Bodies Must Move: The Siren of Capitalism in Mid-Century Science Fiction

Jennifer Jodell

Univ. of Minnesota-Twin Cities


Although the figure of the cyborg as it appears in late-20th century sf has received much scholarly attention since Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1984), less attention has been paid to this figure as it manifested in mid-century sf. Specifically, this paper focuses on the “female” cyborg who is doubly framed as a performer and an augmented being co-constructed by a male engineer, the state, and the corporate media. Mid-century novels and works short fiction offer conflicting representations which can be read through a combination of affect, film, and biopolitical theory with the aid of Haraway’s metaphor of the cyborg. On the one hand, these fictional representations gesture toward the agency afforded to this cyborgian artist through her creative capacities and access to a global audience; on the other, they suggest that she is an unwitting or dangerously complicit “siren” whose purpose is to animate and regulate the inner life of the consumer, citizen, and worker for the benefit of capitalism and the state. The goals of such a comparison include better understanding the genre’s engagement with early incarnations of the trope of the (female)cyborg-as-media creation common to later works of feminist sf and cyberpunk.

2018 National Conference
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