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?