“And then I wonder what it would be like to feel nothing at all, to be utterly rational….” (Blindsight, pg. 362)
This is the line from Charybdis that struck me the most. I was amazed at how well this line not only captures the entire novel, but how it also speaks to very common threads in science fiction as a whole, especially in the novels we’ve read this semester.
Emotions often influence how we make decisions and react to situations. This can sometimes be a positive thing, but it can also be very negative. Emotions have the ability to cloud our judgment and can prevent us from looking at something from both sides, rationally. One example of this in Blindsight is in the prologue, when Pag freaks out after Siri defends Pag against bullies. Pag is in hysterics, asking Siri why he threw the rocks at the guys and Siri responds, “I was trying to help. (I didn’t understand why he couldn’t see that)” (pg 16). Pag insists that Siri isn’t the same anymore; “And now you’re different. It’s like, your mom and dad murdered you…” (pg. 16). If Pag had reacted without emotion and had taken a logical and reasonable approach to this situation, he would understand that Siri was just defending him. He would also acknowledge that Siri’s parents did what they thought was necessary and beneficial to their son by cutting out half of his brain to stop his epilepsy. But it is impossible to block out all of our emotions at all times- feelings are what make us human. Pag’s strong reaction and resistence to Siri was a completely normal human response. When Siri wonders “what it would be like to feel nothing at all”, he ponders the ability to make decisions without any emotional ties (obviously something that is very difficult to do). Perhaps if we were able to make choices without any regard to how we feel, we would ultimately make smarter choices that would have better outcomes (in several cases).
This provocative statement is also a theme that is explored in the other novels we’ve read this semester, such as Frankenstein and Lilith’s Brood. In Frankenstein, Victor reacts with horror and disgust when his creature comes to life. Based on these emotions, he rejects his creation and refuses to teach him or take care of him. If Victor had responded to his creation calmly and rationally, they would’ve had a much better relationship and the creature would not have turned out to be a killing machine. In Lilith’s Brood, Lilith has a very hard time overcoming her fear toward the Oankali in the beginning of Dawn. If she had relied on reason, she would’ve realized early on that there was no reason to fear the Oankali because they were not hurting her and not threatening her life.
Science fiction explores the notion of having no emotions and making every decision based fully on reason, but no matter what we do, we can never fully escape our natural emotional processes; they are part of who we are. What makes us human.