THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CREATOR AND CREATURE IN SCIENCE FICTION


ABSTRACT

In this thesis I examine the tendency in British and American science fiction of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to figure the relationship between humanity and a putative creating deity in terms of the creation of sentient individuals by scientists.

The earliest text to examine such themes in sf terms is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I argue that this novel is both Shelley's contribution to the younger Romantic poets' programme of rewriting Paradise Lost along Gnostic lines, and also the central text influencing later works of creationary sf. I trace the treatment of these themes in the work of HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw, David Lindsay, Olaf Stapledon, CS Lewis, Arthur C Clarke, James Blish, Isaac Asimov, Brian Aldiss, Philip K Dick, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson and Dan Simmons among others. From my reading of these authors, and an interview with Mr Simmons which I include as an Appendix, I conclude that the Romantic/Gnostic version of the creation theme, in which Satan is seen as justified in rebelling against his tyrannical creator, informs much of the sf genre, and that this is a conscious tradition on the part of these sf authors.

The theme has been modulated in different periods according to cultural developments, responding to advances in technology (such as the rapid development of computers), changes in the philosophy and perception of science (such as Darwin's theory of evolution), and alterations in theological perspectives (such as the heterodoxies of Teilhard de Chardin). During this time it has accrued to itself certain emergent images and themes, and related to contemporary technological ethics, politics and even literary history. Portrayals of the creator/creature relationship have become more complex along with the theological attitudes of authors, and have tended increasingly to show the relationship as reflexive, with humanity remade by its technologies.



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