Reading Kolodny’s Lay of the Land helped me think about the Ancient theme that I’m curious about in sci-fi. (It has also helped me think about Native American lit, but that’s another story – the European desire to gender the land in contrast to the Native American acceptance of its non-gender, the relentless urge to fall go native and fall back into a more Edenic yet also more possibly Satanic mode of living, that she talks about on p. 17-18).
Tech’s desire to return to the Ancient isn’t quite the same as a return to the Mother (as I impressed White and Zwynger with in my orals). The Ancient – and I’ll need to work with this term, of course – seems more a search for some connection between bodily knowledge (again, I’m working on this) and cognition, or the world of the intellect. Not the soul, necessarily, as I don’t think that this is a Cartesian impulse (or regression?), but the deep chemical and biological patterns that produce all this marvelously destructive technology (as well as marvelously destructive human behavior). The Ancient isn’t Aristotelian, necessarily, and it’s definitely not Christian (is Spinoza the best Renaissance source then? the Sophists?), but it is a concept that many sci-fi writers are imbued in, trying to understand the power of what this new technology actually entails, and the consequences (and extrapolations) that will occur.
I’m reminded of both Marusek (I don’t remember the name of the novel, dammit) and my current read, McDonald. Marusek’s development of clones as the ultimate working class-servant class can be linked back (perhaps with a bit of a stretch) to a desire for categories and roles within a tribe. McDonald takes another tack, looking for the next evolution of the human mind (the computer) in quantum physics, rather than in making computers a new form of biological material.
More on this hopefully…