A Sci-Fi Character

Science Fiction 101: What is Leviathan, Cyborg, and Humanoid?

Every genre of books has its share of literary terms. This point was reinforced in my head as I read the essay Talyn’s Heroic Journey in Farscape by Natacha Guyot, which discussed the role of the gunship Talyn in the sci-fi TV series Farscape.

In the read, which I reviewed at Goodreads, I noted many terms that would be familiar to science fiction enthusiasts but might not be clear to someone new to the genre. I realized there are a lot of intriguing characters in the sci-fi world that are anything but human (at least not in their entirety) and are worth defining here.

Here are some of the science fiction terms I came across in Guyet’s essay:

Leviathan: What Does it Mean in the Sci-Fi Context?

If this term were not used in reference to Farscape, you would be correct in saying that leviathan is a large mythical sea creature. But, in Farscape, Leviathan has a different meaning, which is a sentient spaceship. Leviathans have feelings and communicate mainly through non-verbal methods, which can include conveying messages through the pilot.

Moya was an example of a leviathan ship in the Farscape universe and had a close relationship with the alien blue-skinned pilot. Interestingly, Talyn, which is Moya’s offspring, is a combination of Leviathan and Peacekeeper technology.

Defining a Cyborg (and Android)

Do not mistake a cyborg with a robot; it is actually a separate category. A cyborg is living being with mechanical parts. The term “cyborg,” as Natacha cleverly points out in Talyn’s Heroic Journey in Farscape is short for CYBernetic ORGanism.

The composition of a cyborg is complex. It contains a mix of human and robotic parts such that if either one was taken away, the cyborg could not function. But, ultimately, the skin is just a cover. Incidentally, a cyborg is not an android. While androids are robots shaped to look like humans, while cyborgs are beings with robotic parts.

What Humanoid Means

In science fiction, a humanoid resembles the shape of a human on the outside but is in reality a being, such as an alien, underneath. It has parts of a human or is human-like in form. The term humanoid can refer to any life form that has similar body shape or parts to a human, whether or not this figure came to be this way artificially or naturally.

So, a humanoid has an erect posture, two legs to support the body, two arms on either side of the body, and a head above the top. Some humanoid definitions are more general than others.

For example, one sci-fi fan might insist that a form with very long, slender arms, for example, is not a humanoid because it does not closely enough resemble a human, while another person might say yes it’s a humanoid because it has two arms, just like a human.

Ahhhh, as you can tell, there is a lot of fun to be had in the science fiction world, whether it be through books, movies, television, or another type of medium. With humanoids, cyborgs, androids, and leviathans, there is never a dull moment… at least when the writing is good (wink, wink).

Are you a sci-fi fan? Why or why not?

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44 thoughts on “Science Fiction 101: What is Leviathan, Cyborg, and Humanoid?

  1. rollyachabotbooks

    Hi Christy… certain and education reading this in realization I knew little to nothing of the world of science fiction… love your style of writing now the real question I will ask myself looking in the mirror… what category do I fall into as I do have a few replacement parts…

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  2. davidprosser

    I have always loved both sci-fi and sci fantasy. The possibilities for the future are endless and has been shown by the old sci-fi books, some come to fruition.(space flight, mobile phones etc). The imagination is always stretched.
    xxx Massive Hugs Christy xxx

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  3. Carolyn Page

    Christy, as a teenager Sci-fi was quite exciting to me; it allowed me to expand my imagination and enter a world thrilling, foreign and fun…
    Not so today; however, I do have some great memories… 😉
    xoxoxo

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  4. simon7banks

    In this case, humanoid is wider than, or may even exclude the scientific term hominid (member of the genus homo but not necessarily our species “sapiens” – for example, homo habilis or homo neanderthalis).

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  5. Cassidy Frazee

    I loved “Farscape” and the moment I see leviathan, I think of Moya. And, oh: poor Talyn.

    The first time cyborg was used in print was in 1960, where they were described as a new human form that could exist in extraterrestrial environments. The first fictional cyborg was seen in–get read–the January, 1966, episode of “The Wild Wild West”, “Night of the Steel Assassin”. Later, Kit Pedler created the Cybermen for “Doctor Who”, where they appeared in “The Tenth Planet” throughout October, 1966. Kit was also a medical scientist interested in the threat of using technology to alter humanity, and saw the Cybermen as a cautionary tale.

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  6. Clanmother

    I fell in love with science fiction when I was 9 years old. Anyone who meets Madeleine L’Engle will come away with fresh insight into our current existence. One of my favorite quotes by Madeleine L’Engle is “When we lose our myths we lose our place in the universe.” As one who watched the first Star Trek series – many of what we believed was science fiction, has become reality. Another great post, Christy.

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    1. Christy B Post author

      R, how nice to see you! I have “A Wrinkle in Time” by L’Engle on my tablet and hope to read it in the new year (other books are calling out to be read first). I like that quote you shared of hers here; I think the myths encourage our creativity by awakening our imaginations. That or they’re just fun to read! (I think it’s a combination) 🙂

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  7. Sarah Potter Writes

    When I was child (tomboy), I subscribed to Amazing Stories Magazine. Need I say more? I loved science fiction and fantasy. But I also loved historical bodice rippers and the classics, especially Thomas Hardy.
    Cyborgs fascinate me. I might include one of those as a character in a novel, if inspiration strikes.

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  8. Teagan Geneviene

    With each genre comes another vocabulary. 😀 I always thought syfy “words” were fun.
    I also enjoy books written in the Victorian Era (loads of them for free at Project Gutenberg.com). But I’m a word geek… so I have fun leaving Google up while I read, to look up Victorian words that are now rarely used. Yes… I’m that strange! 😀 Hugs.

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    1. Christy B Post author

      Ohhhh Teagan! Project Gutenberg is such a bounty of information and reads; like you, I love combing through it.. only it takes time and we have precious little free time.. You’re not so much strange for looking up Victorian words on Google as you are quirky and, as I write in my next post that comes out tomorrow, quirky can make for a great read 🙂 Thank you sweetheart for stopping by here, what with the stress you are facing .. You are a dear friend xx

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  9. Jeri Walker (@JeriWB)

    Whew! I knew the meanings of the terms you defined here. In general, I’m not a sci-fi fan, but I do enjoy the genre from time to time in both book and film form. For me, there has to be parallels to the present-day world. Whatever problem facing the alternate world must be something I can see as making commentary on our society. Too often, worldbuilding as too many holes. If you’re the type of reader who finds yourself always asking why, sci-fi and fantasy can be hard to take. Good worldbuilding won’t leave the reader asking too many whys.

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  10. Sue Dreamwalker

    Well dear Christy I learnt on all three categories my friend.. which is probably why I do not read much Science fiction.. lol.. I thought a cyborg was a robot. 🙂 and had not even heard the term
    leviathan … Yes back to my Dreamwalking!!! I think LOL.. Very interesting read dear Christy xxx Thank you ❤

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  11. Andrea Stephenson

    I’ve always dipped into sci-fi a little, particularly with movies, not so much with books. It is a whole different world, with its own terms and rules – and then there are so many evolutions of it too. It’s not a world I’m usually attracted to, but I read a little bit of everything 🙂

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  12. Sue Slaght

    Well that was very informative. I am always asking my husband who loves Sci Fi what this or that means. I’m not a fan myself as it often leaves me with dreams of being chased by characters whose names I can not recall.

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  13. Resa

    Lol! I love Sci-Fi, always have. The explanations here are what I think/thought, but for Leviathan. I have always held the definition to the movie “Leviathan” … a sea creature. Man, I love that movie! I cant get enough of it, but maybe that is because it’s rarely on TV & I don’t stream movies. Luv this post!! xoxo (everyone should watch “Leviathan”)
    Of course I’ll be watching all 4 “Tremors” movies on Hallow’een w/ my niece. 😀 😀

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