Sunday, November 20, 2016

WEEK FOURTEEN: Hitchhiker's Guide

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (written by Douglas Adams) presents us with a twisted, satirical image of what life outside of Earth is like and what the future may hold. This week, I listened to the first radio recording of the saga, and read alongside the transcript from the recording. I found it hilarious, to say the least. The story follows two “friends” who are dealing with the end of the planet, destined to start a new life in space, all the while surrounded by alien beings and new frontiers. The story is not completely unheard of in the science-fiction genre, but what sets the Hitchhiker’s Guide apart from others, is how it pokes fun at itself and the genre that created it, breaking the fourth wall. The story is sitcom-like, only with more intelligence.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide is layered, as a story. The writing itself is full of wit without taking itself too seriously, if seriously at all. Adams is highly aware of the tropes and likes to bend them to his liking while simultaneously doing the same thing with his style of writing, creating a unique story. The characters are foolish, the narrative is absurd, and all the while the author manages to discuss some very dark subjects (i.e. the planet getting blown up and ensuing depression). The refreshing thing for me about the story, at least the one I listened to, is that we’re always pitched the same kind of thoughts on the future/space-beings. Adams gives us something new. Why does the future always have to be so serious and glamorous? Can’t it be ridiculously nonsensical? After all, we have no idea what may lie beyond our field of vision. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

WEEK THIRTEEN: Atwood and Oryx and Crake

This week, I looked into Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. I started this novel and hopped around, doing some research of my own. Filled with intriguing content and paired with Atwood’s distinctively witty style, I can already feel that I will be going back to finish the story. Oryx and Crake features a bizarre cast of characters who are dealing with a sort of post-apocalyptic world created by Crake (a mad scientist of sorts) who wanted to create a world of his own devices. Crake essentially annihilates the human race and wants to see how moldable the world can be. I found a particularly interesting and relevant quote that seems to sum up how I feel about the book from The Daily Telegraph, stating, “The bioengineered apocalypse she imagines is impeccably researched and sickeningly possible: a direct consequence of short-term science outstripping long-term responsibility.” 

The novel is relevant to today’s world. We see science recreating the world and politics intermingling with the evolution of man/nature. It is a descent into manmade chaos wherein only we are to blame for the atrocities brought upon us. Atwood writes this not only as a piece of literary genius but as a forewarning.

I think it is important to address how Atwood’s writing differs from genre writing. Oryx and Crake, in my opinion, relates to a broader audience than other more genre-specific, fan-service type writings that can also a part of speculative fiction. Atwood wants to reach out to a broader audience. Her writing, in content, discusses loftier and more psychological subjects. She herself has openly argued that her writing is not science fiction (filled with monsters and aliens) and rather that her ideas could actually happen to us, by us. Not to say that other authors don’t write well, but Atwood’s writing is thoughtful and interesting to read for the way it is written. It reminds me of Murakami in the sense that they are both dealing with speculative fiction but while writing it in their own, highly literary, voices.

Monday, November 7, 2016


1. What is your reaction to the text you just read?

The text we just read reminds me a lot of Dawn, that I read for this week. Though it is a short story, Butler packs a lot of context and information. I think her main goal with this piece was to make the audience realize that cooperation/relationships with beings from other worlds would require "give and take" from both parties. The two become co-dependent, making drastic changes to their otherwise normal individual ways of life, so that both may live in the new climate. While there is a dependency both have with each other, there are times in Bloodchild where the humans seem to be in a pseudo-slavery relation with the Tlic. Do the Tlic use humans for breeding grounds and nothing more? We can't be sure. Some of the Tlic seem to have developed real feelings for the humans, but the ambiguity of the situation is what makes the story so compellingly foreign. In the grand scheme of the universe, our position may not be anything we could imagine, which makes Butler's world building skills so intriguing to look at.

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

I connected most to Gan, Bloodchild's protagonist. We follow him through his personal realizations that his world are not what it seems. I connected with his frustration, anger, shock, and confusion at the Tlic's techniques of working with humans. The humans are, as even Gan described them, like animals in a farm. While Gan has lived his whole life seeing the Tlic and humans' amicable relationships, he now sees that everything is not what he thought. Too, I connected with Gan's compassion for this other being even in the face of repulsion. He refuses to leave her side in order to protect his sister and to protect her children.

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

I don't think there are many things about this story that would need changing in order to be adapted into another medium. I might expand on Qui's story to include more background in the family's life. I think there's a lot hidden beneath the surface with his character to be explored. Because I am an illustrator, I would probably choose to adapt the tale into an illustrative piece. Given the nature of the story's pacing, characterizations, and brevity; I think that a comic or graphic novel would be an appropriate way to adapt Butler's story. There may have to be more information given into the narrative/setting in order to add to the length, but in all, I think Butler gives us enough to start with to create something that could be quite interesting to see illustrated.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Week Twelve: Dawn

For week twelve, I read Octavia Butler’s Dawn. The story opens with near total destruction of the human race, caused by a nuclear war. An alien race known as the Oankali have picked up the few humans left alive and keep them safe while they rebuild the human’s world. Lilith, the protagonist of the story, has been chosen as a leader-type by the Oankali to guide the other people into a new frontier. The alien beings, however, demand that in return for the rebuilding of Earth, the humans inter-breed with them in order to create a stronger species fit to survive in the new setting.

Butler makes us question our place in the present on a scale much larger than just here on Earth. The reader comes to realize that should other beings come into contact with us, there will be a give and take. The relationships that will form between life forms of different backgrounds will be far more complicated than we might imagine, yet Butler provides us with some thoughts. In Dawn, if we (the humans) are going to survive through this end times, then we have to agree to the terms of the Oankali, despite how repulsive and complicated that process may seem. 

The novel also forces us far out of our comfort zone when it comes to how we think about life in general. Relationships, sexual orientations, and ways of life as we know it mean nothing to the Oankali. The juxtaposition of the two life forms interacting puts things into perspective. I think Butler may have been trying to make a statement to the audience about how meaningless the labels we cast on each other are in the greater scheme of things. 

Butler covers a lot of ground in this one story, and doesn’t hesitate to discuss allegorically issues that we are facing today. These issues include sexism, bigotry, homophobia, rape, slavery, and war (only to name a few). While the humans have problems, so too do the Oankali, and becomes up to the beings to decide if they can come together so that both can survive. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

WEEK ELEVEN: Cyber/Steampunk

This week I read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. The story follows Hiro Protagonist, a wild-card, genius of a main character, who gets caught up in a mob related drug concoction that's sweeping the "nation." He and his group of misfits work together to get the world back on its feet after Snow Crash has taken over the minds of many. Taking place in a dystopian America, Stephenson puts us deep into the world of what it means to be cyberpunk. The story itself is great fun to read. Stephenson's irreverence makes him an excellent storyteller for the genre. He writes with intense rebellion towards conventional literary subjects and gives us something fascinating to read.

Cyberpunk as a genre is a kind of dated futurism that envisions human life intermingling with robots and the genetically modified. We are presented with blends of human potential with genetic mutations, creating both higher beings and dangerous counterparts. Thematically, the genre feels grungy. This is not the clean future of The Jetson's, rather, the seedy underbelly of a world gone awry from the misuse of technology and the possibility that our own creations may overtake us. The line between human and tech becomes so thin and blurred that there can almost be no distinction of the two's differences.

More and more in today's world we can see technology's impact. Automation is what's next, cyberpunk is an intriguing warning. I connect this week to a video that I saw a while ago, , "Humans Need Not Apply." The video analyzes how our world is already in the process of ridding humans of having purpose in society as we know it to be today. There are still people that are skeptical, claiming that there can't possibly be a way a robot could do their job, but those people are in denial. Already we see the ways in which tech is dominating the cultural infrastructure of our lives, and that trend is only going to grow exponentially with each year. So, what's next?

Cyberpunk presents us with a look at what could become of us, despite how fantastical and far-away the concepts may seem. With the fears that ensue, so do the possibilities. There will be infinitely new ways that our world will open new doors for us to travel through. Control of our offspring, beings that do the things we don't want to do, and time. Time for us that we've never had before.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

WEEK TEN: Left Hand of Darkness

Week Ten: The Fiction of Ideas through Left Hand of Darkness

This week, I read Urusulla K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness. The theme for this week revolved around the ways in which science fiction/fantasy writing can address problems in the modern world. In this sense, the authors of this genre are writing with metaphors to indirectly emphasize topics that would otherwise be sensitive subjects to deal with.

Reading the story, as it would seem so many other readers felt, my biggest takeaway was Le Guin’s addressing of gender identity. The topic of gender recognition is something that becomes more and more relevant in today’s world, as binary gender roles are questioned and seen as being absurd (at least among the liberal crowd that Ringling seems to attract). 

Le Guin took a risk in writing this book. Published in 1969, the novel would have been even more controversial than it is now. I think the way that she was able to provide such forward thinking at such a time of intense scrutiny is admirable. I also think this was made possible thanks to the use of metaphor. In similar ways to Haruki Murakami, Le Guin used metaphor to her advantage. In being able to tackle deep issues, one must first realize that it can be dangerous and unheard of to speak so directly. By placing the characters in a world unlike our own, the reader can disconnect from the logistics of the story and place themselves into the philosophy of the writer. Le Guin elegantly does this, in my opinion. 

I have not had the chance to finish reading the novel, but from what I have read so far, and based on my own opinions, Genley represents a type of person that does not understand non binary gender roles. This type of person is common place in our modern society. Le Guin created a world in which people are people despite the changing paths of the world or people’s individual opinions. She proves that life is meaningful and real no matter your representation or lifestyle.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

WEEK NINE: The Space Opera

The Space Opera

This week's genre/topic is an interesting one. Space opera's, as Dr. Steiling has described, provides a different kind of audience with their own kind of Western. Typically, I don’t think that the people who enjoy the space opera are the same types of people that enjoy Westerns. The demographic shifts entirely from the alpha male to the inspired nerd.

I started The Martian for this week by Andy Weir. One of the things I enjoyed about this novel was the attention to detail of science coupled with Weir’s ability to create a fantastically unreal world. He pairs reality and fantasy with such great detail that the reader immediately relates and believes that this story is factual. We become sucked into the novel incredibly fast. As an interesting and relevant aside, I did a little digging and found that Weir published the novel on his blog in separate installments as he was writing it. The reason that the science in The Martian comes to feel so believable/true is because different correspondents to Weir’s blog would leave him critiques on the representation of scientific facts and calculations.

While the scientific factuality of his novel is inspiring, to say the least, I will say that at times the calculations and explanations became long-winded. I found myself occasionally skipping over a page or two in order to get back to the story, trusting that Weir had appropriately detailed everything that needed to be detailed. 

All in all, I enjoyed what I read for this week. Weir and space operas are not typically the type of story that I would find myself enjoying but I was pleasantly surprised. This class has opened me up to all kinds of different reading possibilities and that’s been really great.