Tor.com content by

K. Eason

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The Monstrous Machines of Corporate Capitalism

Since Frankenstein, science fiction has worried about the consequences of creating artificial life. Would we make monsters (or robots, or monster-robots) that would destroy their creators? Or can we duplicate whatever it is that makes us human? (That begs the question of whether or not that’s even something to which any self-respecting monster—or machine—should aspire.) My first encounter with the question came in college, when I first saw Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The answers there were yes and empathy, with the film portraying replicants as more human than the real humans, rebelling against their creator(s), and also against the corporate system that enslaved them.

Twenty-odd years later, Martha Wells’ Network Effect (and the rest of the Murderbot Diaries) still grapples with the essence of that question, but also reframes it. She throws out the human/machine binary and focuses more closely on how the effects of capitalism, condemned by default in Blade Runner, are entwined with notions of personhood.

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Five Books Where the Dead Don’t Stay That Way

The idea that death is somehow not the end permeates human imagination. We’re mortal. We know we’re all going to die, no matter what. That knowledge seeps into our stories, our laws, our beliefs. It shapes our cultures. It’s something we fight, or something we meet with grace; something we transcend by leaving a legacy; something we fear. But what if death wasn’t inevitable? What if… death were a revolving door, or a state-change? Vampires, zombies, ghosts, gods (and the occasional mortal protagonist) find a way to defy what should be the end. And while the first three began as monsters, and as monstrous, now they’re as often the hero as they are the villain.

Now, I like a good (bad) vampire. I wrote my college personal statement about the vampire Lestat, back in the day (and they still let me in). I teach classes about zombies. But my favorite don’t-stay-deads are the ghosts, those echoes of personality, strong emotions: love or hate or rage or grief. At the very least, they float around being ominous and at the very worst, they do physical harm to the living. And sometimes they come back. I could probably blame Poltergeist for my long-running fascination with the impermanent dead, but I think it’s really all Star Trek’s fault. Spock didn’t stay dead, so why should anyone else?

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Series: Five Books About…

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