Shaper/Mechanist universe

Shaper/Mechanist universe

The Shaper/Mechanist universe is the setting for a series of science fiction short stories (and the novel "Schismatrix") written by the author Bruce Sterling. The stories combined cover approximately 350 years of future history, for the period ranging from A.D. 2200-2550. (Note: All years given are taken from "A Shaper/Mechanist Chronology" in the book "Schismatrix Plus", which includes all the Shaper/Mechanist material.)

The stories deal with a posthuman society spread across the solar system -- primarily in fragile orbiting colonies around planetary bodies like the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and the Sun. The Earth and its inhabitants have been abandoned by these citizens of the so-called Schismatrix, and no communication is performed or attempted with them. Humanity has largely polarized into two competing factions:

The Shapers attempt to push the limits by manipulating the human body itself, through genetic modification and highly specialized psychological training. The Shapers are aristocratic, placing heavy emphasis on "gene-lines" -- to be "unplanned" (i.e., born) is considered a serious disadvantage. Their methods could best be described as "organic."

In contrast, the Mechanists have disdain for the Shapers' methods and instead prefer to use cybernetic augmentation, advanced computer software, technical expertise, and drugs to achieve their goals. The "Lobsters" are Mechanists who permanently seal their bodies into life-support shells allowing them to live and work in deep space. Some Mechanists even go as far as to become "wireheads" -- individuals with no corporeal body who are simply manifested as computer simulations.

This uneasy duality is transformed and complicated by the arrival of the Investors, lizardlike aliens that trade with both factions (who consequently compete for the aliens' favor).

One recurring theme in the Shaper/Mechanist universe is that of the commodification of humanity. Both Shapers and Mechanists often treat individuals as if they were technology-- subject to ownership, control, obsolescence, etc. There is a continual tension between people attempting to express their individuality and human feelings, and the political, economic and technological forces that compel them to suppress their humanity.

Shaper/Mechanist bibliography

The works, listed by original publication date, title, "future timeframe", and a brief summary:

* 1982, "Swarm" (set in 2248 AD) -- Shaper lieutenant Simon Afriel joins a fellow researcher in an interstellar embassy: an asteroid belt inhabited by colonies of insect-like aliens. Afriel also briefly appears in "Twenty Evocations" and "Schismatrix". This was also Sterling's first "officially" published short story.

* 1982, "Spider Rose" (2283) -- An ancient Mechanist from the fringes of the solar system buys something new from the Investors: a pet. Spider Rose herself appears very briefly during happier times in "Schismatrix".

* 1982, "Cicada Queen" (2354) -- A Shaper named Landau comes of age politically inside Czarina-Kluster, a habitat independent of faction where backroom deals and social cliques dominate, and whose stability is becoming increasingly fragile. Wellspring, a visionary rogue Mechanist and leading proponent of the post-humanist philosophy, is Landau's mentor. "Schismatrix" later expands on the background of both Wellspring and C-K, which he helped found.

* 1984, "Sunken Gardens" (2554) -- Individuals from various factions compete in a test of terraforming skills in a crater on the Martian surface. This story expands on the influence and power of Terraform Kluster and its leader, the enigmatic Lobster King (who first appears in "Cicada Queen").

* 1984, "Twenty Evocations" (originally published as "Life in the Shaper/Mechanist Era: Twenty Evocations"; approx. 2220-2400) -- An experimental story; fragments from the life of a Shaper named Nikolai Leng.

* 1985, "Schismatrix" (2215-2386) (Novel) -- Chronicles the life of a renegade, Shaper-trained diplomat named Abelard Lindsay, as he struggles politically with his former ally Philip Constantine, and with the slow evolution of philosophies and ideologies that occurs in his long lifetime. This work also follows the development of Sterling's future history, making the setting itself nearly a character in the work.

The first five Shaper/Mechanist short stories are collected in the 1989 short story collection "Crystal Express".

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужен реферат?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Schismatrix — Infobox Book | name = Schismatrix image caption = Cover of first edition (hardcover) author = Bruce Sterling cover artist = Ron Walotsky country = United States language = English genre = Science fiction novel publisher = Arbor House Publishing… …   Wikipedia

  • Bruce Sterling — For other people named Bruce Sterling, see Bruce Sterling (disambiguation). Bruce Sterling Born April 14, 1954 (1954 04 14) (age 57) Austin, Texas, U.S …   Wikipedia

  • Crystal Express —   Dust jacket illustration b …   Wikipedia

  • Wirehead (science fiction) — Wirehead is a term used in science fiction works to denote different kinds of interaction between people and technology. Contents 1 Known Space stories 2 Snow Crash 3 Shaper/Mechanist stories 4 Se …   Wikipedia

  • Cyborgs in fiction — Cyborgs are a prominent staple in the science fiction genre. This article summarizes notable instances of cyborgs in fiction. Contents 1 Examples in history 2 Written fiction 3 Comics and manga 4 …   Wikipedia

  • Cyborg — For other uses, see Cyborg (disambiguation). Part of the series on Cyborgs Cyborgology Bionics / Biomimicry Biomedical engineering Brain computer interface Cybernetics Distributed cognition Genetic engineering Human ecosystem Human enhanceme …   Wikipedia

  • Outsider (Known Space) — The Outsiders are a fictional alien race in Larry Niven s Known Space series. They are many limbed beings that are invariably described as a cat o nine tails with a fattened handle. Their body composition includes ultra cold superfluid helium.… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”