Re: The hazards of writing fiction about post-humans

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed May 04 2005 - 21:35:54 MDT

At 05:01 AM 04/05/05 -0400, you wrote:
>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.

Well put.

>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. :)

It has been explored around the edges. Vinge creates his "zones of
thought" to have a universe where some of the characters are less than gods.

You certainly can have human characters in a post singularity world, sort
of like we have Amish in our world but far more extreme. But what are the
characters to accomplish in such a world? It's a world with gods or
(if Eliezer does it right) one friendly god.

It is a world where humans have less influence on important matters that
effect the future then cockroaches.

(On the other hand, that's probably the situation for the vast majority of
the human race today.)

Keith Henson

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