Elves: A Case Study of Transhumanism in Fantasy Worlds

by Jürgen Hubert

(Note: When discussing the Fantasy genre, I will mostly limit myself to the conventions that are used in the Dungeons & Dragons game, as those are the most likely to be familiar to the reader. As similar genre conventions are used in many, if not most fantasy RPG backgrounds, this should not pose a problem.)

With the publication of Transhuman Space, the roleplaying community has been more exposed to Transhumanist ideas than ever before. One of the central ideas of Transhumanism is the desire to "transcend" the possibilities of "unmodified" humanity. In the setting of Transhuman Space, this is achieved through human genetic engineering, body and brain modifications, and "uploading" of brain patterns into computers to create personality simulations of the original brain.

At first, it would seem that Transhumanism is an idea that can only prosper in the realm of science fiction (and certain fringe groups today who are limited by modern technology). After all, human genetic engineering, bioware, and advanced computers require a high technology base, and most fantasy background use technology that is barely more advanced than that of the Renaissance.

However, this is not necessarily the case; fantasy wizards have long been credited with creating new monsters, some of which escape to the wilderness and breed true. Others have managed to create entire "warrior races" that serve as underlings . . .

This article originally appeared in the second volume of Pyramid. See the current Pyramid website for more information.

Article publication date: May 9, 2003

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