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Reader Discussions > Ubermensch in Space Opera

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message 1: by Anya (new)

Anya Leninjav (spacecadet1stclass) | 6 comments The Lensman series by E. E. 'Doc' Smith has a secretive race of super-intelligences which eugenically breed an unaccountable race of ubermensch - the Lensmen, specifically of Kinneson's line - into the de facto ultimate authority of mankind and eventually the ultimate force in the entire Universe.

Cordwainer Smith's 'Instrumentality' series has a race of selectively bred post-atomic supermen (whose origins lie with a statsis-preserved Nazi rocket scientist's daughter) who have unlimited discretion and absolute power over the destiny of mankind.

Robert Heinlein's entire series is tied together by a mysterious foundation that arranges eugenic marriages backward in time (and sometimes between different time periods) to create an immortal superhuman family who is basically responsible for defending the Universe from evil aliens from outside it, along with ensuring the future propagation of mankind across the stars.

Charles Stross' "Iron Sunrise", the sequel to "Singularity Sky", has a race of genefixed ubermensch who are inspired/manipulated by the time-traveling super-AI they refer to as the 'unborn god' and seek to bring about both their divinity and the unchained future of the human race by conquering the entire thing in a roundabout way.

I was just thinking about this theme, it's rather interesting. With the exception of the Instrumentality there is a superhuman being or order of beings who are guiding the process of eugenic and transhumanist engineering to create this line of ubermensch. In every case they are to dominate and guide the future of humankind, and systematically annihilate every possible counter-force and opposition from within or without it - though in the case of Heinlein they are less militaristic and authoritarian, and simply by existing end up imploding potential enemies of mankind and themselves. In all of these cases little thought seems to ever be given to actually uplifting all of mankind, instead focusing on an all-powerful elite.

I don't find this offensive (though it's a tad unrealistic) but I thought it was interesting that I could find at least four parallel cases in space opera, and with the possible exception of "Iron Sunrise" these supermen are generally treated by the authors as being the protagonists of the Universe (at least from Mankind's perspective). I am sure there are others elsewhere! The Enderverse comes pretty close (I always did like Peter the Hegemon more than his bratty xenoarcheologist brother, TBH).


message 2: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (last edited May 09, 2018 04:49AM) (new)

Teresa Carrigan | 2664 comments Mod
In the Liaden Universe, the Tree does genetic manipulation on the main lines of the Korval clan which may fit this topic. And of course several different sets of the bad guys in that series do cloning with genetic engineering for creating people (mostly underlings) with specific traits. That’s how the Yxtrang came about, and Cantra, etc.


message 3: by Trike (new)

Trike | 599 comments Gordon R. Dickson played with this trope a bit. My favorite book of his was Wolfling, which was about a human who dared to compete with the alien elite.

Jerry Pournelle used the ubermensch idea in his CoDominium books. I found them ideologically distasteful despite some of their “cautionary tale” aspects. Disturbingly, we’re actually seeing some of this USA + USSR stuff playing out in real life right now, with America’s far right embracing Russia and the strong man dictator ethos.


message 4: by Steph (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 303 comments Trike wrote: "...Disturbingly, we’re actually seeing some of this USA + USSR stuff playing out in real life right now, with America’s far right embracing Russia and the strong man dictator ethos."

Yes, the theme seems creepy to me. Making humans substitute gods can't be a good idea.


message 5: by Anya (last edited May 09, 2018 11:34PM) (new)

Anya Leninjav (spacecadet1stclass) | 6 comments Steph wrote: "Trike wrote: "...Disturbingly, we’re actually seeing some of this USA + USSR stuff playing out in real life right now, with America’s far right embracing Russia and the strong man dictator ethos."
..."

Arguably better than actual gods, who are basically humans dressed up as excuses to be assholes, lol.

Genefixed post-humans are probably one of the most realistic sci-fi tropes, whatever people think of the prospect. While the limits on human ability are far more limited than the Green Lantern Woo we get from the Lensmen it's almost inevitable that genetic engineering, cybernetics and lab-grown organs are eventually going to be a regular feature of some human/para-human populations.

In fact it's somewhat unrealistic that most science fiction has so many normal humans! With the kind of super-molecular and computer technology present in most science fiction it's almost unimaginable that there would even be any 'normal' humans left! Especially given how harsh space travel is for terrestrial biology - anyone who spends most of his time under intense acceleration or in free fall, in a high-radiation environment, etc. almost couldn't be a normal biological human. If interplanetary travel/commerce/colonization and space war ever do become real (which is not perhaps as likely as some people might think) it will almost certainly be carried on by cybernetic genefreaks, not elderly French men in pajamas.

The cyber transhumans of any spacefaring future would probably be a lot stranger to us than most of the aliens in sci-fi are.


message 6: by Trike (new)

Trike | 599 comments Anya wrote: "In fact it's somewhat unrealistic that most science fiction has so many normal humans! "

I suspect once that stuff comes along in real life there will be a division among people rushing to modify themselves and those who think it’s unnatural. The latter group will always exist, the way the Amish continue to exist today. Just like the Amish, there will be factions within the group where some people will be all natural and some will go for treatment for serious diseases and some will accept a limited amount of modification.

Then there will be the inevitable screw-ups and rush-to-market failures like we see with medications today. Which will result in horrific genetic timebombs that will scare off some folks, leading to the equivalent of the anti-vaxxer movement, regardless of the scientific merit of the accidents.

Personally, as a sufferer of three chronic ailments, I can’t wait to upload my mind into an android body.


message 7: by Ronnie (new)

Ronnie (ronnieb) | 322 comments I suppose at a pinch Rogue Trooper from the pages of 2000AD would count as an example of ubermensch.

Genetically engineered to be impervious to chemical and radiological attacks.


message 8: by Steph (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 303 comments I can see how some sort of augmented evolution or post-human types might come about, be this through military requirements, medical advancements or even extreme sports. What I find creepy is the notion that this would be pursued to create a ruling class, as per Anya's opening post. This invites comparisons with the idea of a 'master race', which history suggests never ends well.


message 9: by Ronnie (new)

Ronnie (ronnieb) | 322 comments The Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown.


message 10: by Priscilla (new)

Priscilla Sage (priscillasage) | 2 comments I'm going to get the book Red Rising...... I'm glad you posted it Ronnie. It's just to funny.... I was in a debate for one of my classes over establishing life on Mars.... That was just two weeks ago.


message 11: by Ronnie (new)

Ronnie (ronnieb) | 322 comments Happy to have helped. :)


message 12: by Anya (last edited May 10, 2018 01:55PM) (new)

Anya Leninjav (spacecadet1stclass) | 6 comments Steph wrote: "This invites comparisons with the idea of a 'master race', which history suggests never ends well. "

Arguably every religious, political and philosophical idea in history has been a failure. Humans are like 99% screwups. There might be ideas that could work but the people never manage to make them work. Too much savannah haywire nonsense going on inside human minds for them to be reliable. Heck, I'd say there's evidence that most people actively resist patently true things simply because they don't fit with their emotional expectations.


message 13: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 898 comments Mod
This is a major theme in the Honorverse books. Apparently old Earth was almost destroyed by a war caused by an ubermensch experiment that got out of control. Although most of the human worlds agreed to outlaw most genetic modification, there are remnants of the superbeings around, and still some genetic work is done. Honor Harrington herself is the product of it. And in the later books, the really bad guys are a group that has created their own "superior" humans and is trying to take over the galaxy.


message 14: by Audrey (new)

Audrey | 336 comments This theme was also used more than once in Star Trek. Who can forget "The Wrath of Khan"?


message 15: by Ronnie (new)

Ronnie (ronnieb) | 322 comments How about the Imperial Space Marines from the Warhammer 400000 tabletop wargame?

Twelve feet tall, physically bonded to their power armour, ready to fight and die for the Emperor.


message 16: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 114 comments Steph wrote: "I can see how some sort of augmented evolution or post-human types might come about, be this through military requirements, medical advancements or even extreme sports. What I find creepy is the notion that this would be pursued to create a ruling class..."

Unfortunately, the most plausible way this comes about is not through military or sports, but through anti-aging/anti-disease technology. And that means the population who will have it most readily available to them are the uber-rich. Which in turn means the uber-rich will live long, long, long lives and suck up more and more of the wealth for themselves, becoming the de facto ruling class (even more so than today).

...Until the revolution comes along. At which point, the wealthy god-like immortals will probably opt to rid themselves of the useless scum of the Earth (most of us). Or, in true space opera fashion, head off into space and leave the rest of us here to fester and die in the mess they made of the environment/economy.

Welcome to poshumanity.

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in 't!"



message 17: by Dan (new)

Dan | 89 comments Have you been reading Altered Carbon?

:D

We've actually seen a lot of things that were for the rich do eventually trickle down. Just look at the toilet or the car. Used to be only rich people had them, now even poor people have them.

(and by toilet I mean water closet, not a pit in the ground)


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