dragongrrl's blog http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/blog/8 en terrible humanity http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/352 <p>What ended up sticking out to me most while reading Oryx and Crake was how little good was attributed to the human race ("homo sapiens sapiens" [Atwood 99]). It was rather strange that despite hearing the story from a human's point of view, from Snowman's reflections on the past, the reader is presented with quite a terrible view of humanity. One of the first things that was mentioned was about one of the questionable games Jimmy and Crake would play: Blood and Roses, Blood representing the terrible deeds people have done in the past and Roses representing human achievements, like literature. But as Jimmy points out, "it was easier to remember the Blood stuff" (80) This could be because humans have a tendency toward remembering shocking things, violent things, atrocious things more than mild and pleasing things. Alternatively, it could be because there truly have been more Blood events in history than Rose events. In either case, humanity is not represented in a very appealing light.</p> <p>Then, of course, there are all the sites Jimmy and Crake surf amongst for entertainment when they are still teenagers: the "Noodie News" (81), "Felicia's Frog Squash," "hedsoff.com," "alibooboo.com" (82), "shortcircuit.com, brainfrizz.com, and deathrowlive.com," and "nitee-nite.com" (83). The Noodie News is just kind of silly, with all the news reporters reporting while naked, but the other sites are not very pleasant. Felicia's Frog Squash is about exactly what it sounds like, and it is not alone it its type. Even more gruesome are hedsoff.com and alibooboo.com, where one can watch live executions and stonings from Asia and the Middle East. Similar sites representative of America are shortcircuit.com, brainfrizz.com, and deathrowlive.com, where, strangely, the men getting executed make a big show for the known viewers while the few women are killed in a very solemn affair, as if reminding everyone else that this punishment should not be entertainment. But the website that takes the cake, as it were, for showing how ridiculous people are is nitee-nite.com, where Jimmy and Crake can watch assisted suicides. The event is turned into a grand affair, and Snowman later reflects that "killing yourself was something you did for an audience," and if he did it now, with no one around to see, the act would be without "elegance" (344). Since when is suicide an elegant affair? The ease with which movies are made and uploaded onto the Web seems to have prompted everyone to go after their fifteen minutes of fame--sometimes in less thoughtful ways. Using suicide as a way to finally get noticed seems to go quite against the point, and truly all of these sites portray the rather shallow side of humanity.</p> <p>Of course, Crake is not shocked at this, and himself views humanity with not a little contempt. "Monkey paws, monkey curiosity, the desire to take apart, turn inside out, smell, fondle, measure, improve, trash, discard--all hooked up to monkey brains, an advanced model of monkey brains but monkey brains all the same" (99). While great minds of the past have often raised humanity on a pedestal above all other animals, Crake has a more cynical, and probably more realistic view of human capabilities. Our being basically monkeys is not necessarily a bad thing, though it is a blow to our ego to think that we're no better than animals when as a society we have believed this for quite a while. But Crake doesn't stop here; he sees so many imperfections and unnecessary evils in humans that he believes will soon destroy us that he creates an entirely new species that is so much better. Gone is hierarchy, religion, all the bad that has ever surrounded sex. Many of Crake's instructions to Jimmy/Snowman about taking care of the Crakers include watching out for emerging human traits, like developing art and symbols, because these are supposedly a sign of evil to come. Truly, I think this depressing view of humanity is encapsulated in poor Snowman's thought when describing his name: "He's kept the abominable to himself" (8). He feels that while he teaches the Crakers, he must keep his central human-ness away from them and not influence them to become just like the race that Crake had so despised.</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/352#comments Oryx and Crake Response 11 Wed, 30 Apr 2008 16:45:59 +0000 dragongrrl 352 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 recognizing names http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/326 <p>One thing I found interesting about Pattern Recognition--especially as it includes a world of screen names--is the use of names. Obviously we touched on Cayce in class, but only briefly. What struck me most about Cayce was that, just before she explains the pronunciation of her name, she actually tells Voytek, "Call me Ishmael" (Gibson 32). Never having actually read Moby Dick (my high school was rather terrible), I would have just been confused by this statement except that in another of my classes, we just recently read a different novel with a very similar reference. For those of you in the dark, like I was, "Call me Ishmael" is the first line in Moby Dick. What we immediately know about Ishmael--and Cayce?--is that he is a survivor of the story he is about to recount. I suppose this is encouraging as far as Cayce is concerned because her story is told in present tense, as if it is all happening *right now*. The idea that she will survive the events of the novel, whatever they may become, is nice to note. The other interesting thing about this line is that, from the way it is phrased, the reader can never know whether or not Ishmael is the narrator's real name. This certainly ties into the idea that "Cayce," according to her, should actually be pronounced "Casey," but she says it as "Case." This, coupled with the fact that the only other Gibson I've read featured another Case as narrator (interesting pun), adds to the ambiguity of her actual name. To go even further, it can be said that no one has any one true name, as the nature of names is that they are ambiguous: is our narrator Cayce, Cayce Pollard, or CayceP? And those are only the names we are given in the novel--we aren't told her middle name (unless I missed that somewhere), and she might have other nicknames as well.</p> <p>Of course, Cayce is not the only name of interest in Pattern Recognition; certainly the title suggests the reader will be looking for connections and importance in all names (as well as other things). We are very briefly introduced to Parkaboy on page four, the name not really fitting with his description later on as "a man with reddish, receding hair, combed straight back," who purposefully describes himself as a "middle-aged white guy" (337). His "real" name is Peter Gilbert, which does seem to fit this description better. Interestingly, however, "Parkaboy" appears very fitting to his online personality, the way he writes in emails and forums--kind of silly but with a solid intelligence behind it. It makes me want to think of the physical person as Peter Gilbert and of the personality as Parkaboy; yet of course, they are one and the same. It does show, however, that if we were left to pick our own names, we might pick names that more accurately fit who we are.</p> <p>Then there is Hubertus Bigend, who seems to fit his name in some perfect way: "a nominal Belgian who looks like Tom Cruise on a diet of virgins' blood and truffled chocolates" (7). His girth apparently fits his name, though he either does not see the humorous connection or (more likely, given pattern recognition) he refuses to acknowledge it. Cayce also knows Bigend as a "Lombard," "which Cayce had at first thought might be a reference somehow to his Belgian-ness, until learning, upon finally asking, that it was Margot's acronym for 'Loads of money but a real dickhead' " (57). In this case, of course, the name is quite applicable, and once again goes to show that names made up later in life better portray the person than names given at birth (though Bigend's name comes close to this). This does point out the problem with trying to give associations to people's names in novels--for a character's name to mean something about him or her, it actually must be a name that would not be theirs in reality. What I mean is, in the real world, names don't usually say something about a person's character, the way they often do in a novel. Thus, the more "realistic" a novel is, the less the names will mean. How disappointing.</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/326#comments Pattern Recognition Response 10 Mon, 28 Apr 2008 04:09:23 +0000 dragongrrl 326 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 quick question http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/311 <p>If we wrote a reading response for Neuromancer, do we write another for Pattern Recognition or no, since it's another Gibson? (same question goes for Oryx and Crake/Atwood)</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/311#comments reading responses Thu, 17 Apr 2008 18:30:45 +0000 dragongrrl 311 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 Importance of language http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/296 <p>What struck me most about Nalo Hopkinson's Midnight Robber was not any of the obvious subjects addressed in the novel: race and gender issues, rape, incest, self-love, self-respect, etc; rather, the language she used to discuss these things was so exact in its strange dialect and such a crucial part of the novel. In most of the novels we have read thus far, there is some strange vocabulary that helps define the strange world we read about, but in general, the language in which the author tells the story is easily understandable. It is not so in Midnight Robber, where this Afro-Caribbean dialect is not reserved for dialogue but used in narration as well. The effect of this is that the reader must constantly pay attention to what is being said or he will miss the meaning of the words. Indeed, as I was reading it, if I started to scan paragraphs I would have to go back and re-read them because I really couldn't understand what had just happened in the story.</p> <p>Obviously there are certain words that, like previous SF novels, are completely made up by the author. "Headblind," "nannysong," "eshu," and "datastock" are a few of these. "Headblind" refers to objects or situations that Granny Nanny, the omniscient and omnipresent computer, doesn't have access to; in other words, she is blind to them. One such item is real paper; the current equivalent, which Granny Nanny does have access to, is datastock, something that seems similar to word processing for documents. The sing-song phrases used to communicate with Granny Nanny and the house eshu are called nannysong, for obvious reasons. The eshu is a little less obvious; similar to Granny Nanny, it seems, it has no physical presence but exists within the "living" house simply as a.i. consciousness, and can control much of how the house operates (ie changing walls into mirrors when asked). </p> <p>These made-up words are expected, almost cliché when it comes to science fiction, but real words--at least slang that is actually used in certain dialects--is not, and is much harder to read. In fact, it is unclear whether many of the unknown words are Hopkinson's creation or real slang, though probably the latter. "Allyou" is a pretty obvious word; a much better known term would be "y'all," and certainly means the same thing. On the other hand, "pickney" takes a while to figure out, but seems to refer to children, especially young and tricky ones. While "doux-doux" is unfamiliar to most Americans, it is not really slang, as it comes from the French word that means "sweet," and is obviously used as a term of endearment. "Nuh" and "seen" are a bit more difficult, however; "nuh" is apparently used similarly to its cousin "no" as questioning the previous statement. " 'Daddy, let we go home, nuh?' " (Hopkinson 72). Here, the equivalent would be, "Can't we go home?" Conversely, "seen" is a statement of agreement or acknowledgment (like "okay"), wherein the speaker has "seen" the import of the listener's previous words.</p> <p>The vocabulary is not the only confusing part of Hopkinson's language, however; the grammar is what makes the novel truly difficult to read, at least until one has gotten used to it. For instance, possessive pronouns are most often the same as our usual subject pronouns: "She two arms hard with muscle . . ." (1); and subject and object pronouns seem to have switched places: " 'Them does only pay a pittance compared to we' " (8). Subject and verb are sometimes switched, verb form is seldom "correct"--in all, it can be quite a confusing read for anyone. What we must consider is, since books are meant to be read (and this one is likely intended for an audience who does not speak the novel's dialect), why make it so difficult to read? For one thing, the main aspect of culture lies in its language, so Hopkinson immerses the reader into her obviously different world immediately. Moreover, and more importantly, because the language makes the reader stumble and pick his way through, it forces him to concentrate better on what is being said. True, the reading will get easier as he makes his way through the novel and gets used to its style, but it still will catch him if he starts slacking off in attention because it is never a natural way of forming sentences in his brain. In this way, Hopkinson achieves the ultimate goal of an author: to make her reader immerse himself completely in the story and concentrate on what she is telling him.</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/296#comments Midnight Robber Response 9 Wed, 16 Apr 2008 03:52:39 +0000 dragongrrl 296 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 gender in slow river http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/226 <p>One of the topics we didn't discuss in class yet about Slow River, interestingly enough, is gender relations. Perhaps because the majority of the characters are female, this is not as obvious an issue as in earlier novels we've read; most of the character interaction is between women, in effect denying the gender discussion. In this, however, Griffith makes the gender discussion simply different, rather than obsolete. The first obvious difference is the fact that the child abuser, the perpetrator of incest, is the mother of the family, not the father. It is a different twist that this is actually closer to the "Oedipal form" of the family than the norm; while we see the potential for incest, it is absolutely startling to imagine the female parent as the one abusing her power and her children, though in the original story, it is of course the mother and son who commit incest. What are the implications of this surprise? For one, it destroys the image of the perfect mother, the caring and nurturing soul that all women must be. While this is certainly not a positive image of woman, because it contrasts a stereotype it can still be considered useful in helping society change the way it perceives the genders. Further, sexual abuse is usually more about the power involved than the actual sexual act (though it can probably be assumed the perpetrator does derive pleasure from the act), once again going against the female stereotype. It is not the father in Lore's family who has the power, it is the mother.</p> <p>Of course, one could argue that because the non-stereotypical ideas are portrayed by a rather negative character, Griffith shows women who act beyond "their place" are all bad. I don't see this as true, however, because while the main evil originates in female characters, so does the main good. Griffith is simply showing two things: women can be any sort of individual, rather than be fit into long-perpetrated ideals of delicacy and kindness; also, conversely, that good people and bad can be of any gender. Another thing we must realize, however, is that the nearly female world she created is not the complete world, and the real world has not yet thrown out the old ideas. When Lore attempts to team with Paolo against the corrupt Hepple, Paolo shouts, " 'I don't need a woman to fight my battles!' " (172). Paolo can't accept the idea that Lore may be able to help him because she has more knowledge and confidence. To him, all that matters is that she is female, and that it is somehow disgraceful to elicit help from a woman. Lore is utterly shocked at his response, and understandably so: she has the means and the desire to help, but is refused on a rather trite condition. While the following quotation is not specifically about gender relations, it can be tied to them: "I wondered how many more centuries it would take to break the physically-stronger-equals-morally-superior equation . . ." (259). Historically, this has been a gender issue; men naturally have more muscle than women, which has determined much of how the world operates. In the modern era, however, physical strength means very little compared to strength of intellect, and yet those of better physical strength assume superiority. Lore quickly dismisses her thought rather cynically, assuming that humanity will, indeed, never change. This doesn't give us much hope for gender relations either, unless the intelligent weak(er) can somehow reach the assuming buff.</p> <p>As a final note about relationships in general, it was interesting to read a novel in which all sexual encounters are between women. Not only do they happen rather frequently, but it is generally unusual and quite unheard of in our previous novels. The only vaguely heterosexual encounter is Lore's porn video of her parents, which was completely made up, as if she was trying to find some way such a relation could work. Also interestingly, the only scenes that occur in first person are between Lore and Magyar. This seems to suggest by the first person narrative either that finding someone who actually would love her helped Lore understand her identity, or the opposite: that in finding her identity, she found love.</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/226#comments Response 7 Tue, 01 Apr 2008 04:31:07 +0000 dragongrrl 226 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 un-gendering pronouns http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/191 <p>(Note: when writing "employer," I did want to have the subscript 1 [I hope someone talks about this] but it didn't copy over to the blog and I don't know if/what html coding would do this.)</p> <p>As we started to discuss on Monday, one of the most intriguing and often startling things about Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel Delany is the use of "she" as the default pronoun for both male and female humans and nonhumans--collectively "women." The first problem this presents, of course, is confusion for the reader, because the reader does not live in a world where this usage is the same. I was quite confused especially when in the beginning Marq is talking with her (I will attempt to discuss the world in its own terms) employer on Nepiy and calls both her employer and her employer's human friend "she," while they call each other "he" (62). Eventually the reader finds out that "she" refers to anybody, while "he" refers to an object of sexual desire--both regardless of the biological sex of the woman in question. One thing this does is effectively remove cultural gender and renders differences in sex basically meaningless. In doing this, Delany shows how unnecessarily important gender is to our society--the reader constantly wonders about the gender of each individual character mentioned because it is rarely given, and when it is, it is given late in the introduction. Not only does this point out the problematic fascination for identification but it shows that a society can work fairly well without the constant identification we have. Interestingly, the step from modern society to the world(s) in Stars is not unlike the transfer from permanently gendered words in romance languages like Spanish to English which has mostly neutrals. The difference, of course, lies in the language of Marq's society. They use the same gendered pronouns we have today to talk about other women, but their meaning has completely changed. "She" doesn't mean a female woman, "she" means any woman. "He" means a woman to whom the speaker is sexually attracted, not a male woman. "Woman," itself, has replaced the word "person," which is quite helpful in the society in Stars because it can refer to any species, while "person" refers simply to humans.</p> <p>Another effect this new use of pronouns has on the society in Stars is the way sexuality is viewed. Intriguingly, male homosexuality seems the norm, not a deviation, in this society. Whether or not this is true, the appearance of it comes from two places. First, the first-person protagonist, Marq, is a homosexual male woman, so it is discussed in a very natural way. Second, the object one woman's desire is always "he," and therefore male in our eyes, and thus the original woman is considered "he" in the eyes of the other; to the reader, this makes all sexual relations appear to be between male women. There is still, obviously, a variety of sexual preferences in the world of Stars, and (at least on Sygn worlds) sex in general seems a very free idea. No one particularly cares what or how much sex other women have. The argument could be made that by removing gender from the language helps create this general tolerance in the culture of the types of sexual relations that occur. Not only does this blur the lines of homo- and heterosexuality, but the language used in essence removes the reproduction aspect of sex ("sperm and egg," as Marq puts it) and leaves sex simply as a pleasurable act. There are many other techniques this society uses for reproduction, as evidenced by the great variety of genes that make up the members of Marq's family, or stream.</p> <p>A final note about the language usage is something that was briefly mentioned in class but not discussed: Why did Delany pick the female as the neutral, default term? Considering Le Guin's choice of the opposite and the way we often write, this does appear strange. Likely, Delany wanted to point out how neither term, to us, really is neutral--because if they were, why would we complain about using the female as the baseline? It was startling to read a book written this way, and I often found myself replacing "women" with "men" because I'm used to understanding groups of people in terms of the so-called neutral male status. What's even more intriguing to me is something that we discussed Monday night in my neuroscience class that I'm not sure Delany knew: the baseline sex for humans is indeed female. Human fetuses, until about eight weeks old, have two sets of possible genitalia--one of which ends up disappearing, the other of which grows into either male or female sex organs. At about eight weeks, if the fetus is genetically male, the Y-chromosome sparks the growth of male gonads which release testosterone and prompt the growth male genitalia. If it is genetically female or, for some reason, this testosterone release is never initiated, the fetus will become a female baby--whether or not it should be male based on its genes.</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/191#comments Response 6 Tue, 11 Mar 2008 19:30:45 +0000 dragongrrl 191 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 by the way http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/173 <p>Despite the fact that I really enjoyed Lilith's Brood, I'm skipping this reading response. I've just had a lot of writing to do recently...</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/173#comments response 5 Mon, 03 Mar 2008 07:53:12 +0000 dragongrrl 173 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 saving humans http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/155 <p>When we were discussing in class whether or not humans deserved what the Oankali were doing to/for? them, there was something floating in the back of my mind: early on, I think it is Jdayah that tells Lilith about saving her and the others. He says that they rarely interfere with a species' self-destruction because the species usually wants it--but they interefered with the humans because they knew not all of humanity was ready to die. Obviously the first question is how did they know this since they obviously have difficulty understanding people. Second, if humanity actually did want to continue, then what the Oankali are doing is not helpful. They are changing humanity. By creating hybrid children of both the humans and the Oankali, humanity is still being destroyed, in a way. Whether this is better or worse is obviously arguable, but certainly Lilith's child will not be purely human. So my question is, how can the Oankali say what they're doing is saving humanity?</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/155#comments Lilith&#039;s Brood Mon, 25 Feb 2008 21:19:38 +0000 dragongrrl 155 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 duality and war http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/119 <p>Though we discussed all the issues involved in the duality inherent in our culture and language, I don't think we really discussed the issue of duality itself as Ursula Le Guin portrays it in The Left Hand of Darkness. It is true that our fixation with the opposites of male and female make interpreting the world of Gethen difficult; we can't quite comprehend the idea of androgynous humans. But this doesn't mean our refusal to let go of this way of thinking is necessarily bad. We think of many important ideas in this way, not just gender--light/dark, good/evil, black/white, right/wrong, nature/civilization. The point is, however, that in any duality, neither half is better or more important than the other. As Estraven says, " 'It's queer that daylight's not enough. We need the shadows, in order to walk.' " (267) Genly Ai of course points out the yin yang symbol to Estraven, something we as a society often reference.</p> <p>If we consider this further, however, there is another reason thinking in dualities is not inherently a bad thing. Though we specifically name the two ends of the spectrum, we also recognize the area between as having possibility--the "gray" area, both a combination of black and white and between them. Obviously, we have the middle word for the black/white duality, but what's the middle word for the right/wrong or good/evil duality? We don't have one (that I know of--feel free to correct me). We do understand the concept this middle word would describe, however, because there are so many instances in life that cannot be placed at either end of the spectrum. I think Le Guin is in part identifying one middle concept that we haven't really considered, which is why it is so difficult for us to comprehend. Maybe over time there will be a need for a pronoun to describe an "it" in a non-degrading way, but in the novel androgyny is used at least partially to show how our idealistic dual way of thinking applies to the real world. As she says in the introduction, Le Guin is "merely observing" and "describing" (5th pg of intro) the world as it currently exists.</p> <p>On a different train of thought, Le Guin also interestingly critiques nationalism, patriotism, and war. The Gethenians have no word for war, probably a result from rather than a cause behind the fact they have never had a war--just small competitions, though sometimes equally fatal. On the subject of patriotism, Estraven asks, "[W]hat is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry?" (211) Of course, it is in order to change this view, in order to bring the nation of Karhide together that Tibe wants to create war with Orgoreyn, though this is difficult without an actual word to describe his intent. "He was after something surer, the sure, quick, and lasting way to make people into a nation: war. . . . The only other means of mobilizing people rapidly and entirely is with a new religion; none was handy; he would make do with war." (103) (Is this also a critique of religion--or at least new religion, which is simply a cult? Must ponder later.) War obviously does create nationalism--Americans never feel more American than when they are banded together against some foreign enemy. I'm not sure, however, why war and religion are the only two options for Tibe. Why he wants war is only more unclear with the interesting observation, "If civilization has an opposite, it is war. Of those two things, you have either one, or the other. Not both." (102) It would follow, then, that if the country waged war, it would be nationalistic but no longer actually a country, just a fighting body. Perhaps it is through the idea that in war we regress to more animalistic, aggressive ways of viewing our enemy. Even more interesting is that Le Guin has provided us with another duality to consider: war and civilization. In this case, is there still a middle ground, as in the other dualities? Once again, interestingly, it seems the Gethenians have the answer: they have both civilization and conflict, but their conflicts are limited to small numbers of people, and most often people within a country, not between countries.</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/119#comments Response 4 Tue, 19 Feb 2008 06:15:29 +0000 dragongrrl 119 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 knowledge is power http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/96 <p>(I have a different edition of the book, so I apologize that the page numbers are off.)</p> <p>In The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood clearly makes the argument that knowledge is crucial to empowering individuals. Certainly, there is a reason education is such a big deal in our society--we believe that knowledge empowers people, makes them better citizens. It is through knowledge, or rather, the denial of it, that the totalitarian regime takes over Gilead. Even the very first steps towards changing the society, if people had known what was happening they might have been more compelled to doing something about it, resisting the new regime. When Offred is denied her bank account and loses her job, neither she nor Luke has any idea why, so the easiest assumption is that it is a simple and quickly fixed mistake.</p> <p>On the other hand, there is the undercurrent that they don't actually want to know what is going on because if they do, they will be compelled to do something about it. There is the subconscious denial of responsibility. "What you don't know won't tempt you, Aunt Lydia used to say. Maybe I don't really want to know what's going on. . . . Maybe I couldn't bear to know." (252) Of course, simply the fact that she is justifying an Aunt's words makes the reader pause a bit. Yes, "The Fall was a fall from innocence to knowledge," (252) but who's to say we aren't better off knowing? Who's to say Eden was perfect? Maybe, in fact, Eden was dystopic rather than utopic. (I'm sure there has been literature about this very idea, but I am not well read so can't name anything.)</p> <p>In any case, the changes made in Gilead seemed rather a Fall themselves (as opposed to a rise, though definitely a return to ignorance)--a fall of democracy, a fall of equality, a fall of freedom of every sort (except freedom *from* certain things). "That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary." (225) I can't imagine anything that would justify suspending the Constitution and yet people knew no better than that it was "temporary" (how temporary?) and knew not how to fight such power. Offred also remembers that "Yesterday was July the fourth, which used to be Independence Day, before they abolished it." (257) The only reason to abolish such a holiday is to say that independence is not good for society, should not be celebrated, should not even be remembered. Perhaps in the later generations of Gilead, when they will not have ever heard of Independence Day, they will not even know the idea of independence. The farther away from knowledge the people become, the easier it is to control them. After all, one cannot miss what one does not know exists.</p> <p>The totalitarian government of Gilead definitely made sure to keep knowledge away from the majority of its citizens. The women are not allowed to read or write--all signs are comprised of symbols--books and magazines were banned and burned, only an elite few know anything about this war that seems to be going on, and real conversations are generally not allowed amongst the handmaids. What is perhaps the most detrimental to Offred's adjustments and coping is this lack of conversation. Humans are a social bunch, and without anyone to connect to, Offred must stay within the too-tight confines of her mind. There are those, of course, with whom she shares opinions of the new regime, such as the original Ofglen--but there, again, knowledge is the main factor. There is almost no way of knowing those who are "true believers" and buy in to all the new rules versus those who are also wishing there was a way to change things.</p> <p>Interestingly, I think this is why the novel can be so frustrating at times. Atwood shows us just what it's like not to know what's going on around you by not explaining the society of Gilead for a long time, and then, in implicit bits and pieces. It's really annoying not knowing, and this helps the reader see more clearly what Offred--as well as the majority of her society--is going through.</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/96#comments Response 3 Wed, 13 Feb 2008 08:20:54 +0000 dragongrrl 96 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 consolidation/extension of mind/body discussion http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/58 <p>As we discussed rather unsatisfactorily, one of the questions raised about Gibson's Neuromancer concerns the relationship between mind and the body. Can one live without the other? Is one monstrous and one glorified? On the one hand, Case is constantly escaping the bounds of "the meat" by entering cyberspace. He obviously prefers the space of the mind than the body that seems to hold him back, keeping him in the tangible world. At the same time, however, when in cyberspace he visualizes a body for the entity that represents his thought. Moreover, Case is unable to delve into cyberspace unless his body is in working order, especially the wiring of his nervous system. His body may be unimportant as a whole, but certain parts of it and the fact that he is alive let his mind escape in the first place.</p> <p>From a different perspective, there are very few "cowboys" like Case in the world, people who actually can hack ("jack") into cyberspace. The majority of the populace is forever stuck in the meat. Whether because of this, in spite of this, or in simple unacknowledgement of the possibility of mental escape (at least through cyberspace; obviously drugs can provide some escape), people modify their bodies. Most often it is for reasons of beauty, almost agreeing with Case that the body is an ugly annoyance that needs to be perfected, or opposing him because the body is glorious and must be enhanced and celebrated. Interestingly, Molly makes modifications for more utilitarian reasons; indeed, Molly is something of an anomaly.</p> <p>"Renting the goods, is all. You aren't in [your body], when it's all happening." (147) The only time Molly's mind is outside her body is when she is a prostitute, a "puppet" (an apt name). What this means as far as the significance of the mind and the body is unclear. Her body provides pleasure for others, but pleasure can be derived by less physical means as well. She is disconnected from her body at this time, suggesting that the deeds her body does are too ugly for her mind, that her mind is above prostitution in some way though her body isn't. Of course, her mind agreed to sell her body in the first place, so this can't exactly be true. Finally, her mind didn't travel to cyberspace or any place equivalent; it seems her mind basically "slept" until the sex was over. Also, after leaving prostitution, she now makes a living selling her body in another way, as a bodyguard. Through Molly, we definitely see the body as more valuable than the mind.</p> <p>While Molly and Case are somewhere in the middle, at the ends of the spectrum between mind and body are the AI and Armitage. The AI is purely mind, and while this presents many advantages, it also means the AI can't move things in the physical world, which is why he needs Molly and Case. Moreover, the AI is in no way human, just a thinking machine. At the other end lies Armitage, basically a body without a mind. The AI has given Armitage/Corto something of a mind to keep him stable for a time, but there's nothing really there behind the blank blue eyes, as Case often notes uncomfortably. In this way, Armitage appears inhuman, or at least less than human.</p> <p>This brings to mind (somewhat tangentially) a thought-provoking line in Neuromancer: "Case had always taken it for granted that the real bosses, the kingpins in a given industry, would be both more and less than people." (203) There is something in the job title that requires the "real bosses" to be different somehow than the average human being. Certainly in Case's case (what kind of a name is "Case", anyway?) the real boss is anything but a person. The AI controls the whole team. This suggests that humans are not capable of actually holding power, that machines are better suited to it--kind of a scary thought.</p> <p>But back to the relationship between mind and body: I think that whether the novel elevates the mind over the body or the other way around, it proves that both are necessary components to being human. There's a reason for the phrase "mind, body, and soul"--we really aren't human if we lack one of these, like the AI or Armitage (the soul is another matter worth exploring, but not, perhaps, alongside Neuromancer). No matter how much Case may crave the freedom of his mind, he needs "the meat" if he wants to stay human. The meat is a part of who he is.</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/58#comments Response 2 Wed, 06 Feb 2008 04:25:50 +0000 dragongrrl 58 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 a couple things of interest http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/57 <p>first of all, did anybody else notice that the color pink seemed to pop up everywhere in Neuromancer? is this supposed to symbolize something?</p> <p>second, i was very intrigued to realize that the band Straylight Run got their name from this book. i didn't realize they were nerds.</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/57#comments interesting Wed, 06 Feb 2008 03:46:23 +0000 dragongrrl 57 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 Choice: Always a Hot Issue http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/25 <p>Of the many things we discussed in class, there was one topic that intrigued me the most--perhaps because it was only briefly touched upon. Someone mentioned the apparent paradox that the enemy Bug society is pure communism and yet the human society considers that system ideal. Certainly it is intriguing that the M.I. are fighting against a system they have bought into. Consider the fact that people are only "legal residents" until they have served at least two years in the Federal Service, following their government's plans and putting the good of the nation before personal gain and safety. Only when they have overcome their individualism can they be a true citizen and thus gain the right to vote. The simple idea behind this is, of course, communism; each part must work to better the whole. Their society rewards the choice to follow communist ideals because they well know that communism makes a nation amazingly strong when it must fight. Of course, this is why it is so difficult to defeat the purely communist Bugs. The question is, if the human society considers communism ideal, what differentiates them from the Bugs? Are they not just as bad (or good, as the subjective analysis may read)?</p> <p>Interestingly enough, the difference is the choice, the completely voluntary decision to join the Federal Service. I say interestingly because choice is an individualistic ideal, while giving an affirmative to the choice presented will result in a dissolution of the self into simply a part of the whole. At the same time, this paradoxical nature of the choice maintains the importance of the individual, an idea that has always been valued in American culture and the belief that differentiates the humans from the Bugs. Indeed, the humans' government as a whole appears rather human itself; it understands that the best option is to have a communist system when it comes to fighting a war, but at the same time, it wants its people to realize this on their own because they will make stronger, more passionate fighters. As humans, we naturally want something much more if we have chosen it (or believe the illusion that we have) than if we have been forced upon it.</p> <p>I do have one question, however. Is the choice truly voluntary? It appears to be so, but the society definitely pushes its residents toward the "right decision." Veterans can vote, usually hold better jobs, and appear to live more fulfilling lives. Also, at least in Juan's case, the conviction to join seems only to grow when authority figures question the certainty of the decision. Undoubtedly, there is at least a subconscious push toward joining the Federal Service. Perhaps that is why, as I believe Mr. Dubois mentions, there are too many unskilled or militarily incompetent people for whom random jobs must be created.</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/25#comments Response 1 Starship Troopers Wed, 30 Jan 2008 00:52:54 +0000 dragongrrl 25 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008 testing http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/5 <p>just making sure i'm internet-capable</p> http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008/node/5#comments test Sun, 27 Jan 2008 01:37:14 +0000 dragongrrl 5 at http://machines.kfitz.info/55-2008