After Human

BookAfter Human

After Human

A Critical History of the Human in Science Fiction from Shelley to Le Guin

Liverpool Science Fiction Texts and Studies, 69


April 1st, 2021



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SF has long been understood as a literature of radical potential, capable of imagining entirely new worlds and ways of being. Yet SF has been slow to embrace posthumanist ideas about the human subject. The human of the SF tradition is instead a liminal being, caught somewhere between the transcendent ‘Man’ of classical humanism and the subversive ‘cyborg’ of posthumanist thought.

This study offers a critical history of the 'human' in SF. By examining a range of SF works from 1818 to the 1970s, it seeks to answer some key questions: What role does technology play in defining what it means to be—or not to be—human? How do these writers understand the relationship between humanity and the rest of nature? And how can we use SF to re-examine our ethical position towards the non-human world and move to more egalitarian understandings of the human subject?

'This wide-ranging and original study convincingly shows how science fiction has (almost) always been posthuman. Thomas Connolly’s critical and cultural history of “the human” in Anglo-American sf ranges from the nineteenth century through the 1970s, constructing an expansive pre-history of the posthuman before the cyberpunk explosion of the 1980s. This is an exciting new story about the history of science fiction.'
Veronica Hollinger, co-editor of Science Fiction Studies

Author Information

Thomas Connolly is an independent researcher based in Dublin. His research interests include science fiction, posthumanism, disability in literature, and popular culture.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Introduction: 'Beyond the common range of men': H.G. Wells, the OncoMouse, and the Human in Anglo-American SF
1. Worlds Lost and Gained: Evolution, Primitivism, and the Pre-Human in Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World and Jack London's The Iron Heel
2. Soma and Skylarks: Technocracy, Agency and the Trans-Human in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and E.E. 'Doc' Smith's Skylark Series
3. Homo Gestalt: Atomics, Empire, and the Supra-Human in Isaac Asimov's Foundation and Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars
4. Disaster and Redemption: Utopia, Nature, and the Post-Human in J.G. Ballard's The Crystal World and Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed
Conclusion: Bio/Techno/Homo: The Future of the Human in SF