) might appear in the 1920s, at a cricket match in a small English village, performing brilliantly at the sport but speaking and behaving strangely. Worse, like the titular character in Philip K. Dick's 1969 story "The Electric Ant," the clockwork man might attempt to tinker with his own mechanism. Bleiler writes: "Exactly what Odle had in mind is not clear, and interpretations of his book vary. For some the book is warning against the activities of science; for others, a speculation on the nature of man, perhaps striking on the same ideas that Wells hit in Men Like Gods.... Interesting in idea, but without Wells's literary skill." Also perhaps a meditation on the coming race of homo superior; it's been suggested that J.D. Beresford, who knew Odle, was an influence. Like Wells, Odle is not as misanthropic as many British writers of this period; he wonders eloquently if the amorality of reason and the bestiality of human nature can be overcome by the force for good that also exists in humanity. Stableford: "One of the most thoughtful scientific romances of the period. The moral of the story is presented a little obliquely, with a scrupulously polite lack of stridency, but this is still one of the most eloquent pleas for the rejection of the 'rational' future and the conservation of the humanity of man."
THE TWENTIES (1924-33):
* Gaston Leroux, Le machine à assassiner (The Machine to Kill, 1924). Cyborg? See Leroux entry.
* John Lionel Tayler, The Last of My Race: A Dream of the Future (London, 1924). The narrator, a medical man of the 20th century, wakes up in the year 302,930. He is encouraged to write down his activities and sensations — then notices that the seeming humans who attend to his wants are perfect automatons. So are the flowers in the garden, and a tortoise that creeps about. (Hello, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?...) He also notices that the house — modeled after a 20th century home — is a sort of living organism that is aware of his thoughts and moods and responds to them. A superman — so evolved that the narrator can hardly bear his presence — pays him a call. He explains that 20th-century mankind (Homo ignorans) became extinct because his brain grew so large that his giant head prevented its passage through the birth canal. We learn all about the evolution of superior forms of mankind; very proto-Stapledon.
* Maurice Renard & Albert Jean, Le singe (1925). Translated as Blind Circle (Dutton: New York, 1928). See Renard entry.
* Jean de La Hire, L'Amazone du Mont Everest (1925). See De La Hire entry.
* Ivan Narodny, The Skygirl, A Mimodrama: In Three Acts on A Star Prologue and Epilogue on the Earth (The Britons Publishing Co.: New York and London, 1925). Symbolic science-fantasy play based on a Futurist aesthetic. Bleiler says the play is "badly paced, ill developed, partly extraneous, and at times self-contradictory." On the star (planet?) Astralea, mankind (with two exceptions) is extinct, and the population consists of what we've since come to call cyborgs: mixtures of flesh, mechanical aids, and exotic sensory equipment who are incubated in laboratories. These creatures are rougly humanoid in appearance, but with strange protruding sense organs and physical conformations in the Futurist mode. The only real humans on the planet are the old crone Luna and her beautiful daughter Helia (the Skygirl), upon the latter of whom two cyborg scientists plan to model their latest invention, real women — because cyborgs lust for real women. Just then, Russian refugee poet-scientist Savva Struve — who has been observing the Skygirl, from Mongolia, via trance-states and a "telebioscope" — travels to Astralea by meteor. He and Helia fall in love, and are sentenced to death. But Luna deactivates the cyborgs.
* Maurice Renard & Albert Jean, Blind Circle (1925)
* Edmond Hamilton, Across Space (Weird Tales, September-November 1926). Androids. See Hamilton entry.
* Edmond Hamilton, The Metal Giants (1926). A computer brain who runs on atomic power creates an army of 300-foot-tall robots.
* Thea von Harbou, Metropolis (Readers Library: London, 1927). Translated from 1926 German edition. Reissued in 1934 with stills from the movie. See Von Harbou entry.
* Jean de La Hire, L'Antéchrist (1927). See De La Hire entry.
* David H. Keller, "The Psychophonic Nurse" (1928)
* Edmond Hamilton, The Comet Doom (1928). Edmond Hamilton presented space explorers with a mixture of organic and machine parts in his novel The Comet Doom in 1928. He later featured the talking, living brain of an old scientist, Simon Wright, floating around in a transparent case, in all the adventures of his famous hero, Captain Future
* Amelia Reynolds Long, "The Twin Soul" (Weird Tales, March 1928)
* Francis Flagg, The Chemical Brain (Weird Tales, January 1929). Out-of-work mechanic John Lester is hired by Captain Rowan, who offers him a job assembling a mechanical device. Lester moves into Rowan's establishment and begins constructing a mechanical man to his employer's specifications; it's metal, except for a gelatin brain. When Lester finishes the mechanical man (a cyborg?), Rowan drops dead of excitement — at which point, supposedly, his mind transfers itself into the robot. Which runs amok, killing Rowan's business partner — with whom Rowan had been furious.
* Jean de La Hire, Titania (1929). See De La Hire entry.
* Stephen Leacock, The Iron Man and the Tin Woman with Other Such Futurities: A Book of Little Sketches of To-Day and To-Morrow (John Lane: London, 1929). See Leacock entry.
* William Salisbury, The Squareheads, The Story of a Socialized State: A Futuristic Novel (The Independent Publishing Co.: New Rochelle, NY, 1929). Norman Thraley, a stunt aviator experimenting with a rocket-propelled plane loses consciousness and wakes up in 2330. He has been in a coma for over 400 years. America is now the utopian/dystopian society of Usofmera, where everything is "four-square" — literally. Trees, fruit, architeture, even humans are cubic. Everyone walks in lock-step, the majority is always right. The state provides exactly the same food and housing for all. Etcetera. (See description in Science-Fiction: The Early Years.) Thraley is sentenced to death — by giant robot! A giant robot wrestler that tosses victims to their death! But, as in so many sleeper-awakes narratives, he is rescued by the underground.
* S. Fowler Wright, "Automata" (Weird Tales, September 1929). See Wright entry.
* Jean de La Hire, Belzébuth (1930). See De La Hire entry.
* Sax Rohmer, The Day the World Ended (Cassell: London, 1930; Doubleday, Doran, for the Crime Club: Garden City, NY, 1930). Originally in Colliers (May 4—July 20, 1929). Androids! From the author of the Fu Manchu thrillers. See Rohmer entry.
* Otis Adelbert Kline, The Prince of Peril: The Weird Adventures of Zinlo, Man of Three Worlds Upon the Mysterious Planet of Venus (McClurg: Chicago, 1930). See Kline entry.
* Ainslee Jenkins, "Men of Steel" (Weird Tales, December 1930). In the Mohave Desert, mad scientist Ared Hazzard conducts nefarious experiments in a castle-like structure. These include mechanical men. The narrator and his girlfriend are captured, and Hazzard plans to transfer their psyches (more or less intact) into the robots. But he fails. Amateurish, pseudo-Gothic.
* W.K. Mashburn, "Sola" (Weird Tales, April 1930). See above.
* The "Professor Jameson" series by Neil R. Jones (early 1930s) featured human and alien minds preserved in robot bodies. The first installment of Jones' most popular creation, "The Jameson Satellite", appeared in the July 1931 issue of Amazing Stories. See above.
* Abner J. Gelula, "Automaton" (1931)
* Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932) - maybe
* Jean de La Hire, Gorillard (1932) See De La Hire entry.
* John Wyndham, "The Lost Machine" (1932). See Wyndham entry.
* Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932). Not exactly androids, but worth mentioning that Huxley, the brother and half-brother of two outstanding biologists, and grandson of Thomas Henry "Darwin's Bulldog" Huxley, portrays a society operating on the principles of mass production and Pavlovian conditioning. The novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, biological engineering (sorta), and sleep-learning that combine to change society. Huxley was reacting against a popular interwar pamphlet series arguing that by the end of the century social life would be altered beyond recognition, entirely for the better due to the advancement of biological science. Contrary to what modern readers would expect, the biological techniques used to control the populace in Brave New World do not include genetic engineering. Huxley wrote the book in the 1920s, thirty years before Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA. However, Mendel's work with inheritance patterns in peas had been re-discovered in 1900 and the eugenics movement, based on Darwinian selection, was well established. Huxley's family included a number of prominent biologists including Thomas Huxley, half-brother and Nobel Laureate Andrew Huxley, and brother Julian Huxley who was a biologist and involved in the eugenics movement. In light of this, the fact that Huxley emphasizes conditioning over breeding is notable (see nature versus nurture). As the science writer Matt Ridley put it, Brave New World describes an "environmental not a genetic hell." Human embryos and fetuses are conditioned via a carefully designed regimen of chemical (such as exposure to hormones and toxins), thermal (exposure to intense heat or cold, as one's future career would dictate) and other environmental stimuli, although there is an element of selective breeding as well.
* David H. Keller, Revolt of the Pedestrians (1932). Human cyborgs revolt.
* Neil R. Jones, "The Planet of the Double Sun" (Amazing Stories, February 1932; Amazing Stories, November 1962 - reprint; Ace Books collection #1, 1967)
* Neil R. Jones, "The Return of the Tripeds" (Amazing Stories, May 1932; Ace Books collection #1, 1967)
* Jean de La Hire, L'Assassinat du Nyctalope (1933). See De La Hire entry. Origin story! How he got his artificial heart.
* Jean de La Hire, Les Mystères de Lyon (1933). See De La Hire entry. Origin story! How he got his artificial heart.
* Neil R. Jones, "Into the Hydrosphere" (Amazing Stories, October 1933; Ace Books collection #2, 1967)
* Neil R. Jones, "Time's Mausoleum" (Amazing Stories, December 1933; Ace Books collection #2, 1967)
* J. Storer Clouston, Button Brains (1933)
* Harl Vincent, "Rex" (1934)
* A. Merritt, "The Last Poet and the Robots" (1934)