SF has long been understood as a literature of radical potential, capable of imagining entirely new worlds and ways of being. Yet SF has been slow to embrace posthumanist ideas about the human subject. The human of the SF tradition is instead a liminal being, caught somewhere between the transcendent ‘Man’ of classical humanism and the subversive ‘cyborg’ of posthumanist thought.
This study offers a critical history of the 'human' in SF. By examining a range of SF works from 1818 to the 1970s, it seeks to answer some key questions: What role does technology play in defining what it means to be—or not to be—human? How do these writers understand the relationship between humanity and the rest of nature? And how can we use SF to re-examine our ethical position towards the non-human world and move to more egalitarian understandings of the human subject?
'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