Frankenstein complex n.

Isaac Asimov’s term for: the anxiety and distrust humans feel for robots

SF Criticism


  • 1947 I. Asimov Little Lost Robot in Astounding Science Fiction Mar. 116/1 page image Isaac Asimov bibliography

    I’ll admit that this Frankenstein Complex you’re exhibiting has a certain justification—hence the First Law in the first place.

  • 1954 I. Asimov Robots I Have Known in Computers & Automation (vol. 3, no. 8) Oct. 23/2 page image Isaac Asimov bibliography

    Mankind may know of the existence of the Three Laws on an intellectual level and yet have an ineradicable fear and distrust for robots on an emotional level. If you wanted to invent a term, you might call it a ‘Frankenstein complex.’

  • 1955 D. Morgan Lesser Breed in Authentic Science Fiction Feb. 9/1 page image Dan Morgan bibliography

    In the company of men, the androids were less than the dust. A minority to be spurned and hated by the race who created them. Not for their faults, but for fear of their very efficiency in doing something of which man himself was incapable. Admans remembered the wry grin on the face of his psychology lecturer, many years before, when he had discussed this Frankenstein complex.

  • 1969 I. Asimov Feminine Intuition in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Oct. 17/1 page image Isaac Asimov bibliography

    We’ve lost the best chance U.S. Robots ever had of gaining an unbeatable public image, of overcoming the damned Frankenstein complex.

  • 1987 L. M. Bujold Falling Free in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact Dec. 30/2 Lois McMaster Bujold

    Mr. Graf, you’re still disturbed. You sure you’re not harboring just a little of the old Frankenstein complex about all this? It’s all right to admit it to me - in fact, I want you to talk about it.

  • 1989 A. M. Dionne Letter in Asimov’s Science Fiction Oct. 14/1 page image

    Now that the flattery is out of the way, let’s move on to the ‘Frankenstein Complex.’ Specifically, Dr. Asimov’s own ‘Christmas Without Rodney.’ We see that the humans have created robots in their own psychological image, capable of thoughts and dark emotions that plague the best of men. Thus far, these thoughts haven’t been translated into physical action: when they are, humanity shall rue the day. But let’s look for a moment at the Robot Canon. Dr. Asimov, your latest entries are quite dichotomous. On one side, we have Andrew Martin the artist, and R. Daneel Olivaw the savior. Opposite them are Elvex the dreamer, Rodney the wishful thinker, and George-10, who isn’t mindful of humans at all. I recall that in your early youth, you rejected the notion of robot-as-menace (the ‘Frankenstein Complex’) and the result was ‘Robbie.’ Now, in your late youth, the pendulum has swung back, and there is an undercurrent of menace from these metal beings.

  • 1992 M. Scott Dreamships i. 32 Melissa Scott bibliography

    ‘For what that’s worth,’ Vaughn said. He snorted, slanted a conspiratorial smile in Jian’s direction. ‘And they say only yanquis develop Frankenstein’s complex.’ ‘That’s Frankenstein complex,’ Libra muttered, unfortunately just loud enough to be heard.

  • 2002 D. Langford The Last Robot Story in 3SF Dec. 13/2 David Langford

    The unknown terrorist cabal is trying to trade on humanity’s Frankenstein complex by throwing the blame on to robots—despite the incontrovertible fact, known to every schoolchild, that the First Law of Robotics will not permit a robot to harm a human being nor by inaction allow a human being to come to harm, while the Second Law…What’s wrong?

Research requirements

antedating 1947

Earliest cite

Isaac Asimov, 'Little Lost Robot'

Research History
Imran Ghory submitted a cite from a 1996 reprint of Isaac Asimov's 1990 essay "The Robot Chronicles".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2002 cite from David Langford's "The Last Robot Story".
Jeff Prucher submitted a cite from a 1991 reprint of Isaac Asimov's 1954 article "Robots I Have Known"; Jesse Sheidlower verified it in its first appearance in Computers & Automation.
D.E. Siegel submitted, and Mike Christie verified a 1947 cite from Isaac Asimov's "Little Lost Robot".
Irene Grumman submitted a 1989 cite from a letter in Asimov's.
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1994 reprint of Lois McMaster Bujold's "Falling Free", which Mike Christie verified in its first appearance in Analog in 1987.
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1993 reprint of Melissa Scott's 1992 "Dreamships".
Jesse Sheidlower submitted a cite from Asimov's 1969 "Feminine Intuition".
Jesse Sheidlower found cites in Asimov's 1956 "Naked Sun" (Astounding, December), 1958 "Lenny" (Infinity Science Fiction, January), and 1974 "--That Thou Art Mindful of Him!" (F&SF, May).

We would like earlier cites from Isaac Asimov, and cites of any date from other authors.

Last modified 2023-11-08 14:05:35
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.