Since its first episode in 2019, Love, Death + Robots has consistently defied audience anticipation. As a result, the third season of the NSFW anthology of animated stories will feature something that is, once again, totally unexpected: a sequel.
K-VRC, XBOT 4000, and 11-45-G, the trio of inquisitive droids at the centre of “Three Robots,” return in the new episode “Exit Strategies” to continue their investigation into the reason of the end of the world (as humans know it).
According to John Scalzi, the author of “Exit Strategies,” “much like any archaeologists, human, robot, or otherwise, they are going on knowledge that is fragmentary at best.” [Citation needed] “And they are required to make assumptions, they are required to guess, and there are instances when they get it horribly wrong. When they do, we can only hope that it will be humorous.”
The first iteration of the “Three Robots” episode was based on a short story written by Scalzi, who is also the acclaimed science fiction author of the Old Man’s War series and the novel that won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. This time around, however, he also wrote the script for the episode, in addition to writing a short story.
Scalzi discussed his desire to revisit these characters, why he wanted to write the script for Love, Death + Robots, and the unanticipated experience that helped prepare him for the collaborative process in advance of the premiere of the third season of the show.
I was wondering how it felt to go back to these characters.
The fact that I came up with the story and characters myself is, in my opinion, the best part of Robots vs. Fairies. Many years ago, a friend of mine prodded me until I contributed to an anthology called Robots vs. Fairies. I was able to do it in a little over an hour. It gives me a chuckle to think that something I did to prevent a friend from becoming a pain in the neck has gone on to have such a long life – first in the book, then in the first season, and then as the sole episode that is specifically a sequel. All of these things happened in sequence. And it fills me with joy because the more time I spend with those characters, the deeper my affection for them becomes.
The episode is effective in making its point without being overly preachy about it. Do you realise that you’re treading a fine line there?
Oh, yes, without a doubt. This is something that I have in the back of my mind whenever I write science fiction in general. People should be entertained as your primary priority. If they are aware that I will be going at them with a point that begins with a capital P, then instantly a number of barriers will be erected. It is less important to me to instruct others than it is to ensure that they have a wonderful time, so that when they leave, they are free to reflect on the things that they have observed.
Philip Gelatt adapted your short story for the first “Three Robots,” but I believe that you were responsible for both the adaptation and this version.
They were composed at the same time. Because Tim [Miller], the executive producer, asked if there could be a sequel, “Can we have a sequel?” So first I wrote a script, then I wrote a short story that was more in the vein of the original story, and last I pitched a proposal for the project. The presentation of this topic through a variety of different media was quite engaging. Having access to the original animated version provided me with a rock-solid foundation upon which to build the characteristics of the characters I was working with. The XBOT 4000 is enormous while remaining neurotic. Although they are full of energy, K-VRC is not the brightest child in the neighbourhood. And then 11-45-G is essentially Daria, the main character from the television show Daria that airs on MTV. Just absolutely humourless while also being the brightest member of the bunch. Simply having such a diverse cast of people makes it much simpler to answer the following question: “What kinds of situations are you going to put them into?” We are aware that the format must essentially be, “Humanity’s days are numbered,” and that this is how it must be stated. They are especially interested in the human civilization. The question then becomes, ‘How can we continue that without it just being a rehash of what has been done before?’ As a result of the fact that there is a razor’s edge between having a mode and having a shtick.
Your work was adapted in a collaborative manner; how did you find this experience?
It’s easy for me to see why so many authors of novels feel that way about it. The good thing for me was that I had a period of time where I did a significant amount of corporate consulting before I became a novelist and short story writer, but after I had been a journalist. This happened after I had become a journalist. And that entailed stepping in and asking, “What exactly is it that you require? What exactly do you need it for? Let me do it. What are the notes that you have?” Strangely enough, I found that working in corporate America was a lot more helpful to me in terms of coping with the collaborative filmmaking process than writing fiction was. That is not to claim that I acknowledged each and every note. Tim and I engaged in a back-and-forth debate. And one of the wonderful things about Tim in particular is that you are able to say to him, “No, I believe this is nonsense, and here is my 10-point list explaining why,” and he will take you seriously. And he will pay attention to what you say. Even if he will tell you on occasion, “You’re wrong,” you can rest assured that he is paying attention to what you have to say.
How do you think the Love, Death + Robots universe as a whole is received and regarded within the science fiction community?
It has been really gratifying to have Love, Death + Robots come out and immediately have so many hot takes on it, both from the science fiction community and from the people who are watching in the film and television community. It wasn’t like a pebble being tossed into the ocean, which would simply go straight down with very little disturbance. It caused a significant amount of commotion.