Do Androids Dream of Cylons?

So I’ve found it really interesting how in the Xanther and Anwar sections we repeatedly get references to BSG, Blade Runner, and PKD’s works. All (it is the new BSG as specified by the helpful annotators) of these deal with aspects of the human/robot relationship and use that as an extension to explore what it means to be human and how one knows one is human or machine and can a machine become human. This in connection to Xanther and her cognitive processes (be it a product of genius or autism) seems to me to present a degree of resonance between her and the android/cylon characters who find out they are not in fact human/wish to pass as such. She struggles with passing as human with her fellow classmates as seen in the Dr. Potts sections and her mentioning of the bullying she has suffered as well as the toll her epilepsy has on her way of thinking (she tries to escape the beast).

In Anwar’s sections the use of [], {}, and <> symbols as opposed to () as with Astair, associates him with his code writing and reflects a mind the thinks in a similar pattern while also associating him with androids with the robotic/computer connections that entails.

The annotators of the work (as of page 395) could be machines, robots, aliens, or simply those who Johnny Truant-like have found these records and thus are speaking to the reader.

Likewise the first of the vignettes in the prologue seemed to me to also be of a futuristic/machine/robot vein as least that’s what it evoked for me while reading the black pages which could easily represent a computer code screen (though the font is not the standard code font).

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About bookknight101

I'm an American working on my PhD in Film Studies examining the depiction of sentient, female AIs and robots in science fiction film and television.

3 responses to “Do Androids Dream of Cylons?”

  1. Katie Hayman says :

    I think this is a very interesting point. I’d like to know what you think about a few other questions it brought up for me.

    First, what do you think of the character who is actually named Android in the “Power Draws a Crowd” narrative? He doesn’t seem to have any particular relationship to technology thus far, but could he be considered robotic in his actions for or loyalty to his gang?

    What about Cas’s orb? I don’t personally understand what’s going on there yet, but parts of that story seem to have some element of inhumanity.

    I’m really interested in your question on the definition of humanity, especially as the character who seems to be the most humane does have trouble being human.

    Sorry if any of this is repetitive or irrelevant! I’m still on page 199.

  2. jwillcoe says :

    I am also interested in themes of the human/android/AI relationship in BSG and Blade Runner and how they relate to these characters and their story lines. One of the key unanswered questions in Blade Runner is whether or not Deckard is an Android himself, as it is very difficult to tell the difference and doing so requires a lengthy questioning process while focusing on the subject’s pupils. I’m not incredibly familiar with BSG but I am aware that a recurring plot element is revealing that characters have been robots the entire time.

    It is intriguing to postulate what these themes may have in common with The Familiar. Perhaps there is a much deeper connection between the human characters and the technological elements of the novel, such as the different social networks that Xanther uses, the mysterious Orb, Anwar’s game engine. The Narcons must fit into this thematic thread somehow as well. I’m still not certain whether the Narcons control the story or are merely recording it. If they are controlling the actions of the characters, the references to BSG and Blade Runner would make a lot of sense. Part of me even wants to believe that some or all of the characters are in fact robots or constructions of artificial intelligence, and considering some of the events so far, I don’t particularly consider this theory too far off.

    The quote at the beginning of the first “Orb” chapter on page 133 is from Blade Runner: “Do you like our owl?” Which is spoken in an early scene by Rachael, an android who is unaware of her artificial origin, as she refers to the artificial owl created by the Tyrell corporation. In keeping with the animal themes of The Familiar, this posits interesting possibilities for the key animal characters in the novel. Perhaps the cat is in fact some construction of artificial intelligence or plays some kind of role in the technological advancement of humanity? Or maybe the cat is a robot too. I’m excited to find out more.

  3. jwillcoe says :

    I am also interested in themes of the human/android/AI relationship in BSG and Blade Runner and how they relate to these characters and their story lines. One of the key unanswered questions in Blade Runner is whether or not Deckard is an Android himself, as it is very difficult to tell the difference and doing so requires a lengthy questioning process while focusing on the subject’s pupils. I’m not incredibly familiar with BSG but I am aware that a recurring plot element is revealing that characters have been robots the entire time.

    It is intriguing to postulate what these themes may have in common with The Familiar. Perhaps there is a much deeper connection between the human characters and the technological elements of the novel, such as the different social networks that Xanther uses, the mysterious Orb, Anwar’s game engine. The Narcons must fit into this thematic thread somehow as well. I’m still not certain whether the Narcons control the story or are merely recording it. If they are controlling the actions of the characters, the references to BSG and Blade Runner would make a lot of sense. Part of me even wants to believe that some or all of the characters are in fact robots or constructions of artificial intelligence, and considering some of the events so far, I don’t particularly consider this theory too far off.

    The quote at the beginning of the first “Orb” chapter on page 133 is from Blade Runner: “Do you like our owl?” Which is spoken in an early scene by Rachael, an android who is unaware of her artificial origin, as she refers to the artificial owl created by the Tyrell corporation. In keeping with the animal themes of The Familiar, this posits interesting possibilities for the key animal characters in the novel. Perhaps the cat is in fact some construction of artificial intelligence or plays some kind of role in the technological advancement of humanity? Or maybe the cat is a robot too. I’m excited to find out more.

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