Today, we have a sensational guest blogger, Marissa Meyer, author of the forthcoming CINDER. She's here to talk about Fictional Cyborgs, and man, I can't wait!
Either: “What’s a cyborg?”
Or: “That’s awesome! I love cyborgs!”
Because who doesn’t love cyborgs? Although modern science has made the potential for cybernetic organisms very real through the use of prosthetic limbs and advances in neural engineering, we still tend to imagine cyborgs as being superhuman. Once-normal people who’ve been retrofitted with super strength, super intelligence, high-tech weapons and gadgets concealed beneath titanium plating . . . and with each new scientific advance, our cyborg expectations only go higher.
Here are seven fictional cyborgs, going as far back as the 12th century, that demonstrate our very human fascination with people who aren’t entirely human.
Nuada of the Silver Arm
From: Irish Mythology
Timeline: Written records pre-date the 12th century, actual story is much older
The story: After losing an arm in battle, a king is forced to abdicate his throne due to a law that states only whole men can rule. He later has his missing limb replaced with a working silver one and reclaims his throne from an oppressive enemy.
How cyborg?: Though mythology is rife with limbs and even whole people made out of precious metals, the idea that the silver arm was functional (rather than just a placeholder) makes Nuada the earliest cyborg I’ve come across. (Thanks to LiveJournal commenter Roseaponi for introducing me to this tale!)
From: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The story: A doctor pieces together human remains fresh from the grave, along with materials found in “the dissecting-room and the slaughter-house,” to create his own horrific creature.
How cyborg?: The doctor uses galvanism, a method of applied electricity, to animate the creature. Though Shelley doesn’t go into detail, I suspect some Energizer batteries were at play.
John A.B.C. Smith
From: “The Man that Was Used Up” by Edgar Allen Poe
The story: A narrator goes to speak to a much-admired Brigadier General, only to find his many parts scattered across the floor. Turns out he was mutilated by Native American warriors and now his servants have to piece him back together every day before he’s fit to be seen in public.
How cyborg?: False teeth, a glass eye, and any number of other prostheses needed to complete him. Supposedly the prostheses are quite life-like, though probably not when they’re strewn across the living room.
From: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, and other Oz books
Timeline: First appeared in 1900
The story: Once an ordinary man, poor Nick’s downfall came when the Wicked Witch of the East enchanted his axe and it started to chop off his limbs, one by one. Nick continued to replace each limb with a tin prosthetic until there was no organic tissue left.
How Cyborg?: He gradually goes from all organic to all synthetic. After Dorothy comes along, he at least gets his heart back.
From: “The Six Million Dollar Man” TV series, based on the book Cyborg by Martin Caidin
Timeline: 1974 to 1978
The story: After nearly dying in a plane crash, former astronaut Steve Austin is rebuilt using bionics. He spends the next four seasons defeating bad guys and kicking ass.
How cyborg?: An eye that includes an infrared filter and a zoom lens, legs that make him crazy fast, and an arm with super strength and the ability to detect nuclear radiation. Pretty much, he was the first cyborg to take advantage of how awesome cyborgs are!
From: Star Wars
Timeline: 1977 (Episode IV) to 2008 (Episode III)
The story: After a slow descent into the dark side, Anakin Skywalker is left for dead on the volcanic planet Mustafar, but rescued by Darth Sidious and given a life-sustaining suit and his own cape.
How cyborg?: “He is more machine now than man.”
From: Star Trek
Timeline: First appeared in 1989
The story: A humanoid alien race assimilates other species and cybernetic technologies in search for physical and mental perfection.
How cyborg?: Not only one, but an entire species of interconnected, assimilated beings? It’s about as cyborg as it gets. Resistance is futile.
This is only a small sampling of hundreds of cyborgs that have entered our culture, particularly in the last thirty years or so, with everything from “The Terminator” to “Cowboy Bebop” employing the potential of man-machine superstars.
Do you have a favorite fictional cyborg that I’ve left out?
http://marissameyer.livejournal.com or on Twitter: @marissa_meyer.