PARENTS AND PROSPECTS OF GENE MANIPULATION: DISCOURSES OF REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY IN SCIENCE FICTION

Jani Ylönen

University of Jyväskylä

Science fiction (SF) has historically been accused of two-dimensional characters who function more to discuss certain issues than reach for a believable presentation of a human being. While this is a simplification and more issue with older rather than contemporary SF, nevertheless SF characters, and indeed whole novels, are sometimes used as vehicles to discuss cultural phenomenon and social issues especially in connection to technological development.

This is also true for gene technology and, in particular, to its connections to reproductive processes. SF novels, such as Ian McDonald’s River of Gods (2004), use “the classical symbol of reproduction” a pair consisting of a man and woman, wife and husband, possible future mother and father, to discuss issues related to manipulating the genetic imprint of their future child. In my paper, I will discuss how McDonald and other SF writers uses this kind of pairings to represent two or even more sides of debate concerning the future of human genome.

Besides presenting the ethical debate occurring in society, these characters are also connected to politics of gender. I will discuss how questions of motherhood, the body, and power are portrayed in SF texts, but also how these presentations are connected to the SF tropes about discussing these issues. I will examine, for example, is the technology portrayed as presenting new possibilities for women and do the female characters break away from the historical SF tropeof dangerous motherhood.In addition, I will discuss the style of representation in River of Gods and other novels from the perspective of recent critique of representation in general.