Bodies of Tomorrow

Bodies of Tomorrow: Technology, Subjectivity, Science Fiction

SHERRYL VINT
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442684072
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  • Book Info
    Bodies of Tomorrow
    Book Description:

    Bodies of Tomorrowargues for the importance of challenging visions of humanity in the future that overlook our responsibility as embodied beings connected to a material world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8407-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Problematic Selves and Unexpected Others
    (pp. 3-26)

    Greg Egan’s short story ‘Reasons to Be Cheerful’ opens with the protagonist’s announcement, ‘In September 2004, not long after my twelfth birthday, I entered a state of almost constant happiness’ (191). At first external reasons seem to explain this ebullient state, for his life is filled with ‘food, shelter, safety, loving parents, encouragement, stimulation’ (191); however, we soon learn that he has a brain tumour requiring aggressive surgical and chemical treatment. Although such treatment is able to benefit only two out of three patients, the protagonist feels ‘no real panic, no real fear’ (192). The reason for this, he tells...

  5. 1 Gwyneth Jones: The World of the Body and the Body of the World
    (pp. 27-55)

    Gwyneth Jones’sAleutiantrilogy provides an exemplary set of texts exploring the intersections of the subject, the body, the text, and the social. In this trilogy, Jones provides a new model of the body, a model premised on the deconstruction of the boundaries between human and alien. This new image of the body becomes a ground for a new kind of ethics in Jones’s work. The body is important for understanding this theme because it functions as both a tool for articulating self and as a conduit through which cultural meanings shape the body/subject. Through a new understanding of the...

  6. 2 Octavia Butler: Be(com)ing Human
    (pp. 56-78)

    Both science fiction and discourses on genetics are concerned with marking the boundaries of humanity; Octavia Butler’sXenogenesistrilogy demonstrates these parallels.¹ The trilogy tells the story of a group of humans who have survived a nuclear holocaust and of the alien species who have enabled that survival. The aliens, Oankali, are a trading species and the medium they trade is genes: ‘We trade the essence of ourselves. Our genetic material for yours … We do what you would call genetic engineering. We know you had begun to do it yourselves a little, but it’s foreign to you. We do...

  7. 3 Iain M. Banks: The Culture-al Body
    (pp. 79-101)

    Iain M. Banks’sCulturenovels depict a far distant civilization of tremendous technological power and social enlightenment. The Culture has eliminated material want, waste, scarcity, the need to work for one’s livelihood, and discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or class. Humanoid citizens of the Culture inhabit radically genetically and surgically modified posthuman bodies that are as indestructible as those of video-game heroes: one can always start over at full strength after being treated for any injury short of brain death. Bodies are altered by a process called genofixing that provides increased longevity, freedom from disease, the ability to...

  8. 4 Cyberpunk: Return of the Repressed Body
    (pp. 102-123)

    Bruce Sterling’s dramatic claim for cyberpunk – that it is subversive of the forces of normalcy, crazed and possibly dangerous – has not been supported by many of the critical assessments of the genre. Cyberpunk is a curious phenomenon within the field of science fiction: it has provoked considerable critical debate and discussion both within and beyond ‘fandom,’ a debate that seemingly has survived the sub-genre itself.¹ A discussion of the body and science fiction must consider the influence of cyberpunk, a genre best known for its rejection of embodiment and embrace of an existence in cyberspace.

    Sterling, the ‘movement’s’...

  9. 5 Raphael Carter: The Fall into Meat
    (pp. 124-137)

    I want to conclude my discussion of embodiment and the cyberpunk genre by looking at Raphael Carter’s novelThe Fortunate Fall(1996), a text which functions as an ironic response to cyberpunk, sharing the sub-genre’s tropes without succumbing to its political naïveté. While Cadigan’sSynnersoffered alternative subject positions for a cyberpunk age, positions that embrace the material and embodiment both within and outside of cyberspace, Carter’s novel goes one step further and insists that we remain focused on the priority of the material as the only reality that ‘really’ matters. I argue thatThe Fortunate Fallis characterized by...

  10. 6 Jack Womack and Neal Stephenson: The World and the Text and the World in the Text
    (pp. 138-170)

    I have been examining the way in which discourses about ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’ uses of technology both authorize and prohibit the materialization of particular body-subjects through their competing representations of the body. In this chapter, I want to turn to the technology of writing itself. Marshall McLuhan has called language ‘the first technology by which man was able to let go of his environment in order to grasp it in a new way’ (57). I have been examining the ways that the discourse of popular fiction intervenes in the social construction of subjects and arguing that it can provide a...

  11. Conclusion: Toward an Ethical Posthumanism
    (pp. 171-190)

    Two central arguments have structured this book: first that discursive struggles over representation are also political struggles about valid subject positions, and second that we are currently in a moment of defining a new human subject, a posthuman subject, whose features and implications will be intrinsically bound up with the assumptions about identity and embodiment that inform it. Many thinkers seem convinced that the next stage of human identity is just around the corner. This notion that we are living through the last generation of this version of humanity is perhaps most famously argued for by Vernor Vinge in his...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 191-220)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-234)
  14. Index
    (pp. 235-243)