content by

Cassie Josephs

Murderbot: An Autistic-Coded Robot Done Right

As an autistic lover of sci-fi, I really relate to robots. When handled well, they can be a fascinating exploration of the way that somebody can be very unlike the traditional standard of “human” but still be a person worthy of respect. However, robots who explicitly share traits with autistic people can get… murky.

The issue here is that autistic people being compared to robots—because we’re “emotionless” and “incapable of love”—is a very real and very dangerous stereotype. There’s a common misconception that autistic people are completely devoid of feelings: that we’re incapable of being kind and loving and considerate, that we never feel pain or sorrow or grief. This causes autistic people to face everything from social isolation from our peers to abuse from our partners and caregivers. Why would you be friends with someone who is incapable of kindness? Why should you feel bad about hurting someone who is incapable of feeling pain? Because of this, many autistic people think that any autistic-coded robot is inherently “bad representation.”

But I disagree! I think that the topic can, when handled correctly, be done very well—and I think that Martha Wells’ The Murderbot Diaries series is an excellent example.

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