Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

In this last week of class, we focused on science fiction parody and satire. This genre is very different than others; while it does have the classic science fiction tropes, like space and aliens and high adventure, it often does not have a clear central theme or build up to a climax. This is very true with this weeks book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It centers on the typical and absurd humor that Britain comedic satire id known for, as seen in the TV show and the movies of Monty Python.
            Hitchhiker’s Guide is big on irony, a very important element in parody and satire. In the beginning of the book Arthur’s main concern was that his house was going to be demolished to make way for a bypass. When he confronts the demolisher, he says the plans have been available for him to see and its too late to complain, in which Arthur replies the plans were practically impossible to know about or get to. This plot is exactly what happens when the Vogons invade the Earth. They say that Earth will be destroyed to make way for a galactic highway and the paperwork has been available on another planet and that it is too late now to make a complaint. Arthur has a bigger issue now and a whole lot of irony.
            There is no real rising action in Hitchhiker’s Guide; it is just one thing after the other, ending in a very unexciting yet comical way. After Arthur discovers the history of the creation of Earth, superhuman beings in the form of mice try to take Arthur’s brain and he and his friends flee from them and police looking for Zaphod, who had stolen a ship. And after that, they go and get lunch, the end. It is a pretty immediate resolution, right?

            The entire story is a dry humor, but I really enjoyed reading it. I’m looking forward to listening to the radio drama and seeing the movie.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Without Colors by Italo Calvino

This week’s topic is on literary speculation, in which I have read Without Color and The Aquatic Uncle by Italo Calvino. I have already done a blog for The Aquatic Uncle so I will focus this blog on evaluating Without Color.
From Calvino’s collection of short stories called Cosmicomics, it is clear that his literature perfectly fits in this genre. His stories focus on the beginning of the universe, when the Earth is first taking form and life forms are evolving.  Without Color has the same character as The Aquatic Uncle, Qfwfq, and focuses on when the Earth was with little form and no color. Qfwfq meets another creature called Ayl, whose friends are later described humanoid, so we can assume she is too. Similar to The Aquatic Uncle, Qfwfq encounters a being he falls in love with that is very different than him. Qfwfq finds new and exotic things beautiful, things that stick out from the grey norm, while Ayl finds comfort in normality and consistency. When the Earth changes and colors come into existence, Qfwfq embraces this new beauty that he’s been waiting for while Ayl runs and hides herself in the colorless dark of the Earth.

Calvino’s speculation is very interesting; he has these original ideas that are so interesting to read. These concepts have no science to back them up, but he makes you believe that they could have happened in an entertaining and cute way with his characters. I think I will definitely read the rest of his stories in the future.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Evaluation for The Aquatic Uncle by Italo Calvino

            Evolution is a prominent symbol in The Aquatic Uncle by Italo Calvino. The author explains how, over generations, most of the aquatic animals come onto land and became terrestrial, while others stayed behind and developed into more defined aquatic animals like fish. The main character, Qfwfq, says that his fiancĂ©’s family is more developed than his and had never known they had once been aquatic, but he remembers coming out from the water. Another prominent symbol is segregation, in this case of aquatic and terrestrial. Qfwfq and his family stay on land and only visit his uncle in the water once a year. The two sides have nothing to do with each other, which is why Qwfwq is so surprised by Lll’s accepting reaction to N’ba N’ga’s culture.

            The Aquatic Uncle reminded me of Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler, and Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld in the way that the two sides are completely against each other and have not much to do with each other. In The Aquatic Uncle, Qwfwq and his family are very against N’ba N’ga’s arguments and opinions, while in Bloodchild, the Terrans and the Tlic, despite their symbiotic relationship, have a tension between them. When Gan discovers the awful truth behind the Tlic, he hates them. This is clear in Leviathan, as we can see that one side of the war is Clanker and the other side is Darwinist. The element of two opposing sides is very common in science fiction.

            If I were to change this into another medium, I would probably make is into an animated short film. The beginning of this story, describing evolution, reminded me of the beginning of The Land Before Time film, which I watched recently. I would probably illustrate the beginning of The Aquatic Uncle similar to that; not as much narration but instead showing fish coming up from the water onto land and some staying behind, maybe over time terrestrial animals evolving from fish-like to animal-like. I think I would also change the story by making the climax, when Qfwfq discovers Lll’s secret, more dramatic, and drawing out the resolution a bit more to feel more of a closure. I felt like Calvino ended The Aquatic Uncle very abruptly and I didn’t feel satisfied.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler

            This week is on Diverse Position Science Fiction, focusing on the works of people marginalized by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or residency in the third world. Octavia E. Butler is an African American woman author. When discussed, she says that her ethnicity and background does not affect her writings, but we can see in her writings that some things have made their way in as we discuss this week’s book.
            Bloodchild is a science fiction short story by Butler, which takes place in a futuristic universe. In this world, humans, or Terrans, have escaped the destruction of their home world and have taken refuge on a planet with centipede aliens called Tlic, where they have a seemingly symbiotic relationship. In return for protection, the Tlic use humans as hosts for their larvae babies. We follow Gan, the chosen child by T’Gatoi to host her eggs. Of course, we are dropped into the conflict without even know what T’Gatoi is. Throughout the entire beginning and middle, we are given details that make us think that being chosen as a host is a huge privilege and the Tlic are seen as maternal and a part of the family. We later find out that the process of removing the larvae from the host is extremely gruesome and awful. When Gan discovers the terrible truth, he must sacrifice himself instead of his sister to be the host to preserve her innocence. Gan finally sees T’Gatoi and the Tlic for what they really are, parasites.

            We can now see that Butler incorporates the history of African slavery into her writing, even if she didn’t realize it. These elements cannot exist without personal experience. Gan and all of the Terrans are slaves to the Tlic; humans are being forced to be hosts and are subjected to extreme pain and death. T’Gatoi feeds Gan and his family her eggs, which makes them trip. She uses these and her “love” to manipulate them. Butler uses afrofuturism- “insistence on hybridity beyond the point of discomfort" exceeds the doctrines of both black cultural nationalism and of "white-dominated" liberal pluralism.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

This week’s theme was cyberpunk and steampunk, so I chose to read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. Cyberpunk most often takes place in space or on different planets, but Leviathan leans more toward steampunk and it takes place in an altered World War I Europe. The biggest difference, however, is that one side of the War is using high tech robots (Clankers) and the other side is using genetically engineered animals (Darwinists).
            Like many sci-fi fantasy novels, the author throws you right into the story without too much pretext. It begins by upending the lives of two youths on opposite sides of the war. Alek is a young noble who embarks on a long journey in an armored walker, fleeing for his life before the escalating war consumes him as it had his parents. Deryn Sharp, a British aeronaut who finds herself working on the airship "Leviathan," a huge hydrogen-breathing whale. Deryn spends most of the book keeping her gender a secret to be in the military as a man. Through Deryn and Alek's viewpoints, the audience gets an idea of the Clanker and Darwinist cultures; how they operate their daily lives, their core values, and through what lens they view each other.

            In this genre, often the world is dystopian instead of utopian. Alek and Deryn’s world is war-ridden and terrifying and dangerous: the perfect dystopian. The heroin trope is also successfully fulfilled through Deryn. It is very popular to have a strong female character that guys can fan-boy over. I would say she is dominant over Alek. Alek gives off a kind of air of preppy superiority that is seen with royal and spoiled characters. Deryn is rugged and experienced and independent that makes her a stronger character.