ABSTRACT. The following paper aims to examine the nature of the relationship between myth and science as the American writer, Roger Zelazny, envisioned it in the interaction between man and machine in his science fiction stories. For a Breath I Tarry (1966) and Home is the Hangman (1976) are two examples of Zelazny’s ability of reinterpreting the world’s mythology; they are also a testament of his vast knowledge of multiple scientific domains & arts that are situated at the opposite poles of literature (geology, medicine, physics, astronomy, martial arts etc.). The criticism and his readership both acclaim the author for his unique blend of classical literature, myth, humor and magic, constituting the ingenious machination that runs behind the science fiction genre and the technological prospects for the future envisaged by it. It can be further argued that various elements like technological prototypes generated by SF works (robots, artificial intelligence for example) are no longer a myth, and that today science and technology are advancing with acceleration, posing interesting questions and problems about the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence and machines, especially when the latter are coupled with a conscience and sentience. The study of SF works is now increasing in importance without reservation given the present global situation and the pandemic of the last couple of years, a context that seems to be taken out of the dystopian or post-apocalyptic SF literature where the population is forced to cope with a world of adversity. Thus, we can emphasize the importance of the SF genre as a revised interpretation of reality. In the stories and novels that examine the concept of robots and artificial intelligence, Zelazny offers an optimistic and holistic approach of the dualistic views of mechanic alterity coexisting peacefully and productively with humanity.

Keywords: science fiction; myth; technology; robots; artificial intelligence; American literature; god; order; chaos; immortality; guilt

Asaftei L (2021) Zelazny’s AIs: humanity’s ghost in the machine? Creativity 4(1): 303–339. doi:10.22381/C4120213

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Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures,
English Department,
The University of Bucharest,
Bucharest, Romania

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