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Mens en machine – een intieme relatie?

22 november 2018, 19:00 – 22:30

Op deze literaire discussieavond over Sci-Fi van de universiteit Gent zal ik in het panel zetelen.

Dit jaar werkt de vakgroep Scandinavistiek rond de relatie mens/machine. Sci-Fi literatuur dus. Zelf vind ik het een heel belangrijk signaal dat de universiteit Sci-Fi literatuur als onderzoeksgebied op het programma zet!

What is human and what is artificial? What constitutes the human mind? Would it be possible to construct such a mind and if so, how would this artificial intelligence view itself?
This evening we discuss the topics with three specialized authors and two researchers from Belgium and Sweden.
The evening will consist of an open discussion in English, alternated with readings in Dutch and Swedish.

Människa och maskin – en intim relation?

Mens en machine – een intieme relatie?

Human and machine – an intimate relationship?

Free entrance

Made possible with the financial support of VFL http://www.vfl.be/, The Swedish Institute https://si.se/ & Vakgroep Letterkunde - Universiteit Gent http://www.letterkunde.ugent.be/


  • Sam Ghazi (SW)
  • Pen Stewart (BE)
  • Guido Eekhout (BE)
  • Jerry Määttä (SW)


  • Sophie Wennerscheid (DE)

Sam Ghazi

Thought is what differentiates humans from other beings, that’s what we’ve long believed. However, the emergence of artificial intelligence puts that belief into question. Sam Ghazi ‘s debut novel Sången ur det kinesiska rummet (The Song from the Chinese Room) takes place in a future Stockholm and focuses on Simona, a doctor and researcher working in a hospital laboratory. Her assistant is Cepheus, a cancer diagnostics robot consisting of a large camera head with a red eye and two sensitive hands. His formidable intelligence allows him to diagnose specimens with enormous efficiency but also makes him unstable and in spite of his insect-like appearance he gradually develops a human way of thinking. He becomes fond of Simona and soon this begins to disrupt his work; he starts to ask questions about his own existence, his relationship to humans, and whether all beings, including robots, are equal. In beginning to create poetry he goes a step too far, and the management decides to shut him down, but is it possible to “kill” a form of intelligence that has all of cyberspace at its disposal? With his virtual tentacles Cepheus has already hacked into computer systems and power plants. From his position, existing nowhere and everywhere, he can shut down cities, take control of satellites and watch over Simona. He can shape his own thoughts, good as well as evil, become a free and autonomous being and evolve into a creative subject.

Ghazi’s novel, the title of which refers to the famous thought experiment by philosopher John Searle, draws on the works of Kubrick, Clarke and Asimov, but has a poetic tone and symbolism that makes it relevant here and now. It raises the issue of what would happen if artificially intelligent beings could question their own creators.

Sam Ghazi was born 1967 in Stockholm, Sweden. He made his debut in 2007 with the poetry collection Sömn är tyngre än vatten (Sleep is heavier than Water), a fictionalized investigation of the life and death of a father, which was nominated to Borås Tidnings debutantpris (The Borås Newspaper Debutant Prize). His second novel Teonauterna (The Theonauts) will be released in the autumn of 2019 and deals with a space expedition to explore a God-like object that could represent the source of life in the universe. Besides being a writer Sam Ghazi is also a medical doctor, specializing in clinical pathology.

Text: Modified from Norstedts publishing house and New Swedish Books 2014 by The Swedish Arts Council.

Guido Eekhaut

Guido Eekhaut is a prolific writer of crime and suspense novels, fantastic and speculative fiction and books for young adults.

He came to genre literature after discovering the work of Jack Vance at age fifteen, and that of Ursula Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, M. John Harrison, J. G. Ballard, Thomas Disch and many others. Later he enjoyed Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borger, Angela Carter, Haruki Murakami, John Hawkes and Jonathan Lethem.

He started writing short stories in the eighties, winning several literary awards. A number of his short fictions has been published abroad, based on his own English versions. He also wrote widely for magazines and newspapers.

One his first novel, a post-apocalyptic tale 'The Circle Years', received the Literary Award of the City of Brussels.

After winning the Hercule Poirot Award in 2009 with his first crime book, 'Absinthe', he published nearly a score of other books, some regular and traditional crime, others diverging from the genre into the more literary, psychological and speculative fields. He was shortlisted twice for the Dutch Golden Noose crime award.


Pen Stewart

The writing of Pen Stewart spans multiple genres, from fantasy, science fiction, dystopia, steam-punk to magical realism. Typical of her stories are the social commitment and accessible, smooth writing style. The stories are not so much genre in itself, the genre is used to focus on the deeper layers of the story and reinforcing them. Deeper layers repeatedly touching topics we have to deal with in everyday life: discrimination, terror, religious violence, euthanasia, animal abuse, women's rights, gender, etc.

Pen has an aversion to the void, and with each story she is trying to find a balance between the adventurous and the thoughtful, the journey of the characters and the deeper layers of the story that make us think as a human about the world around us, stripped of all frills.


Jerry Määttä (researcher)

Research Interests: Sociology of literature, the modern book market, ecocriticism, science fiction, popular literature, disaster stories, role-playing games, fanzines/fan cultures, criticism, literary prizes and awards, and questions on Bildung and fiction

Work in Progress:

The End of the World: The Rhetoric and Ideology of Apocalypse in Literature and Film, ca. 1950–2010

The aim of this project is to examine the modern British and American disaster story by analysing a few strategically selected novels and movies from the period ca. 1950–2010. Apart from sketching the evolution of the apocalyptic motif in modern disaster stories, the study will focus on the aesthetic and stylistic characteristics of the genre, its rhetorics, structure, appeal and functions, and some of its underlying ideological and political standpoints. The project is financed by the Swedish Research Council.

Sophie Wennerscheid (researcher, moderator)

Sophie Wennerscheid is professor of Scandinavian Studies at Ghent university. Originally trained as a scholar of Scandinavian and German literature, she has broadened her research areas looking at the entangled relationships between humans, nature and technology represented in films and literature from Scandinavia and elsewhere. Her current research focuses on forms of intimate relationships which are problematized by the majority of a society as deviating from the norm and therefore as questionable or even illegitimate. Such questionability becomes clear particularly in the relationship between humans and posthuman creatures, the ‘technological Others’.

In various articles on „Love and Sex with Robots“ and in her book, Sex machina. The Future of Desire (forthcoming), she investigates how ‘posthuman love affairs’ are represented nowadays, at the beginning of the so-called posthumanist age, in science fiction films and literature. Drawing on posthumanist queer theory, she seeks to explore the impact of technological developments on practices of love and sexuality. Which changes in intimate relationships are subject of discussion in contemporary artworks? What does it mean to desire posthumanly? Can man’s relationship with machines translate into real intimacy? Considering these questions by analyzing science fiction can help to explain our technocultural condition, because in that genre more than others we find the encounter between man and machine already thematized.