At the onset of Alastair Reynolds’ 2007 science fiction novel House of Suns, Campion, one of the primary protagonists of the novel, visits the Vigilance, who are curators of a vast interstellar archive, whereupon the means by which interstellar history is recorded, on a posthuman scale, is outlined. This process of data exchange is of central focus in House of Suns with Campion’s accusations of ‘structured enquiry’, of a deliberative narrativizing of history across deep time; the nature of the Vigilance’s bias being that ‘[they] value certain forms of information more than others, at least when [their] transactions are examined over deep time’.[1] Which is to say, where House of Suns explores the erasure of historical events from an encompassing view of interstellar life, Reynolds’ Slow Bullets addresses this crisis of erasure as a question of storage through the titular ‘slow bullet’ which represents the manner in which one’s embodied becomes an archive, and can thus be transformed through prosthetic means. This paper therefore reflects on the figure of the posthuman curator in Alastair Reynolds’ House of Suns and Slow Bullets through a broader discussion on what unmoors Reynolds’ posthuman characters from a classical sense of identity and historical contingency, narratively-speaking. To which extent occupying the role of curator poses questions of accountability whereby one’s embodied existence calls into question the classical notion of identity and being, whereupon, as Karen Barad reflects, a ‘new arithmetic, a new calculus of response-ability’ is required.[2] This relationship between curation and Reynolds’ work is thus elucidating on issues of materiality with regards to posthuman existence, the often-fraught nature of maintaining posthumanist accounts of history and life, whether radically reconfiguring identity in response to the dearth of storage or expanding embodied awareness through treating one’s material existence as an archival.

About the speaker

Tom Kewin is a doctoral student researching into speculative fiction in the Department of English at the University of Liverpool. Tom is currently embarking on a research project which concerns posthumanism and the ways in which different conceptions of the human have been curated; as such, his thesis concerns the manner in which contemporary British science fiction explores narratives implicit to posthumanist theory and likewise challenges certain assumptions within the field; as such, his thesis concerns the manner in which contemporary British science fiction explores narratives implicit to posthumanist theory and how both fiction and theory perform ideas within the field. As well as this, Tom has worked extensively with the Widening Participation programme within the University of Liverpool to lead research-specific programmes, alongside working on the Being Human Festival in 2015 and 2016 and co-organizing the Current Research in Speculative Fictions Conference (2017-2019).

[1] Alastair Reynolds, House of Suns (London: Gollancz, 2015), p. 59

[2] Karen Barad, ‘Quantum Entanglements and Hauntological Relations of Inheritance: Dis/continuities, SpaceTime Enfoldings, and Justice-to-Come’, in Derrida Today, Vol. 3.2 (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 2010), p. 251

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