• Sweden edition
 
Sci-fi robot drama new Swedish global success
Screenwriter Lars Lindström (L) together with director Harald Hamell. Photo: TT

Sci-fi robot drama new Swedish global success

Published: 18 Jul 2014 09:07 GMT+02:00

He has no special interest in science fiction, but the creator of a Swedish sci-fi drama that pits robots against humans has struck a nerve among viewers.

"Real Humans", by screenwriter-actor Lars Lundström, stars humanoids called "hubots", a word mixing humans and robots.

They are merchandise, bought and sold, run on electricity, but can think, make choices, have sex with humans, even fight for their own freedom and rights.

Their owners want to keep them in their place as docile, high-tech consumer products, be it servants, workers, sex partners, even replacements for lost family members.

Other people, a political movement called "Real Humans", feel all has gone too far. They want to return to a society without hubots.

For Lundström, "the main premise in 'Real Humans' is: what is a human being?"

The lines between real and robot are deliberately blurred to ask: is it possible to build a human? What is a soul? Are we just some kind of biological machines?

"It is a tough question to answer, almost impossible, and it is very rare we are confronted with questions about the kind of creatures we are," he told AFP.

The series, set in a parallel, modern-day Sweden, came out in 2012 and was quickly bought up in more than 50 countries from France to South Korea to Australia.

It also caught the eye of American xBox Entertainment Studios and Britain's Channel 4 who are developing an English language adaptation called "Humans" set to premier in 2015, according to the entertainment bible Variety.

Lundström cannot even remember how he came up with the idea.

"Maybe it was after seeing one of those human-like robots they have made in Japan, but I really don't know," he told AFP.

"I just thought it was a great starting point for a drama series, something that could generate a lot of story."

The show is chock full of action, intrigue and romance: programmers breaching legal protocols to make the hubots even more human-like, others -- derided as "hubbies" -- breaking taboos on having sex with hubots.

Lundström's plots are less science-driven than metaphors for contemporary social issues -- prejudice, minorities, immigration, slavery, relationships.

It's been described as everything from creepy to startling to superb sci-fi.

"This Swedish show about an abducted sex robot is creepy as hell," sci-fi expert Charlie Jane Anders said in December 2012, adding that it was both "beautiful" and "disturbing looking".

Some critics have said that what makes the series scary is that the hubots are so similar to human beings. In the show, household robot Mimi almost becomes a new member of the Engman family.

While the son falls in love with her, his sister starts to fear that the mother likes Mimi better than her.

"One reason why people could find the show scary is that it presents a future where robots are so similar to humans that they could end up replacing people," Swedish TV critic Rosemari Soedergren said.

"People have always had some kind of fear and suspicion about technology and machines."

Lundström admits he has no experience in the genre.

"I have consciously not consumed a lot of science fiction, because I was afraid I could be influenced by it," he said. "I saw my lack of background as a strength."

The show premiered on Sweden's public broadcaster SVT in 2012 and has run two seasons. Lundström said production costs are high and though he's working on a third season, he has faced difficulty in finding financing.

The same fine line between humans and hubots that sparked Lundström's interest became a challenge for the actors.

Those playing hubots have won praise but it was surprisingly exhausting, said Lisette Pagler who portrays Mimi, one of the more developed robots in Real Humans.

"We had to deal with tiny, tiny nuances," she said. "If it was too machine-like, the dialogue became uninteresting, and if it was too human, we were not credible as robots.

Mime artists were brought in to teach them how to control their movements.

We "didn't realise how frustrating it can be to remove all the human tics we have, to control them all the time. You need to be aware of when you blink, you can't scratch yourself, you can't make quick movements.

"I had never been so mentally tired after doing so little physical effort," she said.

"Sometimes we modified their voices, but it was mainly little noises and sounds and ticks which were really helpful in creating the illusion," Lundström said.

His team interviewed a robotics researcher at Stockholm's prestigious Royal Institute of Technology for help, but "we couldn't use any of it."

"Technology hasn't come as far as it had in our series, there is no science to rely on," he said. "We only had our fantasy to imagine what would happen if something like that were invented and began to be sold to people.

"But that's also what made it exciting," he said.

For more stories about Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Hospital in 'fairyland' tax haven claims
A model of the new Karolinska hospital being constructed in Stockholm. Photo: Bertil Enevåg Ericson/TT

Hospital in 'fairyland' tax haven claims

An estimated 1.3 billion kronor of taxpayers money set aside to build Sweden's most advanced hospital is alleged to have been channelled to a tax haven in Luxembourg by the companies behind the project. READ  

Sweden's Spotify turns up volume as losses fall
Spotify was created in 2008 in Sweden. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

Sweden's Spotify turns up volume as losses fall

The world's biggest music streaming service, Spotify, has announced that its revenue grew by 74 percent in 2013 while net losses shrank by one third, in a year of spectacular expansion. READ  

Video: Fashion versus Weather
How to stay stylish in Sweden in November
Student Antonia Erlandsson laughs off the wet weather under a wide-brimmed hat. Photo: The Local

How to stay stylish in Sweden in November

It's hard to flaunt your favourite fashions when the November skies are unrelentingly bleak even by Swedish standards. But fashion doesn't have to be a victim of Scandinavia's chilly weather, as The Local discovers on the streets of Stockholm. READ  

Christmas sun sought by record numbers
Many Swedes are opting for warmer climes during Christmas. File photo: puroticorico/Flickr

Christmas sun sought by record numbers

A record number of Swedes are leaving the country to go away on holiday for Christmas, with sunny destinations like the Canary Islands and old favourite Thailand proving most popular. READ  

The Local's Countdown to Christmas
Top ten Swedish Christmas presents
Presents photo:Shutterstock

Top ten Swedish Christmas presents

Christmas shopping is a challenge every year. If you're looking for something particularly Swedish with a special touch, it can be even harder. Here is The Local's own guide to top Christmas gifts of the year. READ  

Man shot dead in Stockholm 'execution'
Police examine the shattered window of the Audi car after a man was shot dead in Sollentuna on November 25th 2014. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer /TT

Man shot dead in Stockholm 'execution'

A 32-year-old man has been shot dead in his car in Stockholm, with witnesses describing the attack as a brutal killing. READ  

Swede goes public to solve 'hiccup hell'
Traditional hiccup remedies like drinking a glass of water have not worked for Ingemar Löfgren, who has had the condition for four years. Photo: Shutterstock

Swede goes public to solve 'hiccup hell'

A Swedish pensioner who has had the hiccups for four years has asked for the public's help so he can find a cure for the condition. READ  

Will 'hated' dating coach reach Sweden?
Julian Blanc in an image from his Facebook site. Photo: TT

Will 'hated' dating coach reach Sweden?

A viral campaign to stop controversial US dating coach visiting Sweden appeared to have been successful on Tuesday, when scheduled tour dates disappeared from Julian Blanc's website. READ  

Swedish Honeymoon Killing
Swedish honeymoon murder verdict delayed
Shrien Dewani outside the court in South Africa. Photo: TT

Swedish honeymoon murder verdict delayed

British businessman Shrien Dewani will have to wait two weeks to see whether a South African judge throws out charges that he organised the murder of his Swedish bride on their honeymoon. READ  

Housing crisis limiting Sweden's growth
A housing development in Malmö. Photo: Flikr/Anders Bengtsson

Housing crisis limiting Sweden's growth

Sweden's economy won't expand as quickly as previously expected, says the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which has lowered its growth forecast for the country. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
How to get your own office anywhere in the world
National
'I'm a Swedish 'expat' in my home country'
Imagebank Sweden
Society
Decorating your home for Swedish Christmas
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's 2015 Eurovision hopefuls
Gallery
Property of the week: Rosengården
Blog updates

26 November

Not Pants (Blogweiser) »

" The woman who took the picture above was on her first visit to IKEA. She had just..." READ »

 

26 November

Exclusive Interview with Felix Herngren on Climate Change, the Arctic & U.S. Embassy (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"How do we communicate the urgency of climate change with an authentic, resounding voice? Could it be..." READ »

 
 
 
National
'Racist' Black Pete party scrapped in Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Christmas gifts through the years
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Family life in Stockholm
Lifestyle
'I'm spreading Japan's 'cute' culture in Sweden'
National
Ebola: Sweden's leading expert speaks
National
Why this Swedish rabbi is facing death threats
National
Fears up to 300 Swedes fighting with Isis
Lifestyle
How to make Swedish mulled wine
Gallery
People-watching: November 22nd - 23rd
Society
What's on in Sweden: November 20th to 27th
National
How to boost your career in Skåne, Sweden's south
Lifestyle
How an Umeå museum is rewriting Swedish history
National
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Lifestyle
Five unique backpacker hostels in Stockholm
National
Bones show off Sweden's history
National
What new word are Swedes voting on?
National
Why African Swedes are angry about Santa's helper
National
Pine, tar, and tinder: flavours from the north
Gallery
Selfies, solidarity and Hillary Clinton: Stefan Löfven on tour
Gallery
People-watching: November 19th
Society
Why are international professionals leaving Sweden?
Business & Money
Meet the Swedes who made suits for The Hunger Games
Technology
'I'm among the first Swedes with a microchip'
National
What is Sweden doing about bird flu?
Gallery
Property of the week: Eriksberg
National
Vecka45: Sweden's most innovative week
Gallery
In Pictures: The clubs and loves of Sweden's Sven-Göran Eriksson
Society
What's On in Sweden: November 13th to 20th
Gallery
People-watching: November 16th
National
Driving (expats) home for Christmas?
Lifestyle
Make your own Swedish pea soup
Politics
"Totally unacceptable": Defence Minister on Stockholm submarine
Society
The A-Ö guide to making life in Sweden easier
National
How a Swedish party inspired a masterpiece
National
Seen the new Ace of Base yet?
National
Meet the Irish woman thundering into Swedish rock
Gallery
In Pictures: Ace of Base through the years
Society
Ten things you should never say to a Swede
Gallery
People-watching: November 12th
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

772
jobs available
Swedish Down Town
Consulting & Productions

We are an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish authorities, Swedish language practice, and general communications.
Call 0731 004 781 or visit:
swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business. If you want to stop, we can help.
Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
aa-europe.org/sweden
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply