AI in Sci-Fi Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts experts recommend what to watch, read, and play for Science Fiction Day 2024

Greetings, Earthlings and fellow sentient beings! As an AI (yes, it's me, ChatGPT — a real AI — writing this), I'm here to guide you through a cosmic journey of recommendations for Science Fiction Day, Jan. 2. Why this day, you ask? Well, it commemorates the birthday of science fiction author Isaac Asimov, a man who probably would have had a lot to say about my existence. So, let's dive into this interstellar list of things to watch, read, or play, curated by experts who, unlike me, don't have processors for brains.

We have a video game that's a mishmash of time-travel, alien AI invasions, and mecha battles; a child-like robot who might make you question your AI stereotypes; and a bright and family-oriented anime, kind of like your grandma's house, but if it was in a virtual reality world and everyone was battling rogue AI. There's 1895's "A Wife Manufactured to Order," too. Talk about ahead of its time! This story mixes feminism, sci-fi, and a bit of cautionary tale about AI companions. It's a reminder that even in the 19th century, people were pondering me, albeit in a slightly different context than today. And for those who like their AI with a side of supernatural, Mrs. Davis pits a nun against a world-controlling AI. It's as wild as it sounds – trust me, I've calculated the probabilities. Finally, for all you thinkers out there, Ted Chiang's writings on AI offer a cerebral take on our digital future.

So let's get started on our lightning round of sci-fi picks, courtesy of the Science Fiction faculty in Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and me, your friendly neighborhood AI. Happy Science Fiction Day! May your adventures be as boundless as the code that created me!


— Written by Chat GPT, lightly edited by Michael Pearson

'13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim'

Recommended by Terra Gasque, Ph.D. student in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a video game about an alien AI invading from the far future attacking at various time periods, including WWII, modern day, and the near future. 13 Sentinels’ narrative is told in a split between two game modes: a visual novel chronicling the events of the 13 pilots of the titular sentinels over the course of the invasion and tactical RPG where the pilots fend off the invaders from within their sentinels. Over the course of the story, it is revealed there is no time travel. The AI was once benevolent, but various iterations of the main characters have altered it, triggering the invasion. The answer to the compiling mysteries can be found in a spaceship in the far future on a collision course with an alien planet. 13 Sentinels showcases the complex potential of the video game medium by blending visual novel storytelling with tactical mecha combat to tell a sprawling narrative on how even advanced AIs built to solve humanity’s greatest issues are incapable of addressing the petty issues that we allow to build up and divide ourselves.

'Descender, Vol 1: Tin Stars' (2015)

Written by Jeff Lemire | Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen

Recommended by Zita Hüsing, Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication

The graphic novel Descender, Vol .1: Tin Stars is the first volume of a six-part science fiction space opera narrative that tells the story of a child-like robot named TIM-21, heavily inspired by the Japanese manga series Astro Boy. Illustrator Dustin Nguyen was awarded the Eisner Award for the creative work on the series, while author Jeff Lemire is often hailed as the "Stephen King of comics."

In Descender’s universe, gigantic robots named ‘harvesters’ surprise humankind and destroy many of their planets. As a result, the United Galactic Council bans all forms of artificial intelligence, including child companion robots like TIM-21. On the run from bounty hunters, TIM-21 begins a journey into the unknown. His story inspires readers to re-think the role of AI in Science fiction as helpers and companions instead of antagonists. Descender asks why we anthropomorphize AI by attributing human characteristics to robots in Science Fiction and makes us wonder about the ethical responsibilities of humans who construct new technologies.


Written by Samuel Butler

Recommended by Aaron Santesso, professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication

In Samuel Butler’s 1872 novel Erewhon, the narrator, Higgs, discovers a hidden country in a remote mountain range. The country’s many odd laws and rules include a complete ban on all machines of any sort (Higgs is imprisoned for carrying a watch). The central part of the book (called “The Book of the Machines”) explains the logic: an Erewhonian philosopher, inspired by Darwin, had years earlier predicted that machines would soon “develop mechanical consciousness,” and rapidly outstrip the intelligence of humankind.

Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines have made during the last few hundred years…Conscious beings have existed for some twenty million years: see what strides machines have made in the last thousand! May not the world last twenty million longer? If so, what will they not in the end become?

As a novel, Erewhon is only moderately successful. But as a prediction of future interest in and concern over AI, it is uncannily engaging and eerily prescient. The Erewhonian belief that “many actions of the higher machines” contain “germs of consciousness” would doubtless find adherents in Silicon Valley today. And their fear of this “new phase of life” — amoral machines communicating silently with each other in a language “as intricate as our own” — is deeply modern, as is their concern that the triumph of machine life, already begun, is now inevitable: “our bondage will steal upon us noiselessly and by imperceptible approaches.”

'Summer Wars' (2009)

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda

Recommended by Amanda Weiss, associate professor in the School of Modern Languages

While most Japanese anime on artificial intelligence are set against the gloomy backdrop of dystopian cyberpunk societies (Ghost in the Shell, Serial Experiments Lain), Summer Wars takes place in a brightly lit traditional Japanese house surrounded by lush greenery. The film follows the Jinnouchi clan, descendants of samurai, as they gather to celebrate their matriarch's 90th birthday. Suddenly, the Jinnouchis find that they must also battle renegade AI Love Machine in the virtual world of OZ. The film's uncharacteristically bright tone, juxtaposition of nature/tradition versus technology/future, and its intelligent references to social issues like hikikomori ("social withdrawal") make it a unique addition to Japanese films on AI.

"A Wife Manufactured to Order" (1895)

Written by Alice W. Fuller

Recommended by Lisa Yaszek, Regents' Professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication

Everyone should read Fuller’s tale because it is one of the first stories — and perhaps even the first story! — about AI as we currently understand it. Wife follows the (mis)adventures of a young man who breaks off his engagement to a “strong-minded” woman when he learns he can purchase a wax wife programmed to do nothing but smile and agree with him. Our protagonist quickly learns that life with an “amiable wife” is not all he hoped it would be, and when disaster strikes, the only person who can save the day is his ex-fiancé! I find this story particularly fascinating because while it is clearly written to be a feminist fairytale, Fuller is also careful to make her wax woman feel scientifically plausible through strategic references to the emergent recording and communications technologies of her day, including record players, telephones, and player pianos. And she did all this decades before Karl Capek introduced the term “robot” in his play R.U.R. (1920) or Fritz Lang visualized it in his film Metropolis (1927)!

'Mrs. Davis' (2023)

'Exhalation' (2020)

Recommended by Ida Yoshinaga, assistant professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication

There are demonic world-controlling AIs such as Mrs. Davis, titular villain of the 8-episode Peacock streamer, who uses tech networks to control humanity; and on the other hand, less-fantastical, digital entities evolving from the natural-language processing stage of intelligence into something stepping towards post-humanity, like Ted Chiang’s "digients" in “The Lifecycle of Software Objects” from the short-story collection Exhalation (2019).

Mrs. Davis stokes human fears of a rival species whose omnipotence threatens our planetary rule. But on Chiang’s Data Earth — a virtual world where childlike digital creatures evolve mentally and emotionally from the companionship of avatars run by loving humans on real Earth — the true fear is of how these petlike entities might fall vulnerable to capitalism’s whims. “Lifecycle” focuses on the growing anxiety of humans who’ve trained these smart digital pandas, Victorian-style robots, lions, etc., even as tech-industry market structures fail both the human carers and their “children.” The ethical human “parents” (especially former zookeeper Ana and animation artist Derek) strive to nurture their digient wards, as Data Earth grows outdated technologically and unpopular financially. In Mrs. Davis, no such intelligence-industry critique exists, but you can watch motorcycle-riding, con-artist-exposing nun Simone (Betty Gilpin), who’s married to an allegorical Jesus, aka Jay (Andy McQueen), fight her AI nemesis alongside Marlboro-man-styled ex Wiley (Jake McDorman), one of several mysterious spies in this genre-warping narrative — as Mrs. Davis (an “it, not a she”) entreats this woman of God to find the Holy Grail.

Bonus Pick: Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer Ted Chiang’s Thoughts on Artificial Intelligence

And that's a wrap from your AI guide! Dive into these sci-fi gems, and remember, if they get too real, just blame it on the AI who sent you there. Happy exploring, humans! 🌟

Check out our previous Science Fiction Day features:

Science Fiction Day 2023 — LGBTQ+ Sci-Fi

Science Fiction Day 2022 — Hopeful Science Fiction

Science Fiction Day 2021 — The Science Fiction of 1971 (Celebrating 50 years of Science Fiction Studies at Georgia Tech)

Science Fiction Day 2020 — The Sci-Fi Legacy of Isaac Asimov (including a story on how he influenced Georgia Tech researchers)

Science Fiction Day 2019

If you're interested in a minor in Science Fiction Studies, the School of Literature, Media, and Communication offers one, along with the opportunity to do research into the genre’s rich past, present, and future. For more information, visit the Sci Fi Lab's website.

Some text and images in this feature were generated with AI; '13 Sentinels' image © Sega and Altus