“Not to go on all fours. That is the Law. Are we not Men?”
So says one of the most enigmatic characters of early science fiction—the Sayer of the Law, from H.G. Wells’s 1896 novel The Island of Dr. Moreau. The Sayer is one of the human-animal hybrids created by the titular doctor, but the only one whose species is never clearly identified—he looks a little bit like a Skye terrier, a little bit like a goat, and a little bit like a weird dude. Maybe the reason for this imprecision is that the Sayer is an example of an even rarer animal in science fiction: a lawyer.
Science fiction is full of imaginary laws, like the rules of chimeric conduct promulgated by the Sayer, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and Star Trek’s Prime Directive. But only rarely do works of science fiction show the systems whereby those laws are administered, and even more rarely do they feature those systems’ practitioners as characters. This paradox—that science fiction has lots of law, but few lawyers—makes sense when the reasons for it are more closely examined. That examination reveals the potential for a more deliberate exploration of law and justice in fictional worlds to help us tell fresher stories, and maybe even find the path to a more just tomorrow in the real world.