Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams was far and wide my favorite thing about this semester. I loved listening to the radio broadcast and hear the characters come to life in front of me. The way the genre tropes were presented so comically made them clear to understand and discuss in class. I specifically enjoyed the opening of the broadcast, with the severe irony of the character's home being bulldozed, and then the Earth being bulldozed after it. After the first episode, I pondered on the creativity and original storytelling made use of in this story using science fiction as their framework. The story was great, and it got me excited to see the movie.

This class taught me more about genres than I thought was possible, but above all else it kept me reading and sane during a crazy semester of thesis projects and sleepless nights. I enjoyed the class discussions and what I took away from every class prepared me for the next one. I hope to continue in my genre study as I work to present them in children's books in the future.

Oryx and Crake: Literary Speculation

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood was a great choice to read for this week's focus, which was literary speculation. We talked about how these novels can be freeing, seeing as they can focus on certain genre tropes while remaining independent of the genre itself, but my personal opinion is that genre is a fluid thing. I think literary speculation is an important distinction solely because it is aware it is not a genre. Some of my favorite stories play off of the idea that genre can be a little of this and a little of that. Oryx and Crake represents this idea, and I think Herman Mieville encompasses it as well.

All of that being said, I wanted to discuss our prompt, which was "is this an important distinction or not?" Personally, I put less emphasis on this than our class discussion did, but I think the distinction needs to be made nonetheless. The fluidity of genre is what makes it so appealing to me, and the I think the speculative aspect of this course was finding those 'gray areas.'

Oryx and Crake in particular was a strange read that had many highlights I didn't expect. The grungy nature of the world Atwood built was original both in creation and presentation . I would recommend this novel for anyone interested in the areas of literature that are less defined and make room for some of the most creative stories.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Lilith's Brood

For this week, I read from Lilith's Brood, or more specifically Dawn, by Octavia Butler. This author and her books opened a lot of doors to interesting discussions today in class. The book explored some concepts that were not so mainstream and pretty far from comfortable, such as the idea of cross species gestation. One concept that I found to be very innovative were the Ooloi, or the author's creation of an entirely new gender. This opened a lot of doors into discussions of our own gender norm and how we treat gender in our society. In this way specifically, the book dealt with something that was not a part of majoritarian acceptance and culture (though it should be.) I think the story itself was simply astounding in terms of creativity and originality. The concept felt very grounded and the conflicts and tensions were real to the reader.
This book, as well as her short story Bloodchild that we read in class had similar themes and subject matter, though they were described in entirely different ways from one another. Being a lover of longer stories, I felt that Dawn held together a lot more for me. Above all what I got out of this week was the idea that alien invasion stories and the idea of diverse science fiction can have many more origins than I originally thought. Dawn was one of the more original concepts that I have read in this genre, and it provided a good sense of hope for the books to come that I will most certainly read.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

In-Class Questions and Answers

1The Aquatic Uncle

11.    Are there any prominent symbols in the story? If so, what are they? And how are they used?

I think the symbols in this story are obscured as the vague descriptions of what the characters actually are. We see symbols that are made through anatomy. I think fins and paws are the best examples of this. With basically nothing to go on in terms of imagery, the story is largely built in our mind and we are all probably picturing the characters in different ways; and this doesn’t matter because the story is mainly about the character’s struggles as an evolving species and not their appearance as a species. These anatomical symbols are used, in my interpretation, as ways to explain evolution and the eventual gap between humans and the natural world. As the story moves forward, we even begin to feel a certain disgust for Uncle’s tail as it whips through the water.

22.    What connections did you make with the story? Discuss the elements of the work with which you were able to connect.

I made a connection with the story through the familial interactions between Uncle and his relatives. I think the conversations they have together are pseudo-realistic in terms of reactions and anger, and the only thing that changes is the subject matter. We all know an “uncle,” or someone who refuses to conform (or evolve) to the point of ignorance. In many ways, the dichotomy of the story is what makes me as a reader connect with it. Is it really so bad to want to live as a fish? The stigma against water dwelling in the beginning and middle of the story reflects a lot of our civil disagreements today. Something else I connected with was the last paragraph in particular. The way the protagonist (with his name, and all the names for that matter, which are terribly hard to pronounce) basically said he refused to be like any of them, the creatures who had specifically evolved. Even though he wasn’t the superior animal, he was who he wanted to be. In many ways, he adopted his Uncle’s attitude by the end of the story.

33.    What changes would you make to adapt this story into another medium? What medium would you use? What changes would you make?

I would choose to make this into a comic book. The obvious changes to be made would be visually physical descriptions of characters. The story as it is doesn’t describe the characters beyond the symbols of their paws and fins and tails, which can be applied to most animals on earth today. I would love to illustrate something that has such a wide array of characters that can be designed to so many different means. Other than the visual changes that would be made, in terms of telling the story through a comic, I would add a lot more of the “action” scenes, or the scenes where characters are evolving and running through the trees and climbing up them. There could be a lot of stunning visuals both in the water and on the land that can make the reader feel the struggle between evolution and stagnancy. Something that ends so abruptly and so openly could also lend itself artistically, and the ending would definitely be something I keep exactly the same.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers has been one of my favorite pieces we've looked at in this class so far. Being a giant fantasy fan, this came as a rather pleasant surprise. In many ways, however, this story reflects some low-key fantasy elements; such as 'magic' and monsters. They feel different, but they serve the same purpose in my mind's eye. This story specifically dealt with some really cool storylines and themes. There are a whole bunch of layers in this novel, and not one of them is uninteresting. The origin of the stories multiple time lines comes from the magicians attempting to bring Anubis through a gate to reclaim their land for them. The failed procedure leaves time gates throughout history. When the gates are found by J. Cochran Darrow, he discovers he can travel through time using them. The alternating timelines are really cool in this story, but I think the most powerful parts in The Anubis Gates are the characters themselves. They all have ulterior motives and really contrasting personalities. I think it is the treatment of the characters that hold the stories complicated events together. The book lends itself readily to the understanding of cultures and the complicated interactions between them in a very unique way. The stories entertain, but also inform and communicate principles to the reader.
I have never read a steampunk story before, but this one certainly grabbed me and I look forward to exploring more like this one.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Fiction of Ideas

For today's class, I read The Left Hand of Darkness by ursula K. Le Guin. The story is packed with information that are so formative of a unique world, its hard not to get enthralled by it.
We were prompted to think of ideas as fiction while addressing the pieces this week, which rooted itself nicely in this novel. There is so much happening in this story that it begins to feel pseudo-real and mirror a lot of the ideas and fears we have today.
The book starts with Genly Ai, the protagonist, making a trip to try and convince Gethen, a kingdom in this world, to join a group of humans called the Ekumen. The ideas portrayed in this novel range anywhere from political to religious to simply the ethereal. It is in the ability to make these obscure creations connect that this idea is wholly fictionalized in a story. I think that the root of ideas as grandeur as the ones in this book need to stem from the same place, and grow in uncertain directions.
The huge ending in this book as well is something to be considered for today. We live in a world that tries to separate cultures and people, and we are headed for a dead end. Just like the ending of this book, it took catastrophe to bring people together. If anything, we can learn something from this book about working together as a human race.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Space Opera

This week I read the novel The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester and focused on what elements in the story were drawn from or influenced by other genres. The story centered around a man, Gulliver Foyle, who is hellbent on revenge in a world where jaunting (or teleporting) has triggered a good deal of tension and even wars between clans and social classes.

This story reminded me a lot of old westerns and their motifs of exploring the unknown and finding new and dangerous threats at every turn. The story of revenge reminds me a lot of The Revenant, a neowestern film from this year. The story was, in fact, based on real events of a character seeking revenge for the people responsible for his demise. Both characters experience a disfigurement as well as travel being a major role in each story.

I think that the correlations between space operas and westerns are some of the most fascinating parts of this genre. It is fun to see the old ideologies stand the test of time, and really the only thing that's changed is the environment. Characters and institutions remain unchanged through time and the hard pressed theme of adventure and exploration stands true in both genres.

Space operas are some of the most creative stories I've read, and offer a lot in terms of world building and ingenuity. Not only do they speak to the heart of entertainment, but they warn us about the dangers of advancing technology taken the wrong way.