Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Week 14: SF and Satire

The original radio version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy immediately establishes itself as a parody. Arthur Dent, an Earthman who's house is being demolished to make way for a new road, finds out his whole planet is going to be demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. So, Arthur Dent and his friend hitch a ride across the Galaxy aboard the Vogon ship.

This simple concept in itself makes way for discussion about land appropriation. Should the government even have permission to demolish someone's property? This author challenges this idea by immediately placing it into the perspective of earth being demolished. We would not like it if some alien government said they were going to demolish earth for a better hyperspace bypass, so why would we give ourselves permission to appropriate other people's turf? These rhetorical questions serve to rethink our cultural assumption.

Another absurd concept is the fact that there's a depressed robot named Marvin. The writer makes us think about where we want to take the development of our technology. Do we need them to be so human they feel pain as well? When our robots gain emotion, would we end up treating them like humans?

Week 13: Margaret Atwood's Literary Speculation

Literary Speculation is the one genre that completely aligns with my way of thinking. Reading speculative literature is giving me permission to think on a deeper level about the story I'm reading. Although I do this with every story, and I often learn much from it, some works are meant for this literary thought processes.

I've read Margaret Atwood before, but I read some of her Oryx and Crake for this entry. The main character, Snowman is in a dystopian version of the USA. When he wakes up, he doesn't remember that "nobody nowhere knows what time it is." Since Snowman is experiencing holes in his memory, it's easy to say other people are experiencing the same, and it's no coincidence that he doesn't remember a quote he recited, but "has the feeling he’s quoting from a book, some obsolete, ponderous directive written in aid of European colonials running plantations of one kind or another." The writer goes on to note that Snowman "can’t recall ever having read such a thing, but that means nothing". Someone is wiping memories, keeping secrets from the past, and controlling human intelligence, but for what reasons?

Snowman is from the time no one remembers, yet the children he interacts with have no idea what the remnants of the old world are, yet they discover it like treasure. Atwood describes him just as a homeless person would be in today's world. He stinks, he's grumpy, and he pees on one side of a tree, eats on the other, and sleeps in the branches.

Atwood is using elements of science fiction tropes (with a dystopian land, and people not having any contextual history to recall) to make literary statements about the amount of control the government has on us. As Atwood likes to, her literary lessons can be traced back to commentary about the present world. For example, the way the kids treat the homeless Snowman is extremely different than how kids would treat the homeless in today's society. Homeless people are often victims of abuse and bullying because no one cares about them, however, in Margaret Atwood's story, the kids talk to him every week. She obviously wants us to think a little differently about the way we treat our folks without shelter.

Week 12: Diverse Positions and Diverse Thinking!

I Live with You illustrates an interesting concept about 'becoming a whole new you'. The story is told through a secondary character who looks exactly like the main character, becomes her. Although the reader can interpret this story in multiple ways, after sleeping on it, I began to think about it in the context of split personalities in society.

What if the secondary character and the main character were one person all along; a part of one woman's personality? To set up the story, the narrator describes her target as " Just my size. Just my look". The narrator also repeatedly emphasizes that no one will notice when she takes over the main character's life, and the way the narrator's plan plays out is impossible to be interpreted as a literal story. However, the narrator repeatedly states "I saw that nobody noticed you". The only way no one would notice her shift in clothing style, even while at work, is impossible, so I interpreted this narrator's repetition as nobody noticing the main character struggling with multiple personalities.

During their first contact, the narrator, "right away [found] a nice place in your attic." The only way a person could live in another person's attic, bumping and groaning in the night and "[buying] new clothes and [taking] away the old ones," without getting caught is if this person existed in her mind, and she was at least a little aware of it, however, her bolting the bedroom door shut hints that when she's her more outgoing self, her introverted self doesn't remember what happened. After all, if I noticed my quarters in my button box and my wardrobe wasn't the same, I'd call the cops immediately because I know I'm not living with multiple or split personalities. Instead, she bolts the bedroom door shut because she doesn't remember what her outgoing self has done, and thinks there might have actually been a minor intrusion that's making her paranoid.

While the depiction of split personalities in the book vs reality might be different, creatively interpreting this text made me a little bit more consciously aware of other people's experiences navigating life. 

Questions from Blood Child

what’s your reaction to the text you just read?
The feeling of disgust quickly ramped up as I arrived at the climax of the story. There’s a sense of reflective perversion when Octavia injects social commentary within the motifs of the text (some of which I identify as slavery and gender role issues). It’s almost as if Octavia knows that what she’s reflecting in her story is a necessary evil — it’s clear personal experiences while being a woman of color has driven her to write this moving piece. 

What connections did you make with the story that you read?
Octavia discusses many different shades of gender roles in everyday life. In general, Bloodchild reverses gender roles. In Octavia’s world, it’s the men who give birth and women (aliens) who impregnate male (humans). This simple, yet ironic switch of gender roles opened up massive opportunity for the author to interject her point of view on gender issues. She starts with impregnation and giving birth. In our world, bearing a child is both painful and dangerous, but men often don’t see it that way. For example, when Lomas came to the house in unimaginable pain and ready to give birth, T’Gatoi had no emotional attachment. In fact, those babies being birthed were not even her own, so it seemed she cared even less. 

10 Years From Now In-Class Exercise

10 years from now:

In 2027, I’ll be 41. New social media. Our phones are implanted into our glasses and contact lenses — not everyone will have it, only upper middle class and above. In another ten years, Google plans on universalizing phone implantations so everyone can afford it. Miami is getting underwater. Gun laws, robotics. I will have a plump savings. Research or Brand Strategist at a moderately sized ad or design agency. I’ve worked my way up for at least 4 years. My family’s probably working on relocating their home, if they haven’t already. By 2050, our home will be underwater because Florida's sinking! I’m living in a poly relationship.

In 2050, South and Middle Florida’s underwater. My high school would be underwater. I’d be somewhere near the coast managing a studio I’ve invested in since 2030. I will have made a dent in the LGBTQ community, pushing our economic presence. I’ll be making public speeches at LGBTQ marketing events in support of supportive and immersive brands or companies that are run by or benefit the LGBTQ community.

In year 2100, I’m like 120. The 19th century is over and everyone’s armed with either lasers or bullets. I have old children and great-great grandchildren, but I’m probably in a nursing home by the coast. I’d have alzeihmer’s. It runs in the family. 

Week 11: Cyberpunk's Mixed-Genre Purpose

Cyberpunk seems to serve as a genre to push your mind to think about the future and its implications -- it's a discussion on where our humanity is now and how that might look in the future. On a technical level, it is a mixed genre of reverse-science fiction, urban fantasy, and thriller.

William Gibson's Johnny Mneumonic serves to stretch the reader's mind about gender and sexuality. 

First, the main character sees himself as a "technical boy" who enjoys doing seemingly feminine things like "checking [himself] out in the chrome siding of a coffee kiosk". Then, the main character introduces us to The Magnetic Dog Sisters, one which "had originally been male." These almost-subtle interjections of forward-thinking ideas will get the reader thinking about blurred lines of gender, among other sex vs. gender issues we're experiencing today. Lastly, we meet the strong female character. In the first few lines she says to the narrator, her purpose in the story becomes obvious: "'My kind of man,' she said, and laughed. 'What's in the bag?'" Her charming confidence in her laugh, and her straight-forward words towards Johnny makes her the alpha of the room immediately.

While The Magnetic Dog Sisters might only be a name, they are also lovers. They are sisters in fighting, but lovers in bed. The narrator also describes them as "nearly identical as cosmetic surgery could make them." The writer might be calling out our innate need to love and root for ourselves.

This mixed genre is most relevant when discussing the weapons in Johnny Mneumonic.

Reverse SciFi, Urban Fantasy, Thriller
I would describe a portion of this story as reverse-SciFi because of its introduction -- in order to create and use traditionally functioning, 'antique' weapons, the main character explains "your [skill] has to be pretty technical before you can even aspire to crudeness." Secondly, when the main character comes out of the tube, he's immediately thrust into a fantasy-level bar experience. He finds the man who he's looking for in his short storied journey fueled by payback, Ralfi Face. Finally, the reader sits in a life-or-death tension for the majority of the story, where Johnny (the main character) has an antique gun pointed at Ralfi, and when the strong alpha female arrives, the tension builds even more: "her hand came up and seemed to brush his wrist as it passed. Bright blood sprayed the table." She made him bleed with nothing in her hand.

Week 9: Religion and Science in a Space Opera Compilation

Space opera is a mix of many different 19th century genres into one. While Arthur C Clarke's The Nine Billion Names of God took me into a compilation of urban fantasy and technical science fiction, while sticking to the space opera genre of expansive possibilities. 

The urban scene is set by Dr. Wagner, a modern-day scholar and the first character the reader meets. He's the owner of the modern computer that will help the monastery, and they're negotiating the use of the machine in Manhattan. While the author could have used any religion, he chose to keep it to one of our modern religions that exists today -- Tibetan Buddhism

The science fiction part of Clarke's short story starts with a detailed paragraph of how a machine would help a Tibetan monastery. The lama of the monastery begins the story with, "'Your Mark V Computer can carry out any routine mathematical operation involving up to ten digits...we use a special alphabet of our own. Modifying the electromatic typewriters to deal with this is, of course.'"

Lastly and most importantly, Clarke sticks to space opera-esc expansive possibilities by combining machinery with one of the most ancient religions in the world. Clarke depicts the worlds of science and religion as separate ways of life attempting to come together in this seven page short story. On page one, the lama from the monastery says, "'It is somewhat alien to your way of thought (Dr. Wagner's scholarly thinking), so I hope you will listen with an open mind while I explain it.'" By page three, science and religion are working together: "As the sheets had emerged from the electromatic typewriters, the monks had carefully cut them up and pasted them into enormous books."

Week 8: Brandon Sanderson's Urban Fantasy World

Sanderson's setting is obviously fantastical, but the characters think in modern ways. The setting is described as the "land of Returned Gods, Lifeless servants, and BioChromatic research". In contrast, the characters call what would usually be called an innkeep, a bartender. Sanderson adds fantastical magic, using the realistic experience of auras to describe the kind of magic his world harnesses. The aura he describes is seen as color to the human eye. When Vasher Breathed, "the color of oil on water in the sun" flowed from his mouth. This is a visual representation of the aura's flow in this world. These auras also change from moods, time and setting.

One of the characters, Vasher, created life magically using BioChromatic technology. This combination of technology and mysticism is unique to the Urban Fantasy genre, where these stories could possibly take place during this time, in a different location. Vasher Breathed using BioChromatics and "the straw person ran along the floor, then jumped up, vaulting between the bars."