The Old Lie (Is there a night vision camera in the cell?)

Brief description

William Daniels is an indigenous Australian surgeon being held captive by aliens in The Federation and forced to participate in monitoring painful medical experiments on other humans. He ultimately gives up hope of ever escaping and being reunited with his family, and kills himself.

He wonders whether he is being watched, and hopes no night-vision cameras will stop him, or alert his captors that he is escaping their control.

You could argue that this situation shouldn't be in the database at all, because we don't know whether the night-vision cameras are actually there. I want to include it because it says a lot about the human protagonist's conceptions of the machine vision technology . He sees the technology as potentially watching and if it is there, watching, it has the potential to control him, to stop him from escaping his captivity by killing himself. I also interpret the idea of the possible night-vision camera here as encapsulating William's knowledge that he is trapped, that he has no agency at all, that the aliens have complete power over him, other than possibly in this final act of suicide.

I also want to include the situation because there are so few indigenous Australian science fiction novels, so leaving this one out seems wrong.

I've used the verb "suiciding". This is grammatically uncommon (suicide is usually an intransitive verb: to commit suicide, not to suicide) but according to the public online Oxford the transitive use is possible.

In the novel, the power the aliens hold over William is 1) insitutional - the law states that humans are only probational citizens and 2) physical/technological - the doors are locked, the lights are used to torment him, the medical equipment forces him back to life when he wants to die, the night-vision cameras may be watching him. I read the idea of the night-vision camera here as an example of a machine vision technology being a metonym for a whole system of oppression. It also rather obviously relates to Foucault's panopticon, where the knowledge that you could be watched constantly affects your behaviour.

Pull Quotes

IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE to find a rope. William did his best to twist one from bandages, feared it would not be strong enough, that it would snap, unravel. Nowhere to hide it, he wrapped it around his torso under his scrubs. Someone left the dispensary unguarded for a moment, he slipped a multi-species tranquilliser syringe into the waistband of his pants.

He waited, not knowing if he was being watched, if there were cameras in his room, waited for dark, pretended to sleep, hoped there were no night-vision cameras.

Coleman, Claire G.. The Old Lie (p. 275). Hachette Australia. Kindle Edition.

Work that the situation appears in

Title Publication Type Year Creator
The Old Lie Narrative, Novel Claire G. Coleman
Machine P.O.V
Not machine P.O.V.

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