what do I do with my hands????

Saturday, November 05, 2311

Today four raiders from another Human-resister village brought a Human-born male construct child into Phoenix.  Damek, Galt, Iriarte, and Kaliq were their names.  They fuckin’ stank, and no one trusted them from the get-go.  Akin, the construct child, told a few of us that one of the raiders that was previously with the other four was responsible for killing Tino, but that he had died too.  This town loved Tino, and those fuckers had to pay.  So we killed them.  Well, three of them, and the fourth will get his soon enough. 

Akin had mixed up his stories, first saying that Damek had killed Tino and then saying that Tilden, the one who had died of the ulcer, had done it.  The little shit was probably just trying to prevent further blood-shed, but it was no matter.  We knew those other shit-heads had something to do with it, so they were gonna pay.  After Tate and Gabe decided to trade for the kid, we had ourselves a little preemptive celebration; we liquored up those assholes so that by the time we moved on them they didn’t hardly have chance to retaliate.  Tino’s dad got cut up pretty bad, and few others suffered a few minor wounds, but we had hacked three of those raiders to shit.  The last one was bleeding out, but he wasn’t dead.  Soon enough though, I hope.  As for the kid, well, he was alright considering the bloodshed.  He kept walking around lickin’ people, some dead some still alive.  He must have been trying to see if he could help any of them.  Those Oankali are weird, man.  One minute their forcefully eradicating our entire species, and the next their checkin’ us to make sure we don’t have as much as a mosquito bite bugin’ us.  Fuck em’.  And fuck this kid.  I don’t care how human he looks or is, I don’t trust him.  He’s one of them and part of the next generation of Human-Oankali hybrid devils that will eventually lead to the extinction of us humans. 

But people around here respect Gabe and Tate.  They have been here since the beginning of all this fucked up shit, so I’ll welcome the kid as they do, but I’m not taking my eyes of that lil fucker and his creepy tongue.  If he tries to make a move on me or anyone I know, or tries to use that coercive Oankali philosophy bullshit, ill take my machete to the top of his all-too human skull.  Today brought a lot of bloodshed, and hopefully tomorrow will too.  This town is boring, and this whole situation is beyond fucked up.  I cant wait to get the fuck out her and kill some Oankali, or die.  Whichever comes first.

                                                                                             – Unknown Human-Resister

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Isolation and Aliens

Ok…I’m going to preface this with the fact that I realize this may seem a little corny, but I’m going to present the case anyway because I feel it is worthy of attention.  Nay, a blog post!  Lilith is “the single most alien aspect about the world that [she] is thrust into.”  Whew….its over, but not really; keep reading.  Not only is she the most alien thing in the world of the Oankali, she also appears to be an integral part of their plan to repopulate Earth with Oankali-human hybrid beings. 

At least through the parts I have read through, it appears that Lilith is completely in their world and in their hands.  And tying into the notion that Lilith is the most alien aspect of the world she is thrust into is theme of isolation in the novel.  Lilith is an alien among aliens and this fact resembles what she appears to fear most; being alone.   The first instance we learn of Lilith’s fear of isolation comes on page seven of Dawn, when the narrator explains how, upon “every Awakening…she had shouted, then cried, then cursed until her voice was gone.  She had pounded the walls until her hands bled and became grotesquely swollen”.  Here the possibility of constantly being alone drives Lilith to self mutilation.  Even the grotesque appearance of Jdahya is not enough for her to cause herself any physical harm, which speaks even more to the fact that she fears being alone above all else.  Moreover, Lilith directly comments on the notion that humans are not meant to be alone when she says, “You shouldn’t have isolated any of us unless your purpose was to drive us insane.  You almost succeeded with me more than once.  Humans need one another” (19).  

Other instances that allude to the fear of being alone arise throughout the novel.  She constantly worries about the “other humans” (15) and she even consciously weighs the possible outcomes of going to Tiej to find Fukumoto, and decides that the “chance to see and speak with one of her own kind again, finally” holds more weight that “solitary confinement” or “suspended animation” (66).  So, the fear of being alone is so strong that she will actually risk succumbing to what she fears most (being alone/isolated) for the mere possibility of human interaction. 

Perhaps the Oankali know that while they keep humans isolated they will be able to control them better, but what do they expect to happen or what is going to happen when they actually have to gather the troops, so to speak, and descend back to Earth in an effort to repopulate it?  The theme of isolation is prevalent in the novel, and I’m interested to see what Butler does with it, and how far in her Oankali training will Lilith stray from humanity, further alienating herself from that group which she so desperately seeks the comfort of.

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Dog Eyes

   I have chosen to analyze page 105 in Grant Morrison’s and Frank Quitley’s We3.  I thought this page had particular significance because it is the point in the graphic novel where Bandit realizes that the coat of armor in which he is encased is artificial, and not part of his physical, biological being.  As he descends the stairs he says, “Bad coat. Coat. Is coat not ‘Bandit’”, and shortly thereafter says, “is coat not we”.  Bandit’s recognition of the fact that the armor is unnatural alludes to the ominous implications science fiction often associates with the integration of living beings and inorganic materials/machinery. 

   The final frame of the page is a close up of Bandit’s eyes.  Often in literature, eyes symbolize the gateway to the soul, or at least symbolize the degree to which a being can be benevolent, or humanlike.  As such, it is fitting that the frame in which Bandit realizes that the armor is not him, “not we”, is one that zooms in on his eyes.  This shows that at this point, when he recognizes the armor to be unnatural and alien, Bandit’s true self is differentiating between his body and the unnatural augmentations that have been made to it.  Moreover, this recognition exemplifies the degree to which lesser cognitive beings (i.e. animals) can distinguish between natural and artificial life forms, speaking to the importance and necessity to be able to do so.  Also, Bandit’s eyes are extremely hostile looking, again speaking to the negative implications science fiction often associates with the integration of living things and inorganic materials/machinery.

   On a separate note, I thought that it was particularly interesting that the characters descend to the basement of the building under construction before they rip apart their armor.  This seems to follow a literary pattern where characters must literally descend below the earth’s surface to experience a rebirth.  Also, it is not until after Bandit has been injured, and his leg exposed that he comes to realize that the armor is “not ‘Bandit’”.  Why is this?  If the animals have undergone such genetic enhancements, both in the physical sense and in regard to their cognitive abilities, why does it take Bandit’s leg being exposed for him to understand the malevolent nature of the armor that imprisons him?  (It is also the armor that allows him to achieve his freedom, so perhaps a complete rejection of the armor is not justified…?…so the implications of the aforementioned integration are more ambiguous than they seem).

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Neuromancer: Super-suspend Your Disbelief and Trust in Gibson

   Having read a few novels that fall into the cyberpunk genre, I was not completely taken aback by Gibson’s total immersion technique in Neuromancer.  However, this is not to say, by any means, that I was not confused by various aspects of the novel.  The language, the choppy plot structure, and the constantly changing setting are all facets of Neuromancer that impede my ability to completely comprehend what is going on in the novel.  Nonetheless, I believe that said barriers are essential in regard to how the novel mirrors the convoluted asymmetry of human life.

   In the preface to his book Mirrorshades, Bruce Sterling asserts, “Cyberpunk is widely known for its telling use of detail, its carefully constructed intricacy, its willingness to carry extrapolation into the fabric of daily life.  It favors ‘crammed’ prose: rapid, dizzying bursts of novel information, sensory overload that submerges the reader…”  How often, on a day-to-day basis, do you feel dizzy from all that life throws at you?  Well, cyberpunk aims to harness that “dizzying” effect and transform it into prose, difficult but manageable prose.  And what do you do to overcome being overwhelmed by life’s demands?  You strive, and sometimes look beyond or simply ignore those little nuances that may seem so important.  The same goes for cyberpunk, or Neuromancer in this instance.  And this is probably the most difficult thing about Neuromancer; having to leave some things behind, or having to mentally mark things that do not make complete sense at the time you encounter them, but will hopefully add up as you continue to read.  For example; In Neuromancer we are introduced to countless idioms (Sprawls, the matrix, cyberspace, artificial intelligence, flatlining, simstim, ice, and others) that are estranged from our own reality and don’t hit home in our first encounter with them, but with contextualization and further reading eventually make sense.

   Throughout our academic pursuits we have always been told that nothing an author writes is unnecessary with regard to a work as a whole, so it makes sense that we expect some sort of explanation (whether implicit or explicit) when we encounter something that is strange or alien in our reading.  But with cyberpunk we are often left, though typically temporarily, at a loss, and are expected to man-up and keep reading.  This is completely counter-intuitive.  Consider the scene in Neuromancer when Case wakes up in the matrix (Chapter 9).  Wintermute has created a reality based on Case’s memories, and has projected itself as Julie Dean as a means to communicate with Case.  The scene ends with Case shooting the image of Julie Dean in face, and shortly thereafter the next chapter begins.  Soooooooo many questions are left unanswered in the blank space between the end of chapter 9 and the start of chapter 10.  What is the matrix exactly?  Who or what is Wintermute?   Why does it (Berne) find it necessary to fuse with the other component of Wintermute, and what will be the outcome of such a union?  Why is the process of merging the two components of Wintermute so intricate, difficult, and illegal?  Why does such an advanced system need the help of mere mortals and lesser sentient cyborgs?  Is the real Julie Dean now dead, or just the projection of him in the matrix?  And so on, and so on.  I haven’t finished the novel yet, but I hope and assume that all of these questions will be answered in time.  To me, reading Neuromancer is like going on a long car-ride; you get in your car at point A and end up at point B.  In retrospect you don’t remember everything, or see everything….just those things that have stood out along the way.  And though every single piece of the puzzle (car ride) is not necessarily locked in your brain, you can still recall those foundational elements (maybe a good song, or stopping to get gas) that work together to prove that the trip took place and, did in fact lead you to point B.

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The Comet: The Naiveté of Mr. Jim

“I am an invisible man.  No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms.  I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind.  I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.  Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.  When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themelves, or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything and anything except me.”

-Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

When I first read the opening lines of W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Comet” I could not help thinking of the above passage and how the notion of invisibility is so prominent in African American literature.  Though “The Comet” was written 30 or so years before the publication of Invisible Man, the resounding theme is evident.  The narrator in “The Comet”, speaking of Jim, says, “Few ever noticed him save in a way that stung.”  We can take this to mean that people only notice Jim as a black man, and the social normative conventions that people of the 1920’s associate black men with.  That is, Jim isn’t a person in the eyes of white New York society, he is a means with no ends, a walking embodiment of whatever stereotypes people decide to project onto him.  The comet itself offers Jim an escape from this reality, however he is too ambitious or over-zealous in his dreaming.  Considering the possibility that he is perhaps the only man left in the world, Jim ponders the possibility of having to repopulate the Earth, and the narrator implicitly comments on the disintegration of class and race distinctions in the wake of a potentially apocalyptic disaster; “the shackles seemed to rattle and fall from his soul,” and when he is looking at Julia he is able to see her “face to face, eye to eye.”  Jim is naïve to think that life will go on with no more racial or class distinctions.  I believe it is inherently human to want to distinguish things, and classify certain groups (i.e. people) based on distinctions that they may have.  As such, racial distinctions would emerge in the rebuilding of civilization regardless of who is doing the rebuilding.  And that is why I believe the story ends the way it does.  W.E.B. Du Bois recognized this crippling attribute in human nature, and put Jim back into a society that ultimately would have been unaltered; groups of people are always going to oppress other groups of people as long as distinctions between the two groups can be made or fabricated.

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Schizophrenia in Fankenstein

  After I finished reading Frankenstein I couldn’t get over how important Walton was to the story.  In fact, after the novel concluded I reasoned that he is the most important character in the novel; completely indispensable and actually in charge (so to speak) of the memory of the story as well as the story itself (i.e. the plot, progression, etc.).

  To begin with, Walton is the only means by which we may familiarize ourselves with the story of Frankenstein, and the characters, places, and events surrounding it.  We know of Victor and the monster because Walton decides to document the alleged story related to him by Victor.  Walton’s character affords Victor’s story a very necessary degree of truth (if we are to take Walton as a reliable narrator to begin with) in that we assume Walton to be honest and, equally important, sane.  Unlike the fatigued and downtrodden Victor, whom we know to be susceptible to fits and trance-like dreams where the boundary between reality and fancy is anything but clear-cut, Walton is the gallant and seemingly-auspicious explorer who, by way of his initial letters to his sister, gains our trust.  Moreover, with regard to the story, and more specifically the monster in it, Walton serves as the only living person who can attest to the existence of the monster.  This is crucial. 

  Consider the reliability of the story minus Walton.  If it were up to me, I would much sooner deem Victor a rambling schizophrenic than take his word that the events he describes are completely true.  If Walton were out of the picture I think the monster and Victor could be two separate persons (or personas) in the same body.  There are numerous instances where Victor succumbs to fits or “[wild] dreams” while around that same time the monster is fulfilling his fiendish revenge.  I know the times don’t necessarily match up perfectly, but it is worth considering.  The very least we could draw from such an odd conclusion would be the degree to which the monster and Victor mirror each other, especially in their selfish demeanors and unrelenting ambition to achieve their goals; and physically they are perfect character foils, so perhaps the bestial monster is Victor’s alter-ego busting to break lose from the monotonous life Victor lives in the Swiss countryside.

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Science and Nature in Fankenstein

  In his article “On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre”, Darko Suvin posits “Science Fiction as the literature of cognitive estrangement.”  By this definition and its subsequent explanation  I believe that Shelley’s Frankenstein falls short of the parameters set forth by Suvin.  Although the novel satisfies both the “cognitive” and the “estrangment” components of the definition, they are only satisfied on the skeletal level.  In his article Suvin describes those works as “juvenile” that “introduces into the old empirical context only one easily digestible new technological variable,” which, at this point, Frankenstein does. This new “variable” is Victor’s ability to give life to the non-living (deceased), and nothing else.  Although the realization of his power occurs in the context of science, nothing actully scientific is used to dillineate how this power came about or why Victor shoud be the one to have discovered it.  When describing how he came about to know and harness this power, Victor simply states that “a sudden light broke in upon me,” leaving the rest to the imaginings of the reader.  For the sake of Science Fiction, such an explanation is inadequate because it leaves too much to fancy.  That is, if Victor is able to simply have an epiphany of how to animate the dead with life, could he not then have a similar epiphany to discover the genetic makeup of woodland fairies?  If a sudden realization is all that is needed in Science Fiction to allow unknown or intangible things to happen within a story, then I think the lines between Fantasy, Fairy-Tale, and Science Fiction are not as clear cut as Suvin claims them to be.

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