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Professor Kieran Tranter
School of Law, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology

This paper argues that modern law, the legalities of positivism and paper – has an estranged presence in science fiction. Beginning with two of the most well-known laws of science fiction, the Star Trek (1967-) franchise’s  i and Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, it will be shown that both entwine with technology, and in doing so, evaporate as law. Both present across their multiple texts as highly present yet insubstantial. This is the estranged presence of law in science fiction, a structure that can be seen as recurring across the genre. This paper then goes on to considered the disappearance of law across multiple grand-world building science fictions (Frank Herbert’s original Dune (1965-1985), Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish cycle (1966-2000) and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy (1993-996)) where law is present on the surface of the text (as constitutions, edicts, ordinances) but dematerialises within the imagined world. This discussion ends with a focus on dematerialization, on how multiple laws, proper laws of humans and Time Lords and the not properly called laws of time, disappear within Doctor Who (1963-) The technological mediation of law in Doctor Who opens to an essential engagement with law within science fiction of the positing and then transcending of limits through an examination of the disappearance of the limit in Samuel R. Delany’s Einstein Intersection (1966) and Nova (1967).

Professor Kieran Tranter, Chair Law, Technology and Future, School of Law, Queensland University of Technology

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