Liar! (short story)

"Liar!" is a science fiction short story by American writer Isaac Asimov. It first appeared in the May 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and was reprinted in the collections I, Robot (1950) and The Complete Robot (1982). It was Asimov's third published positronic robot story. Although the word "robot" was introduced to the public by Czech writer Karel Čapek in his 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), Asimov's story "Liar!" contains the first recorded use of the word "robotics" according to the Oxford English Dictionary.[1][2] The events of this short story are also mentioned in the novel The Robots of Dawn written by the same author.

AuthorIsaac Asimov
CountryUnited States
SeriesRobot series
Genre(s)Science fiction
Published inAstounding Science Fiction
Publication typePeriodical
PublisherStreet & Smith
Media typePrint (magazine, hardback and paperback)
Publication dateMay 1941
Preceded by"Catch that Rabbit"
Followed by"Satisfaction Guaranteed"

Plot summaryEdit

Through a fault in manufacturing, a robot, RB-34 (also known as Herbie), is created that possesses telepathic abilities. While the roboticists at U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men investigate how this occurred, the robot tells them what other people are thinking. But the First Law still applies to this robot, and so it deliberately lies when necessary to avoid hurting their feelings and to make people happy, especially in terms of romance.

However, by lying, it is hurting them anyway. When it is confronted with this fact by Susan Calvin (to whom it falsely claimed her coworker was infatuated with her – a particularly painful lie), the robot experiences an insoluble logical conflict and becomes catatonic.


In 1958, "Liar" was adapted into an episode of the radio show Exploring Tomorrow.

In 1969, "Liar" was adapted into an episode of the British television series Out of the Unknown, although only a few short clips of this episode are known to exist.[3]

The story was broadcast as episode four of a five-part 15 Minute Drama radio adaptation of Asimov's I, Robot on BBC Radio 4 in February 2017.[4]

See alsoEdit

  • Liar paradox
  • Does not compute
  • HAL 9000, who confronted a similar paradox when told to keep a secret, while being "hardwired" to return information truthfully and without concealment.


  1. ^ Sample, Ian (7 April 2009). "Pop a Disc pill and engage the Higgs drive!". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 February 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Prucher, Jeff (31 March 2009). "Nine words you might think came from science but which are really from science fiction". OUPblog. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 February 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Cutler, Colin. "OUT OF THE UNKNOWN: CLIPS GUIDE - INTRODUCTION". Zeta Minor. Retrieved 9 February 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "Liar: Isaac Asimov's I, Robot Episode 4 of 5". BBC Online. BBC. Retrieved 9 February 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External linksEdit

Preceded by:
"Catch that Rabbit"
Included in:
I, Robot
The Complete Robot
Robot Visions
Robot series
Foundation Series
Followed by:
"Satisfaction Guaranteed"