Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Liar!" by Isaac Asimov!

First appeared in Astounding. Reprinted by Judith Merril, Sam Moskowitz, Laurence M. Janifer, Robert Silverberg, Leslie A. Fiedler, Donald L. Lawler, Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, Peter Haining, including two genre retrospectives.

Ah, the days of exclamatory titles. Whatever happened to those? The ISFDB counts Asimov as committing 106 (Brian Aldiss did 24). Since Asimov wrote 500-odd books, maybe ten percent (including short stories) were exclamatory. I use them myself in informal chats, usually to convey excitement for the other party. Not using them doesn't seem to do the trick. I feel like Eeyore or, worse, Bill Murray, saying exactly opposite to what I mean--not that Murray doesn't have his place. Why shouldn't exclamation points may have their place as well! (experimental exclamation which probably didn't work.)

Does the title need the exclamation mark? Maybe so. The title seem to give some of the game away, but Asimov added emotional flavor to it.

Susan Calvin is a robot psychologist, dealing with Herbie, the first robot able to read minds. The company's not sure what to make of it; however, when they talk to him individually, they feel better. It informs Calvin that Ashe is in love with her and wants to propose to her. It tells mathematician that it cannot find a solution that it can. And it tells another that his boss is resigning when he's not. Why? To make them feel better. Why? The first law:
"A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm."
Lying keeps the humans from to mental harm. Unfortunately, Herbie's lies have caused more harm than anticipated. Calvin gets a little vengeful at the end, which although you feel for her, you also feel for the robot, doing what it thought was right. The title and last word are hers. Certainly, it makes for an interesting character, though.

Note: This is the first use of the term "robotics," apparently.

Wikipedia's abbreviated entry on this story is slightly off.

No comments:

Post a Comment