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K.C. Alexander (NECROTECH) on Transhumanism in Science Fiction

K.C. Alexander is the mostly human, occasional Outer God, and debut author of Necrotech, a transhumanist sci-fi called “a violent thrillride” by award-nominated noir urban fantasy author Stephen Blackmoore. Previous writing credits include a critically acclaimed stint as Karina Cooper, where she won an RT Award for her steampunk urban fantasy series and contributed to well-received collections such as Fireside Fiction, Protectors 2: Heroes, and Last Night, a Superhero Saved My Life.

She writes transhumanist sci-fi, epic fantasy, and speculative fiction of all stripes. Visit her at kcalexander.com.

K.C. Alexander’s debut novel, Necrotech, will be out in September from Angry Robot Books!

Transhumanism is Now

by K.C. Alexander

At its core, transhumanism is the belief that the use of technology can overcome or surpass human limitation. It sounds good, doesn’t it? To be able to transition from the weak, often flawed meatbag bodies we were born with to something stronger, faster, unbroken, unlimited, even simply different. To surpass the limits of evolution itself is a tempting lure that haunts many of our more long-reaching dreams.

The process, the science and the art of utilizing technology to blow through the limits of our human ability, is not a new one. Although earlier efforts might seem primitive to us, we have been augmenting ourselves and our capabilities for centuries. The arc of technological progress gets steeper even as it gets exponentially shorter; our society has witnessed incredible advances in shorter bursts of time.

In my lifetime, I witnessed the rise of cell phones—bricks to clams to miniature computers—and the comparatively sharper incline of the internet. I remember a time when you had to call a friend’s landline and leave a message on an answering machine if they weren’t home. I remember when snail mail was just called mail. When text was the content of a book, and speaking of books, I remember when you had to go to a book store to buy one.

I’m barely into my thirties. In less than half a lifetime, we have a reached a technological state where smartphones are integrated so smoothly into everyday life that entire industries have had to adapt or die. When adults who scorn the concept of a “cyberpunk” future check the news on their laptops, smart TVs, phones, tablets, just to see which too big to fail corporation is getting away with breaking what laws.

I live in a world where the excesses and criminal activity of our corporations and government are more widely covered and reported on, but are followed by a total lack of the legal follow-through we thought protected us. In this world, this reality’s Beast and Smiler are stepping up to square off in a presidential race that seems to have been carved out of the very fiber of Hollywood script factories,

And if the comparison to Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan doesn’t scare you, you are made of sterner stuff than I.

But it’s not all bad, either. Because of these smartphones and the widespread adoption of the internet, we are more connected than we have ever been in any lifetime. Video calls connect family and loved ones, strangers sharing a common hobby, even school rooms across the world. We text at a moment’s notice, enrich our minds with books we download in seconds, learn languages and make friends without ever having to leave the house.

And oh, did I mention the physical augmentation?

In this age we live in, prosthetics are being actively manufactured with direct ties to the brain. Utilizing signals sent when a person thinks about moving the missing limb, the prosthetic senses what nerves and muscles are reacting to the wavelength, and behaves accordingly. Fingers move. Wrists rotate. How awesome is that? Neurociences are mapping the mysteries of the mind and coming up with incredible medical marvels we could only speculate about thirty years ago. Nanos aren’t too far away—every year, brilliant doctors, professors and engineers write papers on the subject of medical nano use.

At the rate we’re going, can you imagine what comes after?

Nanos for preventative care. For general health. For everyday care. And then, probably not even a blink behind, for cosmetics. Prosthetics to replace missing limbs. Then to augment existing limbs. And then, because you know it’s going to happen, to replace weaker limbs the user no longer wants. Why not?

Transhumanism, as a rule, says nothing about morals or ethics.

And that’s why I write about it.

Years ago, I read the afore-mentioned Transmetropolitan, and to this day, I maintain that Warren Ellis had perhaps the clearest vision of the future we march inexorably to. As more and more of that world creeps into ours—the corporations labeled as “people”, religious sects behaving in more outlandish and disruptive ways, mass shootings that lead to the government choosing money over safety, and pressing safety in exchange for the civil freedoms of its people—I watch that Transmet world loom ever closer.

We are destroying our world, and seem unable to stop our leaders from advancing its destruction. We turn furiously to our Twitter and Facebook and texts and Reddit and 4chan and light the flames of revolution, and succeed mostly in victimizing innocent people, setting our little corners of our media on fire, and then turning on the news to see it all ignored in favor of Hollywood glamor and farcical politics.

We have proven time and again that we will push what we learn to its farthest capability and then we will break something to push it farther. When we speak of transhumanism, it doesn’t end with curing cancer, replacing a veteran’s lost limb, or growing an ear. We speak of a world where what is flawed is no longer acceptable, where a new paradigm of social classism bears the scars of augmentation. We speak of advancement beyond human limitation—forgetting that so often, limitation is what reminds us that we are all human, all flawed, and all in this great rat race together.

As we overcome the limitations of our world, be it physical or social, we forget to be kind. To be good.

We forget to be human. Or is it that we will have transcended human?

I write about these questions. About a world that has fallen to easy gains and battered apathy. Where the concept of humanity has become a measure of how crowded a city is, not the ethos by which they live, and the technology pressed into service to do it. I write the future I see, in all its vicious, dynamic, ugly, vibrant, bloody glory.

When we as a species have no more limitations, what are we most likely to do? To ourselves? To each other? To anyone not “one of us”?

Adapt or die.

Necrotech is what happens when everyone disagrees on who should do which one.


About Necrotech:

Street thug Riko has some serious issues—memories wiped, reputation tanked, girlfriend turned into a tech-fueled zombie. And the only people who can help are the mercenaries who think she screwed them over.

In an apathetic society devoid of ethics or regulation, where fusing tech and flesh can mean a killing edge or a killer conversion, a massive conspiracy is unfolding that will alter the course of the human condition forever. With corporate meatheads on her ass and a necro-tech blight between her and salvation, Riko is going to have to fight meaner, work smarter, and push harder than she’s ever had to. And that’s just to make it through the day.

On Necrotech:

“Vulgar, vicious, and very very good! Alexander pulls no punches in this intense debut.” – New York Times bestseller Jason M. Hough, author of Zero World

Stephen Blackmoore calls Necrotech “a tight, violent thrillride in a fascinating cyberpunk world with one of the most interesting women protagonists I’ve read in a long time.”

Quotes:
KC:
“Why am I working with Angry Robot? That’s simple: when suits come knocking, and you escape out the back, then become the quarry in an international manhunt, and no matter how many passports you steal they are always one step behind, until it all culminates in a fiery crash in the Himalayas where they run you to ground, well… you sign the papers. You have to admire their skills: strong diversity, slick covers, and they don’t shy from aggressive leads! …Also, they know where I live and are watching me, send Liam Neeson. I mean, I love them. Totally. Help.”

Angry Robot’s consulting editor Phil Jourdan:
“How freaking excited am I to see KC join the Angry Robot family? Well, it’s a bit like DiCaprio finally getting his Oscar — I finally have my own violent, hilariously over-the-top, unapologetically cyberpunk masterpiece. I have been waiting since Titanic for this.”

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