Getting Cyborged

Kage Baker had a personal fascination with the idea of melding machine and Man. She eventually turned it into millions of words and an entire other Universe. But first, she was simply taken with the idea of someone being partly a machine. Or maybe a machine being partly a person …

When she was a child, she often had dreams of cutting herself and finding  clockwork under her skin … tiny gears like meshed lace moving her fingers; escapements as fine as eyelashes ticking away behind her eyes. These were livid nightmares when she was little, but by adolescence she was thoroughly intrigued with the idea, and beginning to toy with story ideas.

The Tin Woodsman was her introduction to the concept; but while she liked him well enough, she did feel he was failing to develop a full and proper use of his machined additions. She liked The Tick-Tocxk Man of Oz better, but he really was completely a machine: no hidden humanity there. It was always implied that somewhere under the Woodsman’s tin, there was some real meat and juices. Just not much of a spine, Kage grumbled.

Oddly enough, she wasn’t very taken with the famous Isaac Asimov’s robot universe (though I loved it). Dr. Susan Calvin drove Kage insane, with her cold indifference and furtively concealed maternal urges toward the robots. And Kage didn’t think the 3 Laws would ever work for real Artificial Intelligence; the laws were mutually self-contradictory, and would be ignored, sidestepped and manipulated time after time. Maybe she had something there: many of Dr. Asimov’s most moving stories center around humans and robots doing exactly that.

It was the combination of human and machine that most fascinated Kage. She had an immediate and passionate response to the idea of cyborgery. Some of her initial horror she bestowed on Mendoza, along with all the poor girl’s other emotional problems. To be fair, Kage then used Joseph and, even more so, Lewis, to illustrate how a cyborged sapient could actually be happy about his condition.  But always, it was the tension of the opposing systems cheek by jowl in one person’s body that powered their character development.

Kage herself came to a full reversal of her childhood abhorrence of the idea. Clockwork – which she both loved and suspected – was simultaneously replaced in her cyborg designs, and elevated to a a splendid genre of its own by the rise of steampunk.  Her own cyborg characters replaced gleaming gears and pistons with infinitesimal machines and microscopic wires, plated with strange chemicals. Clockwork went back to being a charming toy, and Kage stopped waking up afraid of the phantom metal beneath her own skin.

By the time medical science actually did cyborg her, it was something of a lark. Having subsidiary plumbing and tiny pumps inserted delicately into her chest cavity amused her; being infused at regular intervals with alchemical mysteries was hilarious. The morphine pump was the best toy she’d had in years … and really, with its huge glowing green button and lollipop shape, it did look like Fisher-Price for druggies.

And Kage was always fascinated when someone she knew got fitted with interesting machines. I was almost a disappointment when I started collecting cardiac stents – sure, I have more jewelery in my right coronary artery than in both my earlobes: but it doesn’t glow or tick, and there are absolutely no moving parts.

Well … now I have something that would amaze and delight Kage. I spent most of the day at my cardiologist’s office, and came home with what I hope is high tech machinery but suspect is a bath toy glued to my left clavicle.

On which, Dear Readers, more anon. (See what I did there? Segue and foreshadowing!) Tomorrow, to be precise. Right now I gotta go watch a new TV show about some guy with a computer chip in his brain … wow, what won’t they think of next?

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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2 Responses to Getting Cyborged

  1. Miz Kizzle says:

    Here’s hoping your cardiac gizmo works flawlessly. Bath toy, you say? I’m picturing a smiling yellow tugboat or a friendly blue whale. Medical devices really should be more whimsical.
    It would be much more convenient if we all had two hearts like Dr. Who, in case one goes wonky.
    And hell yeah! I firmly believe we’ll all be semi-cyborgs in another fifty years, or at least those of us who are wealthy enough to afford it will be.


  2. Kate says:

    Jill – Cyborgery becomes less expensive and easier to implement almost daily. At the moment, medical usage seems to be the leading edge; but I anticipate cosmetic brain augmentation to take off in the next decade. All it really needs to be a flash-point industry is a couple of hygiene, palliative, and sterile field improvements in surgery. And those do seem to be on the way – look at the number of abdomiinal surgeries that are now out-patient.


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