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Minds, machines, and monsters

A chess-player is not simply one who plays chess just as a chess piece is not simply a wooden block. Shaped by expectations and imaginations, the figure occupies the centre of a web of a thousand radiations where logic meets dream, and reason meets play. This book aspires to a novel reading of the figure as both a flickering beacon of reason and a sign of monstrosity. It is underpinned by the idea that the chess-player is a pluralistic subject used to articulate a number of anxieties pertaining to themes of mind, machine, and monster. The history of the cultural chess-player is a spectacle, a collision of tradition and recycling, which rejects the idea of the statuesque chess-player. The book considers three lives of the chess-player. The first as sinner (concerning behavioural and locational contexts), as a melancholic (concerning mind-bending and affective contexts), and as animal (concerning cognitive aspects and the idea of human-ness) from the medieval to the early-modern within non-fiction. The book then considers the role of the chess-player in detective fiction from Edgar Allan Poe to Raymond Chandler, contrasting the perceived relative intellectual reputation and social utility of the chess-player and the literary detective. IBM's late-twentieth-century supercomputer Deep Blue, Wolfgang von Kempelen's 1769 Automaton Chess-Player and Garry Kasparov's 1997 defeat are then examined. The book examines portrayals of the chess-player within comic-books of the mid-twentieth century, considering themes of monstrous bodies, masculinities, and moralities. It focuses on the concepts of the child prodigy, superhero, and transhuman.

Jean-François Caron

moral problems associated with such technologies; these are fundamental problems and have been discussed only superficially in previous studies (Krishman, 2015 ; Pugliese, 2015 ). Permanent capacity-increasing technologies are a constituent element of transhumanism, a movement aiming to transform the human condition by increasing its physical and psychological capacities. This global trend, which

in A theory of the super soldier
Yolande Jansen
Jasmijn Leeuwenkamp
, and
Leire Urricelqui

The latter version of posthumanism, also called ‘transhumanism’, expresses an enthusiasm for science and technology, often in tandem with capitalism, that is on a tense footing with the more critical strand of posthumanism. The ‘posthuman’ thus inspires quite divergent discourses, in terms of either crisis or progress, that are not easily combinable. Critical posthumanism, transhumanism, extropianism, new materialism, technoscience studies and animal studies are examples of these multiple and contrasting fields and

in Post-everything
Maria K. Bachman
Paul C. Peterson

our focus is twofold: we consider ( pace Hutcheon) Hammer Films’ The Revenge of Frankenstein as a ‘successful’ replication of Shelley’s source text and its immediate filmic predecessor, The Curse of Frankenstein , while also exploring the ways in which Revenge propagates the post-Darwinian discourse of the 1950s. Revenge , we argue, is unequivocally and obsessively about Dr Frankenstein, the man of science, the bold and brash technocrat, the fierce advocate of transhumanism. In 1957 England’s Hammer Films released The Curse of

in Adapting Frankenstein
American monsters
John Sharples

had, for talk-show host Dick Cavett, nothing in common with Vladimir Nabokov’s descriptions of ‘genderless piano prodigies with eye trouble, obscure ailments … something vaguely misshapen about their eunuchoid hindquarters’.62 Yet this deformity is precisely what Darrach saw. In a 1971 article he had already portrayed Fischer as somebody with ‘a head too small for his big body’ like a ‘a pale transhuman sculpture by Henry Moore’, and as an outsider, whose ‘information was factual, not emotional. It came from books, magazines, newspapers, television – the media he

in A cultural history of chess-players
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Exploding heads and the death of the chess-player
John Sharples

realm of the transhuman, a realm which has also served to reaffirm the body and mind as the site of reason and the ambition of the transitional human to remain human. Cognitive, behavioural, and emotional modification were considered in Chapter 1 in the context of religiously inflected attempts to regulate the practice of chess. Efforts to demarcate the game’s emotional applications and mental limits only served to confirm the human-ness and fallibility of those playing. Chapter 2 noted how the appearance of the virtuoso François-André Philidor marked a significant

in A cultural history of chess-players
Dollhouse – narrating the tabula rasa
Matthew Pateman

This chapter discusses Dollhouse from the discussions between Whedon and Dushku that led to the idea, Whedon’s absence producing Cabin in the Woods, the presence of Minear and de Knight as well as Espenson, and develops the show’s twin and seemingly opposed ideas relating to identity: the tabula rasa and the composite. The tabula rasa is discussed as part of Whedon’s broader engagement with that idea, and the composite is figured (with the tabula rasa) as posing questions about mind–body dualism, transhumanity, heteronormativity amongst others .The chapter also looks at the innovative use of advertising space that shifted the writing style and structure of the show, and locates this itself within the broader context of the relationship between mass mediated art and the economies and cultures that they support and sustain.

in Joss Whedon
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James Peacock

The conclusion returns to some of the themes of the introduction, including genre and ethics. It suggests that Lethem, while attempting to make a mockery of convenient labels, might be regarded as post-postmodern. Post-postmodernism involves, among other things, a return to humanist questions, a renewed interest in characters’ biographies, less metafictional game playing than high, experimental postmodernist texts, and an interest in the post- or trans-human. Acknowledging that the only thing one can predict about Lethem’s future work is its unpredictability, the conclusion finishes with an analysis of Lethem’s book on John Carpenter’s They Live. Despite its playfulness, it is consistent with the themes and the manipulation of genre seen in his novels and short stories.

in Jonathan Lethem
Science fiction, singularity, and the flesh
Caroline Bassett

on more or less conscious (or certainly highly agential) lives of their own. A long-standing argument within transhumanism concerns the relative merits of continued embodiment, albeit in augmented form, versus various forms of uploading in which the human and/or flesh body is left behind entirely (upload fantasies began early in singularity discourse, notably in Ray Kurzweil's writing (2005)). A singularity moment would constitute an extreme transduction. It breaks out of any predictable temporal progression, not only being a matter of scaling up. Max Tegmark

in Anti-computing
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‘Of magic look and meaning’: themes concerning the cultural chess-player
John Sharples

with its motive power hidden, or an individual whose actions are mechanical.5 The chess-player as monster shares cultural space with ‘dragons and demons … vampires … giants … shape-shifters … ghosts … border-walkers and margin-steppers’.6 The term monster is also used here as an umbrella term for a variety of other chess-player forms, including the superhero, child prodigy, and transhuman. Introduction 3 Problem While this study does not aim to be a comprehensive or definitive account of chess-players, mental faculties, or monsters, it does aim to trace an

in A cultural history of chess-players