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Bewildering Stories

Gary Inbinder writes about...

The Almost Human

Bertil Falk’s “Requiem for an Android” appears to share a theme with my Noble Lies, namely how some future Church and State might deal with their “android problem.”

Would the Church recognize androids as creatures made in God’s image with souls to be saved? And would the State recognize them as “men” created equal and therefore entitled to rights?

Would the Church make that distinction prior to the State or in conjunction with the State? Or would there be a Church-State conflict over the matter? Or would the androids just be considered “Meat Puppets” as in Ásgrímur’s story?

Copyright © 2007 by Gary Inbinder

Quite so, Gary. As we shall see, the problem lies in outward appearances.

On the New Earth of Noble Lies, the androids look human and are in fact human in all but name only; they can even procreate with human beings. Further, android “society” has a rigid class structure paralleling that of humanity, almost down to the “platinum” and “gold” status reminiscent of today’s credit cards. Whether one is android or human becomes, for all practical purposes, a distinction without a difference.

Michael Merriam’s “Protect and Serve” also deals with the very same theme and in somewhat the same way. In his story, the “Other” — the non-human — comes not as an artificial construct but as a benevolent or at least pacifistic “invader from outer space.”

In fact, the alien plays in a small way the role of “social physician” I mentioned in “Space Aliens as Metaphor”: it’s so strange that it makes even the odder inhabitants of Morningside seem normal. And if a shape-shifting space alien deserves respect under the law, then how much more do the law-abiding, Earth-born non-humans deserve it?

The ending of Bertil Falk’s “Requiem for an Android” will come as no surprise: readers will say, “Ah yes, I knew it all along.” And that is exactly as it ought to be. A tree is known by its fruit; stand back and give it a chance to grow. We knew it all along...


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