Re: New ways

From: Andrew Lias (
Date: Fri Oct 06 2000 - 08:52:30 MDT

>From: wrote:
>In a message dated 9/11/00 3:46:40 PM Central Daylight Time,
> writes:

> > Today transhumanism should be out of the basement but it isn't.
>I disagree. We're seeing transhumanist ideas discussed in wider and wider
>fora, although usually without the label "transhumanism" or "extropian"
>(Kurzweil's book and Jaron Lanier's article in are good examples).

One thing that I've noticed is that Extropian ideas are showing up, more and
more, in science fiction, even though many of the commentaters of SF don't
seem to be aware of this and are a bit confused by it.

Consider a statement, in a recent interview, by Gardner Dozois (a very
important editor of SF): "It seems fairly clear, using 20/20 hindsight, that
the biggest trends of the '90s were parallel booms in the hard-science
story, updated and reinvented to better suit the tastes of the time, and in
modern space opera, also updated and reinvented to better suit the tastes of
the time. We're talking now about the work of people like Greg Egan, Gregory
Benford, Paul J. McAuley, Vernor Vinge, Greg Bear, Stephen Baxter, Michael
Swanwick, Gwyneth Jones, Brian Stableford, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, Iain
Banks, Peter Hamilton and a number of others; some of the newer writers I
just mentioned, such as David Marusek and Alastair Reynolds, would clearly
fit comfortably in here as well. Many of the same players have produced work
in both these areas, but they don't quite overlap exactly; Greg Egan, for
instance, is perhaps the foremost new practitioner of the modern
hard-science story, but he doesn't write space opera, nor does Brian
Stableford (although, interestingly enough, he used to); where people like
Iain Banks or Peter Hamilton don't write hard-science stories. You do have
people like Paul J. McAuley and Stephen Baxter, though, who seem equally
fluent in both areas, and move freely from one to the other as they choose."

Note that he's not quite sure how to catagorize the writing of these
authors, but that he definitely sees some ambiguous commonality. I've read
a lot of work by most of the writers he mentions I can assure you that a lot
of these folks (as well as others he didn't mention just as James Reed and
Ken MacLeod) are either transhumanists (e.g., Egan), Extropian sympathizers
(e.g., Vinge), or are, at the least, very familiar with the ideas that
Extropians have been batting around, either directly or through osmosis.
Indeed, I've been seeing so many Extropianist themes showing up in short
stories (which are, as always, the cutting edge of the genre) that I feel
that Extropian fiction is now a legitimate sub-genre.

One theme in particular that's been cropping up a lot is that of
transhumanism. Most specifically, the notion that people not only can or
will transcend their humanity, but that this may (or even definitely will)
be a *good* thing. This is in sharp contrast to the pervasive fear of the
idea (to say nothing of the obnoxious antrocentricism exhibited by
characters such as Star Trek's Data who want to become *human* because, well
shucks, ain't that the best thing to be?) that has dominated the genre in
the past.

As such, I would suggest that the memes are definitely out there and that
they are finding an audience. If one wanted to put a snooty, postmodernist
take on it (and I may as well get *some* use out of my English degree :-),
one could say that the Promethean metaphor is in ascension while the
Frankenstein metaphor is in decline.

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