Science fiction, fantasy, dystopian and other forms of speculative fiction are, at their heart, explorations of what it means to be human. They take humans, pick them up and plonk them down into the most unimaginable circumstances, and seek to know what we would be.
Historical fiction explores humans as they were; contemporary, humans as they are. But speculative fiction dwells in the liminal spaces, seeking the limits of humanity.
If we could wield incredible power, bend blood to our will, shift into fur-teeth-claws and still know what it means to wear skin, feel pain, know others, love some, rise in that power and wane – would we still be human?
If we could travel the galaxy, converse with dragons, bargain with aliens, destroy worlds, save others, travel by spaceships or fliers or wagons – would we still be human?
If we had weapons that could wipe out species with one blow, if we chose to use them, chose to avoid them; if we had technology that could cure disease, heal injury, make pain extinct – would we still be human?
If we had furry limbs or mechanical eyes, hearts of iron and spines of steel, regenerative powers, multiple lives, life spans that lasted a thousand years – would we still be human?
If we could see the past, change the past, visit the past, forget the past; if we could see the future, be the future, visit the future, change it – would we still be human?
If we were isolated, alone, the last one alive, left to die in a world of spite, fighting a fight that can never be won against machines or our own stupidity or the deep, dark monsters of the night – would we still be human?
If we were genetically altered, made the same, cloned, regrown, eternally maimed; made in a lab, mind-wiped, blue-haired, synthetically harvested, six-limbed, impaired – would we still be human?
What is Human? Are you?