Copyright 2010 by Gary L. Pullman
Not many horror novelists are apt to peruse non-fiction books’ indices for fun and profit, but doing so can be profitable--and, yes, even fun. They lay out the skeletons of their books, making it clear which topics the authors address at some length and which they consider in less detail. An index can also suggest a context for the discussion of various concepts and the relationships among one idea and other notions.
In this, my third post concerning Daniel Dinello’s Technophobia!: Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology, I want to take a look at this volume’s index. Doing so shows these tantalizing connections: artificial intelligence is linked to “racism,” as it is to “robot slavery”; the film Alien is related to not only “corporate control,” but also to “viral horror”; androids are compared to “cyborgs” and “robots,” and Dinello writes about “female” androids, the “gothic myth of artificial creatures,” androids’ “revolt against humans,” and of androids in regard to “sexism.”
In our survey of Dinello’s index, we are not looking at the meat, just the bones, of these connections. The bare bones, however, suggest quite a few intriguing and dramatic possibilities in themselves, which we can flesh out, so to speak, with our own imaginations, a point to which I will return in a bit.
First, though, let’s continue our scan of the index. “Artificial intelligence,” which we saw linked to racism and robot slavery, under the entry for the movie “A. I.,” is, under the entry for “artificial intelligence,” also associated with “corporate power,” the “Founding Fathers,” the “military,” “nanotechnology,” “religion,” and weaponry, among other ideas. Dinello’s discussions of bionics includes “controlling prostheses” and its “military and divine origins.” Again, although these connections are, in the index, vague, they tease out ideas for captivating and spectacular treatments within the scope of a novel or a screenplay.
The index also lists several short stories, novels, and movies that deal with various aspects of nanotechnology or related topics, including, for example, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and Robot Visions; Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake; Blade Runner; Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; Octavia Butler’s Dawn; The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; Arthur C Clarke’s The City and the Stars; Robin Cook’s Contagion, Outbreak, Toxic, and Vector; Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, Prey; Phillip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?,” The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and Vulcan’s Hammer.
Plenty of other fictional works, including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, I Am Legend, Homunculus, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Johnny Mnemonic, and many others, are listed, suggesting the wide variety which Dinello’s subject and its related topics have comprised and the relatively long period of time during which they have been treated in science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
But let’s return to the use that writers might make of such tantalizing connections between these topics. Could artificial intelligence be used to boost or lower the natural intelligence of a particular race or ethnicity, to level the playing field in a futuristic, politically correct society, perhaps? How much artificial intelligence should “robot slavery” involve? Might it be dangerous to make robot slaves too smart for their masters‘ own good? Could artificial insemination and gestation be used to enhance companies’ bottom lines and extend their “corporate control” of politicians and citizens? Would hackers be likely to design a “viral horror” with which to infect robot slaves or other androids, as a means of gaining the upper hand or to secure huge ransoms? Why does society need “female” androids--or, for that matter--male androids? Could the creation of such mechanical women (and men) the future’s answer to the practical difficulties and moral qualms related to prostitution? Is that where “sexism” comes into play concerning androids? The answer (or answers) to any of these questions, all of which are based upon simple words and phrases to be found in the entries to Dinello’s index, is a potential short story, novel, or screenplay.
Hopefully, you’ll never look at the index to a nonfiction book the same way again.