I spent part of today catching up the last part of Battlestar Galactica Season 4, and I saw Terminator Salvation this evening with Yufang. I learned in BSG today that the Thirteenth Tribe were actually Cylons–skeletons, bodies, and all. In Terminator Salvation, Marcus Wright is constructed in the other direction than Terminator 3’s Terminatrix–Marcus is the fusion of man and machine. However, Marcus was once a murderer–the unconscionable, monstrous, the inhuman. Given his second chance, he becomes human, or at least what we may consider the human ideal–altruistic, helpful, and self-sacrificing. Thus, the machine makes the man more human. However, throughout Terminator Salvation and BSG, I’m reading a shift in the concern about the machinic appropriation of the human. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the original Terminator and T2 films, and older SF, the fear was only about the surface, about the appearance of human mapped or stretched over a cold, metallic infrastructure. Now, it seems like the concern has more to do with organs and the organic. Where does this anxiety over our bodies and the tissues that make them work and function come from? Obviously, the fear of losing human-ness to the machine is rooted in the emergence and subsequent evolution of anxieties following the integration of humans into the great machine and system of the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps following the turn of the century into the 2000s, the organic (i.e., genetics) meshes with the machine (i.e., AI representing the networked/computerized landscape of the now). What this might mean for future SF and our engagement with organic and machinic technologies I do not know. However, I am eager to discover where this future might lead.
Jason W. Ellis
I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I direct the B.S. in Professional and Technical Writing Program and coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications. View all posts by Jason W. Ellis