Mind control is one of the sci-fi (and fantasy) concepts that both fascinates and scares me. One the one hand, I like to think about how well I would be able to resist, but I also know how terrifying it would be to watch myself doing things that were beyond my control, unable to stop it from happening. I’ve seen mind control explored many times in fiction, and today I’d love to talk about some of the methods used.
Mind Control via Persuasion
One of my most favorite books is Lexicon by Max Barry. This book has the most interesting (and I think, clever) methods of mind control: persuasion. The idea is that each person generally fits into one of a variety of personality categories (and the persuaders can determine your category by asking you some questions). Then, they can use words — that’s right: WORDS (special words) — in order to basically unlock your brain, take control of it, and persuade you to do whatever they want.
What I find so interesting about this method of mind control is that it’s subtle, extremely effective, and simple — but only if you know what you’re doing. And even better is that there are checks and balances to the system; you may be able to persuade others, but you also better build up your resistance so that YOU aren’t persuaded!
It is utterly fascinating on so many levels, and if you haven’t read this book then I urge you to do so immediately (and preferably on audiobook). And if anyone knows of any other books with similar themes, please tell me because I want to devour them!
Also worth noting… (spoilers for a different book inside)
Mind Control via Genetic Evolution
In Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, the Lunars (people who live on the moon, of course) have evolved (mutated) into other-than-human beings. They have the ability to manipulate the bioelectricity of people (mostly humans) around them. This means that — if they are good at it — they can control what other people see, think, do, and desire. Queen Levana is famous for her exceptional skill in this area, making her quite uncomfortable to be around.
I found this whole concept quite clever, because it’s this interesting blend of genetic mutation and almost-magic. Some of these Lunars — the ones who are very good at their mind control — are conscripted to lead packs of wolf-dudes. Of course, they control them via their super awesome mind control powers!
Mind Control via Electronic Implants
Probably one of the most widely known examples of mind control is YA sci-fi (and dystopia) would be via some sort of electronic implant.
The first example that comes to mind would be Divergent. The Erudite are able to use mind control on the Dauntless population and use a “simulation” to make them think they are doing one thing when they are really doing something entirely different. They can make them believe they are seeing a completely different person than the one standing in front of them. And of course, this is all possible thanks to a transmitter injected into their bodies, like the simulation serum.
In S. J. Kincaid’s Insignia, there is a special elite team of teenage soldiers who basically get turned into cyborgs and do all of their work virtually (that is: they have chips in their brains that turn them into computers, and they perform their duties through these, controlling machines in outer space). And, as one might expect, things tend to go a bit awry, people abuse their power, and there might be some semblance of mind control happening via these implants…
Mind Control in Fantasy Novels
Though I realize this is Sci-Fi Month, and thus I intend to focus on science fiction, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention how mind control is definitely used in fantasy novels. Generally if it’s in a fantasy novel, it’s done via magic (which is why it’s clearly not a sci-fi thing).
In Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, there are two pretty interesting variations of mind control. One of the Forsaken (or Chosen, depending whose side you’re on) is highly skilled in the art of compulsion. She can pretty much control anyone and get them to do anything she wants — for as long as she wants — without them even realizing it’s happening. There are also a few Aes Sedai who are very good at mind control via their channeling (magic), which seems a bit easier to resist if you know it’s coming.
In Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis — which I thought was going to be more sci-fi than fantasy (and thus scheduled to review this week!) — there is a sort of mind control involved. Well, it’s more like one person is controlling the other person’s body without them being able to stop it. Which is similar, albeit different, because the person is trying to resist and can’t (versus not even realizing they’re being controlled).
Other Instances of Mind Control in Fiction
As usual, I feel like I’ve just barely scratched the surface on this topic. So, in order to at least guide you in the right direction toward more, here’s this:
- A Goodreads list of mind control fiction.
- A Goodreads list of mind magic.
- Peter Martin lists his top 10 sci-fi mind control movies.
- Steven wonders if the mind control in science fiction is possible.
- Amy examines the psychology of torture (and a bit of mind control) in 1984 and Star Trek.
- A Goodreads list called best stories about mind control (which may or not may not be rife with erotica… I’m not sure.)