Idea Guild > Sagely Advice

Zombie Robots!



--- Quote ---Our gunfire tore the machines apart, circuitry and hydraulic fluids sprayed out in patterns disturbingly-similar to blood. The special rounds we had were obviously working; you could see sparks and flickers as the metal filaments played merry hell with the electric components in their chassis. It was close, but we got all of the robotic workers down before they reached our barricade. But that wasn't the end of it. Impossibly, the shattered husks, destroyed microchips and frayed lines of fiber-optics jutting out in every direction, stood up and charged our line again.

They reached it this time.

Have you ever seen a robot tear into someone? One minute they're standing there firing their rifle, the next they're missing both their arms and have a new hole in their gut. It took three times before the 'bots went down permanently. It was like something out of a horror-movie nightmare.

We discovered magic in the universe that day, and God help me, I wish we never had.
--- End quote ---

So I had this odd idea: "What would a robot zombie look like?" Not in the visual sense, but in the metaphorical sense of its characteristics. We've all seen human zombies, we know their rough characteristics, and what makes them scary and disgusting. But what about a robot? One of the major aspects of undead creepy-factor is that a corpse isn't something that should be moving. The dead are dead, and they don't just get up and walk around.

But most people don't think of robots as being alive. So how can something that isn't nominally alive become undead? If it isn't "on", it's deactivated, and if it is "on", it's activated, and that's the way that things should be. How can you have that same horror effect with something that really doesn't have a distinct line between life and death? I think this is the biggest hurdle for the concept of an undead robot, and it's high enough that I don't think anyone else has really given it serious thought before.

The key to making it work, I believe, is to step back from the rawest edge of hardness in your scifi and expand the horizons of the universe. In recent years, we've made zombies into something that's actually got a veneer of plausibility, adding some pseudo-science here and there to make the idea of a reanimated corpse less full of magic and more reasonable to the modern mind. But since robots don't really have the same intrinsic alive/dead dichotomy that humans do, I think we should pull a page from fantasy and add some magic to the mix. We can recover that same sense of unnatural events by reanimating robots that every piece of engineering and robotics (and common sense) tells us should not be moving around. Of course, this is much harder to do with robots than people, since most of us are less familiar with what makes for a truly disabling injury for a robot.

As a parting shot, perhaps none of this is needed in the first place? Is an undead machine really all that different from a pristine one that's hell-bent on destroying you? Both of them are insanely tough, and both are unlikely to stop without disabling levels of damage.

Further thoughts are appreciated.


--- Quote ---The key to making it work, I believe, is to step back from the rawest edge of hardness in your scifi and expand the horizons of the universe.
--- End quote ---

As mentioned earlier I find it difficult to associate mechanical with undead. Even though they can move in the same manner. Disturbing to me, of a WRONGNESS, would be somehow if they were able to pick up fallen parts from other machines and replace missing or damaged sections. For instance, a limb is damaged beyond use so they reach over and grab a fallen comrades arm and jam it in place of the damaged one. Now instead of a perfect arm, they have this deformed section of limb that acts like an arm but is now transformed into something else.

As said in chat. I do think a reasonable, at least for me, version would be the robots in iRobot. When connecting to their HOME server and they begin to glow red. I had an eerie feeling of wrongness about them when they did this. I realize robots are technically mindless, but in a society that is more comfortable with them seeing something like that would send a chill through me.

A better explanation. Seeing the dead is a chilling feeling for me, always has been. I am not afraid of the dead by any means but the dead have an unnatural stillness about them that I personally find uncomfortable. Seeing something I know to be dead move and look at me as a food source would, no doubt, make me lose a portion of my sanity. I'd like to think seeing one of the AI units in iRobot would be similar. Sure they do not look at me as food, but they would have this look that would make me think of being infantile to them. Almost as if I were nothing and unworthy of their opinion. Less than a simple food source, just an obstacle to go through that poses no threat.

This is a tough question, how to make something that was never alive in the first place, alive long enough to give it substance and then kill it and bring it back.

Expect me to do something with this, considering the amount of time and work I've spent on the Cosmic era robots and machine intelligences

Well, let's extend the metaphor a bit then.  A robot isn't "dead" when the kill switch is flipped; it's dead when it no longer has access to power.  Seeing my toaster come to life after it's been unplugged from the wall would seriously unnerve me.  Seeing some of the military grade robots keep moving around after being shutdown, unplugged, batteries removed and then EMP pulsed?  Terrifying.  The central question for a zombie used to be "What the HELL do I have to do to kill this thing?  It won't stop!".  As long as your "zombie robots" do the same thing to an extent, you probably have something to work with.

P.S. I second Mourn's comment on harvesting parts.  That's awesome.

Nano tech activating them keeps them extra creepy looking

Otherwise your really looking more like a Cyborg than a Zombie


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