As described by Ursula K, LeGuin, science fiction is a description of our everyday life in an unfamiliar context (xii). Thus, it’s a genre that represents our contemporaneity and proposes some changes. In the case of the short novel El visitante de las estrellas (The Visitor from the Stars, 2017), the Puerto Rican author, Pabsi Livmar, utilizes science fiction to reflect on subjects like gender, war, the post-human, and otherness. As a colonized individual, her work reflects systematic colonization and oppression. In this novel, a new species of humans called homosapiensul, where the suffix -ul means individual or person (Livmar 19), lives on another planet after Earth was destroyed. The planet was previously populated by an alien species called timli. This short novel provokes us to question who the post-human individual is a non-gendered homosapiensul who descends from Homo sapiens and reproduces the same power structures; the alien species, who suffered a colonization and vilification process or something else. Because of this, we wonder if biological or ideological evolution determines post-humanity. In the story, we see that two characters, one from each species, develop a bond between them as they refuse to reproduce power dynamics that had oppressed the timli for years. Therefore, it introduces an ethical post-humanity based on tolerance towards the other, an ideological evolution beyond our own.
When we talk about the post-human, Elana Gomel in her essay “Science (Fiction) and Posthuman Ethics: Redefining the Human” offers us some guidelines regarding the debate. She mentions that we’ve entered the “realm of the posthuman” when we focus on “the debate over the identities and values of what will come after human” (340). Gomel emphasized how SF is one of the genres that most explored the possibilities of the post-human. In El visitante de las estrellas, we are faced with a new world, a new human species, an alien species, and the ethics behind colonizing a new populated planet. In this essay, Gomel mentions that “Once the enemy is perceived as non-human, killing becomes easy.” (341). Apparently so, the homosapiensul create a complete narrative of terror surrounding the timli to justify the violence against them. The main character, Sep, mentions how every day they must listen to a national report giving instructions of how to act if you meet a timli and that an invasion was to occur (Livmar 13). This constant propaganda establishes a dynamic of power where the homosapiensul is divided from the other, the timli, just like the relationships established on our human contemporaneity.
As Gomel mentions, what determines posthumanism is political and ideological: “The question of such boundaries is ultimately political. The battle between humanism and posthumanism is as much a battle of political will as it is of philosophical thought” (353). In other words, it’s not about the homosapiensul’s biological evolution that eradicates sexual reproduction (Livmar 19) but the evolution of ideas regarding politics, ethics, and philosophy. Therefore, we can define the post-human in different forms. In the case of Pabsi Livmar’s novel post-humanity starts with the relationship between Sep, the homosapiensul, and Ariel, the timli. Nevertheless, this process is not spontaneous, since Sep’s parental figure, Jeremías, always encouraged Sep to develop their [i] own critical thinking. At the beginning of the story, Jeremías asked Sep’s opinion about the timli and inspired them to decide for themself what to think about the timli (Livmar 15). When Sep meets Ariel, they noticed that the timli were not monsters, they were fighting for their survival, just like them (Livmar 74). In one interview, the author mentions that some events that shaped her life were the wars in the middle east and the colonized reality of Puerto Ricans (Fullana Acosta 58). Just like José Atiles-Osoria explains in his essay “Colonial State Terror in Puerto Rico: A Research Agenda”, Puerto Rico’s history of colonization has been plagued by violence, before (and after) the United States invasion in 1898, when “Spain lost the Spanish-Cuban-American War, ending nearly 406 years of Spanish colonial rule on Puerto Rico” (223-224). As a result, the author uses science fiction to retell her past and present and communicate the effects of colonialism on a population.
The novel ends with two befriended homosapiensul and timli, accompanied by Jeremías, escaping the planet in a homemade spaceship. In the end, Sep grabs the human hand of Jeremías, the tentacles of Ariel, and goes into the ship (Livmar 83). It is in this scene that humanity transcends when the colonizer escapes the previous power dynamics, reaching post-humanity. In this case, they reached the post-human by embracing the other and denying the reproduction of oppressive actions. As a result, post-humanity is achieved thanks to Sep and Ariel’s ideological shift and not because of the insertion of two different species.
[i] I used “they” because the main character has not defined themselves by any gender.
Atiles-Osoria, José. “Colonial State Terror in Puerto Rico: A Research Agenda.” State Crime
Journal, vol. 5, no. 2, 2016, pp. 220–241. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.13169/statecrime.5.2.0220.
Fullana Acosta, Mariela. “Entrevista con Pabsi Livmar, premio Barco de Vapor [Interview with
Pabsi Livmar, Barco de Vapor Award].” El Nuevo Día, Feb. 15, 2017, pp.58-60.
Gormel, Elana. “Science (Fiction) and Posthuman Ethics: Redefining the Human.” The
European Legacy, vol. 16, no. 3, 2011, pp. 339-54.
Le Guin, Ursula. The Left Hand of Darkness. New York: Ace Books, 2000 .
Livmar, Pabsi. El visitante de las estrellas. Cataño: Ediciones SM, 2017.