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This chapter asks what happens as the commodification of life expands from biological tissues to the abstract concept of “life itself” now understood as a commodity. It draws on research on synthetic biology to analyze sf texts whose futures promise manufactured, nonhuman workers. Beginning with Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? this chapter considers how the globalized distribution of labour, and particularly a reliance on migrant labour that disavows civic belonging to such temporary workers, instantiates a dehumanizing precarity. Turning to the film adaptation of Dick’s novel, Blade Runner, and especially to its sequel, Blade Runner 2049, the chapter connects these imaginaries to discourses about synthetic biology that imagine life as a standard toolkit of reconfigurable metabolic functions. The chapter concludes with a reading of Rosa Montero’s Bruna Husky series, which directly references Blade Runner, a forceful critique of economic logics that reduce living beings to a means to economic ends. This series offers a posthumanist, multispecies vision of renewed political community as a remedy for the real subsumption of life by capital.
This essay examines key trends in war and posthumanism, from the early rise and recent revitalization of the idea of autonomous war machines, and the way the cyborg body acted metonymically for the unwilling soldier sent to Vietnam. The majority of military science fiction has backed away from the prospect of transhuman war, and even popular war franchises like Iron Man (comics and film) maintain that humans must and will be at the center of combat. The insistence on human agency in war flies directly in the face of US military policy, driven by the Revolution in Military Affairs. Just as war is being fought at ever greater removes by drones and autonomous weapons, popular military science fiction has retreated to representing wars whose technologies and strategies date from the mid-twentieth rather than mid-twenty-first century. Using fiction, film, and comic texts, this essay argues that maintaining human agency is crucial to the United States’s ongoing concept of itself as a frontier country advanced by determined pilgrims.
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