Transhumanist fiction is a developing genre that explores futuristic societies in which technology has been used to enhance human cognitive and physical abilities. Basically, the undesirable and inherently human qualities that everyone possesses are eliminated, causing the posthuman world to become either utopian or more imperfect, usually the latter. The authors who compose transhumanist fiction are admired for their imaginative works that examine “what if,” creating new ideas pertaining to our future. Below are 10 essential works of transhumanist fiction that’ll enable you to experience the wonders and repercussions of progress for human – or posthuman – civilizations.
- The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
“The Diamond Age” follows a young girl named Nell, who is entrenched in the lowest working class, but is given the opportunity to develop “a more interesting life” with the education provided by “TheYoungLadysIllustratedPrimer” – a book or computer program of sorts that interactively teaches the student how to be a good member of society.
- The Bohr Maker, Linda Nagata
Nagata is a well-known transhumanist fiction writer who takes a particular interest in nanotechnology. In her first novel, “The Bohr Maker,” a tiny device by the same name is the most powerful piece of technology known the humans, enabling them to alter the moods of others and their own genetic stricture. When it falls in the wrong hands, Nikko – who has only weeks to live – must find it in order to save his own life and ensure humanity stays on the right course.
- Tech Heaven, Linda Nagata
Nagata’s second novel speculates about death and morality, particularly when it comes to cryogenics. The protagonist Katie intends to cryopreserve her husband, who has just suffered near-fatal injuries in a helicopter crash, until technology is invented to revive him. Along the way, she must consider the wishes of the rest of his family and the prospect of her own mortality.
- Deception Well, Linda Nagata
After a plague kills the initial inhabitants of a new world, the son of the leader, Lot, grows up to become the community’s chosen savior. His natural charisma is supplemented by nanotechnology that causes anyone to become his loyal follower. As a generational battle unfolds, the reader becomes acquainted with Nagata’s take on organized religion and democracy.
- Singularity Sky, Charles Stross
Stross’s first novel details the future 400 years from now, after a complex social and technological evolution occurred on Earth. The advancements come from Eschaton, which departed from Earth, leaving humans on other planets and in other periods of time. One primitive colony that emerges is the New Republic. When these anti-technology holdouts are fittingly sieged by technology, a fleet from Earth is sent to either help or destroy them.
- A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge
Vinge is another math whiz who has published his musings about technology and how it will impact the future of our society. In “A Fire Upon the Deep,” he takes the reader thousands of years into the future, when varying levels of intelligence live throughout the universe, and the consequences of the actions of the not-so-intelligent Straumi realm leaves the existence of interstellar civilization in question.
- Diaspora, Greg Egan
Egan tends to focus on content pertaining to posthumanism and artificial intelligence, making him a favorite of transhumanist fiction readers. Both themes are present in “Diaspora,” as few humans are left in the world in 2975, and the ones who remain have become dehumanized through genetic engineering.
- Quarantine, Greg Egan
Set in 2034, “Quarantine” takes a look at the near future through Egan’s eyes. A gray shield surrounds the solar system on November 15, causing mass chaos across the world. The stars can no longer be seen and light is blocked completely. The reasoning for its existence is unknown; some speculate that it’s the work of God and some see it as protection. It becomes the duty of PI Nick Stavrianos to find out.
- Neverness, David Zindell
Zindell has garnered high praise from critics, readers and fellow authors for his complex narratives that pose the questions that humans have always asked, but in a different context. In “Neverness,” society is set on the planet Icefall in which mathematics dictates the social order. The epic follows the ascension of Mallory Ringess from star pilot to godhead as he becomes better acquainted with love, death, and life and its meaning.
- Aristoi, Walter John Williams
Williams has sampled with numerous genres, notably cyberpunk, but one of his most recognized books, “Aristoi,” is relevant to transhumanism, exploring a future that includes artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and many of the innovations about which humans have dreamed since the advent of computer technology.