Robotics engineer Daniel H. Wilson is the author of eight books, including How to Survive a Robot Uprising, and Where’s My Jet Pack. His novel Robopocalypse was bought by DreamWorks and is being adapted for the screen by Steven Spielberg. His new book, Amped, is set in a scary near-future world, where humanity and technology clash in superhuman ways. Daniel H. Wilson’s filmic alter ego is Dave Lister from Red Dwarf. Eithne Farry
Look, choosing an alter ego is an exercise in wish fulfilment. So isn’t it natural to choose a person who indulges in all the things that you don’t? Maybe someone who represents a version of yourself that you could never actually allow yourself to be? It’s an alter ego, after all, right?
What I’m trying to say is, ‘Please don’t judge me.’ Because if I could be any sci-fi character, I’d be Dave Lister from the television sitcom Red Dwarf.
As the sole survivor of a radiation leak on board of the Red Dwarf mining ship, Dave is like the only kid in a deep-space candy store. Unlike his rather more accomplished colleagues in the sci-fi canon – from Captain Jean Luc Picard to Commander William Adama – Dave gives not the slightest pretence of being a space hero.
Instead, he’s just a guy who really appreciates Indian food and a tall boy of cheap beer. Dave has got no deadlines, no responsibilities, and free access to all the Better-than-Life video games you could ever hope to play.
Beer and video games forever? Ah, now that’s a space hero after my own heart.
Granted, having been in stasis for three million years means that everyone who Dave has ever known is now long dead. You’d think things could get pretty lonely, but don’t forget that the demented ship-board AI provides solid conversation; there is a hologram generator that can recreate a single (arbitrarily annoying) human companion at a time; plenty of incredibly long-lived androids and skutters are there to pick up after you; and a new race of very self-absorbed cat people has evolved.
How could you ever get bored?
Depending on your perspective, Dave Lister is living in either heaven or hell. I have a mortgage, a wife and two small children, and I haven’t finished a video game in years. The Red Dwarf mining vessel looks like heaven from where I’m standing.
Daniel H. Wilson