Cyborgs in fiction

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Cyborgs are a prominent staple in the science fiction genre. This article summarizes notable instances of cyborgs in fiction.

Examples in history[edit]

"Night of the Steel Assassin" is a January 1966 episode of The Wild Wild West TV series. "Iron Man" Torres, played by John Dehner- the world's first cyborg, plans to assassinate President Grant in New Mexico.

In 1966, Kit Pedler, a medical scientist, created the Cybermen for the TV program Doctor Who, based on his concerns about science changing and threatening humanity. The Cybermen had replaced much of their bodies with mechanical prostheses and were now supposedly emotionless creatures driven only by logic.

Isaac Asimov's short story "The Bicentennial Man" explored cybernetic concepts. The central character is NDR, a robot who begins to modify himself with organic components. His explorations lead to breakthroughs in human medicine via artificial organs and prosthetics. By the end of the story, there is little physical difference between the body of the hero, now called Andrew, and humans equipped with advanced prosthetics, save for the presence of Andrew's artificial positronic brain. Asimov also explored the idea of the cyborg in relation to robots in his short story "Segregationist", collected in The Complete Robot.

The 1972 science fiction novel Cyborg, by Martin Caidin, told the story of a man whose damaged body parts are replaced by mechanical devices ("bionics"). This novel was adapted into a TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man, in 1973, and a spin-off, The Bionic Woman in 1976. Caidin also addressed bionics in his 1968 novel, The God Machine.

In 1974, Marvel Comics writer Rich Buckler introduced the cyborg Deathlok the Demolisher, and a dystopian post-apocalyptic future, in Astonishing Tales No. 25. Buckler's character dealt with rebellion and loyalty, with allusion to Frankenstein's monster, in a twelve-issue run. Deathlok was later resurrected in Captain America, followed by two others in 1990 and 1999.

In the novel Man Plus by Frederick Pohl, an able-bodied astronaut, Roger Torraway, is surgically altered in order to augment his fragile human body and allow him to function in the harsh climate of Mars. The result is both "monstrous" (he has bat-like wings, infrared sight, an enhanced brain capable of processing all the new sensory inputs) and "freeing" (his cyborg body is more "naturally" made for Mars, as opposed to his all-human colleagues on the Mars mission). Torraway's cyborg character is reprised in a 1995 sequel, Mars Plus.

The 1982 film Blade Runner featured creatures called replicants, bio-engineered or bio-robotic beings. The Nexus series—genetically designed by the Tyrell Corporation—are virtually identical to an adult human, but have superior strength, agility, and variable intelligence depending on the model. Because of their physical similarity to humans a replicant must be detected by its lack of emotional responses and empathy to questions posed in a Voight-Kampff test. A derogatory term for a replicant is "skin-job," a term heard again extensively in Battlestar Galactica. In the opening crawl of the film, they are first said to be the next generation in robotics. The crawl also states genetics play some role in the creation of replicants. The original novel makes mention of the biological components of the androids, but also alludes to the mechanical aspects commonly found in other material relating to robots.

The 1987 science fiction action film RoboCop features a cyborg protagonist. After being killed by a criminal gang, police officer Alex Murphy is transformed by a private company into a cyborg cop. The transformation is used to explore the theme of resurrection and identity. There are cyborg kaiju in the Godzilla films such as Gigan and Mechagodzilla.

Although frequently referred to onscreen as a cyborg, The Terminator might be more properly an android. While it has skin and blood (cellular organic systems), these serve mainly as a disguise and are not symbiotic with the machine components, a trait of true cyborgs. The endoskeletons beneath are fully functional robots and have been seen operating independently, especially during the future segments of the Terminator movies. The T-1000 (which is said to be made completely of a liquid metal) of Terminator 2: Judgment Day is definitely an android. The Terminator Cameron Phillips seen in the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is of a previously unseen model, and is once again referred to on screen (including once by another Terminator) as a cyborg. Terminator Salvation introduces Marcus Wright, a death-row convict who donated his body to Cyberdyne Systems, who was later revived as a one of a kind Terminator with his original brain and heart placed into an endoskeleton which was then covered by a copy of his original organic tissue.

Cyborgs have also been present in real-time strategy video games. The "Command & Conquer" video game series had cyborgs as a part of its plot – specifically Cyborgs created by the "Brotherhood of Nod" via Tiberium Infusion experimentation. They were frequently used for anti-personnel, though the Cyborg Commando proved to be useful in most situations. Cyborgs were brought back by the AI named LEGION, (a successor to CABAL) under direct orders from Kane. The 'Marked of Kane' units also contain Cyborgs.

The Metal Gear Solid series of video games has a recurring character known as Grey Fox or the "Cyborg Ninja" who is a person wearing a cybernetic exoskeleton (either worn as a suit or grafted directly to the character's body) and wielding a high-frequency blade.

The cyborg ninja suit has been donned by multiple characters, most recently by the character Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. He became the newest incarnation of the Cyborg Ninja after he was captured by The Patriots after he stole the body of Big Boss for the Paradise Lost Army. His body was heavily experimented on for the purpose of creating the ultimate soldier and the only remaining organic parts of his original body are his head and spinal cord. His cyborg body is composed of artificial muscle, organs, bones, and blood( a "white" artificial blood that the PLA substituted for his old, nanomachine primed blood). His cyborg body was optimized for war and enabled him to fight on a superhuman level and withstand what would normally be considered fatal injuries.

One of the most famous cyborgs is Darth Vader from the Star Wars films. Vader was once Anakin Skywalker, a famous Jedi turned to the Dark Side. After a ferocious battle with his former master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin is left for dead beside a lava flow on Mustafar, and is outfitted with an artificial life support system as well as robotic arms and legs. General Grievous, Lobot, and Luke Skywalker are the three other most prominent cyborgs in the Star Wars universe.

In Akira Toriyama's manga and anime series Dragon Ball, a scientist named Dr. Gero created several cyborgs, including villain Cell, sibling cyborgs Android 17 and Android 18, as well as Android 20, who was built from Gero himself.

A direct brain-to-computer interface is a valuable, but expensive, luxury in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's novel Oath of Fealty.

In the manga and anime series Ghost in the Shell, the protagonist Motoko Kusanagi is the fully prosthetic leader of an anti-terrorist force, who lives in a future Japan where the majority of adults are cyborgs and can connect wirelessly to the Internet for real-time communication and data research. The most common augmentations in the series are partly artificial brains called cyberbrains.

Bruce Sterling in his universe of Shaper/Mechanist suggested an idea of alternative cyborg called Lobster, which is made not by using internal implants, but by using an external shell (e.g. a Powered Exoskeleton).[1] Unlike human cyborgs that appear human externally while being synthetic internally, a Lobster looks inhuman externally but contains a human internally. The computer game Deus Ex: Invisible War prominently featured the Omar, where "Omar" is a Russian translation of the word "Lobster" (since the Omar are of Russian origin in the game).

In the Brain and Brawn series of novels series by Anne McCaffrey and others, beginning with The Ship Who Sang, a "brainship" is a human body, usually one that could not develop normally, encased in the strongest materials available in that universe, and mentally connected to the controls of a spacecraft. Later novels link the brainship to fully functional humanoid androids.

Written fiction[edit]

  • In the story The Ablest Man in the World (1879), by Edward Page Mitchell, a computer is inserted into a man's head, turning him into a genius.
  • The Tin Woodman from L. Frank Baum's Oz books (at least before he became entirely metal).
  • Gaston Leroux, the author of The Phantom of the Opera, wrote a 1923 story titled La poupée sanglante – La machine à assassiner (translated as The Machine to Kill in the English edition) in which the brain of a guillotined murderer is inserted into a "clockwork man".
  • The Mi-go aliens in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft, first appearing in the story "The Whisperer in Darkness" (1931), can transport humans from Earth to Pluto (and beyond) and back again by removing the subject's brain and placing it into a "brain cylinder", which can be attached to external devices to allow it to see, hear, and speak.
  • Deirdre, a famous dancer who was burned nearly completely and whose brain was placed in a faceless but beautiful mechanical body, in C. L. Moore's short story of 1944, "No Woman Born". Collected in "The Best of C. L. Moore" in 1975
  • Jonas the (star) sailor in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun novels. His near light speed ship had been gone so long that on its return to Urth, there were no space port facilities any more, and it crashed. Other crew members patched him up from available parts. (However, he started out as fully robotic, and was repaired with human parts, rather than the more usual reverse).
  • Molly Millions, Henry Dorsett Case, and Peter Riviera all have some sort of cybernetic augmentation in William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy.[2]
  • Professor Jameson, a cyborg pulp hero by Neil R. Jones, and his allies and benefactors, the Zoromes.
  • Marge Piercy's He, She and It presents a rather feminist view on the cyborg issue with Yod who, however, is provided with some male attributes.
  • Anne McCaffrey wrote short stories and novels known as The Ship Series (1961–) where otherwise crippled humans live on as the brains of starships and large space stations.
  • The genetically engineered and prosthetics-ready warriors of the planet Sauron in the CoDominium series of short stories and novels initiated by Jerry Pournelle and also written by guest authors.
  • In Martin Caidin's novel, Cyborg, a test pilot named Steve Austin is rebuilt after a horrendous crash, given new "bionic" limbs, and becomes a superspy. Followed by several sequel novels and also adapted as the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Caidin's retelling of the Buck Rogers story, Buck Rogers: A Life in the Future, has Rogers being partially rebuilt as a cyborg after his hibernation, and includes a reference to Steve Austin.
  • Angus Thermopyle, The Gap Cycle.
  • Haberman and Scanners from Scanners Live in Vain by Cordwainer Smith.
  • The Comprise, a computer-mediated hive mind which has taken over Earth, in the novel Vacuum Flowers by Michael Swanwick.
  • Rat Things in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. They are attack-programmed guard dogs whose long hairless tails make them look less like dogs and more like rats. They are powered by nuclear engines that will fatally over-heat if they stop. Technology invented by Mr. Ng and, evidently, made exclusively for the defense of the franchise Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong.
  • In William C. Dietz's Legion of the Damned the Legion is made up of a combination of humans and heavily armed cyborgs.
  • Kage Baker has written a series of novels about The Company in which orphans from various eras (who fit certain physical requirements) are recruited by a time-traveling corporation, augmented and turned into immortal cyborgs, and trained to rescue valuable artifacts from history.
  • Hannes Suessi from David Brin's Uplift novels is transformed into a cyborg by the time he re-appears in Infinity's Shore
  • Catherine Asaro's Saga of the Skolian Empire prominently features cyborgs called "Jagernauts", who are empaths or even telepaths, who serve as elite fighter pilots. Many prominent members of the Ruby Dynasty ruling the Skolian Empire are jagernauts.
  • Linda Nagy, aka Ellen Troy, who has wetware in her brain, spines in her fingers (for linking with computers) and an antenna that lets her shut down machine remotely from the Venus Prime series by Arthur C. Clarke and Paul Preuss
  • Jessamyn 'Krokodil' Bonney, protagonist of ||Kim Newman||'s Demon Download series was extensively augmented by Dr. Simon Threadneedle, also a cyborg.

Comics and manga[edit]

  • Jeremiah Gottwald from Code Geass becomes a cyborg when he barely survives the Battle of Narita and is turned into one when a team of government scientists operate on him experimentally. This results in a half-machine appearance. In R2, most of his mechanical parts are internalized.
  • 8 Man, a manga and anime superhero created in 1963 by writer Kazumasa Hirai and artist Jiro Kuwata. He is considered Japan's earliest cyborg superhero, before even Kamen Rider (the same year, Shotaro Ishinomori created Cyborg 009), and was the inspiration for RoboCop.
  • The Major in the Hellsing manga has recently been discovered to be a cyborg
  • The characters Haine Rammsteiner in the manga Dogs and Dogs/ Bullets & Carnage was experimented on as a child, leaving him with augmented regenerative abilities as well as increased reflexes.[3]
  • Baxter Stockman from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • The Brain in DC Comics
  • Cyborgirl
  • Cyberforce is a group of mutant cyborgs in Image Comics.
  • Many of the members of Section 9 in the Ghost in the Shell universe, specifically the main characters Major Motoko Kusanagi and Batou, are cyborgs dependent on regular maintenance; there are several manga (or graphic novel) and artbooks set in the GitS universe, as well as two feature-length anime films, three television series and three video games.
  • Masamune Shirow's other major work, Appleseed also contains a multitude of cyborg characters, with one of the main characters, Briareos Hecatonchires, the mercenary Sokaku Tatara and his war buddies, and the Mumna Holy Republic diplomat Kainisu, from the fourth chapter, are just a few.
  • Cyborg of the Teen Titans comic book series is a superhero with massive implants and prosthetics. He also appeared in the animated TV series. Not to be confused with Superman supervillain Cyborg Superman, a technopathic entity who prefers cybernetic forms, who is occasionally referred to as merely "The Cyborg."
  • Many of the characters of Battle Angel Alita (also known in Japan as GUNNM) are cyborgs, including the lead, Alita (Gally, Yoko). Cyborgs are a major way of life in the GUNNM universe, with sports, such as Motorball (and crimes, such as spine-stealing), contributing to a culture of cyborgs.
  • The Fugitoid from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • The Metabarons.
  • Metallo from DC Comics
  • In WE3, a group of animals are turned into sentient living weapons.
  • Cyborg 009 features a group of humans unwillingly turned into cyborg weapons by a crime syndicate.
  • The Reavers, a group of villains that regularly clashes with the X-Men. They are led by Donald Pierce.
  • Deathlok, the Demolisher, a series of military cyborgs in Marvel Comics. The original Deathlok was a former soldier in a dystopian future.
  • All members of The Authority have a networking implant that allows for radio-telepathy, head-mail and other communication functions.
  • Android 17, Android 18, and Android 20 from the manga series Dragon Ball. These three (along with the rest of Dr. Gero's artificial creations) are referred to as jinzouningen, which is a blanket term in Japanese science fiction applying to robots and androids, as well as cyborgs. Jinzouningen is usually translated by fans to "artificial human". Freeza is also a cyborg after his defeat on Namek and is saved and rebuilt by his father.
  • Franky (also known as Cutty Flam), of the manga One Piece by Eiichirō Oda, rebuilt most of his body with scrap metal after sustaining serious injuries. Giving him abilities ranging from (but not limited to) air cannons in his hands and rear end, guns in his wrists, and the ability to extend the front part of his lower body outward, making him look like a backwards centaur. However, as Franky did these adjustments to himself, only the front part of his body is cyborg. His backside (which he couldn't reach) is as vulnerable as any human back, rendering this his weak point. His cyborg abilities are powered by cola, stored in a refrigeration unit in Franky's stomach.
  • Henrietta, Triela,Rico, Claes, Angelica,Elsa de Sica, and Elizaveta from Gunslinger Girl are adolescent girls who are made into cyborg assassins to fight for the government. They have adults known as 'handlers' who train them for battle.
  • Death's Head II, MINION, Marvel Comics
  • Karl Ruprecht Kroenen, from Hellboy
  • Supremor, the Kree Supreme Intelligence, of Marvel Comics
  • Spartan WildStorm Comics
  • Tony Stark, better known as Iron Man injected himself with techno-organic virus "Extremis", which installed a computer interface into his nervous system and an Iron Man armor interface into his body. This allows him greater control of the armor. Stark can also remotely operate his armors (more than one Iron Man active at a time).
  • Victor Mancha is an artificial life form with organic parts in Runaways.
  • Cable, a mutant from the future in Marvel Comics. Roughly a third of his body is a "techno-organic" mesh.
  • The Ultimate Marvel version of Deadpool is a cyborg.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise contains several cyborg characters, most notably Bunnie Rabbot in Saturday morning TV series and US comic series. The animated series and Sonic Underground also featured a cyborg version of Sonic's long-time foe Dr. Robotnik, while Underground also featured individuals who had been turned into mindless, robotic cyborgs by Robotnik's Roboticizer. The comic series featured additional cyborgs, including the Dark Legion/Dark Egg Legion and Egg Army.
  • Several characters in Spriggan such as the Trident Corporation's agents (except Iwao Akatsuki), including ex-Machiner's Platoon agent Ironarm, have prosthetic limbs. These give them an advantage in combat since the limbs are outfitted with offensive weapons.
  • One group of major antagonists in the manga Blame! are Silicon Creatures, humanoids of a silicon base that are similar to cyborgs.
  • Transmetropolitan features many cyborgian ideas and characters. Spider Jerusalem himself is a cyborg especially when he takes the phone trait.
  • Pinoko from Black Jack is technically a cyborg; as a living Teratoma, she is mostly organs: most of her body was crafted by Blackjack from synthetic fiber.
  • The comic series Concrete (1986–) revolved around the life of an ordinary human whose brain had been placed in a large artificial stone body by aliens.
  • Rom the Space Knight (1979)
  • Axel Pressbutton created by Steve Moore in (1979)

Film[edit]

A Borg from the Star Trek series on display at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum.

Television[edit]

Video games[edit]

Music[edit]

Games and toys[edit]

  • Mike Power, Atomic Man, a G.I. Joe version of Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, various races make use of bionics and prosthetics, chiefly the Imperium of Man. It is not uncommon for Space Marines and Imperial Guardsmen to be given artificial limbs and/or organs to replace those lost or irreparably damaged in battle, enabling them to continue their service to the Imperium. Members of the Inquisition sometimes acquire bionics for the same reasons, or adopt them voluntarily for various reasons. In particular, members of the Adeptus Mechanicus – the cult of the Machine God – make extensive use of bionics, often to the point that very little of them can be defined as "human". Adepts of the Adeptus Mechanicus revere technology above all things, and believe that machines are vastly superior to human beings. The high level of bionics and prosthetics common in Tech-Priests has led to Imperial Guardsmen coining a number of slang terms for them, chiefly "cogboys". The name not only refers to the fact that Tech-Priests are mostly machines themselves, but is also a reference to the icon of the Mechanicum, a golden machine cog with an augmented skull emblazoned upon it.
  • Several characters from the Masters of the Universe original line, including Extendar, Man-E-Faces (uncertain), Mekaneck, Rio Blast, Rotar, Sy-Klone, Trap-Jaw, Tri-Klops, and Twistoid.
  • The Phyrexians, from Magic: The Gathering.
  • In The Mechanoid Invasion (1981–), the Mechanoids are a race of formerly biological organisms with psychic abilities who have had their brains placed in mechanical bodies. They have since become genocidal towards all bipeds.
  • The Rifts role-playing game makes extensive use of cybernetics in many Occupational Character Classes. Cybernetics are divided into normal cybernetics, realistic-looking bio-systems, and deadly, combat-oriented bionics. It also organizes Cyborgs into two categories: Partial Conversion, where most of a person's limbs are all that are replaced, and Full Conversion, where the entire body, save for the brain, spinal cord, and a few other organs are replaced by bionics.
  • Almost every character in the Bionicle franchise by Lego
  • Doctor Octopus from the Secret Wars toy line.
  • Two Lego Agents sets included cyborg animals Remote controlled crocodiles (8632 swamp raid) and laser guided cyborg sharks (8633 Speadboat Rescue)
  • The Spartans from the Halo series
  • Cyrax, Sektor & Smoke from Mortal Kombat
  • Max Steel, a Mattel action figure who receives multiple super powers due to an accidental infusion of nanobots

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sterling, Bruce. Schismatrix. Arbor House. 1985.
  2. ^ Gibson, William. Neuromancer
  3. ^ Shirow Miwa. Dogs and Dogs/Bullets & Carnage. Published serially in Ultra Jump
  4. ^ Xbox.com | Halo: Combat Evolved – Game Manual Download at www.xbox.com

External links[edit]

Media related to Cyborgs in fiction at Wikimedia Commons