Thursday, April 30, 2015

Week Fourteen Science Fiction Parody and Satire

Week Fourteen Science Fiction Parody and Satire
I listened to the beginning of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio version, and I watched the film. I found the film pretty hilarious; it seemed almost like a cross between star wars and Monty Python. The way the characters are written feels extremely English. Arthur lost in space in his pajamas with his planet flattened and a complete sense of helplessness feels like it could be a postcolonial metaphor.
As good sci-fi does this story reflects upon the time in which it was written, and the story definitely has some undercurrents of the anti-Thatcher sentiment of 80’s Britain. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was broadcast on BBC, and through the 80’s thatcher had the BBC in her sights, with documents surfacing later showing that she wanted to incorporate advertising into BBC radio shows.
I really enjoyed Sam Rockwell’s performance as Zaphod Beeblebrox in the film. I definitely feel a George bush quality in the performance, and while the humor of the character is really very entertaining there are definitely some undertones of cynical ironic truth about leadership in the writing of this character. After all anybody who has the ability to be elected president should not be trusted to do the job.

Arthur’s character is very relatable, he has that underlying sense of unease with himself, as if he is the only one who is not in on what’s going down around him. After all Arthur has the line: "All through my life I've had this strange unaccountable feeling that something was going on in the world, something big, even sinister, and no one would tell me what it was."

Week Thirteen The Aquatic Uncle Questions

The Aquatic Uncle Questions

1.     Are there any Prominent Symbols in the story?
2.     If so what are they and how are they used?

The story seems to focus on evolution and change (land) vs. tradition (water).
Uncle N’ba N’ga as a character seems to be a symbol of conservatism and tradition, sticking to what he knows and staying in the waters he has always inhabited. He predicts the uncertain and ever changing dangers of the dry land, and in the end the leading lady choses him over our main character. I think evolution, climate change, and potential nuclear disaster will probably prove Great Uncle N’ba N’ga correct, as deep-sea species are likely to be around longer then anything on the surface.

1.     What connections did you make with the story you read?
2.     Discuss the elements of the work with which you were able to connect.

I think I was able to connect into the story through the universal ideas of tradition vs. change. It is also relatable through its relationship; there is a familiar family relative who is old and unwilling to see new things the way everyone else will. It reminds me of my grandfather with technology.

1.     What changes would you make to adapt this story into another medium?
2.     What medium would you use?
3.     What changes would you make?

I would adapt this to a short film or animation. I think the story could be set in a cyberpunk futuristic world where the conflict was enhancing brainpower and physical skills by adding technological chips into your offspring’s brain and maybe adding physical modifications vs. refusing to do so and staying within the natural-born human mental and physical state.

Week Thirteen Literary Speculation

Week Thirteen Literary Speculation
This week I read the novel Solaris written by Stanislaw Lem. This story put us right into the middle of a space exploration mission set on a distant planet. I really enjoyed the in depth back story and history of the exploration of the planet.
 This story is interesting because it asks questions about how humanity would react when interacting with intelligent alien life. And what if the life form was so alien to us that it surpassed our biological understanding of life itself? In the story Solaris seems not only to deify the scientists understanding of the universe, but also any attempts made to analyze it. The back-story of the exploration of the planet illustrates a brief history of the several hundred years of work on trying to understand the planet.
After reading Solaris I did some research on Stanislaw Lem, he is the most famous Polish writer around the world, and one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time. Reading about his other works it seems that there are several common themes throughout his stories. His work often revolves around the limits of human understanding and intelligence, this theme is clear in Solaris as the characters struggle to understand the consciousness of the alien life form of the ocean.
Another recurring theme seems to be a sort of anti-heroism, or the idea that apparent heroism might not be what it appears. Unlike previous sci-fi works I have read I feel like this book deeply explores the psychology of the characters rather then just taking us on a space opera adventure trip. The characters experience contact with the planet in the form of their personal lives and inner most thoughts becoming realized on the space station. It is as if the ocean consciousness has the ability to realize the inner psychological issues of the characters.

Stanislaw Lem: "Behind every glorious facade, there is always hidden something ugly."

Week Twelve Diverse Position Science Fiction

Week Twelve Diverse Position Science Fiction
I wanted to write about my take on reading Bloodchild by Octavia Butler for the blog post this week. This story was really repulsive to me, but it was also too interesting to stop reading. As we talked about in class, I think the male/female role reversal makes this story difficult to digest from a male perspective. Lomas is reduced to nothing more then a birthing vassal for his Tlic. And it is hard to get through the part where he is opened up and he is being eaten from the inside.
The relationship between Tlic and Terran (humans) is complex. I think on a surface level the Tlic seem to be slave masters over the Terran using people as nothing more then containers to store their young, however these relationships are not that simplistic. On some level the Terran Tlic relationship is a symbiotic one that is beneficial to both species. Politaclly the Terran have no voice. Is there something akin to love in all of this? T’Gatoi definitely cares for Gan and his family.
It is easy to draw parallels from the dystopian setting of Bloodchild with modern western civilization. As I mentioned in class, the use of drugs as an escape or sedative from the world around us shows up in the form of properties in the eggs the Tlic feed the Terran.
While butler insists this story has nothing to do with slavery it is easy to see how people might read that from the work. The Terran Tlic relationship definitely seems to have an imbalance of power in favor of the Tlic. There is also something distinctly colonial about the setting, the Terran live on a “preserve,” and have no political power or voice they are completely reliant on T’gatoi to help them.

I don’t think there is a “correct” interpretation this story, and it should make you feel uncomfortable. It speaks about issues like dominance, inequality, physical suffering, and sacrifice. This is for sure one of the more thought provoking works we have covered this semester.

Week Eleven Cyberpunk & Steampunk

Week Eleven Cyberpunk & Steampunk
This week I read Cyberpunk in the 90’s essay and Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson. I loved the mood and character and environment Gibson gives us. In my mind I picture a sort of darker and more technologically advanced Blade Runner landscape. The characters all seem to have modified themselves in bizzare ways, and I like the descriptions that go with the modifications, and the strange assortment of characters in general. Almost every character in the story seems to have made some major body modifications.
This story has everything from a cybernetically enhanced navy dolphin with old school plate armor to a Yakuza hit man with retractable whip thumb that can kill in an instant. This is a simple straightforward enough plot set in a world that feels complex and extremely fleshed out for a short story. Johnny Mnemonic is a precursor to Gibson’s novel Neuromancer (I really look forward to reading this work).
I found the Cyberpunk in the 90’s essay to be really insightful. It was cool to learn more about the roots of cyberpunk and understand how from Sterling’s perspective the genre never existed to “outrage the bourgeoisie” but rather to reflect the realities of mega corporations, advancing technology and shifts in social institutions. I agree with Sterling’s demands for us western reader’s to face the truths of our “manic waste” and the definite ecological issues the world will face. He also speaks of the wars and millions who we will watch die on television “while eating hamburgers.” For an essay written year ago this is pretty much right on point. One of Sterling’s best lines in the essay is when he writes, “if writers close their eyes to this, they may be entertainers, but they are not fit to call themselves science fiction writers.”
It was interesting to talk about the death of cyberpunk in class and how a large part of it’s demise may be down to the fiction becoming our commonplace reality. I am really excited by the idea of this genre making a return in film and games! One of my favorite video game cinematics of recent times is the teaser for the still unreleased game Cyberpunk 2077.

Week Ten Narratives from the Multiverse

Week Ten Narratives from the Multiverse
This week I read The Drowned Giant by J.G. Ballard. This story seems to be about decay and loss of identity and explore what it is that makes us human. The narrative style is somewhat unsettling, and there is also a profound sense of bleakness. When I started reading I immediately got hooked in but I wanted to know the giant’s origin and backstory. However, the narrator never focuses on the origin of the giant or makes an effort to speculate upon any details of his life.
Instead the decay of the giant is the central focus of the narrator.  The descriptions of the decomposition of the body and the town’s amputation of limbs and dismantling of the remains are depicted in grotesque detail. The remains of this colossal giant transition from an awe inspiring young man of epic proportions to a disgusting rooting carcass that is decapitated, mutilated and broken down into pieces to be moved around the town.

Rather then being about the drowned giants origin the story is about the giant’s impact on the town. This story feels almost like an anti fairytale. It’s as if the joy of discovery and wonder at such a magnificent discovery give way to the banal reality of decay. I think that this story speaks to spectacle, and how even the most wondrous discoveries quickly join the realm of the mundane.