The mutualistic symbiosis between posthuman and prosthesis

In Edward Bulwer- Lytton’s “The Coming Race” from 1871 it is made quite clear how the writer’s notion of the posthuman, here thought of as a sort of master-race, is in fact tied to a vital dynamic between entity and prosthetic enhancement. In the artwork the depictured race Vril-ya is very much dependent on their symbiotic relation to the omnipresent fluid source of energy called Vril that therefore becomes a prosthesis for the posthuman entity’s shortcomings. What is interesting to the posthuman field of studies is the way the prosthetic relation is described as being one of great potential to the entities living in an interconnected state of mind in the kingdom of Vril-ya. In fact the peace experienced in the world is, according to the narrative, brought forth through and by the prosthesis itself.

This fluid is capable of being raised and disciplined into the mightiest agency over all forms of matter, animate or inanimate. It can destroy like the flash of lightning; yet, differently applied, it can replenish or invigorate life (The coming race, s. 55)

Yukito Kishiro: “Battle Angel Alita”, published in 1990.

One might then, giving into a dualistic way of thinking, falsely derive that the Vril is a god-like presence separated from the posthuman race or on the contrary merely a shape-able assistance manipulated by the master-human presence. But looking at the narrative with posthuman goggles it becomes inherent that the basis of development for both the Vril-ya and the Vril lies in the importance of equality, autonomy and interconnectedness between the two different entities as described in for example Timothy Morton’s theories about the mesh and strange strangers. Both ‘agents’ end up shaping and changing each other in the interconnected mesh that is their reality. The theme of the symbiosis between seemingly autonomous prosthetics and posthuman beings is one presented still today in modern works like Battle Angel Alita.


Edward Bulwer-Lytton “The Coming Race”, 1871, cpt. 1-12

Morton, Timothy: “Poisoned Ground: Art and Philosophy in the Time of Hyperobjects”, Symploke, Bind 21, Book 1, side 37-50, 2013

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David Magill

Thanks for the posting — I am really interested in how you are tying the idea of interconnectedness to their notion of prosthetic enhancement, and I wonder how the tension between autonomy and interconnection will play out as we move forward. Is there a posthuman body anxiety and how will it manifest in the politics of the posthuman?

Florian Auerochs
Florian Auerochs

Hi Sofie! I really appreciate your observation that the Vril-ya are not an independent, superior species, but as enmeshed in their environment and as connected with non-human/-vril agents as humans are. As you mentioned, Timothy Mortons ‘dark ecology’ seems constructive here, as the fluid ‘vril’ can be read as an symbiotic hyperobject, “massively distributed in time and space”, but also quasi-transcendent and impalpable. It would be interesting to read the novel with the view of the newly emerging field of ‘Energy Humanities’, as part of Environmental Humanities.