Mike Ryder, Lancaster, May 2017My research project explores the intersection between literature and philosophy, with a particular focus on the American science fiction published during the Vietnam War period, and emerging theories of biopolitics published from the same period. This means I read authors such as Robert Heinlein, Ursula Le Guin and Philip K Dick alongside the likes of Michel Foucault (writing in the 1970s) to modern day contemporaries such as Giorgio Agamben.

One area I’m particularly interested in at the moment is the relationship between science fiction and technology. In particular the tension surrounding computers and robots. Computer technology really came to the fore during the Second World War with the likes of the American ENIAC ballistics computer widely advertised in the U.S. Fast forward 10 years and we can see what could be defined as the second stage in military computers, which was accompanied by an increasing emphasis on systems analysis and computer-like thinking to analyse military outcomes and make decisions.

Vietnam then became very much a technology-driven war, and we can see conflicting emotions surrounding this reflected in the science fiction literature of the time. From the sinister fighting suits of Starship Troopers and The Forever War to the mass produced ‘leadies’ in The Penultimate Truth, and the controlling AIs in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and The Dispossessed.

These depictions raise a number of important questions that weren’t just relevant at the time, but that are increasingly important today. In particular: how does technology impact subjectivity? Are robots the ideal citizens? Are we being driven to become ‘robot citizens’? And is the AI the ultimate embodiment of the sovereign State?

To find out more about this project and my other related research interests, browse my research blogs. You can also see my researcher profile on the Lancaster University website.