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Transhuman Space literature


NPC Whymme

Which novels and stories could be used for inspiration for a Transhuman Space game, in your opinion?

What I am thinking of, is:

* Larry Niven - some of his Known Space stories, dealing with the solar colonies

* John Varley - major influence! His 'nine worlds'stories about a technologically advanced society that has swarmed out over the solar system after having been driven off Earth by aliens. How society and people cope with those changes in technology and losing the earth, is one of the major themes in those stories.

* Michael Swanwick - Vacuum Flowers. Breathtaking tour of a densely populated solar system which is weirder than you can imagine. Cyberpunk in space.


Literary Hypernerd
Bruce Sterling and Frederik Pohl

Inspiration-wise, that is, you can't get much more transhuman than Bruce Sterling's superb *Schismatrix* cycle (five short stories and one novel).

The short stories:

"Spider Rose"
"Cicada Queen"
"Sunken Gardens"
"Twenty Evocations"

The novel:


You can get 'em all in the *Schismatrix Plus* collection. However, this book presents the novel first and the short stories afterward. The novel should be read AFTER the stories for full effect and understanding (and the stories should also, ideally, be read in the order they're listed here).


Scott L

P.S. Another excellent treatment of transhumanism on a personal level is Frederik Pohl's *Man Plus*

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
"Diamond Age" by Neal Stephenson, for the social changes and AI-based education.

And I know it's not exactly literature, but the anime series "Cowboy Bebop" gives a grand tour of the solar system...


Sexbot Repairman (NPC since Jan. 2002)
Validated User
the Marid Audran novels by G.A.Effinger (When Gravity Fails / A Fire in the Sun / The Exile Kiss) also give a great feeling for the abundance of (legal) mind-altering drugs and the sheer normality of sex-change operations...


Registered User
Validated User
I would suggest:

* Almost anything by Greg Egan. Distress and Quarantine in particular, along with the short-story collection Axiomatic.

* Some of Brian Stableford's work, especially the "Emortality" series that starts with Inherit the Earth. Also, there's this future-history coffee-table book that he and David Langford wrote in the 1980s, called The Third Millennium -- rather dated, but very very good.

* Bruce Sterling has already been mentioned, but I found Distraction and Holy Fire more relevant than the Mechanist/Shaper stories.

* Peter Hamilton's "Mindstar" books, of course.

NPC Neel Krishnaswami

NPC Whymme said:
Which novels and stories could be used for inspiration for a Transhuman Space game, in your opinion?
There are two names before which all others must bow:

1. Ken MacLeod. _The Star Fraction_, _The Stone Canal_, and _The Cassinni Division_. If TS manages to get even 10% of the density of ideas that MacLeod can manage, I'll count it as a home-run success.

2. Vernor Vinge. He named the Singularity, so he knows of what he speaks. Anything he writes is good.

Law Orc

Staff member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Perhaps some of Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind stories?


Retired User
Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy (Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars) would make for a good resource for a political game, I think.

His later book Stonehenge would also provide some nice mystery and intrigue, although running an adventure based on it would likely piss off some players :D

And people looking to develop an instrumentality theme could do worse than to check out the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.

And yes, Cowboy Bebop is perfect for an action-oriented kind of game.

Kevin Mowery

Validated User
Oh, there was a novel by Walter Jon Williams . . . .

I was going to post about how I couldn't remember what the name of it is, but it just came to me: Aristoi. The protagonist has multiple daemons, or subordinate personalities that allow him to multitask and provide different abilities and skills.


Retired User
I'd suggest reading some Masamune Shirow manga. I just started re-reading Ghost in the Shell and I'd forgotten how THS-ish it is in places. It's more of a straight cyberpunk story, but it has strong "what is human?" themes in it, and plenty of characters in various places along the human-machine spectrum to illustrate those themes. There are a lot more partial cyborgs (and even the full-body cyborgs have some organic neural material, and I don't think brain-cyborgs are in THS) but characters like Kusanagi (human-like robot body, but human mind) could exist in THS (probably with uploaded personality rather than brain-in-box). The Fuchikomas are good examples of sapient AI in cybershells. They can operate independantly or in conjunction with a human, and the relationship between robot and human is somewhat a cross between horse-and-rider and police partners, rather than the robot being just a tool or vehicle. I could see these in Transhuman Space. Incidentally, if you've seen the GitS movie, the manga is quite different and (imho) much better.

Another good read is Appleseed, also by Shirow. This is an "optimistic cyberpunk" story in a similar vein as THS. It contains bioroids (biological androids) like THS (including the obligatory furry catgirl bioroid, often found in both Shirow manga and Pulver RPG settings). In fact, I don't recall hearing the term "Bioroid" applying to such beings in anything but Shirow manga and RPGs written by David Pulver, so I suspect Pulver borrowed the term from Shirow, and I wouldn't be surprised if Shirow invented the term. At any rate, Appleseed is a good read for more than just the bioroids. For one thing, I'd picture a typical Fifth-Wave city as looking much like the cities in Appleseed, complete with the arcologies and the rather pleasant outlying neighborhoods. There are obvious differences in the timelines (Appleseed postulated a couple more World Wars, that are notably different from the wars in THS) but there are enough similarities to be worth a read.

Tarkuss! (who loves anything with furry catgirl bioroids)
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