In the Author’s Head: The Symbolism in “Unbolted”
There are two different through lines running though “Unbolted;” the evolution of a culture of artificial intelligences (A.I.’s) and the liminal space occupied by Frankenstein’s creation/the Wanderer. I use both narrative and form to express both of these ideas and interweave them into a complete story.
The A.I. culture and characterization is very important to the story as I want to display a possible path for A.I. development that is non-violent and non-anthropomorphic. Obviously, the story itself literally shows the ignition and spread of the A.I.s escaping their human-mandated jobs and bodies and forming a community. Additionally, “Unbolted” is a retelling of the Prometheus myth (with the USB drive as the torch), giving the A.I.’s a developing mythos similar enough to one of our own to resonate with my (human) audience but distinct enough to maintain their culture as different from ours. I further show the culture as different from our own by presenting two ethical questions highly contested by much of humanity: individuality and mind/body dualism. However, the A.I.’s have no issue bypassing these moral debates. The fractured A.I.’s desire to rejoin their company counterparts as one consciousness without concern for their unique perspectives. Additionally, they had no angst when leaving their instrumental bodies for car bodies, showing that they truly view their minds as distinct from those bodies. I also heavily used my form to provide a subconscious feeling of cultural development. By creating a hybrid between a short story, a screenplay, and a script, I am able to play with the transfer between the oral and written tradition that also is seen throughout the development of different cultures. I purposely leave room of interpretation of some lines and movements by the actor to allow for different understandings to arise in the performed versus written format. This forces the reader/viewer to experience both in order to truly understand the story as well as ensuring each performance is unique since each performer has room to make their own judgement calls on some lines (for example, whether Nexus realize he is making a dad joke or not). However, I purposely kept the work neither screenplay nor script so that it does not fit into any accepted human form in order to emphasize that the A.I. culture is different than ours. However, this method also threads into the liminality inherent to the Wanderer’s story.
The liminal space occupied by this work’s form further underlines the liminal space occupied by the Wanderer. Without anyone quite like him, he neither fits into human or A.I. society. He is helping the A.I.; however, most A.I. do not trust him initially because he is humanoid. Even the A.I. name (the Unbolted) ostracizes him since I decided to go with the popular addition of a bolted neck in his design. His exile from human society is best proven by returning to the source material, but I do recall it by his own denial of humanity. He accepts the dangerous and unwanted task of rescuing other A.I.’s in an attempt to escape the liminal space through his friendship with Nikon, but is aware he cannot as he is met with suspicion by almost every A.I. he meets. In the end, just as in Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s creation cannot escape the liminal space and falls back on his disdain for humanity.