Sad Robot Stories, by Mason Johnson

Robot is one of millions of androids on an Earth that recently saw the extinction of human life. While Robot's mechanical brothers and sisters seem happy, Robot finds himself lost and missing the only friend he had, a human named Mike whose family accepted Robot as a piece of their personal puzzle. Without both the mistakes and the capacity for miracles that define human civilization, is civilization even worth having? Explore this question in the hilarious yet heartbreaking full-length debut of popular Chicago performer Mason Johnson. A Kurt Vonnegut for the 21st century, his answers are simultaneously droll, surprising and touching, and will make you rethink the limits of what a storyteller can accomplish within science fiction.

"Take an early interest in Dr. Seuss, mix with critically bad sci-fi movies such as Enemy Mine and Tron, blend in a heavy dose of 'Star Wars' literature, stir in 'mecha' TV shows like 'Robotech,' boil with Dashiell Hammett detective fiction and top this concoction off with a studied understanding of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and Dorothy Allison. That gives you Sad Robot Stories." --Chicago Tribune

"If we were to prescribe the image of a human as the synecdoche for literature, and your basic C-3PO as Science Fiction, then Sad Robot Stories is a costume of a robot worn by what you assume is a human, but is really just C-3PO playing around." --HTMLGIANT

"[A] brilliant retelling of the classic post-apocalyptic tale...not one drop of ink goes to waste. The story excels in style, invention, and pacing. Johnson deserves praise for sheer originality and also for how far he goes in examining humanity through the eyes of our would-be successors. It is as authentic an examination of the human condition as any literary classic." --SF Signal

"A book that, despite its premise, reads more like fable and allegory than campy science fiction. It may playfully explore a host of complex, timely issues...but at its core it's about the magic of storytelling." --Gapers Block

"Mason Johnson understands what it means to be human." --Beach Sloth

"Simple without being simplistic....[Johnson has] a rare flair for language and imagery and lovely turns of phrase....A beautiful little gem of a book." --Digital Sextant

"If David Lynch were to develop a dystopian retelling of Pinocchio, it would be like Mason Johnson's Sad Robot Stories." --Chicago Literati

"A brilliant little book....How could you not fall in love with Robot?" --silent lucidity

"[A] fantastic book for group discussion...the end is a huge, huge surprise. Thoroughly enjoyed this little book!" --A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

"The reason Sad Robot Stories seems so surprising is because, amidst its counter-cultural trappings, it dares to make thoroughly conventional claims....By injecting variety into an increasingly predictable subgenre, Mason Johnson invites conversation -- and makes 'Vonnegut-esque' literature daring again." --Mixer

"In a strange way, despite how short-lived some characters were, I grew very attached to them and spent each page waiting for them to come back again. I won't give anything away, but Johnson is very imaginative when it comes to surprising his audience.... Each word is carefully chosen in order to move the story quickly, at the pace of a novella, while telling the story as fully and meaningfully as possible. Whenever each line is cast out into the literary sea, they all seem to be hooked in the same fish's mouth as the book builds to its paramount ending, one so profound with emotion that I almost shed a tear, despite imagining Mason's handsome face smugly grinning at me after I remembered the author." --The Chicago Writer

"The world is full of stories detailing how robots, in the guise of anthropoid metal golems with human minds, might feel about identity and slavery. But this novella takes the golem conceit and skates around the big-T Themes, rather than going through them in the usual way. It winks meaningfully, even flirtatiously, as it passes them by, but you're too busy with the experience to give them the attention they deserve on the way through. Only once it's over do you look back and realise, whew, quite what a journey you've just been on." --Sabotage Reviews

"The miracle of this novella is that Johnson manages to create a character that allows us--through Robot's own attempts to come to terms with what it means to be human--to reflect on our own humanity without being heavy handed about it. Sad Robot Stories earns its title in reality and in allegory, and if you don't end up sympathizing with Robot and his trials and tribulations, you may need to get your circuits checked, because we all have a little Robot in us." --PANK

"He's so different from the other robots that they fail to understand his difference. He's sensitive, empathetic, moody, observant. In short, he's a writer.... Johnson's novella is a journey of wonder. It is a story that asks anew: what does it mean to be human?" --Necessary Fiction

"It is absurd to think of a robot wearing a sock on his head so that a child will behave, a robot playing pool, a group of robots pretending another robot is a messenger from God. Yet this absurdity is exactly what is so gripping about Sad Robot Stories, and it is this absurdity that will make you think about what it means to be sad, in love, sentimental, and scared: in short, about what it means to be human." --Curbside Splendor

"Read this novella if you like stories that show humanity more than sometimes humans can. Read it if you like robot protagonists. Read if you need a short break between your regularly scheduled reading, and need something to make you think and warm your heart." --Insatiable Booksluts

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Sad Robot Stories: The Hypermodern Paper Edition

Want a paper copy of Sad Robot Stories? Then order it in its "Hypermodern Edition," a series of special high-quality, handmade books designed for collectors but reasonably priced. It can be ordered with either recycled or cotton paper, and can be delivered through cheaper First Class Mail or faster Priority Mail. Use the drop-down menu below to choose the option most suited for you:


Sad Robot Tour 2014

In June 2014 Mason Johnson undertook a virtual book tour in support of Sad Robot Stories, stopping by a total of eleven other blogs to discuss his writing and other subjects. Use the links below to view and read these archived pieces.

June 16: Chicago Literati | June 17: Hypertext | June 18: Glorified Love Letters | June 19: Two Dudes in an Attic | June 20: Words, Notes, and Fiction | June 23: The Next Best Book Blog | June 24: Curbside Splendor | June 25: Guiltless Reading | June 26: Books, With Occasional Food | June 27: Banango Street | June 30: The Weeklings

Supplemental and promotional material:

An interview with the author, explaining more about how this book came out

A critical essay by the publisher on why he signed the book (coming soon)

A "passing the torch" critical essay by Meera Lee Sethi, CCLaP's last published author, on what she likes about this newest book (coming soon)

This book's listing at

Creative Commons License
This book has been released under a Creative Commons license (click the above icon to actually read it in full); this gives you permission to make unlimited copies for yourself, convert it into other formats, translate it into other languages, and use it as a basis for nonprofit multimedia projects (audio, film, animation, stage performance, calligraphy, etc), in return for you not changing the contents or removing the credits.

Cover image: Don Solo

ISBN: 978-1-939987-10-5 | Barcode | QR code | Press release

Special additional thanks to this book's assistant editor, Robert O'Connor, as well as shadow editors Allegra Pusateri and Karl Wolff.

CCLaP is always on the lookout for great unsigned manuscripts. Click here for more on how to submit your own.

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