The Inevitable Isolation of the Future

•February 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In basic terms, technology is supposed to be a means of improving how humans are able to interact or communicate with one another, our history, and our future. A way for us to communicate with society and all aspects of the world. The progression of technology has yielded more effective means of us communicating such as: e-mail messages, instant messaging, the internet, cellular telephones, facebook, and text messaging. It seems like everywhere we look there are new advertisements for new forms of technology. Despite all of these advances, it seems as if tangible relationships between humans are diminishing each and every day. Instead of having an amelioration of relationships within humanity, humans have come to rely on a text message, e-mail, or other technological methods of communication in order to stay in touch. When we were once reliant upon tangible handwritten letters and in-person meetings, now we resort to technological improvements in order to communicate. Instead of scheduling a lunch date to bond with a friend or business colleague, we rely upon text conversations and e-mail messages in order to establish a relationship or to have a question answered. Although the newer means of communicating may be simple and less complex than the older, sometimes considered archaic ways, they have also resulted in problems. A regression instead of a progression in human relationships has manifested.

Within the novels and stories of the science fiction genre, there is often a focus on technology and the possibilities of the advancements within the field. Along with the advancements, however, comes the focus upon the inevitable repercussions that coincide with the technological advancements. In the novel, The Stone Gods, by Jeanette Winterson, the protagonist, Billie Crusoe, utters a line in her narration from her futuristic world that defines how technology will drastically change society. Billie solemnly declares: “I stand for a moment in the bleak and empty underground parking lot. I am human. I am thirty. I am alone.” At first glance, the quote seems to convey common sentiments within past and present societies. At a closer glance, however, the quote exudes an utter and blatant vulnerability that strikes the reader in the chest. In Billie’s world, she is surrounded by a technologically developed society where human relationships and interactions seem to be at a complete minimum. She is surrounded by a constant whirlwind of movement and action within her chaotic job and the life within the city. Billie is in the constant presence of others, yet she feels completely alone.

Since Billie lives in a future society where technology seems to be at its peak, with robots that can act as human replacements, her world created by Winterson may be an extension of what is happening in reality. If technology continues to advance in our society, will we as humans continue to feel gradually more and more disconnected from our own species? Will we no longer have tangible, real relationships with each other? No marriages, no friendships, no families, and no children? Will we merely just have brief, meaningless sexual or professional interactions, and then nothing else? If Billie’s world has resulted in all of these questions becoming true, is the progressing technology happening around us an unstoppable force that will result in humanity becoming slaves, in a sense, to the technology that we have created? If this is our fate, if Billie’s world is a potential premonition of our future, then Winterson, with her foreshadowing of the future world, is warning us that if technology controls humanity and isolates us from each other, then humanity as we know it will cease to exist. Therefore, instead of us controlling our own future and choices, the technology will control us and our power that results from our relationships with one another.

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When It Comes to Aliens, There is Much More to Fear Than Tentacles

•February 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

To most, the possibility of the existence of aliens or other life in the infinite realms of the universe, is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. If other life forms do reside on other planets or in other galaxies, then humanity can feel a sense of reassurance or comfort that humans and life on earth are not alone. In a way, maybe a newfound comfort that aliens do exist would eliminate a hidden vulnerability that humanity may feel as the potential sole life forms in the massive universe. To those with inquisitive or curious minds, the possibility of new forms of life is exciting. The fear coinciding with the possibilities of alien life, however, overrules the fascination that others may have. With the possibility that other life is out there, also lies the possibility that a possible invasion or another form of danger is possible for our planet and its inhabitants. This fear has taken manifested in numerous media forms throughout cultures on Earth, mainly in the form of movies, novels, and television programs, that involve devastating alien invasions.

In Octavia Butler’s story, “Dawn,” the main character, Lilith, awakes and discovers herself amongst aliens known as the Oankali. Lilith’s experiences encompass the fear that is inevitably correlated with aliens. Before she realizes that she has been captured by aliens after a devastating war on Earth leaves the planet uninhabitable, Lilith is in a state of monotonous captivity within a cell. In this cell, ominous voices speak to her, but she is never addressed with a tangible individual until she awakens and discovers a mysterious figure named Jdahya. When she realizes that there is someone else in the room with her, Lilith realizes that: “She did not want to be any closer to him. She had not known what held her back before. Now she was certain it was his alienness, his difference, his literal unearthliness” (13). Immediately, Lilith does not want to be in close proximity to the new creature at all, regardless of his insistence to move closer to see his true countenance in an appropriate lighting. Only when she sees him in a true lighting does Lilith begin to understand her instinctual reluctance to be close to him. She simply thinks one name, which defines her disgust: Medusa. Although Jdahya quickly explains that the moving particles on his body are not snakes, but sensory organs, Lilith is still terrified of the tentacles. They move of their own accord, allowing him to sense, see, and smell the area around him. As a result of them surrounding his entire head, his hearing and sight are inevitably better than the capabilities of a human. His sensory abilities, in short, are limitless in comparison to hers. In other words, Jdahya and those like him, just like Medusa, are creatures of myth and legend; creatures who can overpower and threaten humanity.

After Lilith has an extended stay with the Oankali, specifically with her companion known as Nikanj, she becomes better accustomed to the exterior characteristics of her new companions. What Lilith finds disturbing, however, are the mental capacities of the aliens. To put it simply, the aliens have a form of a perfect memory. They memorize everything with perfect quality, such as memorizing the prints of each individual. The Oankali never have to write information down in order to consult the documents later in order to refresh their memory, a fact never has to be repeated to them, and the retain a plethora of information within their brain that humans cannot. The inadequacy of her human memory in comparison to her alien companions is what encompasses her fear. The aliens have secrets within their brains that they are not divulging to her, which could harm her or help her. They have unlimited access to their mind and memory; they never struggle to remember anything. Their mental capabilities are limitless. It is with this that they can control her. No matter how hard she tries or studies, their memories are perfect, and hers regrettably is not. If she wants to escape their potentially devious plans for her and the human race, Lilith has to do the impossible. She must train other humans like her, who have faulty memories, to escape and outsmart the aliens once the humans have been placed upon the restored Earth once again.

Lilith’s impossible task of outsmarting the aliens with the immaculate memories and the challenge of living among them, is what she fears. She does not fear the tentacles, their weird eating habits, and abnormal bodies; she fears their limitless minds.   She is not repulsed by their physical abnormalities, but their minds. She cannot physically overcome them, she has to be victorious over them in a game of the minds.

“Anyone who lives in two separate worlds is bound to have a complicated life.”

•February 13, 2010 • 1 Comment

In Joanna Russ’ novel, The Female Man, the narrative does not follow a cohesive or stable pattern. From section to section within each part of the novel, the perspective and the setting changes drastically; almost to the extent where the events unfolding and time period are unrecognizable and confusing. In the novel, the characters are traveling between different eras throughout the duration of time. The style of dialogue and the conversation between the characters changes drastically between each section. As a result of this, the readers do not know what exactly is occurring in the story. The story becomes, in a sense, as confusing as the different times. A labyrinth begins as the story unfolds. During this progression, the story lines are in close proximity to one another within the pages, yet they are so distinctly different that the overall story becomes convoluted. There is no easy way to know who is narrating the section nor what exactly is happening. The story, in a sense, is just as confusing as its title.

In the story, the character from the future world of Whileaway, Janet, reminisces about an instance where her wife, Vittoria, told her that: “Anyone who lives in two separate worlds is bound to have a complicated life.” This quote conveys a message that defines the entire confusion at the core of the novel. Throughout the story, the characters are constantly switches locations and times, who they are speaking with, what they are observing, and what events in which they are directly involved. Also, from section to section, and from part to part, the events of the narrative change in such a serious manner that the style becomes unrecognizable. In a way, it seems as if a different author is writing for each section throughout the novel. Since the author and story journey through copious amounts of stories, perspectives, styles, settings, dialogues, and numerous other categories, they follow the message of Vittoria’s quote.

Resulting from the worlds explored and the constantly changing narrative, the novel and its plot result in an inevitable confusion for the readers. Although the confusion may be intentional by the author, since she states that a story or character that lives in many worlds will always yield a confusing life, the novel seems to be following Vittoria’s quote. The confusion is reflected within the characters themselves. Joannie is constantly confused about what path to follow in her life. Should she pursue her relationship with Cal, or should she search for a better opportunity? Should she settle for the stability and monotony within her life? And for Janet, when she experienced love for the first time, she did not comprehend how to handle the emotion. Janet did not know how to respond to the newfound emotion, especially due to her uncertainty regarding whether or not to tell Vittoria, who is the one she loves, the depth of her feelings for her. For Joanna, she is confused regarding the complexities that are embodied within the woman that is Janet. Her understandings and knowledge of society and the genders confuses Joanna to the point where she is uncertain of how to approach Janet.

The Female Man is a novel with such confusion, from its inconsistent story to its confusing characters, that Vittoria’s declaration that: “anyone who lives in two separate worlds is bound to have a complicated life,” becomes something more than a line in the novel. The quote represents the core of one of the novel’s messages: whenever you explore different people and different settings, regardless of the era, your life will inevitably be confusing and difficult to navigate.


Science Fiction Is Not Always About The Jungle and The Hot Flashes

•February 5, 2010 • 2 Comments

With its rather obvious title, the story “What I Didn’t See,” by Karen Joy Fowler presents its audience with the predicament of discovering what in fact is being seen or not seen. On the surface, there is a plethora of events and or aspects to the story “What I Didn’t See,” that could be what the narrator and protagonist is quite seeing or grasping in the story’s plot. At first glance, upon completing the story, the common reader would believe that the lack of seeing occurs when the narrator does not have a definitive answer regarding the fate of Beverly. However, with closer observation of the deeper meanings of the story, what the narrator did not see lies not only with Beverly’s disappearance, but with the implication of her last words to the narrator. With these words, an entirely new realm full of possibilities can be created regarding Beverly’s mysterious disappearance. It is within these words and through the narrator’s observation that the author utilized a form of science fiction. Although the science fiction within the story is not emphasized by the plot or the narrator, it has a presence within the implications of Beverly’s last words.

Towards the end of the story, the narrator reminisces about the last words uttered to her by Beverly before her disappearance. Although the narrator states that the exact words are vague or not clear, the words dealt with the narrator’s husband, Eddie, whom Beverly seemed to admire or envy. Beverly’s last sentence to the narrator was: “Then you’d best keep with him,” which was referring to Eddie. The simplicity of this sentence may convey that Beverly simply was advising the narrator to be grateful for her marriage to a supposedly good man. Beneath the surface, however, Beverly’s words imply that perhaps, she was attempting to foreshadow her future disappearance. According to the narrator’s observations of Beverly and her relationship with her partner, Merion, the relationship was lacking something. Beverly appeared to be unhappy and unsatisfied with the relationship, to the extent where she may decide to escape. Perhaps, Beverly was aware that if happiness is within a relationship, then it should not be abandoned for something new; her relationship did not fit within that category. She did not like her status within her relationship. Therefore, is it possible that she longed for a form of freedom or change? And, from this newfound desire for freedom, could Beverly have desired for the ultimate freedom? A freedom away from men, away from society; a freedom in the jungle living amongst the gorillas.

If Beverly escaped to dwell in the environment of the gorillas in the unfamiliar jungle, then her story created the science fiction aspect for the story.  Beverly, like many other characters within the science fiction genre, escaped into the unknown; she ventured into the area where few others had journeyed before. Throughout the story, the narrator describes the gorillas almost with an air of mystery to the extent where the knowledge of them relies on myth and word of mouth. Instead of having tangible facts or evidence, the information surrounding the gorillas seems to contain uncertainty. If Beverly decided to throw herself into the potentially barbarous lifestyle of the gorillas instead of remaining in her current frustrating, exhausting status, she becomes apart of the mystery and uncertainty that surrounds the gorillas. By possibly becoming a part of the myth and legend surrounding the gorillas and their lifestyle in the jungle, Beverly becomes a part of the science fiction that flies beneath the radar in the story. Although never explicitly stated, the mysteries surrounding both Beverly’s story and the gorillas provide the science fiction for the story; they fuel the unknown that will never fully be understood by both the narrator and the audience.

The Evening, the Morning, the Night, and X-men?

•January 31, 2010 • 1 Comment

Immediately upon reading the tale of the characters of Lynn and Alan, the similarities became apparent when pertaining to the elements of the story in “The Evening, the Morning, and the Night,” by Octavia Butler, and the story of the mutants in the Marvel comic book series “X-men”.

In the story of X-men, for those of the readers that are unfamiliar with the characters and the plot, the X-men are comprised of “mutants” or those who possess special abilities or skills as a result of their genetic abnormality or mutation. For the majority of the series, the mutants are isolated from the “normal society”, in multiple ways. First of all, the mutants are often seen as lepers or outcast who cannot function amongst humans without placing them in danger as a result of their special abilities categorizing them as “different” or “other”. As a result of society desiring to isolate them because of their “otherness”, the X-men and other mutants are educated at a secluded private school. There, the students are educated in numerous ways: they are educated with a standard education and are also taught how to control and harness their special, mutant ways. At this school, their differences thrive into abilities that can be to great use to the world, when properly used.

In an eerily similar manner, in the story, “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” the characters who are infected with a self-destructive disease called Duryea-Gode disease, or DGD for short, are forced into seclusion from those who are normal, also known as those who are not associated with the dreadful disease. For the most part, those afflicted with the disease, are placed into different categories and receive different treatment, from their food to their habits, in order to contain the “monster” within that can become self-destructive. As a result, the diseased, like the mutants in X-men, are placed in hospitals, which are accused of treating the DGD patients with cruelty and malice, once they become uncontrollable.

In the “Dirg”, however, the residents are treated with compassionate treatment from those in charge of the residency. Instead of having their abilities being suppressed or discouraged, the leaders of the Dirg encourage the DGD residents to focus their attention on their skills. The DGD diseased characters’ abilities, like those in X-men, are often treated in society as insignificant, even dangerous, and are viewed as pointless. Instead of being accepted for their potential contributions to society with their unique abilities, the characters of X-men and the DGD patients in Butler’s short story are forced to seclusion in order to lead a normal existence. The characters of both worlds represent how those who are different should not be viewed as abominations; they should be accepted for the brilliance that they may bring to the current world. A brilliance that, although different, could have a benevolent change for a society and its people.

Connie’s Mattapoisett: A Coping Mechanism or an Idealistic Future?

•January 27, 2010 • 1 Comment

Regardless of all of the lessons or lectures a person experiences regarding the differences between insanity and rationality, the distinction between the two is often vague. An individual may think that he or she is experiencing something rational, based on the fact that whatever he or she is encountering is tangible, they are told that whatever they may be experiencing cannot possibly be real. As a result of the person experiencing this, he or she is told that they are either having a severe hallucination or they are insane. Due to being defined as insane, those that are generally described this way are not taken seriously. If a person is labeled as insane, then that person cannot possibly be experiencing something that could happen in reality; it can only happen inside that person’s twisted mind. With the female character of Consuelo, or Connie, in the novel, “Woman on the Edge of Time,” by Marge Piercy, the predicament is presented regarding whether or not Connie is encountering a real future community and its inhabitants, or if the entire course of events are occurring within the labyrinth of her insane mind.

At the beginning of the story, the narrator only provides a brief glimpse of the visions or encounters in Connie’s life when the character of Luciente is mentioned in passing. As the story develops, however, the audience learns about Luciente and her future village of Mattapoisett. In this future village, the nuances of society that are common in modernity are completely different. A person’s gender and race are insignificant, everyone seems to have a significant role to society, monetary concerns are no longer important, and equality and serenity seem to be at the core of the society. The life in the future almost appears to be perfection, which makes Connie question the validity of her journeys to the future with Luciente. Although the descriptions provided by Connie are inscribed with intense detail, from how Luciente and her contact each other to her interpretations of the future, whether or not the events can be justified by legitimate evidence is questionable.

The world of Mattapoisett and its inhabitants, such as Luciente, Bee, and Jackrabbit, appears too much of a world of perfection to be believable. While trying not to sound incredibly cynical about humanity, a world at perfect contentment and balance has never been quite achievable throughout history. Throughout the story, there is also an eerie resemblance between the residents of Mattapoisett and the individuals within Connie’s life. Resulting from this similarity, Mattapoisett seems to be an elaborate world created by Connie in order to provide an escape from the terrible events within her reality. For example, Connie notes the extreme similarity between Bee and her deceased lover, Claud. The fact that Bee and Connie were physically intimate only strengthens the possibility that the world of Mattapoisett is only an elaborate escape or coping mechanism created subconsciously by Connie. Also, the character of Dawn and other various characters in Mattapoisett remind Connie of her daughter, Angelina, who was brutally taken from her after her emotional breakdown.

Since Connie encounters individuals who remind her of those she lost in her past, the world of Mattapoisett is a form of coping with her grief. If the important people who she lost are in a world of peace and contentment, then that can bring Connie a form of internal peace by knowing that those she deeply loved are in a serene world, in contrast to her horrific world. If the realities of her world are too overwhelming to deal with, then Mattapoisett would be an adequate location of subconscious escape for Connie in order to deal with her inability to cope with reality. Connie can reside in a world where she is not judged for her gender, skin color, her economic level, and, more importantly, M is a subconscious world where she can be with her beloved Claud and Angelina.

Rachel the Chimp, Rachel the Human, and the Duality of Identity

•January 17, 2010 • 2 Comments

A human being, in general, does not have a definitive identity. In other words, a human being cannot describe himself or herself in just a single, basic word. An individual would find it extremely difficult to adequately describe the intricacy of a human identity by combining all of the nuances of an individual into the restrictive space of one word. Throughout his or her life, a human develops according to the circumstances in their life. As a result of their particular circumstances, which are constantly changing, a human adapts and changes. Therefore, resulting from the continuous change in their life, a human cannot simply be defined in a single word. A single, permanent word implies no change; the single word of their identity cannot change, which would never properly describe the individual. When pertaining to an individual’s identity, the struggle to properly describe the identity is a never-ending journey.

In the story, “Rachel in Love,” by Pat Murphy, the protagonist, Rachel, struggles with the duality of her identity. On the surface, her struggle appears to be with her dual identity as a chimp with a human personality and intelligence. Although her dual identity was forced upon her by her human father so that he would not lose his daughter after a fatal accident, the difficulty for her in discovering her identity is not with her chimp-human body. The true battle for Rachel is in her own fight to discover herself. Rachel finds difficulty in determining her identity because she, like most humans, is adapting to the changes in her life and is slowly realizing who she truly is or can be.

Rachel’s conflicts with her dual identity of being a chimp and a human provide a metaphor for the duality of identity that most people experience. Despite the fact that Rachel’s identity conflicts may come in a package that resembles something that cannot be familiar to most, her story reflects the story of many. Rachel may be a chimp, but she is a first and foremost a person. She struggles with her identity and who she wants to be. She has insecurities and doubts regarding her appearance and abilities. Rachel experiences the strong emotions that most experience: anger, love, curiosity, and happiness. More significantly, she has substantial fears in many aspects of her life. In her relationship with Jake, it begins as a friendship, but it progresses into something more for Rachel. During the relationship’s duration, Rachel experiences happiness, love, confusion, rejection, and anger. All of the emotions that Rachel encounters are those that are comparable with those that everyone else experiences.  If it were not for the constant reminders in the text that Rachel is a chimp, the reader can easily get lost in the story and see simply this: a girl who is growing up, just like everyone else.