GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘Three Stories You Absolutely Must Read to Learn About Automatons (And One You Definitely Shouldn’t)’ by Micaiah Johnson

Like any totally-normal-not-at-all-obsessed person, I spend a lot of time thinking about automatons.

Mostly, I shake my fist at the sky like an old man complaining that kids these days only like their sleek, human-passing, electric robots and no one cares about the wind, fire, water, and clockwork powered beings that preceded them. Is MonkBot not sexy? With that sweet, sweet segmented mouth action?

Automatons are usually thought of as no different from golems, living dolls, or patchwork girls. Just another category of animated being: nifty, sure, but so what? But automatons are, and have always been, important. And for two thousand years we knew that.

In the arc of human invention, automatons predate paper. That means before we thought “sure would be nice to write things in a convenient and portable manner” we thought “sure would be nice to have an inhuman creation in our shape that moves.” Then we immediately looked at this thing we’d made and instead of believing we’d become gods, we thought we’d created them. In ancient Rome and Egypt, as well as during the medieval period, automatons were representations of the divine. Even after they shifted into the realm of entertainment, automatons were singular wonders, art that brought joy to the viewer.

By remembering automatons we remember how the prioritization of art can become bulldozed by wants of industry, the miraculous giving way to the profitable. These creations are still essential to study, because when humans create in their own image they also create a tangible snapshot of the values and visions of the world at that moment. Sometimes, that image is of religious devotion. Sometimes, it’s an image of intellectual curiosity and wonder. But sometimes they are darker, cautionary tales exposing how power operates against the powerless.



Combines two things we love: WheezyWaiter and robots in myth.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellow B&N | Amazon | Etc.

Doing some research to better understand those Automata-creatures that BLA created:

Reading Explorations in the History of Machines and Mechanisms by Teun Koetsier and Marco Ceccarelli (Editors):

“Automata make their first appearance in Homer, in a form that is strikingly similar to those described in On Automaton-Making. Hephaestus is depicted creating self-moving tripods to serve the gods on Olympus (Homer Iliad 18.373-381 [16]). This passage from the Iliad is the inspiration for the later automaton, when what was once impossible and divine becomes possible through the human application of mechanics [17]. Certainly, the form of automaton seen in Heron and Philon would seem to be a conscious emulation of this passage…The most likely context for the display of the automata described in On Automaton-Making, given their size, is that of a symposium, particularly in the case of the moving automaton described in the first book, especially considering its Dionysian theme. There is also a clear parallel created between the three wheeled automata of Heron and the tripods of Hephaestus [16] when they are presented in a sympotic context.”

BLA just gave a shake of the head and told me, “You want to know why some of Heron’s automata theories and musings don’t make much sense? Because Vulcan wouldn’t let such secrets be spread so easily. The exactness of machines now is nothing compared to what the gods once allowed. And I’m not talking about divine machines here. I’m talking about man-made things. Even if made from god-made secrets.”