English 451

November 29, 2011

Are clones human?

Filed under: Uncategorized — kev89 @ 5:17 am

In comparing The House of the Scorpion to the other works we have read this semester, the obvious theme to me that has connected them all is the question over what exactly makes one human, and just who can be considered human. What differentiates The House of the Scorpion is that it is the only work we have read which has dealt with clones and cloning. Cloning is an obvious issue to come to mind when questioning what constitutes humanity, especially considering that clones of humans may be a reality someday. Another feature that struck me is the intense hatred shown towards Matt simply because he is a clone. Within the first fourteen chapters, only Celia, Maria, Tam Lin, and maybe El Patron treat Matt with any real kindness. Rosa and Tom especially despise the clone, and several characters refer to Matt as “it” rather than “he.”

The fundamental question of whether Matt could be considered human becomes even more blurred to Matt himself as he learns how he was created, and that he is just a “photograph” of El Patron. Clearly the reader is supposed to consider Matt to be human, or at least possessing human-like emotions, as he struggles with how others perceive him as some sort of animal, from Rosa keeping him caged to him not being punished for misbehaving like Maria’s dog. The House of the Scorpion speaks to an issue that we have been dealing with the whole semester, but with a new scenario and take on it.

November 22, 2011

Pag’s savior?

Filed under: Uncategorized — kev89 @ 5:00 am

It started out like any other day. I went to the playground to play alone. I had only one friend, Siri, but I couldn’t even trust him anymore. That’s the story of my life, I’m so much of a freak that the only person who would hang out with me became an even bigger freak. Siri had part of his brain shortly before this incident in order to fight off epilepsy; after the operation, he was just so different. He seemed to emotionless, so robot like, I couldn’t bear to be around him anymore.  So, with my thick glasses and acne, I was left to play alone. Of course, I wouldn’t be alone for long that day.

There were six of them. I recognized Rex, the school bully. He had made my life hell for as long as I could remember. This wasn’t good.

“Hey mongrel,  this playground doesn’t belong to you.” Rex taunted.

Wishing to avoid conflict, I nervously said “I don’t wait any trouble Rex. I was just playing, here I’ll be on my way…”

“You’re not going anywhere, polly!”

Rex punched me right in the face. It had been a while since my last run in with Rex’s crew. Before I could get up, I was surrounded, with Rex and his thugs beating me. It was so chaotic I can’t even remember their taunts. I hesitantly raised my arms to ward off their attacks, hoping that it would be enough to avoid injury, while not provoking them into thinking I was trying to hit back. I was terrified, and thought I would die.

Just then, two of the goons went down, having been hit by a rock. Then I saw Siri, approaching the playground. Rex went to confront him, but Siri knocked him out cold with one punch. The remaining three thugs ran off, I remember one yelling “Fucking zombie!” As I picked myself up after that ordeal, I saw Siri looking at the punks he had just knocked out. I grabbed his arm, and ducked just in time as he punched me.

He reacted “Oh. Sorry”

Thinking about what just happened, I paniced “Oh shit oh shit oh shit…”

“You alright?”

“You…I mean you never…oh man are we in trouble.”

“They started it”

“Yeah, but you-I mean look at them.”

By now the goons were crawling away. I started at Siri. I mean, yeah he saved me from Rex, but I least I know Rex is a thug. Ever since Siri had that damned operation, what was he anyway? Finally, I broke the ice “You’da never done that before”

He knew I meant before the operation, saying again “They started…” Noticing the bloody rock still in Siri’s hand, I interupted “What are you doing? Put that down!”

Siri dropped the rock and continued “I was trying to help”

At this point, I felt kind of bad. I could tell he believed he had done the right thing, and he had saved me. Still, I had no idea how to react, and moved away slowly, saying “You’re, you’re not the same, you’re not even Siri anymore!”

“I am too. Don’t be a fuckwad”

“They cut out your brain!”

“Only half. For the ep-”

“I know, for the epilepsy! You think I didn’t know? But you were in that half-or like part of you was…” I struggled to express my thoughts “And now you’re different. It’s like, your mom and dad murdered you-”

Siri cut me off “My mom and dad saved my life. I would have died.”

“I think you did die. I think Siri died, they scooped him out, and threw him away and you’re some whole other kid that just, just grew back out of what was left. You’re not the same. Ever since. You’re not the same.”

Not a day goes by when I don’t think back to this conversation. I did get my issues with Siri out, despite how I must have hurt his feelings, it felt good to finally articulate my issues. But at what cost? Yes I had my problems with what happened to Siri, but he had just saved me, and for better or worse, he was my only friend. My lack of gratitude towards Siri that day continues to haunt me.

I had found the original text of this early scene of the novel interesting as an early experience that shaped Siri’s life, especially after undergoing the operation and having part of his brain removed. I have been curious over what Pag may have been thinking as he was saved by someone who was his only friend, yet had changed dramatically following the operation. In rewriting this scene from Pag’s perspective, I imagined how disturbed Pag must have been in the changes in Siri’s personality to explain how cold he was towards his friend.

November 17, 2011

“Species Don’t Go Extinct. Now they go on hiatus.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — kev89 @ 5:26 am

This quote from Deborah Maclennan on p. 357 perfectly captures a major theme of Blind Sight.

This quote could really be applied to anything we have read so far as a class. These seemingly simple sentences can be very thought provoking. In the context of Blind Sight, this quote clearly applies to the vampires, which had gone extinct millenia ago, but have been revived due to genetic manipulation of humans. This quote could also be read on a smaller scale commenting on death and efforts to revive one from the dead or avoid dying altogether.   In this context it can also be applied to Frankenstein as dead beings were revived in a sense to create the monster, as well as in Neuromancer, where characters like Jules Verne used technology to cheat death.

The warning I go out of this quote is how easily the values of nature and life can be lost. As has happened in all of our readings so far this semester, and in science fiction in general, once these values are lost, the consequences can be dangerous.

November 1, 2011

Dear Akin

Filed under: Uncategorized — kev89 @ 3:41 am

It is impossible for me to express in words the joy I feel in anticipating your arrival in this world. Looking back at my life, I cannot believe it has been over 250 years since my birth. I can barely remember the life I had before the war. It has been a struggle, but I have finally come to understand the Oankali and their intentions in repopulating the Earth with a new species. Now you are the culmination of all their efforts. As important this has become to me, the  presence of a beautiful baby boy in my life to love and cherish still is what I value most about your entry into my life.

You had a human father, Joseph, who was a good man, and would have been a great father. Sadly, he cannot be here for you, as he was killed as a result of the contempt some humans had for the Oankali. Your Oankali father is Nikanj, who is an oolai. Nikanj and I will both be there for you. You are truly special Akin, not just to Nikanj and I, but to human and Oankali alike, as you are the first male human-Oankali hybrid to be born. The eyes of the world will be on you as you will undoubtedly have an influence on the future of the human species. I tell you this not to pressure you, but to encourage you to make your fathers and I proud.

I cannot know what form you will take as you age, but know that no matter what happens, you will always be my baby boy. I will always love and protect you. There are some humans who will hate you simply because of their prejudiced attitudes, but know that I will be there, and will never allow any harm to come to you. I cannot wait for you to enter my life.

Love always,

Your Mother

 

October 27, 2011

Consent and Agency

Filed under: Uncategorized — kev89 @ 4:06 am

As we discussed in class on Tuesday, on of the most prevalent issues in Octavia Butler’s Dawn is the concept of consent, and whether Lilith ever could truly consent to what the Ooloi wanted her to do. I noticed this theme became even more dominant in the second half of the story. I believe this is due to the addition of more human characters into the story, as well as Lilith’s responsibility towards them. First, this makes the issue of consent more complex as now more characters, each with their own characteristics and traits, now find themselves in a similar position to Lilith. Lilith herself is also in a similar postion that the Ooloi held towards her earlier, seemingly gaining control over other humans while still being controlled by the ooloi herself.

On pages 157-161, the theme of consent comes across perhaps as strongly as ever when Joseph is controlled by Nikanj. With Joseph completely under Nikanj’s influence, it’s hard for Lilith to determine whether he is actually sincere about his feelings for her, and leaves her wondering what they are. On page 164, this question is expanded when Nikanj reveals that the oolai approved of Lilith and Joseph as a couple. With Nikanj and the oolai exerting so much influence on these most personal aspects of their lives this raises the question of how much control did Lilith and the other humans really have other their lives.

 

 

 

October 18, 2011

Roseanne’s Parrot

Filed under: Uncategorized — kev89 @ 3:43 am

Page 19 struck me as one of the memorable scenes of WE3. Here, the first scene with Roseanne comes to a close as she’s getting ready to leave her home, trying to get her parrot, Charlie, to talk. After one last effort to get Charlie to talk, Roseanne leaves before she can hear Charlie say “Good boy. Charlies a good boy. Rark.” I noticed what might be some foreshadowing in this seemingly simple scene.

First of all, this is the only time in the story we see Roseanne’s home, and this is also before we know of her involvement in the secret project. Right off the bat, she’s portrayed as an animal lover, something that is seen later as she tries to help Bandit, Tinker, and Pirate as they are hunted by the government. On this page we see a preview of Roseanne’s devotion to her animals, ultimately giving her own life to allow Bandit to escape.

I also see this scene foreshadowing the tragedy that would befall Roseanne’s life. As much as she cared about the three animals, she ultimately made them into the machines they were, and was unable to be with Bandit and Tinker in the end. I see that same theme on this page with Charlie. Not only is Charlie never seen again for the rest of the story, but Roseanne never gets to see her efforts to get Charlie to talk pay 0ff, and for all the readers know, she may have never heard him talk. To me, this is what makes Roseanne’s story a sad one. She really came across as a genuine animal lover, but thanks to her involvement in this unethical project, she was unable to live a quiet life caring for animals, which I got the impression would make her happy. Instead she faced the decision to sacrifice her own life to save the animals she had turned into machines.

September 29, 2011

Confusion in Neuromancer

Filed under: Uncategorized — kev89 @ 3:58 am

I’ve enjoyed reading the first 12 chapters of Neuromancer, but I do find myself having to reread several pages and having difficulty visualizing certain parts. In the first chapters, this was mainly due to the Japanese references as we had discussed in class. Moving to chapters 7-12, my confusion continued. First, when the team traveled to the resort in space, I had a hard time picturing what this resort was supposed to look like. I was most frustrated with the passage from pages 101-102 when Case has to negotiate a “free-fall corridor,” this makes me think of something like the International Space Station in reality, something that just does not seem to mix well with what I perceive as an expensive resort.

I was also thrown off a bit by the station being run by Rastafarians. The name Zion reminds me of the Old Testament, and Jewish history, something I do not generally associate with Rastafarians. This did remind me of the theme of cultural integration earlier in the novel seen with the ex patriots in Japan and with almost the entire east coast being a single metropolitan area. Just as Gibson made predictions on humanity’s relationship with technology, perhaps he also predicted that the world would become more integrated. This would go along with the idea of a global village.

 

 

 

September 20, 2011

Race relations in The Comet

Filed under: Uncategorized — kev89 @ 3:56 am

More so than most other science fiction I have read, there is an obvious deeper message present in The Comet beyond the comet itself. Rather, the themes of racism and race relations seemed to dominant The Comet, something that I did not find surprising given that the author, W.E.B Du Bois, is best known for his work with the civil rights movement. Something interesting I noticed is that this premise of an African American man and white woman being forced to work together to survive a disaster is very similar to the plot of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Within the first sentences, the sense of Jim being viewed as inferior is evident: “Few noticed him. Few ever noticed him in a way that stung.” After the comet strikes, as Jim and Julia begin to realize they may be the only humans on Earth, there is this sense that they were working together as equals, despite the fact that they clearly were not viewed as such before the disaster.

In the end, the theme of racism makes a return. When it is discovered that only New York was hit, and when they reunite with Frank and Julia’s father, Frank immediately suspects Jim of wrongdoing.While she does assure Frank that Jim did her no harm and even helped her,  immediately after the reunion, Julia never looks back to Jim, not even thanking him directly. This to me sends a message that life goes on, and that while Jim and Julia may have relied on each other for this brief period, they would now return to their previous lives, perhaps to never see each other again.  As Jim and Julia are reunited with their surviving family, racism can be seen among the bystanders, with racial slurs and someone even calling for Jim to be lynched. Still, Julia’s father offers Jim a job, and there are those in the crowd who defend Jim for his heroic actions, perhaps representing those whites who were active in the civil rights movement, making it appear that little had actually changed. More than anything, this suggests to me that the old social hierarchy was entrenched enough to survive the destruction of a major city.

September 15, 2011

Frankenstein’s monster

Filed under: Uncategorized — kev89 @ 3:51 am

My first post touched on my expectations when I started the novel, and how the novel differed. Continuing with that theme, the depiction of the monster itself and its relationship to Victor also struck me. Beginning with the monster’s physical appearance, the focus on the yellow eyes, with no mention of the typical tall, clumsy monster with bolts, struck me. I was further intrigued by the illustrations shown in class, in which the beast barely looked human.

Beyond appearance, however, the beast seemed more human here than in contemporary adaptations. Rather than the clumsy, child-like monster I’m familiar with, Shelley had portrayed the monster as an intelligent being, speaking to Victor eloquently, even learning to read on its own (p. 139). However, the monster also has its flaws, as it kills four people dear to Victor before killing Victor himself. While having the abilities of humans, the creature also appears to have problems that humans in somewhat similar situations may face. Comparing Victor to a father who abadoned his children, I can understand that the creature would resent his creator.  Adding in the monster’s unique position, and desperation for companionship, this also makes him more human in my eyes.

September 5, 2011

Frankenstein- Volume 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — kev89 @ 3:52 am

Volume one of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was not quite the novel I expected it to be. In the first volume, Shelley provided deep insights into the character of Victor Frankenstein’s early life,  going back to his early childhood all the way through his experiences studying science at Ingolstadt. Shelley also introduces us to family members and other characters important to Victor in his early life, the most important probably being Elizabeth. I did not expect Shelley to go into this much detail for two main reasons.

First, this is my first time reading the original Frankenstein novel, with my only previous exposure to the series being through movie and television adaptations. This novel offers much deeper characterization of Victor Frankenstein than any other adaptation I am familiar with. As was mentioned in class, this original version of Frankenstein is very different from later adaptations, with one of the most immediate to me being the deeper character development.

The other reason for my surprise is that I considered Frankenstein to be primarily in the monster genre, which could be considered a sub-genre of science fiction. This sub-genre generally is not known for deep character development, instead focusing on plot development. I therefore expected Shelley to follow this same path. This demonstrates that the science fiction genre can be more diverse than one might immediately believe.

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