CfP: Artificial Humans in Children's Literature (essay collection)

full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Sabine Planka

The ambition to create an artificial human being is as old as humankind itself. The ancient Greeks had Hephaistos who built living golden statutes and who created Pandora to take revenge for the theft of fire by Prometheus. Jewish legends tell stories of the Golem, a being made out of mud, to protect the Jews. The alchemists developed a recipe to create the homunculus. Around 250 A.D. Clemens Romanus reported that Simon Magus created a homunculus by changing air into water into blood into flesh. And Paracelsus said – referring to the process of putrefaction – that a homunculus can be created by rotting human sperm in a vessel warmed by horse manure for forty days. The being created is translucent and has to be fed with the 'arcanum' of human blood for 40 weeks until it changes into a human child.
In addition to those 'naturally artificial' beings 'technologically artificial' beings exist such as robots and cyborgs. The latter can be divided into four subgroups, categorised according to the differentiation Thomas Tabbert made in "Menschmaschinengötter. Künstliche Menschen in Literatur und Technik. Fallstudien einer Artifizialanthropologie" (published in 2004) (a translation can be: "Man-machine-gods. Artificial People in Literature and Technology").
Discussions about artificial life take place both in narrative/fictional and social/'real' therefore every day contexts. Politicians talk about how to protect mankind while scientists see the chance to extend life, as well as to make life easier for humans by the use of artificial beings such as robots.
It appears to be absolutely logical that children's literature and novels for young adults (children's literature) respond to those questions and legends and they deal with artificial humanity, too. They show what happens when artificial life really exists. Often they share the common theme of showing what happens when the artificial human develops its own identity/will and thinks its own thought. This can often be seen in stories about clones who realize that they are cloned and subsequently wish to distinguish themselves from the original gene-donor. Often their actions can no longer be controlled as can be seen in stories about the Golem which follow the traditional Jewish legend on the one hand, while on the other hand they relate the Golem to "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) for example, demonstrating a wider interpretation of the motif.
It is, however, not only artificial life itself that is described. Often social contexts are as important as the artificial human itself. Some stories show a society where the development of artificial human life is strictly forbidden and/or prohibited. In contrast other stories show societies where it is allowed and regulated by the state.
Artificial humans can be made out of natural as well as non-natural, that is to say 'artificial' or technological material. The essay collection should focus on four artificial beings: 1. Golem (natural), 2. Homunculus (natural), 3. Robots (technological-based), 4. Cyborgs (natural as well as non-natural; this depends on the Cyborg in the stories).

The essay collection should show how sophisticated children's literature deals with the topic of the artificial human being (methodological, theoretical, historical, social…) and how society, social fears and wishes are reflected.

Possible topics are:

Artificial humans and…
- ... gender (male vs. female artificial humans)
- ... the process of creation and the relationship between creator and 'creature' (Frankenstein and his monster)
- ... society (laws/rules for creating an artificial human being; the attention the media gives to the existence of the artificial being…)
- ... the life of an artificial being itself and how it is/can be restricted by society/law
- ... their adaptations in children's literature (from film to book)
- ... genre (gothic novel, comedy, romance, crime story…)
- ... the future of humankind / crisis of humankind
- ... friendship with 'normal' humans as well as hostility
- ... technological developments (robots)
- ... traditional myths and legends
- ... the monstrous
- ... the liminal

Other ideas for submissions are very welcome!

Please send proposals of no longer than 300 words plus a short CV to:

Dr. Sabine Planka,

- Deadline for submissions: May 10th 2015
- Feedback on acceptance or refusal will be given until May 24th 2015.

- Written articles to be completed before December 31th 2015
- Notification of final acceptance will be given after receipt of the complete written articles and before end of January 2016.