Friday, November 11, 2016

Man vs Nature

           In the novel, "Solaris," by StanisÅ‚aw Lem, a team of scientists aggressively try to force communication with a large, powerful alien creature to no avail. This forced communication and short-tempered method of scientific procedure is, of course, highly unauthorized along with traumatic for the creature they are "studying;" perhaps signifying how various advancements in humans' understanding of the natural world has come at the distress of it. Humans have been able to attain unimaginable power and influence both around the world and direct power to alter and control the world but at the cost of horribly scaring its ecosystems and lifeforms; similarly to the way the scientists in this work abuse their power and technology to advance humanity.

            Humanity's lack of cooperation with the natural world, instead choosing to subjugate or "domesticate" anything they can't or won't kill off completely, is explored to great lengths in this novel. The story presents another case of humans trying desperately to understand and bring another species into their domesticated collective, but with the twist that in this instance it is impossible for them to do so. This creature is simply too massive, independent, and powerful to be brought under boot by this collection of scientists, and instead flips the table unto these scientist through showing them their own greatest failures. Through showing how these characters end up facing their own harsh pasts after not being able to conquer this lifeforms, the novel holds a mirror up to our own reality, where massive climate change and world-wide extinctions are on the brink of happening almost on a yearly basis. The novel forces us to question what will happen when humanity is no longer able to just brute its way through other species in order to climb ahead the evolutionary ladder. What happens when a planet fights back?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Bloodchild in class questions

1. What was your reaction to the text?

I was pretty shocked by the graphic nature of the text, be it the vivid depictions of gutting animals and humans to the amount of detail describing the disgusting, gore soaked "worm" alien babies; the story defiantly wanted to graspe and hold onto the reader's attention. I was at first confused as to what kind of story this was, it seemed to have basic elements of science fiction, (aliens, different planet, etc) but upon reconsideration it appears like the focus really isn't on any of these or even the horror aspects of roping animals and people "from neck to anus;" more so focused upon the ideas of racial/species treatment found in the narrative. In this case the humans are subjective to the aliens of the text, and treated much in the same way we would treat a domesticated farm animal or even a slave. Humans of this world are meant to breed, do work, and die, all while being told they are living fulfilling lives and further made passive by heavy use of narcotics to keep them dumb and unacting. I found the story's ability to deliver shocking graphic depictions, a mysterious atmosphere, and themes of racial treatment all at once to be truly spectacular!

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

Initially confused, then for a part of it all horrified, I think that I now see the themes behind the gore and strange "customs" described in the story. I mostly saw the story as a series of themes relating to how varies ethnic minorities or civilizations have been treated by more dominate civilizations throughout the centuraries. Be it Africans in colonial America or Mexicans in modern America, an unfortunate amount of "ugliness" has occurred between the dominant and minor races. White slave owners would impregnate and/or sell their slaves all while keeping them ignorrent of survival and living skills to keep them and their children as dependent upon a "caring master" as possible; all the while claiming saintness over their "property," the same way the aliens depicted in this story do so with humans.

3. What changes would you make to adapt this story into another medium? What medium and what changes would you choose?

I would think this story could be turned into a science fiction television series, mostly due to its overarching themes of racial tensions and histories but carrying elements of science fiction as well; both very popular and relevant to modern audiences. Especially with many shows being able to get away with graphic depictions or controversial storylines by being exclusively offered by select services like Netflix or Hulu, we would be able to show every last detail of the authors original story without worry if networks claiming it to be too graphic. We would have to probably expand upon the story in order to translate it into a mini-series while still keeping it open ended, (much like its original "ending") to leave open the possibility for full series possibilities or maybe even a movie.

 All in all though, this story could use a few updates in terms of science fiction elements, while the much calmer, somewhat realistic nature this story takes upon science fiction is good, I do feel modern audience would prefer sormthing more "flashy." Possibly relocating the story from alien farm/country land to sprawling alien city, (still keeping the main point of humans being slaves and all) would keep the original values and themes of the story while also making it visually interesting for audiences.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

I Am Human

                The story of "Lilith's Brood," written by the author Octavia Butler, tells of a world where humans own self destructive tendencies have lead to an apocalyptic landscape with little hope for the future. The book introduces aliens who agree to help the humans restore their society but only if they are willing to breed with the aliens who are fascinated by the humans' "skill in cancer." Throughout the book various groups of humans give commentary and commitments that explore themes of race and gene science, touching upon a multitude of various areas. In some instances the idea of cross genetics with the aliens seems entirely positive, they are more advanced than humans and can selectively choose and remove traits; however some groups find this to be unnatural and strive to prevent this selection of future traits. 

               These selective genetic aliens remind me of all of the new advancements in genetic research and development being made yearly by biologists around the world; domestic animals are specifically breed in order to be most useful to humans, what happens when people decide to build every aspect of other humans as well? Surly some aspects of selective genetics is great, a world without physical deformities or mental handicaps, but what would happen if individuals decided to make their own vision of a "perfect" being? Especially in the real world where certain genetic traits like high intelligence, naturally advantageous muscular/bone structure or even sexual preference is scrutinized and debated upon heavily by the masses; a book that throws the absolute extreme of handpicking genetics is exhilarating to say the least.

                While reading the book I'll admit to never being particularly invested in yet another alien science fiction story, but the themes I found within the novel were especially interesting. The authors ability to create a (mostly) open ended source for ideas about various themes concerning what makes a human, "human" are ingenious. While not the only author out there to explore selective genetics through the introduction of alien life or extreme technological advancement, I can give the author credit for making this variant upon the themes exciting and attention grabbing at every turn. If you've ever questioned what makes you, "you," then please, explore "Lilith's Brood."


Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Big, Bright, Virtual World

       This weeks narrative, "Snow Crash," by Neal Stephenson, tells of a cyberpunk world run almost entirely by massive internet based technologies and the corporations that make/upkeep them. National government has been made for the most part ineffectually, and many people of this universe have abandoned their own reality to pursue lives in the virtual reality known as "the Metaverse." Exploring themes of perceptions altering ones reality and connecting with the real world versus the viral ones.

        The main character is a computer genius who lives in a world where computers make up much of society. You would think this is good luck, but over and over again it is displayed how his, (and his friends') fixation with digital technologies leads to disaster. In this world a MMO-esc experience known as the "Metaverse" has people living out their whole lives online in a fake collection of experiences and situations. None of this is real, and their real world bodies end up being out of shape, strewn with equipment to keep their addiction to the online world going; on top of the villainous groups in this novel exposing these internet based technologies to their own nefarious ends.

       Neal Stephenson explores a world where fantastical technology can revolutionize the way that people interact and live with others in an exciting new light, but also foretells of a scenario where these technologies end up dominating the lives of those who use them. He tells a story not centered around massive flashy wars or interstellar travel, but of a society that has become so disgruntled with the way the real world is that they abandon reality to pursue virtual reality. It is, (in my opinion) a tale of caution laced behind the main plot of the story, to change and adapt with technological evolutions but not allow said advancements to permanently hold and define who you are. Without our base characteristics and interactions with our peers, society as a whole begins to lose our humanity and become the "gargoyles" displayed in this narrative; disfigured representations of what we once were.

Dare To Be Different

    "Aye and Gomorrah," by Samuel R. Delany, explores themes of perversion, transgender, sexual identity, and more. Throughout the narrative we see the story's protagonist, a genderless "Spacer," receive harsh or even perverse treatment simply due to his lack of sexuality. These genderless Spacers are the story's physical representation of gender neutral peoples, uncertain of their own sexual identity, something the author and his wife were both sympathetic with during the story's conceptualization. While the story is science fiction, its focus is on the ideals behind the flashy spaceships and futuristic environment. 

           The spacers are neutered prior to puberty so as to avoid dangerous spacial radiation and such, but the focus of the story is how this affects their public or even private relations. Similar to the tribulations faced by an unfortunate amount of homosexual or transgender populous, the spacers of this story are subject to constant derogatory slander by much of the public. Even on the streets people will point and whisper about the "genderless freaks," an offensive term that is often used to harshly describe transgender peoples as well. This story is meant to convey morals of not just equality, but establishing ones self above the petty rumors and quick-to-judge offenders of the world around us; and to not be ashamed of being who you are regardless of what people may assume about you. Only you deserve to tell you whether to, how to, or why to establish a sexual identity. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

When Man Rules God

          In N. K. Jemisin's "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms," our protagonist, Yeine, must constantly  battle metaphorical, (and somewhat literal) demons from her and her mother's mysterious past while also contending against some of the most deviously plotting, conniving figures and deities of her world.

          Throughout her perils, Yeine is forced to become just as cruel and ruthless as her competitors in order to learn more about her mother's past and simply to survive as she is pulled into the schemes of those around her. In this story, we see a girl with good intentions become enslaved to the whims and desires of beings much more powerful than her; possibly an analogy to the lowly position and lack of influence most civilians hold in society. Regardless of struggle, Yeine must compromise her beliefs and moral integrity in order to continue her quest; leaving behind chunks of her past self as a result. This story poses Yeine as an incredibly tragic hero, the Gods in this story, (along with many of its people) seem only to serve as hindrances or manipulators to use and throw her away once she is no longer useful.

          Though the story is not totally without hope, allies arise in the form of Yeine's brother Relad and a few of the palace staff. Yeine's character and devotion pay off to these fellow minded people, who each contribute their own skills and knowledge to the situations she finds herself in. In general, the story presents a rapid advancement of conflict-reseloution scenarios, whereas Yeine is approached by a series of problems and must quickly find assistance or adapt herself in some way in order to overcome these issues; making her incredibly relatable. The problems she faces seem at first challenging, confusing, and sometimes unconquerable; much in the same light younger audiences may see their own problems to be.

            I found the story to be enjoyable as a whole. Its fantasy elements tackling subjects as large scale and unknowable as enslaved gods and secret histories made for some intriguing storytelling. I'll admit that I did find some parts to not be explained in full, particularly the nature of the ruling family's absolute control over the gods; but perhaps that will be explained further in future iterations of the story. Never the less, the tale was memorable, giving some exciting twists while still having a base structure to hold the overarching plot towards. I look forward to future installments by N. K Jesmisin.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Million Faces of God

        The novel, "American Gods," by Neil Gaiman, explores the idea of interpretation defining how a person, or in this case, mythological beings, can be remembered or become. One figure or action in history can be interpreted many different ways by different parts of the world or different mindsets of people. A law passed to provide extra security may be seen as saving lives by one group of people, but as destroying personal rights and liberties by another group. Through showing multiple physical incarnations of these gods, each both strange and familiar because of people's own vision of how they believe the entity should be, the book is able to deliver an amazing amount of contemplation and argument for different people who read the story.

        Throughout this novel there are multiple versions of the various gods from different cultures, exploring the idea of interpretations; not just from different cultures but even as specific as different morality structures. For example, the Mr. Wednesday interpretation of Odin the All Father Norse God is a deceiving manipulator who teams up with the equally dastardly Loki, the god of lies and schemes. However, later in the book we are introduced to a more traditional, respectful version of Odin created by a separate group of believers. These two versions are both just as much the entity, "Odin" as the other, but their interpretation makes them figuratively, (and for our story literally) two different gods.

          I found this to be a very enjoyable read with a multitude of different ways to interpret its story and morals. It was interesting how the story attacked the creation and continuation of gods, a sort of "living through memory" system that I found of particular interest. The overall plot itself was good, perhaps a little predictable in terms of "dramatic reveals," but it was still able to hold my interest while conveying messages of how one's interpretation defines how events are remembered. Being Armenian myself, this topic spoke to me personally, as my race has often battled against being forgotten by history after its tragic genocide many years ago. I am referring to the Armenian genii use from the Turkish military, with its two major interpretations, one being the truth: genocide. The other being the propaganda taught by the Turkish government to this day: that the "death marches" were merely attempts to relocate Armenians away from the front in wwi; all the while stealing their land, property, and their lives.

            However, needless to say, the book contained enough interesting ideas in it to arise many questions out of me even without direct prompt from the text, and I look forward to further readings from this author.