Sunday, April 30, 2017

Week Twelve: Diverse Position Science Fiction

Dawn by Octavia Butler definitely reflected the perspectives and ideals of majoritarian culture, so much so in fact that I surprised myself with my own reaction to their situation. The book starts out from Lilith’s perspective, who is ultimately cold and hostile towards her alien captors. In fact she’s so disgusted by them that she can barely look at them. I personally found this odd, and would probably have been extremely interested and intrigued. The second aspect of majoritarian culture that she nailed was that of the group mind of the people she awakened. Both Lilith’s response to the crowd of awakened humans, and their reaction to Lilith seemed highly accurate or likely to actually take place. I also loved how in adulthood rites, they follow the perspective of Akin, Lilith’s construct Son. This really humanizes the Ooankali, and almost makes Akin seem more human than human.

Week Eleven: CYBER PUNK

Absolutely loved this weeks book Snow Crash. The book starts off like an explosion and has this cheap neon pulp comic cover quality to it, which, when matched with its ideas about the future and how machines and people are connected through language make it both an entertaining and a fascinating read. I was definitely immersed in this book, and loved how the author was willing to just take obscure and racy concepts and just run with them. Over all I was thoroughly immersed, and basically beside myself during the climax.

Week Ten: The Fiction of ideas

This week I read LAST AND FIRST MEN by Olaf Stapeldon. To me, both Starmaker and Last and First Men are both great examples of futuristic thought experiments taken to their extreme. To me what makes them such worthy thought experiments is how they build gradually in complexity from small cultural ideas, to large cosmic patterns. In Star maker, the focus is on consciousness, and the story builds from the mind of one man, to the consciousness of the universe. In LAFM the focus is on human and cultural complexity, and the story builds from just before World War One to the last and final form of the human race on Neptune. A few things that stood out to me in LAFM, was the accuracy and inaccuracy of his predictions about how the 20th century would pan out. It was interesting how his ideas about the future seemed to come from his particular cultural biases and his view of the world at that time.  It was also interesting how he seemed to predict that the release of greater and greater weaponized energy would play a role in future, and even seemed to predict the atom bomb with his “matter destroying energy weapon”. Overall, I think what really pulls both stories together is Stapleton’s grasp of the core principals that unity and complexity depend on.              

Week nine: Space Opera

For this week’s read I both read, and watched The Martian, by Andy Weir. I thought this was a fantastic and fresh take on the classic sci-fi adventure story, and was pretty disappointed by its movie adaption. Never before have I been so painfully aware of the cheap storytelling tricks used by Hollywood to turn really great stories into mediocre easily-digestible versions for the masses.  One of the aspects of the book that didn’t make it into the movie, was how visceral and real the story felt. Even though the story takes place in the future when we’re about to put a man on mars, the story feels like a contemporary one, as if it were written by some kid that grew up and became an astronaut, then had this crazy thing happen to and had to use all he knew to try and barely get out of it. Another aspect of the original story that was exaggerated by Hollywood was the drama and interactions happening at NASA. The book reads like your average work place drama, normal people doing normal things to try and get the job done. This subtlety of office relationships grounded the  story, and added emphasis to the particulars of individuals personalities, where as the Hollywood version over emphasized the drama, turning everyone into an over exaggerated character, dehumanizing them, and making the story feel more contrived. Over all I thought the book was really fantastic, it was refreshing to read something that was grounded in such accurate scientific detail, and made reading it all the more rewarding.

Week Eight: Contemporary Urban Fantasy

This week I read the Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman did a really great job in Anansi boys of reinventing a classic African myth in a contemporary style. Despite being a white, British author, he did a pretty fantastic job of nailing a southern African American aesthetic. Over all I really liked how well the myths of Anansi overlapped with the contemporary world. The characters were all really well developed, and had extremely vivid personality characteristics that really went along well with the humor and style of writing.

Week Seven: Spiritual Education

I think The Night Circus was one of the best-executed and composed books we read all semester. The way Erin Morgenstern jumped and danced through different peoples perspectives backwards and forwards in time, made the whole book unfold and unwind in a very beautifully and ornate way. She also did a pretty fantastic job at presenting complex love and relationship issues, and solving them in a creative way for younger audiences. She was also pretty creative in the way she sewed up and resolved the major conflict in the story.