Re: The hazards of writing fiction about post-humans

From: Slawomir Paliwoda (
Date: Wed May 04 2005 - 03:01:57 MDT

The problem with writing fiction about posthumans, as some of you have
mentioned already, lies in creating empathy. Any story driven by characters
that don't evoke empathy must fail. If I don't care about the main character
in the story, preferably as soon as possible, I will remain inert to
writer's even most sincere, and otherwise effective, attempts to make me
feel positive or negative emotions. I'll remain emotionally neutral because
I didn't care about the character in the first place.

A consumer of story forms an empathetic bond with a character only when he
recognizes in the character his own humanity. At that moment the reader
begins to identify with that character and starts to live vicariously
through the character. If the bond of empathy is strong enough, we will
laugh and cry with the character. If that bond is too weak, the novel goes
back on the shelf.

Stories about posthumans usually don't work because these posthuman
characters do not (or shouldn't) share much of our humanity, and by that I
mean our fallibility, and this is why the audience struggles to form an
empathetic bond with these characters. On the other hand, making a posthuman
act like a
human doesn't make sense, just like portraying a human character acting like
a bacteria wouldn't (Ok, they both eat and move, but that's about all they
have in common). All this means that writing credible and moving stories
about posthumans is futile. Fortunately, there should be plenty of space
*around* the problem. :)


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