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Technics and the human at zero-hour : Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Grayson CookeGrayson Cooke
Margaret Atwood’s 2003 novel Oryx and Crake is a dystopic and satirical fable set in the aftermath of a biotechnological apocalypse. A plague of horrific proportions, disseminated as a “Trojan horse” virus hidden in a panacea sex-pill, has liquefied most of the world’s population, leaving the protagonist Snowman as the “Last Man” wandering a landscape overrun by predatory phactory-pharmed GM hybrids and populated by a tribe of genetically engineered post-human noble savages. The novel turns on a number of myths or archetypes that cumulatively pose the question of “the end of the human”, as well as the question of the role of technics in this “end”. Reviews of the book, as well as Atwood’s public statements about the book, have focused on a separation of humanity from technics and biotechnology, and a recognition that “it’s not biotech that’s dangerous … It is people’s fears and desires”. Contrary to these reviews and statements, however, this paper argues that the book suggests a more codetermined relation between humanity and technics. That is to say, the end of the human cannot be imagined without the end of technics, and any attempt to separate the human from the technical would be to elide the many ways in which humanity and technics are intertwined, sharing a joint zero-hour, both a beginning and an ending.