From its earliest beginnings in Shelley’s Frankenstein, science fiction has been concerned with defining – and redefining – what it means to be human and has explored the human relationship to technology and the natural world in far-reaching ways. Throughout these works, the human emerges as a liminal site where a range of anxieties and beliefs concerning subjectivity, embodiment, agency, and individuality come into play.
This book examines the history of the human in science fiction and the genre’s complex engagements with humanism and posthumanism. Beginning with the nineteenth-century works of Shelley, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells, it ranges from well-known authors such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ursula Le Guin to less widely studied texts by authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack London, and E.E. 'Doc' Smith. The human that emerges from this tradition is a complex figure that ultimately comes to reflect the assumptions, beliefs, fears, and ambitions of a diverse range of authors and contexts, while science fiction itself can be seen as a radically – if problematically – posthuman mode of literature.
'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