Railhead A-Z: M is for Motorik

 

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Metropolis

Androids were a feature of this story from the start, but I didn’t want to call them androids, which is too familiar a word, and seemed too sci-fi even in a text full of space trains and hyperspace portals. So they became the Motorik, which I thought looked more intriguing and exotic on the page. (It’s also the name of a type of German music with an insistent, driving beat – the secret soundtrack of Railhead.)  The Motorik are part of a long tradition of artificial people in SF, and of course they will remind readers of Battlestar Galactica or AI or Blade Runner or a host of other works, going back through Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Carel Kapek’s R.U.R. all the way to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. But that doesn’t bother me. Science fiction and fantasy have these familiar touchstones, the stock characters and situations to which each writer tries to add his or her own spin. One of the things such stories give us is a way of thinking about humans by looking through the eyes of people who are not human; the robots, the aliens, the always-outsiders.

Motorik are built to serve; polite, reserved, their synthetic faces deliberately bland (because nobody really wants a servant who is prettier or more interesting than themselves). You find them working at the reception desks in offices and hotels, and as labourers on airless asteroid mines or barely-habitable industrial worlds. They are supposed to have the same average intelligence as humans, but most people think them less than human; they don’t have feelings and emotions like a human does.

Or do they? Who knows what they are thinking, or how they feel? Some of the Motorik in Railhead are only just beginning to work out what they are capable of…

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