Aliens, Robots, Mutants, and Others

  • Russell Blackford
Part of the Science and Fiction book series (SCIFICT)


Science fiction tells stories of Intelligent Others: non-human or evolved-human beings with intelligence and (perhaps) moral significance. These may take the form of extraterrestrial or more local alien species, robots (and other artificially intelligent beings), or mutants. SF authors deploy all these for a range of effects and with a range of meanings, though the archetypal stories involve invasion by aliens, rebellion by robots, and the social rejection of mutants. These stories can present a mirror to humanity and human societies, displaying their faults and their dubious assumptions. Though Intelligent Others are most often threatening or monstrous, they also have a certain allure and are often depicted sympathetically. This creates a pressure for science fiction writers to move beyond anthropocentric ethics.


  1. Broderick, D. (1995). Reading by starlight: Postmodern science fiction. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Gomel, E. (2014). Science fiction, alien encounters, and the ethics of posthumanism. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Graham, E. L. (2002). Representations of the post/human: Monsters, aliens and others in popular culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Grech, V. (2014). The Pinocchio syndrome and the prosthetic impulse. In R. Blackford & D. Broderick (Eds.), Intelligence unbound: The future of uploaded and machine minds (pp. 263–278). Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  5. Hillegas, M. R. (1967). The future as nightmare: H.G. Wells and the anti-utopians. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Jackson, P. T., & Heilman, J. (2008). Outside context problems: Liberalism and the other in the work of Iain M. Banks. In D. M. Hassler & C. Wilcox (Eds.), New boundaries in political science fiction (pp. 235–258). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  7. Joy, B. (2000, April). Why the future doesn’t need us. Wired. Accessed May 7, 2017, from
  8. Nichols, R., Smith, N. D., & Miller, F. (2009). Philosophy through science fiction: A coursebook with readings. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Williams, B. (1985). Ethics and the limits of philosophy. London: Fontana.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Russell Blackford
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Humanities and Social ScienceUniversity of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

Personalised recommendations