0081 - Zoa's clothing - 2019.04.22



The uncanny valley is a weird concept, but weirder still is the idea that you can make something cartoony or inhuman and still stay on the far side of it - and somehow make your character more relatable and expressive than you could with a realistic human face. Simplicity is definitely a factor - the smoother and less complicated a character design is, the easier it is to avoid that alienating feeling. That's something I remember Scott McCloud pointing out in Understanding Comics - how you want your main character to be smooth and abstract and universal, like an emoji, to allow your audience to identify with them, and then put all your detailed linework into your backgrounds and foreign objects.

(I'll admit - not a lesson I learned. Drawing elaborate backgrounds is work, man! Besides, Lee's living room is minimalist and spartan for Plot Reasons, and I really don't know how to put hella crosshatching on bare walls and floors without making them look dirty.)

Anyway, Zoa's design - which is to say, the appearance that Zoa has chosen for itself - is the result of a few specific factors. Some have been mentioned, some you can probably guess, some will be revealed later on. I really should do a proper schematic illustration, I do think there are some elements on there that people might find interesting, but some of them may be plot spoilery.

But yeah, there are plenty of robots - most with far less personality - in the world of Forward, delivering pizzas and mopping floors and such. You may question why a pizza delivery drone would need to be humanoid in shape... and certainly, if all they do is deliver pizza, they don't need to be and most aren't. General purpose robots like Zoa, though, are human-shaped because that's the shape that most easily allows you to move in human-designed spaces and use human-designed tools. Lee's butlerbots, for example, don't have feet because they will never be expected to ascend a flight of stairs or step into a bathtub or sit in a vehicle.


0081 - 2167/07/06/12:02 - Lee Caldavera's apartment, living room
LC (dressed): Why do you wear clothing, anyway?
Zoa: Ironically enough, wearing clothes makes me look more like a sex object. You see robots every day - many of them as human-shaped as I am, if not more so - but you're not attracted to them at all because they're just metal and plastic. They're clearly devices. I wear clothes, so you can tell you're supposed to imagine that there are forbidden delights under here. It's a negative space thing.
LC: I guess that makes sense. There's no such thing as nudity if you don't have a contrasting state of clothedness. I mean, dogs don't wear clothing, but you don't consider them naked.
Zoa: Also the swishy fabric around my hip and shoulder joints helps to mask how they move. I'm kind of in uncanny valley territory otherwise, I don't quite bend the same way you do.
Zoa: If I ever wanted to get around Rosenthal campus without people thinking I was a sexbot, all I'd have to do is strip off all my clothes.
Zoa: ...Well, I'd probably have to pop off my hair, the mouthsleeve, and the tits while I'm at it. Remove all that, and I'd be as good as invisible.
LC: Hmm, yeah. Just carry a mopbucket or a fresh pizza, you could probably walk in anywhere and no one would question it.
Zoa: Well, not anywhere anywhere. In my experience, people tend to frown on anonymous bots walking in on them when they're on the toilet, regardless of how convenient a location it might be to negotiate and receive... various services.