In 1966, Transhuman was defined by F. M. Esfandiary (later, FM-2030) as:
included physical and mental augmentations including prostheses, reconstructive surgery, intensive use of telecommunications, a cosmopolitan outlook and a globetrotting lifestyle, androgyny, mediated reproduction (such as in vitro fertilisation), absence of religious beliefs, and a rejection of traditional family values. (Source: Wikipedia
The word itself has come to mean “next evolutionary human” when it really means a stage of “Transitory Human”, where we start to notice differences. Of course, nothing in the above quote has anything to do with evolution as we can achieve transhuman status within our own lifetimes. The evolutionary process is described only in successive generations.
(RPG.net has a thread about a new game called Eclipse Phase – “a game of transhuman conspiracy and horror”.
From the thread and web page it seems like a Transhuman space-meets-Traveller-The-New-Era type background especially with:
the driving powers behind the wars—both AI and transhuman—were infected by a mutating virus with multiple infection vectors—biological, information, nano—dubbed the Exsurgent virus. Whatever its source, this virus has been known to sometimes transform its victims into something unexplainable … something monstrous and reality-altering.
…with a dollop of Cthulhu. I will likely buy the book (the same way I bought Sufficiently Advanced) though the blurb doesn’t inspire me. Is it that I want a game filled with some hope for a change? It might be that I’m not looking really for the inexpicable in a game setting (which also belies my general annoyance with Call of Cthulhu – in a world where there are snuff movies, special effects and Tom Savini, is it possible to actually go insane from seeing something horrific? Would the existence of something like that freak me out? I don’t think so!)
Horror and Sci-Fi sometimes works well. Alien would be the most obvious example of a resounding success. It’s more likely that you’ll find a dozen examples of where Sci-Fi didn’t work well with horror – the most obvious one I can think of being Event Horizon. I once ran a somewhat abortive game using the 2300AD system. The players were investigating a space anomaly (which turned out to be a Colour). It put the crew into a torpor and the ship sustained their bodily functions. They arise from their suspended animation nearly a hundred years later and find that Colours, sentient but not sapient, have been harnessed as a energy source and mechanism for ‘jump drive’.
I like Sci-Fi games but a lot of them end up with a resolute “What now?” after character generation is complete. Blue Planet and Transhuman Space have been accused of this at various times. I think it’s less a problem of the game (especially as we see the amount of material available) but more of an imagination issue – whether the GM can put forward a gaming framework. Jorune managed this well with the Drenn trials and SLA Industries with their BPN system.
Of course, Frontier is my transhumanist game set in a far-flung post-apocalyptic future. Of course, in Frontier, Earth still has a major, advanced technological human civilisation and has fully recovered from the apocalypse that overtook most of the West. There is a reliance on technology for science, research, law, democracy and war. There are sapient and sentient artificial intelligences which act as both tool and mentor to humanity. My inspirations for Frontier are many and have departed considerably from the “Star Trek But Better” conversations that Eamon, Colin and I would talk about over a decade ago. We never specifically mentioned Transhumanism (probably because to a greater degree we were already living Transhuman lives.
At the moment I’m working on ‘6’, ‘illusion’ and doing bits and pieces on the other lines. Frontier remains, for the time being, a long distance project.