Thursday, September 21, 2017

Cyborgs in Sci-Fi

There are a lot of books around these days starring cyborgs, and I guess we all know what a cyborg is – the definition is "a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body". They've been around for ages. The earliest (prominent) one I can remember is Steve Austin in the Six Million Dollar Man. Mm-m Quite the hunk. Then there was Robocop, and as we all know, Cynthia Sax has a series of sizzling cyborg stories. So do a number of other SFR writers. You'll find a whole list of them on Goodreads.

I found a fascinating article the other day about the quest for immortality. It struck a chord for me, because transferring a brain into a kind of robot shell is exactly how the process works in my Eye of the Mother book and its sequel, For the Greater Good. Having put forward the hypothetical plans for making such a transition possible, the article then goes on to talk about the potential societal problems immortality might create. And it's not just immortality: it's greatly expanded lifespans.

Isaac Asimov's novels The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and The Robots of Dawn contrasted the short lives of Earth humans with the three hundred plus ages achieved by 'spacers'. In the end, the spacers lost their vitality, and their planets were all abandoned. Asimov argued that the relatively short life span of ordinary humans meant that they would be more inclined to take chances, since they had less of their lives to lose. An interesting theory, which didn't fit at all with how Tolkien's elves conducted themselves. They are almost immortal, but they sign up for the wars against Sauron.

Elizabeth Moon's Serrano series explores the effect of people being able to regenerate their bodies, thus being able to extend their lifespans indefinitely. Her novels are military, and she makes the point of long lines of able young officers unable to get a promotion because the senior officers don't need to retire. It's all fascinating stuff, leaving the reader with a lot to think about, especially with regard to the ethics of such a process – which would, of course, only be available to the rich.
Apart from the cyborgs in the Dryden Universe, my other major cyborg star is Morgan Selwood. She comes from a time after a series of disastrous wars had decimated humanity - wars with machines, or AI's, a bit like the wars depicted in the Terminator movies. Determined never to allow machines to dominate them again, humans use people like Morgan to control their technology. Known as supertechs, they have a supercomputer implanted in their brains soon after birth, and are genetically modified to obey the people who control them. Apart from that, they are completely human. But Morgan's a little bit different from the other Supertechs. Her story starts in a short story, Supertech.

That's the wonderful thing about science fiction. It raises possibilities, then explores the effects – both good and bad.

Please tell me about your favorite SFR cyborgs.

1 comment:

  1. I don't seek out cyborg stories per se, but Linnea Sinclair's Brandon (Admiral Kel Paten) from Games of Command is one of my fave characters. I do have one character in an upcoming novel who probably fits sort of an anti-cyborg mold, but I can't explain further or it would make spoilers happen.

    Bestselling author Cara Bristol, one of my Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 co-authors, has a well-known series called Cy-Ops, about a force of covert paramilitary cyborgs who work to save the galaxy from terrorism.


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