Saturday, April 19, 2014

Literary Speculation - The Aquatic Uncle

    So this week, we discussed in class Literary Speculation, and distinguish between writing in genre and writing that may use elements of genre but that is essentially literary. What was more interesting to me this week was the in-class reading we did, which was "The Aquatic Uncle" by Italo Calvino. What really stood out for me in this short story was the way in which Calvino wrote the short story. Although the main idea of this story, which is about a family who lives on land, but deals with a "crazy uncle" who refuses to come ashore and live with the family on land.

    Calvino based this story off of "The first vertebrates who, in the Carboniferous period, abandoned aquatic life for terrestrial descended from the osseous, pulmonate fish whose fins were capable of rotation beneath their bodies and thus could be used as paws on earth". When I first read that, I thought that it would be a lot of long, scientific names and references, such as time periods and specific land and sea species. However, I was sorely mistaken. The story read more like a friend telling another friend a silly antidote about this crazy thing that happened with his crazy uncle. I was pretty shocked at how easy and enjoyable it was to read, even though he did use some scientific language.

     So, does Calvino write in genre or uses elements of genre but is essentially literary? I'd have to go with the latter than the former. Mostly, I think because he creates a fictitious time, place, and set of characters based off of fact. Besides that, he makes these beings have human qualities to them that I don't think they'd actually have: a tradition of visiting one uncle, thinking about things other then food, shelter and procreating (which, they do think about in the story), the struggle between land and sea...All these plus countless other thoughts are ones I highly doubt the beings during that time in history would actually think about. Overall though, I definitely enjoyed this short story, and would love to read some other works by Italo Calvino.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Diverse Position Science Fiction - I Live With You

 So, this week, I decided to read the short story "I Live With You" by Carol Emshwiller.

 What a short story it was!

  "I Live With You" has to be one of the most horrifying short stories I've read thus far in my life. What makes it so horrifying? Besides the plot, which I'll get into in a bit, the most horrifying thing about this short story is the lack of resolution at the end... I digress, I'm jumping the gun a bit I suppose.

 The story of "I Live With You" is simple, short, and to the point: a being, most likely a female anyways, describes how it lives with a human and tries to make the human's life better. It seems simple enough, but boy is it way more then just that. How, you might ask? Well to start off with, the narrator, who I'm assuming is of a female gender, pretty much stalks, watches, and lives within the life of a poor female girl. And by poor, I mean I feel sorry for. Why? Here's the kicker:

       This female being apparently lives inside the woman's apartment, without the woman knowing for certain that another thing is living with her.

                    Just stop and take a second to think about that one.

                            Seriously. Think about it.

       At first, I thought this being was a ghost. It made sense, since this thing could pretty much blend into any surrounding it came across (it lived in a coffee shop book store before it chose to live with this woman) and not be noticed by anyone. However, as the story picked up, the being did things, like ate, drank, ran into people in the supermarket while buying food....that, made me realize it wasn't a ghost. Which, made my hair stand up on the back of my neck. This...being, was living in this woman's house, taking and using her own clothing, eating her food, petting her cat all while the woman was in her apartment. It got even weirder when the narrator started describing how it would take food off this poor woman's plate as the woman was eating. The worse part was that the woman, had some kind of idea that something was living with her. So, imagine living on your own, and having all your shit fucked with, your food constantly being eaten by someone other then you, some clothes missing while others aren''s just a scary thought. Besides that, for me, the other scariest part was that the being/narrator is never identified. Both, in the idea that what the being/narrator is, is never fully explained as well as the fact that the woman who's being terrorized never actually learns for certain that she is. Well, she plants traps and such, but what I mean is that the woman never actually sees or confronts this being. The story just ends and the being moves on to something else. That's pretty terrifying, at least for me.

     Although this thought completely scares the living bajeezus out of me, it's actually a really well written, well thought out story. I'm not sure that I couldn't stop reading due to either the story being so well written or just the idea that someone could be fucking with your life and you really couldn't prove that it was really happening. Either way, this was such an interesting short story. I can see how it's considered to be a diverse position science fiction. In some ways, I feel like this could be considered sci-fi. With the unidentified being, you could argue that it was an alien, especially since the narrator/being is never fully identified. In other ways, like the lack of any real science or technological influences, I don't think this is really sci-fi. Regardless of whether it's sci-fi or not, it's one helluva creepy short story and I know I'll be sleeping with ALL my door close (and maybe even locked) tonight. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cyberpunk and Steampunk - "And I Awoke And Found Me Here On The Cold Hill's Side"

    So, this week is all about Cyberpunk and Steampunk. For this week, I read "And I Awoke And Found Me Here On The Cold Hill's Side" by James Tiptree Jr..

      The questions asked for this week's writing assignment were: what ideas or mind experiments were explored in the works you read for this week? what were some of the implications or consequences of those ideas for those of us living today?

      Well, this week's reading was far from the positive, bright future that I think most people associate with cyber and steampunk. "And I Awoke And Found Me Here On The Cold Hill's Side" is pretty much a warning about what happens when the human race meets aliens. It's not a pretty insight, at least according to a slightly intoxicated station engineer. As he stated in the story:

      "What I'm trying to tell  you, this is a trap. We've hit the supernormal stimulus. Man is exogamous-all our history is one long drive to find and impregnate the stranger. Or get impregnated by him, it works for women too. Anything different-colored, different nose, ass, anything, man has to fuck it or die trying. That's a drive y'know, it's built in. Because it works fine as long as the stranger is human. For millions of years that kept the genes circulating. But now we've met aliens we can't screw, and we're about to die trying..."

         Like I said earlier before, just a peachy outlook on the future. But this idea that the only thing that man (as in the human species) wants to do is find and impregnate the stranger. As I first read this line, I could not believe how true it was! Just think about who's been the "stranger" in history...people of color. People who hold different beliefs than the norm. People who don't look "normal". They're the ones who've continually been persecuted by man. Although, I do think that the engineer forgot about how much man likes conquering other people too. But, I feel like within the story, at the time and place where this is all happening, something else changed: the fact that man could no longer conquer. The aliens, all of the different species that were mentioned and even the ones that weren't mentioned, all have the upper hand on us humans in the story. And that is why there's such a huge emphasis on the whole "fuck it or die trying" part, because that's the last place where humans have power. And, since they can't breed with the aliens in the story, they're losing their power and's a whole lot to think about when it comes down to it.

          From the prompt, I believe that this short story is a cautionary tale. Just looking back at all the different kinds of people we use to and even continue to still persecute today, it all makes sense that we want to conquer and reproduce with those that are different from us. However, if those who are different from us hold even more power then humans, such as having better and more advanced technology as well as not being able to reproduce with humans, it will be disastrous for us. They'll hold the power, they'll call the shots. That's why I think if we ever come into contact with beings from another planet, we need to control ourselves and really work with them to form a peaceful universe.

       If not, we'll all go to hell in a hand basket. And I hope to god I'm long dead by then.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Narratives from the Multi-verse: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale

     So this week was all about narratives from the multi-vers and the reading I did was "We Can Remember It For Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick. 

     I really wish I got more into the story, but about halfway through the story I just couldn't do it anymore. Part of the reason why I couldn't finish it was mainly due to the layout; it was formatted in a really weird way, which was hard for me to read. Coupled with the fact that some of the words were written likethis, the whole story was really hard for me to read. Besides that, the story was a little bit slow on the start. 

    It was interesting to think about the concept of having a memory, burying it with another memory and then having it resurface is a pretty cool idea. It kind of reminds of the movie "Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind" a bit, in the way that the main characters in the movie try to erase memories. Overall, the ideas in the short story were pretty cool, but this particular story just wasn't my cup of tea. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Space Opera - The Star

     This week is all about Space Opera, and I read "The Star" by Arthur C. Clark.

      And what a mind fuck this was.

       "The Start", in a nutshell, is about how a Jesuit priest astrophysicist tries to cope with his now faltered faith, due to the fact that the same star that marked the birth of Jesus was the same star that killed off an entire planet of people that were extremely similar to the people of earth.

          When I first finished the story, I had to reread the last page. I had never thought about faith in this way. It was a staggering realization, to say the least. Beside this mind blowing idea that the universe is linked together, what was interesting to me about this short story was the use of scientific terms. I've never been good at science, so reading the first page of this story was difficult to say the least. However, Clark does do a good job in taking the scientific terms and making them more understandable. By the end, I realized how big of a deal that was, and felt the same sense of loss and mind blowing realization that two separate worlds were so connected. That, although the feeling itself wasn't enjoyable, was what I enjoyed about the short story. It made me feel the hollowing loss of an entire planet and race. I've honestly never felt such emotions after reading a short story like the before. And that, I think, makes this story so successful, next to the plausibility of the two worlds being connected by this one supernova star. Just thinking about how an entire population was completely destroyed in order for the birth of one small child that would kick off the start of a religious movement that continues today is really mind blowing to me. And that caused me to think, "well, if that happened to them, that could most certainly happen to us!" even though it never factually happened. Just the possibility, the thought that something like that could happen and be intertwined with a whole other world is

      This short story definitely gives you something to think about, long after you've read this story.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Spiritual Education Part 2 - The Magicians

  I enjoyed "The Spiritual Education" unit so much, I have two blog entries about two different books from this week.

 So this blog post, I'm talking about The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

 Very briefly, The Magicians is about a boy (Quentin Coldwater), who unknowingly is a wizard, and how he deals with learning that he's a wizard, that he is accepted to a prestigious wizard university, and all the problems that come with entering into the whole wizarding world...

 Sound familiar? It should...since it sounds a lot like another popular book about a boy wizard, the Harry Potter series.

 However unlike the HP series, The Magicians isn't as..happy and uplifting. If anything, it's a shocking dose of reality that most people don't hit until after college. Initially, I strongly disliked this book; I couldn't help but compare everything that I encountered in The Magicians to the HP series... thoughts such as:

"Harry found out about being a wizard way cooler then Quentin."

"Hogwarts is wayyyy better then Breakbills, especially since Hogwarts is British"

"The classes are wayyy cooler then those at Breakbills."

 These were just a few of the many, many thoughts that crossed my mind while reading this book. However, after really getting into the book, I slowly started changing my mind about this book. At the end, it dawned on me why I started relating more and more to this book now, as an adult, then I probably ever did with HP as a child: it was based in reality.

 While HP is truly an escapist series, in the sense that you're able to completely lose yourself and reality while reading the books, The Magicians is definitely based in a more truer reality. The setting is in a college, some of the problems Quentin faces while being at Breakbills were either very similar to my own experiences while in college or ones that I've seen my friends faced, and the way Grossman depicts the use and learning of Magic is more or less similar feelings I've had about certain subjects in both high school and college. Besides that, it's all the cold hard truths about growing up, maturing into an adult, and those realizations about oneself and the world surrounding them after learning said hard truths that really spoke to me, as a reader. The ultimate realizations that Quentin comes to at the end are feelings that I know many, many people have had after entering into the "real world"/business world.

 All of these feelings are ones that I can either indirectly or directly relate too. HP, especially now as a young adult, I can't really say that I do. Perhaps that's maturity showing, or perhaps it's simply because I've changed since first reading the series; either way, after reading The Magicians I'm definitely more aware of the fact that I'm becoming an adult, and that I'm slowly, but surely, cutting off those ties to childhood. And honestly, I'm not too sure how I feel about it.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Spiritual Education - The Golden Compass

This, is honestly what I've been waiting for in this class.

When I was younger, I absolutely love love LOVED the Harry Potter Series, as well as His Dark Materials (A.k.a. The Golden Compass Series). I mean, who wouldn't want a wand that could pretty much solve all your problems (cleaning, cooking..) and who wouldn't want their soul to be in an animal form for their entire life span? Especially for me, considering that for all of my childhood and most of my adolescent years, I was highly allergic to anything with fur and/or feathers. But I digress...

Witches. Daemons. Giant fighting polar bears.

 That is the world of the Golden Compass.

 I first read this series when, I believe, I was in either the third or fourth grade. It was the journey, the fighting, the action, and adventure to other worlds that drew me to these series like a moth.

Since the third or fourth grade, I haven't revisited the series. However, I was curious to see how the more adult (since I still don't consider myself to be an adult adult) me would view the book.

Boy, was I surprised. 

In the same theory that as children, we relate more to Jerry, from the popular animated TV series, Tom & Jerry, while as adults we relate more to Tom, His Dark Materials, I've found, work in the same way. When I was younger, I focused more on what Lyra had to say, and what she was thinking more so then the adults that she'd interact with. But as an adult, I've really started paying more attention to what the adults were saying and doing, rather then Lyra. The keyword here is "attention"... I'm not sure if it was because I was a child, or if I simply focused and remembered Lyra more, but when I reread the series, I found the adults more interesting then Lyra. A majority of that being due to the fact that I never realized what exactly the adults were saying, which completely blew my mind.

Elementary Particles, applied physics, dark matter... these are all common words and phrases that come up in this book series. Looking back, I'm not sure how I understood these very big and complex ideas. Maybe it was pure ignorance, maybe it was because I just accepted these ideas for what they were, ideas, but now as an adult...I'm shocked that I actually got through these books and understood them so well as a child. Now, while reading, it was harder for me to really grasp what they were saying, and even some of the scenes where these words were being focused on, I had to reread certain passages simply because it's harder for me to understand what's going on. Plus, I never actually realized how much religion plays in this series, it's amazing that I didn't realize it sooner. I wonder if the adults who've read these series as children, lose a certain quality that I can't really place my finger on. Perhaps it's like original sin, in that once we've eaten the apple of knowledge (as in, matured as adults) we gain one point of understanding, while losing another (see Adam and Eve's view of nakedness).