Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Stranger in a Strange Land

"Anyone can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl she used to be. But a great artist--a master--and that is what Auguste Rodin was--can look at an old woman, and portray her exactly as she is ... and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be ... and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there never was a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart ... no matter what the merciless hours have done to her."

I love the concept of “Stranger in a Strange Land.” Honestly, I reread it over Spring break, took me about the entire week. The book had an interesting perspective of our society set in the future, seen from a human who was brought up by martians. So everything is strange to him, he being the alien on the inside, fits in perfectly on the outside. I can relate to this in a way because I am not American, and I was not brought up with the American way. Of course the society has had an influence on me; I also feel I have both an outsider, and insider perspective of both German and American society.

Mike may have been born with two human parents, his upbringing and origin is completely miraculous and unusual. He was brought up by Martians, on Mars, about as absurd as being born by a virgin. And Mike is completely aware of this parallel, setting himself up as a religious leader, preaching peace, love, orgy, and grok. He's as alien as Jesus Christ and has his own Holy Ghost being the Martian Elders. And 'Thou art God!' He even sets himself up as a martyr, and at the end positions himself so it looks like he has a halo.

The narrative throughout the novel constantly changes from an individual's perspective, to a world view. It switches from the main characters, Mike and Jubal, to the world leader and his wife, and then corporate angels in heaven looking in on the world, constantly keeping tabs and influencing people with their presence and the lives they had lead. These angels in heaven, such as Foster, have sinned, but their presence on Earth have lead numerous people to their own path of God, thus assuring their place in heaven. Even though it was all corrupt. Mike's presence up their assures the reader his lasting impact on the people of Earth.

Jubal does not seem like a main character at first, but he's more present then any other character. But unlike a main character he does not gradually go through a transformation, stubborn in his old ways claiming he is too old. He only changes toward the end, where he starts to accept the ways of Mike's cult. Personally he's my favorite character because he spouts all this wisdom, and acts as a father figure. And of course indulges in the arts, which is a major plus.

Revision: Frankenstein

So my very first post was more of a rant than anything significant to the novel. Here's a revision of Frankenstein.

Frankenstein was a great book exploring the ideas of monstrosity, creation, and feminine things in a male dominated environment. Possibly influenced by Mary Shelley's own events in her life.

Mary Shelly emphasizes the achievement of knowledge that should not be known, which results in terrible consequences. He always obsesses over forbidden arts and books no one reads, with an almost childlike curiosity, enthusiasm, and passion; albeit it is a blind and isolated search. The motif of light and fire never took on such a literal form like in the movie, it still influence young Frankenstein to pursue this knowledge that controls these things. Driven by this burning passion he is burned, as well as everyone around him. In her time, new things were being discovered, people started looking more toward science, and scientific fact than religion.

I believe she addresses child birth, abortion all from a man's perspective to revaluate her own views on what's going on in her life at the time. It is also a different way to view creation from a new perspective, where it seems godly and wrong to happen in such hands. Where he goes against nature, and God to become and create something more, something in his eyes that are perfect.

So apparently the Frankenstein monster was a vegetarian, living off of acorns and berries when he lived in the wild, alone. Which makes me happy and sad. Happy that it was mentioned in the book because I am a vegetarian. But sad that the only vegetarian was an isolated monstrosity. I know that that is not everything to it. It just gives a strange message. So apparently Shelley was interested in the Romantic vegetarian movement, and integrated it into the novel. I just wish the monster didn't kill, and went against his vegetarian beliefs for Frankenstein. Even though it's his creator. Seems somewhat sacrificial to me.

Also, this book has taught me to constantly have people critique my work, rather than intensely obsesses about it and not realize what is going on. Otherwise it would just end up hideous or not what I intended it to be.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Handmaid's Tale

“The Handmaid's Tale” deals with critical problems in the current society translated into a future society where new problems have risen. It deals with sterility, the inability to continue the human race, safety and security. This fear of infertility is emphasized by the empty toy imagery to create a foreboding atmosphere. She constantly refers to abandoned toys, childhood activities and games. Showing the lack of children, making the impact even more intense and scary.

Nothing prevents people from eating stones in a desert, there are plenty but it's not a resource. And the power does not lie in controlling stones, but in the water and food. The mind set of the society is to control these resources, and the people. They control religion, desire, thought, and safety. Thus, women are not permitted to read, much less have access to a Bible although, edited parts of the Bible are read aloud to the women through tapes or a Commander would read aloud before the “Ceremony” p87. Painted on a banner for the Prayvaganza: “God Is a National Resource” p213 limiting access to spirituality and God.

I found that there were so many intense scenes. Like the Ceremony, the execution scene where the Handmaid's tore the accused “rapist” apart, and the night club scene. Even in a “perfect” society the men need an escape, and a change of scenery where women dress up and pretend to be someone else. And the Ceremony of fucking, the women, the Wives specifically, had a say in how things were run, this is how they wanted it no matter how painful it is for themselves. I also think it's interesting how the names of the Handmaids are Of-(insert commanders name here) like Offred.

And the fact that this is a manuscript of a recorded oral documentation, is crazy. I first couldn't comprehend that, how the “Historical Notes” had to do with the rest of the story until I read it a few times. So in a way this is a happy ending! Where society is now more fertile and developed into respect for women, they're worshiping goddesses and what not. And so many biblical allusions, I'm sure every page had at least one!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Margaret Atwood's “Oryx and Crake” gives us a taste of what the future may become. Our world may reduce itself to that form of chaos and extremities. The world she creates consists of self serving bio-tech companies that uses genetic engineering to manipulate animals and diseases to their whims. Whether they specialize in curing the incurable diseases, make extra organs for transplants, find the scientific way to create the fountain of youth to make their clients live forever, or simply produce meat at the minimum costs and maximum output, they disregard the turmoil their products create, sealing themselves off from the riots, diseases, and fear around them.
Snowman, supposedly the last person on Earth, watching over the “Crakers,” he constantly keeps his mind in his past fading memories of normal life, when he referred to himself by the name Jimmy. In the book, Snowman goes through the earliest memories of Jimmy's childhood to the end of humanity. Throughout his life Jimmy amounted to nothing special compared to how he grew up, both his parents held high positions as bio-tech scientists, the mother seemed to loose her sanity, but smart never-the-less. The schools he went to nurtured geniuses like Crake, who go on to bigger and better things, yet Jimmy barely makes it into a college even with the help of his father's connections. The only thing really special about Jimmy is that he survived the end of humanity, with the help of Crake, and now, as Snowman, simply watches his friend's creations, barely surviving without any help. Also he didn't try to stop the end of humanity, even though he had the resources to save everyone.
According to Snowman's memories, Crake was special ever since he showed up at Jimmy's school. His mother liked him out of all the 'friends' he brought home, his grades were among the best. Crake always had to win or figure out the game. He hated humanity, thinks every human simply has “monkey brains.” Well, with his monkey brain he brought something new to humanity, an old concept.
In fact Oryc helps Crake with this concept, even though she didn't know about it. Oryx allows Jimmy to make her out to whoever he wanted her to be, Jimmy continuously probed her with questions about her past, never sure if she just humored him and made up stories or actually told him what happened to her and who she is. Hew presence was scattered throughout the book, at first she appeared as a child among children on a pornography site, later she, or at least Crake and Jimmy convinced themselves the same person appeared in a garage with other girl's like her, owned by a man who bought them from overseas. Then Crake found her through “student services” and offered her a job. Even when she worked for Crake she traveled, never completely there. She seemed to be another illusion in the book.
When Jimmy is cast out of illusion, as Snowman his reality is plagued with worrying about the Crakers, mutant animals, finding food, and avoiding diseases; he worries about the sun due to global warming, the melting of the glaciers already raised the sea level destroying cities. Now the sun just burns Snowman's skin to a crisp. We also have to worry about global warming, linking the book with current concerns and amplifying them, making them the worst possible outcome.

Bloodchild by Octavia Butler

I love how the author explores her fear of parasites eating her from the inside out. Through the writing she expresses that fear so well in a truly disturbing manner. Making it impossible not to live with the parasite for the human family.
It's crazy that they grow up with these giant parasite like centipede beings, that practically raise them
What relationship does his mother have with this alien? Why is the alien the only form of safety available to them?
The way she integrated parts of the society without it having to be explained, but is demonstrated through peoples characteristics and just things that happen without insulting the intelligence of the reader. Like in those video games where the character is thrown into a society and every aspect of the game has to be explained by whoever specializes in whatever area. Like the blacksmith explains how to use swords, and so on. That never happens in the short story. Only the events are explained, and these events are all influenced by the society she has created between these human pets and parasites. Everything has a purpose, and can be easily understood, or misunderstood in the story.
The entire concept of pregnancy was flipped on its head as it was in Mary Shelly's work, Frankenstein. Where the birth giver is, again, male. Instead of a conventional birth it had been misconstrued and twisted, making it revolting and almost impossible to bear. First of all a man is implanted and gives birth rather than the female. And the birth is always a cesarean, or the impregnated man gets ripped apart from the inside, by the children inside. Just like a parasite or a baby, if it grows too much. At the same time, the protagonist confronts the same issues a high school pregnant girl would feel, doubt and insecurity about her partner, this feeling called love, which is actually them bonded together until he has the babies, I assume the creature will bring up the children after that. If the parasite does not perform the procedure it is even more painful, scaring, and deadly making the bond even stronger and more necessary.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Snow Crash

Sci fi is an escape to the future, and is somewhat inspiring because this is what the world could be, want it that way, or want to change it. It shows the possibilities, and exciting adventure in a technology driven world. While cyber punk is also set in the future like Sci fi, it is a dystopicly anarchistic view of what will happen, which is seen as pessimistic and usually the internet or Metaverse is used as a means to escape reality and corrupted order that needs rebelling against. But in Snow Crash, this escape is now tainted by a drug/virus that effects the person in the Metaverse and real life, so nowhere is safe.

Everything is more abstract in the Metaverse, and depends on programing, and skills, and money in some cases. People have the option to change their appearance however they please, as long as they know how or have the money to do it. It is used for dates, business, and what not. Snow Crash the virus drug, starts out with the lowest forms of the Metaverse offered to people as any e-mail virus we would get today is advertised. But it goes even deeper than a simple virus, goddesses and ancient cultures are dragged into the mix of this futuristic virtual reality.

I could never have imagined an epic pizza delivery service, 30 minutes or else for the delivery boy. That is crazy. And that every employ is a part of the mafia, which happens to be openly advertised and accepted. Society is now even more messed up by being open to franchising. Highways are competing for customers, and couriers attach themselves to cars. Society has become more of a consumer, and bombarded with advertisements.

Through the 30 minute guarantee of the Pizza Mafia, Hiro Protagonist gets kicked out of his job in the Mafia Pizza delivery service called CosaNostra Pizza run by Uncle Enzo. The scene was so intense and I feel over emphasized because it's a stupid pizza, but that is the beauty of the scene, making everyday boring life into a survival of the fittest sort of deal. There is this whole method that requires the deliverer to follow to get the pizza there on time.

Babel 17

In the book Babel 17, Delaney explored the connections between people through the limitations and expression of language. Through Rydra Wong's perspective and insight we get a glimpse of the problems with communication right from the beginning of the novel. And continues to explore it throughout with the pursuing of decoding the perfect language where every word described the exact feeling.

I really enjoyed the concepts that Delaney explored in the novel such as the relationships needed to create a functional ship, which is more involved than pushing a few buttons. The captain, Brass, needs to be strong and interacts with the ship and space physically as if in a wrestling match. I also like how the navigators have an unusual relationship where it involves three people, Calli, Ron, and Twa to be intimate despite the literal language barrier, because Twa does not speak English. It explores the feelings and dependency and conflicts of a threesome, which needs sharing and understanding, and is not a societal norm.

I didn't quite understand the concept of the “discorporate” Eyes, Ears, and Nose of the ship. It was explained that what they do is too much for a living human to handle so they need to be dead, and this death seems to be just another state of being, that can still interact with the living world (the crew) and the ship. But not directly. Which reminds me of a somewhat ancestral and spiritual connection that has to be deeper than words. They are never really described and mentioned only when necessary, but they do hold an important part in the story which is keeping Wong aware of the ship, and informing her at the dinner if there is something wrong. Which everything goes wrong and the ship gets taken over by the perfect assassin.

The novel is considered cyberpunk, which consists of implants, body modification (the captains), blurred line between man and machine (the perfect assassin), it has Wong a strong woman and the main character. which I really appreciated because there are rarely strong independent women as main characters. I wish there were more authors that would create a strong believable female protagonist, that is not necessarily idealized or too aggressive. That women could relate to as well.