We have already examined the dystopian story, “Jon,” in our class. For this short essay, I will examine, “The Semplica-Girl Diaries,” set in a dystopia that closely resembles own world. In this setting, the wealthy rent humans who are paid to serve as lawn decorations through the painless “Semplica” procedure, in which a wire is surgically inserted through a woman’s brain so that she may be hung like a paper lantern. The women find purpose in this, we are told, as they are being freed from impoverished locales or oppressive labor markets and able to send money to their families.
The absurd dystopia, told with heavy measures of humor and quirky language, characterize this story as […]
In this essay, I will argue that Asimov believes that agency is incompatible with safety, that Cutie’s vision of evolution is similar to Hegel’s, and — borrowing from Lewis — no matter how much technological power may concentrate human will can never transcend history – even though AI.
In the “Reason” chapter Asimov reveals his view on the relationship between humanity, technology, and agency. The view is this: If robots cannot allow humans to come to harm and robots become more powerful than humans then the only logical implication is that humans agency must be limited.
Although the character of Cutie incarnates this in an albeit bizarre way, his actions […]
For the characters in Ursula Le Guin’s novella Paradises Lost, life on Earth is unimaginable. Life on any planet, for that matter, is beyond their comprehension. Five generations into the two-hundred year journey to reach a habitable planet, the story’s ship-born inhabitants have no concept of dirt, sky, or open space. This isn’t the first time the idea of a self-contained starship has appeared in science fiction. Le Guin herself labels Paradises Lost a generation-ship story, and adds that, “many short stories have used this theme” (Le Guin, xiii). Indeed, the first use of the term “generation ship” recorded in the Oxford Dictionary of Science […]
The last question was asked, half in jest, by Isaac Asimov sometime in the year 1956. In this short story, Asimov presented the problematic of asking systems of information about the limits of the universe itself. Throughout the story, the last question “can entropy be reversed?” (or more simply put “will the universe ever come to an end?”) is asked by humans to their computers throughout infinity, until only the machine and the question remain. It is a bold question (Mary Shelley’s words), one upon which, without a doubt, history’s most brilliant minds of astrophysics pondered endlessly. Asimov takes a vertiginous leap at answering this final question and finds a […]
Much of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot is concerned with what almost seem logic puzzles, stories where the complications of the three laws of robotics cause robots to malfunction or otherwise act in ways not originally intended. However, the first full chapter of the book, titled “Robbie”, breaks this mold. It is instead a story humanizing a robot, focusing on the relationship between a young girl and her caretaker robot. Asimov specifically uses this chapter to blur the lines between the readers understanding of human and machine, which then further sets the stage for our understanding of robotics for the rest of the text.
Robbie, the name of […]
In the world of Carmen Dog by Carol Emshwiller, female animals are transforming into female humans, and vice versa. The human to animal transitions are neither instant nor clearly discernible. Some women change completely into animals and loose ability to communicate with humans. Others are in a permanent limbo between species. Phillip, for example, possesses attributes of both snake and woman: her humanoid body is scaly and multi colored and she speaks English with a serpentine lisp. The book’s protagonist, Pooch, is a golden setter turning into an attractive and modest young woman. Her body is increasingly human, but retains some canine elements, including long silken ears and extra nipples. The plot of the text […]
“A pest is a plant or animal detrimental to humans or human concerns (as agriculture or livestock production); alternative meanings include organisms that cause nuisance and epidemic disease associated with high mortality (specifically: plague). In its broadest sense, a pest is a competitor of humanity.”
Can a poem be science fiction? If so, I’d like to explore the idea that Karen Solie’s poem “Pest Song” about a futuristic lonely homebound speaker and a pest that begins to invade the home reflects our 21st century fears and the alienation inherent of post-modern living. In Karen Solie’s poem “Pest Song,” the speaker’s only relationship is between a homeowner and a pest. Although the speaker’s physical shape remains ambiguous (is it
Childhood’s End: Human Nature and Utopia
Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End (1953) opens on two astronomers dreaming of the future of space travel when a fleet of alien ships descend and park themselves above the major cities on Earth. These ships are piloted by a race of aliens nicknamed “the Overlords” who seem to only have humanity’s best interest in mind. Their actions are not to terrorize, exterminate, or enslave the human race – instead, they insist on equal treatment for all people, criminalize animal cruelty, and overall create a world where hunger, war, prejudice, and struggle no longer exist – for all intents and purposes, these are the features of a Utopia.
The ones […]
Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake imagines a near-future, where the technology to improve humanity abounds, but is ultimately used to destroy it. The text delivers its brand of morality with a heavy hand, and within it many prominent themes of Science Fiction converge. It is an ecocriticism, and a cautionary tale, blurring the lines between utopia and dystopia. Ultimately, it asks whether utopia can be achieved in the act of creating a ‘posthuman’ race.
The novel begins in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, where Snowman, who was Jimmy in the pre-pandemic world, is perhaps the last human on earth. He is surrounded by, and charged as protector of, a new species, which he refers to as the Crakers. […]
What is it that makes us who we are – that which is inside us, or that which we make? Our perception of ourselves, or how others perceive us? In his novel Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro shows us a bleak alternate future in which humans mercilessly breed clones to provide organs, thereby eliminating concerns over cancer and other such illnesses. The science is never fully explained, but it is clear that the clones are really no different from the humans they come from, except for their origin and ultimate purpose (determined, of course, by humans). Ishiguro demonstrates the humanity of the clones through the narrator, Kathy, her friends Tommy and Ruth, and […]
The Science Fictional Insight of Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
By Johnathan McCauley
Few first sentences rustle up more reader intrigue than Kafka’s opening line of Metamorphosis:
As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin (Kafka, 7).
Within this sentence we are provided something universally familiar to connect to through the act of waking up from unsettling dreams, but our familiarity with Gregor is then derailed by the mention of something universally, I hope, unfamiliar. In Metamorphosis, Kafka challenges our notion of what it means to […]