REVIEW: “Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad

Review of Vina Jie Min Prasad’s, “Fandom for Robots”, Uncanny Magazine Volume, 18 (2017): Read Online. Reviewed by Jodie Baker.

“Fandom for Robots” is a sweet story about a robot finding a friend, and a voice, in the fandom community. It’s often a funny story, and its humour will resonate with anyone who has ever been really into a TV show:

‘Computron feels no emotion towards the animated television show titled Hyperdimension Warp Record (超次元 ワープ レコード). After all, Computron does not have any emotion circuits installed, and is thus constitutionally incapable of experiencing “excitement,” “hatred,” or “frustration.” It is completely impossible for Computron to experience emotions such as “excitement about the seventh episode of HyperWarp,” “hatred of the anime’s short episode length” or “frustration that Friday is so far away.”’

Computron, ‘The only known sentient robot’, resides in the Simak Robotics Museum. While considered a marvel when originally built in 1954, Computron’s design is now regarded as outdated. He is brought out as ‘a quaint artefact’ in the Museum’s Then And Now show, but no one really engages with him as a sentient being.

One day, a girl asks whether Computron has ever watched Hyperdimension Warp Record, and this launches Computron on a journey of discovery about fandom, friendship, and his own life. As Computron learns more about the anime show, and meets bjornruffian (a fellow fan, robot enthusiast, and fandom illustrator) on fanficarchive.org he begins to develop a wider sense of self.

“Fandom for Robots” is a great look at how empowering fanwork can be. In the museum, Computron is told not to talk too much but fandom allows him to have a voice. Computron provides helpful criticism of bjornruffian’s drawings of Cyro; the robot character on the show, and he writes his own fanfic.

Computron is also able to assert his identity through fanwork by helping to shape the robot bodies and storylines that appear in fanfic. Hyperdimension Warp Record gives him a way to process difficult memories. His friendship with bjornruffian gives Computron a reason to make his own decisions, and determine his own path, when he has so far lived quite a passive life. He makes a real connection with bjornruffian, and he ‘goes into sleep mode less’ which sounds a lot like a robot escaping from depression. It’s really lovely to go on this journey of personal development with Computron, and to see fans enjoying his and bjornruffians slash comic collab.

Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s “Fandom for Robots” is perfect for fans of Merc A. Rustard’s “How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps”, Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please”, and Martha Wells All Systems Red. If you like robots, fandom, internet culture, or if you got emotional about that XCDC Mars rover comic, then this is the story for you.

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