The Other Hybrid

Posted on December 1, 2011 by Tiffany KW.
Categories: Uncategorized.

The primary theme I see emerging in The House of the Scorpion aligns with nearly all of the other science fiction we’ve read for the course thus far. The recurring theme of “other” and “otherness” stands out from the beginning of the book. I’m focusing on the blending which serves as the catalyst that makes the group other. In Lilith’s Brood, the mixed children of the Oankali and the humans are the other, in a way that both parent groups view as uncanny. Early on in the semester, Frankenstein laid the groundwork for this bizarre hybrid model. Requiring an element of human and an element of something… different, the group (or in some cases, the individual) is the blend produced, the other. In Blindsight, it was the Synthesists; meanwhile, in “The Comet,” an African-American became the other.

At times, the various authors make social commentary using the other as a vehicle to deliver their message. In the case of Nancy Farmer, she seems to have settled on the idea of human cloning for the purposes of organ harvesting and labor. While this theme has not previously occurred in our readings, it does carry with it the concept of an oppressed people. I do not believe that a group deemed the other must to have a quality of being trodden upon for them to be other… but it certainly helps.

Death Of A Soldier

Posted on November 21, 2011 by Tiffany KW.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Once I understood that Theseus was going to be overrun by Scramblers, I realized that I was going to be dead.  Again.  I had no time to process, not now — the defensive bots were awaiting thoughts.  Protect the cabin’s integrity, first priority.  Once we were breached — and we would be breached, the numbers were irrefutable — their priority would shift to defense of any remaining personnel.  I craved the weight of a gun in my hands, instead of this cold machinery in my head.  With my multiple views of the ship, inside and out, I saw the aliens approaching.  They had some kind of weapon.  Defense, I thoughtFind targets, fire at willContinue firing until there are no targets.  Here and there, some of my eyes on the battle closed.  Others retreated slightly, changed perspective.  I realized Siri was still standing in front of me.

“How far?” he asked.

“Far?” I repeated, smiling at his ignorance.  Retreat inside the hatches, I thought, block entrances, continue firing.  “They’re already on the hull, Siri.  We’re engaging.”

“What do I do?  What do I do?”  He looked like he was going to vomit.  I would have told him to grow a pair and stand with us.  But Sarasti floated up behind him, a caricature of the word vampire.  The Captain had reanimated his body, was still using Sarasti to carry out its orders.  I understood immediately.  At the risk of repeating every bad TwenCen apocalypse-is-coming movie, the fate of humanity depended on Siri getting back to Earth.  The poor bastards had no idea what was going on out here, safe in their invented Heavens.

“Go with him,” I said as gently as I could manage.  The bots were fewer in number than a minute ago.  Defend remaining personnel, continue firing, I thought.

“What—” he began.  This idiot would probably want to have everything explained to him, to gauge my reaction to the shit going down.  All so he could tell the powers-that-be about how scared we all were right before we died.

Now.  That’s an order.”  I turned my back on him, facing the threat.  “We’ll cover you.”

“You too.”  Now he wanted to be friends?  I didn’t have time to hold his hand.

“No.”  How could I convince someone who could read the tiniest expressions on my face that it was better for me to stay?  That going back to Earth was unacceptable?  Dishonorable.

“Why not?  They can fight better without you, you said that yourself!  What’s the point?”  Now he was simply being petulant.  Niceties needed to end.

“Can’t leave yourself a back door, Keeton.  Defeats the whole purpose.”  I would have said more, but my eyes inside the ship told me I was out of time.  “They’ve breached.  Go.”

I thought, weld the hatch shut, and wished for the Captain to already have jettisoned Siri.  I saw the arms first.  Then the space inside Theseus crawled with Scramblers.  I felt my limbs being pulled off my body.  I screamed over the alarms.


For my blog post, I definitely wanted to write from Bates’ point of view.  Her character intrigued me because she seemed to encompass the mannerisms of a “good soldier” without being a stereotype.  Since we don’t see her death, I felt compelled to portray it in my revamped narrative.  Not to mention, her final scene is one of the better ones in the book.

“How do you say We come in peace when the very words are an act of war?” (Watts 325)

Posted on November 15, 2011 by Tiffany KW.
Categories: Uncategorized.

“How do you say We come in peace when the very words are an act of war?” (Watts 325)

I chose this specific sentence from Blindsight because it seemed to symbolize every single instance of miscommunication or misunderstanding between cultures of which I had ever heard.  It’s Kennedy’s jelly doughnut in Germany and Nixon’s peace sign in Australia, blown up exponentially and with far more dire consequences.  The Third Wave group comes off more like Cortés meeting the Aztecs for the first time.  Though he survived, he severely underestimated the people he encountered.  Once the group captures live “scramblers,” they presume the beings are drone-like; a much more egregious error.

In some ways, Siri’s thoughts seem to frame the circumstances of the interaction with Rorschach as a referendum on encountering the unknown.  However, by the end of the Rorschach section, it becomes clear that Sarasti — or rather, the Captain — understood that as much intelligence as possible had to be gathered prior to destroying the encroaching enemy.  Siri’s thought about how to communicate with a sentient being for whom our language is combative speaks to the limits of human understanding.  How would we communicate with a being whose language is utterly and completely incomprehensible?  How would humankind react to an alien race whose only method of communication was a virus or a bacterial infection?

Galt’s Shift

Posted on November 3, 2011 by Tiffany KW.
Categories: Uncategorized.

When Tilden picked up the baby, he held it all wrong.  I wanted to snatch Akin from his arms and prevent potential injuries.  My skin was pale, and his was tan, but he could have been one of mine.  I had three before the war.  When they Awakened me, I had none.  He looked so perfect on the surface — even cried like a baby.  That’s when we saw it.  The fat, gray slug in his mouth, reminding us he was one of them.

Traveling with kids is never simple, but Akin seemed better about it than most.  But the afternoon when Tilden died, I felt the kind of fear that comes from realizing you’re in too deep.  That the choices you’ve made were the wrong one.  That no matter how prepared you thought you were, it wasn’t enough, could never have been enough to handle the pure alien-ness Akin exemplified.

Back before the war, back when I was a kid, I had heard of something called a Changeling.  My grandparents had come from Ireland and had brought their stories with them.  A baby that could talk the way Akin did just wasn’t natural — in fact, it was pretty much impossible.  My grandpa had told me stories about the folk when I was kid.  He taught me never to speak their name, and never to trust them or bargain with them.  Most of all, he taught me never to let them touch me.

I felt repulsed by Akin’s ability to speak.  It was unnatural to the point it made me feel sick that the aliens would do something like that to a baby.  And I had held him against me!  Carried him through the jungle!  Let him sleep next to me!  Now it was too late.  My grandpa didn’t tell me what happened if someone was touched by a Changeling, but it has to be horrible.  I don’t want to die.

A Night In The Box (Or 2 Years)

Posted on October 25, 2011 by Tiffany KW.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Lilith’s experience of solitary confinement seemed the most alien concept thus far.  The idea of not seeing anyone else (human or otherwise) for two years stretches my comprehensive abilities.  I don’t mean that every other thing in the book is acceptable and familiar — not by a long shot.  But I can thoroughly picture in my mind’s eye what the Oankali look like (Koosh balls that walk), what the walls and bed feel like (thinly padded steel), and how it feels to learn an extraterrestrial language (very frustrating).  It’s the nature of Lilith’s captivity that feels so alien to me.

Her incarceration carries with it the weight of manipulation and even torture.  After all, what do we do with the people we despise?  I’m talking about the people we want to punish to the greatest degree, not simply those of whom we want to be rid.  We place them in solitary in a Supermax prison facility.  The only human contact these traitors, serial killers and spies receive comes from their transport to and from an exercise space.  Other than this single hour, the remainder of their day decays inside the convicts’ cells.  Furthermore, every minute of every hour of every day, the prisoners are being watched.  Nothing they do, not one single activity stays private.  The authority figures always watch and listen.  Sound familiar?

Lilith does not receive the courtesy of a separate exercise space or human contact.  The OED defines alienation as: “to make estranged or to turn away the feelings or affections of any one.”  The Oankali go above and beyond to ensure Lilith feels alienated in the extreme sense of the word.  The smallest details seem engineered to instigate a mental breakdown.  For instance, the food provided is nutritious, but disgusting in appearance, virtually tasteless, and never varies.  No clock or other time-keeping mechanism provides her with a real sense of time.  Her body’s distorted sense of time keeps her off balance; she never knows how many days have passed or whether it’s day or night.  Her captors keep her naked for the majority of her Awakenings.  For most of humanity, the need for clothing is deeply ingrained from birth.  Primarily, it is Lilith’s solitude that feels so very alien.  Not a single human face, voice, scent, or touch.  For two years.  I don’t know that I could survive that same circumstance, quite frankly.

Each of the above items is a technique employed to gain control over a captive.  Social deprivation, disorientation, and isolation from anything familiar serve as a means to make the subject dependent on the captors for whatever purpose: to gather information, to ensure obedience, or simply because they can.  What Lilith endured during her solitary confinement by the Oankali constitutes nothing less than total alienation.  I can’t identify with her situation, and although I have an understanding of what might occur, it is the most alien aspect to the novel so far.  Lilith attempts to point out the error in method to the Oankali numerous times, but to no avail.  I can’t help but think of the immortal Paul Newman: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Undesirables Unite!

Posted on October 20, 2011 by Tiffany KW.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Reading WE3, I didn’t expect to find a story that made me get that throat-tightening sensation when you really want to cry, but hold it inside because you’re in a public place.  But I *did* find that story.  The cat kills a rat and brings half back for the dog.  It’s difficult for me to come up with an example of another graphic novel that has had a similar effect on me.  The effect being that my heartstrings are almost yanked out.  It’s touching on some level that I can’t quite articulate to see the remnants of WE3 taken care of by a homeless man.  Which brings me to the next point of this blog entry…

We touched on the names briefly in class on Tuesday, but it’s been rattling around in my head ever since.  The house pets (because that IS what they were) are named Bandit, Tinker, and Pirate.  Each name represents a group of people who have typically been considered outcasts or undesirables.  Yet each name is also a romanticized name for the group.  Not burglar, crook, or robber.  Bandit.  Not stranger, vagabond, or traveling salesman.  Tinker.  Not criminal, murderer, or plagiarizer.  Pirate.

Additionally, the names of the pets represent groups of people known to be thieves of varying goods; bandit seems to evoke loss of money.  Tinker brings to mind child-snatching stories, while pirate stirs thoughts of property loss on a large scale.  Furthermore, each group of undesirables represented by the names of the pets has an aspect of transience.  Tinkers and pirates have mobility inherent in the definition of the group without a doubt.  But even the word bandit contains connotations of roaming groups of thieves on horseback in the deserts of Mexico a century and a half ago.

For the abovementioned reasons (and plenty more), it fits beautifully, poetically, and logically that a homeless man would take care of the two remaining pets.  He belongs to yet another undesirable group of people which has the transient facet coupled with the perception of theft.  Just as WE3 worked as a team and helped each other, the outcast will help other outcasts.

Words And More Words

Posted on September 27, 2011 by Tiffany KW.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Okay, so the difficulty I’m having while reading Neuromancer specifically has to do with the alternative use of words of which I already know the meaning and the generally accepted context.  More on that in a minute.  First, I have to say that I am truly enjoying reading this book.  Much like Ender’s Game and Dune (and many others), the novel begins by throwing the reader into the character’s world with zero explanation.  I love it.  I love feeling smart when I grasp the meaning of a created word from the context clues alone.  I know I can’t be the only one.  It’s like a mystery, and one which must be solved to fully understand the world in which the characters live.  For instance, “simstim” would seem to be simulated stimulation, condensed in more ways than one.  And “temperfoam” — who knew the man invented some kind of futuristic cushiony material about fifteen years ahead of his time?  I like the world Gibson’s created because it’s so close to what I can grasp.  Names of cities I recognize, hustlers running game in the mean streets, and a flourishing black market.  The Yakuza, bizarre-ass technology, and human organ trafficking.  Not so different from our world.  Not *so* different.  Now, back to the alternative use of words:

Some people already mentioned Sprawl, but I’ll mention it again.  Because it *does* seem that the word encompasses much more than a designated area.  Sprawl evokes a sloppy person too lazy to actually sit upright on the couch, or a messy overflow of human habitation stubbornly refusing to be contained in a nice and orderly suburb, and the gross excess of a wealthy person who greedily hogs a large tract of land.  When Gibson uses it as a nickname for the BAMA (p. 43), the capitalization seems to gather in each of the qualities above as well as specifying a place.  Later, (p. 47) Gibson seems to mean something different when he writes: “Her Sprawl wasn’t his Sprawl, he decided.”  In this case, the Sprawl doesn’t seem to ooze everywhere; instead, it gains a rigidity accented by layers of society.  I would love to add “coffin” to my list of alternatively used words, but I find myself short on time.

So here are the questions:  Other than evoking film noir or dime-store detective novels (both of which are worthy), what feeling should I be getting from Neuromancer?  Perhaps a better one is, how should I be interpreting the novel?  As a futuristic caper?  A post modern mystery?  Or how about the unveiling of a world-wide conspiracy complete with a shadow government?

Any Other Thing But Human

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Tiffany KW.
Categories: Uncategorized.

After reading the most recent group of short stories, I have to admit that I’m impressed.  W.E.B. DuBois’ uncanny ability to predict behavior patterns and draw them out in the form of a narrative about calamity amazed me.  I know him best from The Souls of Black Folk.  In his blog, Michael said: “What I found the most valuable and interesting element of this short was not the carnage and science fiction element of the story as described by the writer, but rather the true story of the man Jim Davis hidden amidst the text. Somehow this catastrophe became a backdrop for a window into racial prejudices and in an extremely powerful way it was more impactful because of this hidden agenda.”  I have
to agree.  DuBois crafted a complex story made of several simple threads.  The thread in which I’m primarily interested concerns the inherent racism through the story.

Julia’s breakdown following her futile calls for help speak volumes.  She considers her situation, and thinks: “She turned toward the door with a new fear in her heart.  For the first time she seemed to realize that she was alone in the world with a stranger, with something more than a stranger, — with a man alien in blood and culture — unknown, perhaps unknowable” (p.264).  The otherness she ascribes to Jim is exactly the kind of linguistic tagging folklorists, ethnographers, and other students of human traditions find fascinating to study.  But the reason her commentary rings true, even in this day and age, is because we’ve witnessed an “us versus them” mentality so many times throughout history.
If the “stranger” she had been describing was any other thing but human, would we even think twice about her wording?

Profiling The Monster

Posted on September 13, 2011 by Tiffany KW.
Categories: Uncategorized.

One comment from the monster Frankenstein created caught my attention.  The line comes on the penultimate page of the book (p. 243): “You hate me; but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself.”  Such a human emotion for such a seemingly inhuman creature!  Viewed through a psychological lens, the monster’s self-loathing is on par with people who suffer from extreme personality disorders.  Consider the history of the monster; abandoned at his first breath by the person who should have been as a parent, he learned only those rules taught to him by living in the wilderness.  Later, various instances of rejection by strangers reaffirmed Frankenstein’s initial abandonment.  The monster learned through experience that he contained no redeeming qualities.  His self-hatred gains the strongest reinforcement when he saves a girl from drowning… and receives a gunshot wound for his trouble (p. 165).  What better way to comprehend your own lack of redemption than to get shot for saving a person?  True, the book does not say whether the girl lives or dies, yet the monster’s point of view dictates his understanding of the situation.  Thus, he sees revenge as a suitable form of punishment for his creator.  Victor remains the sole cause of the monster’s suffering because it was Victor who gave the monster life.  Therefore, the monster desires Frankenstein’s suffering.  Yet, upon the death of his creator, the monster comprehends he does not hate Victor but himself.  This very poignant moment demonstrates the extent of the monster’s capacity for self-knowledge.  The real question is, how human does that make him?

Responsibility For Actions and Inaction

Posted on September 8, 2011 by Tiffany KW.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Talking about the binaries of Frankenstein in class on Tuesday really got me thinking about the power/responsibility struggles (maybe not a true binary) in the book so far.   I’ll seize the easy example and talk about Victor using the power of science to create a… being made up of deceased human body parts, yet refusing to take responsibility for it after it came to life.  Later in the book, the monster demonstrates astounding verbal communication skills and seems educated in human history, and even poetry and languages.  The monster’s elegant narration of the events in his life thus far may be read as commentary on Victor’s choice.  It is possible that if he had taken the time and effort to care for the monster, Frankenstein’s creation might not have run amok.  Clearly, great pains are taken to show that the monster is capable of being educated, and very well.  A touch of horror accompanies this revelation; if the monster is capable of being taught, then Victor’s choice to abandon him out of fear is the event that truly led up to the deaths in his family.  The monster’s nature might have been altered, had Victor taken the time and effort to learn something about the monster’s capabilities before running away.  I’m curious as to whether or not an alternative Frankenstein has ever been written.  One in which the monster is cared for by Victor and becomes proof of the boundless abilities of science.  Instead, the readers are exposed (maybe for the first time, originally) to a cautionary tale that recommends leaving well enough alone.  And after the science fiction I’ve read, I’d have to agree.