Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: April 17, 2021, 9:26 a.m. Humanist 34.336 - the image of the computer in science fiction

				                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 336.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                   		Hosted by DH-Cologne
                       www.dhhumanist.org
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org


    [1]    From: Sean Yeager 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.334: the image of the computer in science fiction (27)

    [2]    From: Ernesto Priego 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.332: the image of the computer in science fiction? (79)

    [3]    From: Bill Benzon 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.334: the image of the computer in science fiction (9)

    [4]    From: Willard McCarty 
           Subject: image of the computer in science fiction (66)


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2021-04-17 04:26:47+00:00
        From: Sean Yeager 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.334: the image of the computer in science fiction

Hello everyone,

I'd like to mention a short talk titled “Your Father was a Computer”:
Exploring how Autism became Associated with White Technocratic Masculinity
in the Mid-20th Century," which was recently delivered by Elizabeth Maher,
who's based at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Maher focuses on bruno bettelheim's positioning of the autist as a
"mechanical boy" and on Asimov's portrayal of robots. She pays particular
attention to how these parallel figures are racialized and gendered,
arguing that they were (and still are) deployed in ways which attempt to
reify the hopes -- and to mediate the anxieties -- of tech-savvy white guys
in the post-war era

Here's a link to a recording of Maher's talk:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW7od4CnQlU

Best,
Sean
———————

Sean A. Yeager, M.Sc., M.A.
Ph.D. Candidate in English
The Ohio State University

Former Assistant Professor of Physics and Mathematics
Pacific Northwest College of Art

--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2021-04-16 12:14:11+00:00
        From: Ernesto Priego 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.332: the image of the computer in science fiction?

Dear Willard,

If it's not too late to participate, in the domain of the American comic
book, the work of Jack Kirby with various writters - Joe Simon and Dave
Wood in particular- offers various fascinating examples of computers as
both protagonists and as props. The *Blue Bolt* series by Simon and Kirby,
1940-1941, is full of references machines ("the machine") and the use of
laptop-like machines called "televisors", that to the 21st century eye
evoke not TVs, but indeed portable computers/devices and videoconferencing
software like Zoom. Large laboratories with giant-sized machinery are also
ubiquituous in Kirby's comics from the 40s and 50s.

One that comes to mind is "Ultivac is loose!", from *Showcase* #7,
March-April 1957, by Wood and Kirby. Ultivac is "a new type of calculating
machine" which is also anthropomorphic and robot-like, and which rebels
against their creators.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Jack Kirby was also responsible, with Stan
Lee, for the first depictions of Cerebro in *X-Men* #7 (September
1964).Though Cerebro eventually became some kind of telepathic device,
originally it completely resembled a computer, which operated with punched
cards, built into a desk in Professor Xavier's office.

In francobelgian comics the essential reference in my mind is Edgard P.
Jacobs; for example, *La Marque Jaune* (1956) features the evil scientist
Jonathan Septimus and his "télécéphaloscope", which would anticipate
Cerebro's future telepathic functions for years. Before that, the first
volume of Blake & Mortimer, *Le Secret de l'Espadon *(1946) connects the
dots between artificial intelligence, telecommunications and robotics, with
'computers', if not appearing as such, are indeed represented as
tele/radiocommunication devices.

What's striking for me perhaps today more than ever before is how Kirby and
Jacobs imagined computers not only as ubiquitous in the future but also as
a logical consequence of totalitarianism and war. Moreover, they
always-already saw 'the machine' as a means for control by, amongst other
features, enabling instant televisual communication.

All the best,

Ernesto

@ernestopriego
http://epriego.blog/ 
The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship http://www.comicsgrid.com/
Parables of Care: https://blogs.city.ac.uk/parablesofcare/
Symbola Comics: https://figshare.com/collections/Symbola_Comics/4090025
Subscribe to the Comics Grid Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/iOYAj

On Thu, 15 Apr 2021 at 06:59, Humanist  wrote:

>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 332.
>         Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
>                                 Hosted by DH-Cologne
>                        www.dhhumanist.org
>                 Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>
>
>
>
>         Date: 2021-04-14 12:21:00+00:00
>         From: Willard McCarty 
>         Subject: the image of the computer in science fiction
>
> I'd be grateful for recommendations of studies that focus on the image
> of the computer in science fiction genres -- novels, short stories,
> comics, film -- from 1945 into the 1990s, both utopian and dystopian. I
> want to know what people of all sorts thought about the machine.
> Literary and artistic quality do not matter for my purposes.
>
> Many thanks.
>
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty,
> Professor emeritus, King's College London;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist
> www.mccarty.org.uk

--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2021-04-16 11:52:21+00:00
        From: Bill Benzon 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.334: the image of the computer in science fiction

You should take a look at computers and robots in Japanese culture. It’s quite
different from Western takes. There’s Tezuka’s Astro Boy stories, which are
often, in effect, about civil rights for robots. There’s the Ghost in the Shell
franchise (which influenced the [Western] Matrix franchise). There’s an annual,
Mechadamia, that will likely have some studies of robots and computers in manga
and anime.

For an overview I’d suggest Fredrick Schodt, Inside the Robot Kingdom: Japan,
Mechatronics, and the Coming Robotopia.

--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2021-04-16 06:39:24+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: image of the computer in science fiction

Many thanks to those who wrote with recommendations. Since I have no
Norwegian, to get the most from Espen Ore's response, I resorted to DeepL 
translator, with the following (uncorrected) results.

The original,

> "Ja — han begyndte like-
> frem at spille paa tangenter, som klapret villig under
> hans øvede fingrer. Men musikken var det daarlig
> bevendt med. Den mindet mest om de dumpe smeld
> fra en Linotype, som atter har hentet sine musikalske
> lyd fra klapperslangen."
> (p. 48 in the 1926 edition)

came out thus:

Yeah, he started like...
playing on keys, which clapped willingly under
his practised fingers. But the music was bad
with it. It was more reminiscent of the dull melodies
of a Linotype, who has again drawn his musical
sound from the rattlesnake.

and

> "Dubonnet og hans fire sønner saa interessert paa
> det eiendommelige spil. Og ti gule øine skinnet an-
> dagtsfulde, mens Anderson klapret paa tangenterne.
> Saa la den underlige organist hænderne overkors og
> ventet. En svak surren tydet paa, at der arbeidedes
> intenst i kartotekets indre. Et halvt minut forløp. Saa
> krøp der en tynd messingplate ut fra en av siderne.
> Det var som en slanges tunge.
> Paa platen laa der et tæt beskrevet kort."

thus:

"Dubonnet and his four sons watched with interest
the singular game. And ten yellow eyes shone very
attentively, while Anderson clapped the keys.
Then the strange organist crossed his hands and
waited. A faint hum indicated that work was
intensely in the interior of the cartouche. Half a minute elapsed. Then
a thin brass plate crept out from one of the sides.
It was like the tongue of a snake.
On the plate was a map, closely written."

No doubt there are some infelicities, but in my ignorance of the
language I could hardly correct them.

BUT: what I really was hoping for were studies that range over such
examples and the many, many others to bring out what the writers of
fiction are telling us. Many things, I suspect, but what were the trends? 
In the piece I am writing, I need the wisdom(s) of those who are thoroughly 
familiar with science fiction, its insights into images of the digital machine 
(again to quote Kuhn) "by which we are now [and once were] possessed".

Many thanks!

Yours,
WM
--
Willard McCarty,
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist
www.mccarty.org.uk


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