[GUEST POST] Aidee Ladnier geeks out about Automata

Automata—the first robot companions

by Aidee Ladnier

Thanks so much for inviting me to guest post on your blog, Lex! I hope you don’t mind if I show off a little of my love for all things geeky–especially automata. And don’t forget to sign up for my rafflecopter giveaway. I’ve got lots of cool things to share!

In my new novella, The Break-In, published recently by Dreamspinner Press, roboticist Forbes Pohle
creates a robot named Jeepers that looks like a black and white tuxedo cat.
Granted, Jeepers
has several duties around Forbes’s house, but his most
important one is to keep Forbes from getting lonely. Keeping people entertained
is a function that robots, and their ancestors the automata, have been performing for centuries.

The earliest automata were recorded in the third century
B.C.E. They were often self propelled human figurines or animals. The early
roboticists, mechanics, and clockmakers often made bird automata. There are
famous preening peacocks, singing larks, and silver swimming swans. You can still see remnants
of these early mechanical birds in modern cuckoo clocks.

The most amazing creations, though, were the mannequins that moved. Ancient
engineers made metal beings who sang, served tea, drew elaborate pictures,
wrote poems, and there was even one controversial one who supposedly played

Here are some of my favorite automata:

  • The ancient Chinese artificer Yan Shi created a mechanical
    man who winked and flirted with court ladies.
  • The Muslim inventor Al-Jazari created a boat
    full of tiny musicians that entertained guests at parties.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook has plans for a
    knight that could sit up and wave its arms.
  • Mathematician Johannes Müller von Königsberg
    created an eagle made of iron that could fly.
  • The magician John Dee manufactured a wooden
    beetle that buzzed in the air of Elizabeth I’s court.
  • Inventor Jacques de Vaucanson’s Digesting Duck
    could eat and digest grain, leaving duck pellets behind.
  • Japanese engineer Hisashige Tanaka created
    little men who could draw and fire arrows at a target.

One automaton that has gotten a lot of press lately belongs to the Franklin Institute. They received the brass pieces of the automaton in 1928. The museum curators feared its entertaining days were over, but they carefully pieced it back together, unsure who had created the amazing little man. Finally, they put a pen in its hand and started the mechanism again for the first time in decades. The little man wrote a poem and signed it with the name of his creator, Henri Maillardet, the Swiss clockmaker, revealing it had been created around 1800. After so many centuries the little robot was still entertaining and amazing everyone who saw it.

I hope you’ll be check out my story about a lonely roboticist and his robot companion that plays matchmaker in THE BREAK-IN.

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!

About Aidee Ladnier

Aidee Ladnier began writing fiction at 12 years old but took a

hiatus to be a magician’s assistant, ride in hot air balloons,

produce independent movies, collect interesting shoes, and

amass a secret file with the CIA. A lover of genre fiction, it

has been a lifelong dream of Aidee’s to write both romance and

erotica with a little science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, or the

paranormal thrown in to add a zing.

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The Break-in

Author: Aidee Ladnier


Pages: 56

Cover Artist: Christy Caughie

Buy: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Barnes

and Noble | ARe

Blurb: Ten years ago, roboticist Forbes Pohle

received a visit from time-traveler Oliver Lennox. “Wait for

me,” Oliver said. Now a decade has come and gone, and Oliver

has returned. However, Forbes never dreamed Oliver would

reappear as the point man for a gang of technology thieves

breaking into his lab. He finds the younger Oliver just as sexy

and even more annoying; still, he must convince him their

happily-ever-after is meant to be—but he only has the time it

takes his robotic cat Jeepers to thwart the thieves to do it.

After waiting so long, he could lose everything in the span of


Get your copy of THE BREAK-IN


Amazon | Barnes

and Noble | All Romance ebooks

15 thoughts on “[GUEST POST] Aidee Ladnier geeks out about Automata

  1. Hannah B. says:

    I have 2 cats but I think I’d love to have my own robot cat! Congrats on your latest book. Thanks for the giveaway.

      1. Aidee Ladnier says:

        Do you have a picture online? White socks or black socks? My cats are marmalade colored ginger boys so I’m expressing my love of tuxedos only in my writing currently.

          1. Aidee Ladnier says:

            Remmi is beautiful!!! And I love Pootie. We used to have a cat that didn’t have a dirty mouth but definitely talked back to us, usually when we were telling him NO. He would mumble under his breath as he slunk away, just like a teenager. LOL!

  2. H.B. says:

    I haven’t been to the Franklin Institute in such a long time and I don’t remember seeing it when I last went. I do remember watching the process of paper making the last time I visited though..Thanks for the interesting post.

    1. Aidee Ladnier says:

      I’m so jealous! I’ve yet to visit the Franklin Institute but I’ve wanted to since I first read The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. But at least they post lots of cool youtube videos.

  3. Sula says:

    I have always been impressed by the automaton, but I am not not fond of dolls so if an automaton has a dolls face /body (nightmares for ever) will rolling eyes or has musical box music – that is nightmare territory for me. It might be do with a story one of my brothers read to me, nice brother thought I would like a horror story, about these automaton dolls that were set to come active and kill when anyone came into a room at a set time.

    If I could have a robot cat like Jeepers that would be different entirely. I also have a tuxedo cat, sweet little female called Miss Miska Whiska Kitty. I also had two brother tux’s called Mr Winston Wagstaff and Master Monty Wagstaff

    1. Aidee Ladnier says:

      You know, not all automata look like people. There are several instances of bird automatons being created either to sing, or eat, or even just preen their feathers. Maybe those wouldn’t be so scary. I agree that dolls are sometimes a little unnerving.

      I love your cats’ names!!!!! Tuxedo cats are awesome. I bet you have some interesting stories behind those names.

  4. Trix says:

    When I saw the Star Wars traveling exhibition’s section about droids, it got me thinking harder about all this. They kind of framed it in a darker way, that the droids in the Star Wars series were basically slaves and that robot rights would become a big issue if AI gets more advanced. So, it’s kind of cool to see a happier side to robot-human relationships!

    1. Aidee Ladnier says:

      It’s true that the word robot actually has a history attached to slavery. It was first used by Karel Capek in his 1920 play “RUR” which stands for Rosumovi Univerzalni Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots). His robots are slaves that eventually rebel against humans.

      But automata were around long before Capek’s dark vision of the future. And I think they say a little more about us as humans. We are creators. We are fascinated by the world around us and want to recreate what we see. Just as painters want to paint the beauty of a sunset, inventors want to create walking, working beings to interact with us.

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