Things I Think

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House of the Scorpion

Posted in Science Fiction, Young Adult Lit on November 30, 2011 by catho89

While The House of the Scorpion is not quite as hardcore as the scifi we’ve been thrust into this semester, the novel does deal with some of the common themes we have been discussing this semester. What first came to mind was agency; who has it, and who doesn’t.

The most obvious characters that deal with agency are the eejits; “a person or animal with an implant in its head” (82). Captured and used as slaves in the Opium fields, these men and women have zero agency. They are glassy-eyed zombies that feel “neither cold nor heat nor thirst nor loneliness” (197). If they are to do anything-drink, eat, sleep-they must be commanded to do so. Farmer uses the eejits as a classic trope to demonstrate the imbalance of power in the world she has created. To an adult reader, and hopefully a young adult reader as well, it is clear that we have to sympathize with the powerless eejits.

However Farmer brings up a common counterpoint. “What is suffering but an awareness of suffering?” With a brain implant to cut off emotions and sensations, “eejits toiled with the steady devotion of worker bees. As far as anyone could tell, they were not unhappy. So could anyone say they were being mistreated?” (197). The concept of awareness being directly tied to the eejits humanity reminds me of a lot of the novels we have been discussing, specifically We3. Just because the animals, or in this case the eejits, lack agency and an awareness of their humanity does not mean it gives those with the agency the right to manipulate and enslave them. Our own humanity must rise to the surface and do what is right.

And that right there is a damn good message for an 11 year old. By introducing this kind of concept to a young adult audience, Farmer gives kids the tools to tackle some of the more complex concepts in The House of the Scorpion. Is Matt an equal to a human? What qualifies someone as human? These are concepts even I struggle with in some science fiction and I think Farmer does an impressive job introducing them to her audience.

Blindsight, from a new POV

Posted in Science Fiction, Uncategorized on November 22, 2011 by catho89

“Looks good,” I said. “I’m going in.”

It’s my job to go first. It’s my job to lead the troops when no one else will. Or when no one else can.

I followed the grunts down the corridors of Rorschach for the first time. The walls shined with a creeping blackness I could not put my finger on. Just the mind playing tricks, I thought. Keep it together.

“Perimeter:checked…come on….down…”

I felt…odd. Again, unable to put my finger on it, I brushed off my creeping feelings. Can’t let the troops see me weak. I had to stay strong.

“Not so fast,” Szpindel said. “How are you feeling?”

How was I feeling? I didn’t know. I don’t even think I could tell you now. It was like there was a non-existent shadow, creeping behind me. My senses told me there was something there. But every time I turned in defense, there was nothing. What is this place? What have we gotten ourselves into?

“Fine. A bit-odd…”

“Odd how?” replied Szpindel.

What was it? Physically I felt fine, aside from my heart beating out of my chest from the adrenaline. That was even good. No radiation poisoning yet. But, I don’t know. There was definitely something. I could feel it. Behind me. Or, or…next to me. I don’t know.

“Mild disorientation,” I said. “Just a little spooky. Nothing too bad. Everyone get down here.”

The race was on. It was my team against the clock and I sure as shit wasn’t going to let this go bad. Not on my watch. Get it done and get out.



The team looked terrified. Constantly looking over their shoulders for make believe phantoms. The Grey syndrome was fucking with us. But that is all it was. It’s just an illusion. I heard a whisper. Just an illusion, Amanda. It called my name. Impossible.

Tesla and sieverts surged across my HUD. “Another spike. Get ready.”

No one was ready. How could they be.

“The’re beautiful…” James said. Her face was in awe.

“What? Where?” I spun around, keeping my senses as sharp as possible. There was nothing. What was she-

“I’m blind,” breathed Szpindel.

“Shit.” My team was falling apart. Think. Think. Think. Was it the radiation? Too soon. Two members down. Retreat. I yelled to Keeton, who was still somewhat responsive. We had to get Szpindel out.

“No!” Szpindel yelled. “Throw me something!”

I reached for the spare battery on my belt and lobbed it toward Szpindel. He swatted toward it, only just missing it. He’d be okay. But only if I got everyone into the tent.

“Everyone inside!” Keeton. Check. Szpindel. Check. James. Che-

Where is she.

“Get it off of me!” Cruncher was screaming behind me, tumbling and grasping its leg. The Gang thought the leg was dead and tugged at it to remove it from the body. Keeton and I had to act fast before Susan hurt herself. We grabbed the Gang and wrestled our way to the tent. James. Check. Keeton. Check. My troops were safe. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had done my job. Misson com-


Blackness. There was nothing. I was nothing. Not dead. Just. Not there. Nowhere. Weightless drifting. Who am I? Who. Am. I. I? I? There is no I. Only blackness. Nothing. Nowhere.


This is the scene where the team first goes into Rorschach, lead by Amanda Bates. I chose this scene because it was a pivotal, climactic point where the team makes alien “contact” for the first time. I wanted to take Amanda’s voice and exaggerate her militaristic point of view, illustrating how she tries to take command. But I also wanted to show that as much as she tries, she is still helpless inside Rorschach. While I was writing, I noticed that the same scene, written from both character’s points of view, is still emotionally distant. For Keeton, he is the outside observer, constantly taking metal notes, staying as uninvolved as possible. For Amanda, going into Rorschach is a job. It’s her duty. Equally jaded, both characters seem cold to me, indifferent to their emotions. Even their fear seems hushed.





Posted in Science Fiction on November 14, 2011 by catho89

I am finding it very difficult to pick a single sentence, being as there are so many good ones to choose from. I haven’t even finished the novel yet; I can’t imagine what the next 80 pages contains.

But, going through, I have settled on this:

“Human nature was becoming an assembly-line edit, Humanity itself increasingly relegated from production to product” (163).

This idea evokes a lot of imagery for me. I imagine “humans” on a conveyor belt like toy dolls, having their standard personalities, skills, and physical features installed by machines that don’t even have the intelligence to know what they are creating. And the very notion that human nature could be produced on an assembly line is so alien to me it’s disturbing. This brings up some of the essential questions that Blindsight dabbles in: What does it mean to be human? How do we define our identities?

Born on an assembly line, and put together piece by piece, are we still human? Biologically we may be the same from the inside out, but biology does not account for our nature and our humanity. But what does? Is it our collective memories and our upbringing? Our instincts? Each of these factors combined creates an identity distinctly you. However with technology on the cutting edge in Blindsight, if we are unhappy with these factors, we can go back and edit our nature; change the past. With the option to change the factors that made you innately you, I don;t believe your identity is yours any longer.

What frightens me most however, is the idea that even if we are assembled rather than born, how would we know the difference? Would there be a difference? Theoretically, if our biology is the same and we are pushed out into the world from the production line, couldn’t we develop the same way?

I find I have more questions than answers.

Brooding Lilith

Posted in Science Fiction on November 2, 2011 by catho89

Since I have to write this before I go to work today and there hasn’t been a topic posted yet, I am choosing to write a response letter from Akin to Lilith, after he has been captured.

Dear Lilith,

I miss you very much. I have been captured for over a month, and I would like to come home now. These humans are cruel, weak willed, and angry beyond repair. When I was first captured, the men were barbaric. They grabbed me like livestock and treated me worse. It was as if they had never seen a child before. They ignored me, cursed me, laughed at me. It was incredibly lonely. I longed for your taste. I even miss the way you would stalk away into the forest for no apparent reason. At least that was familiar.

I am now in the village Pheonix, living with Gabe and Tate. They are taking me somewhere, a salvage site so I won’t be found. They know you, but I am forbidden to speak of you in front of anyone. These humans live in fear and anger. They are angry at the Oankali, you, and the other humans who betrayed them. But they are going to take it out on me if I am not careful. They will direct their pain at me because they have been kept from having children of their own. Why are we forcing them to live hopeless lives? Can’t we allow them to have children? The humans need to stay alive. What if the Dinso and Toaht union fails? I know they had their chance, and they tried to destroy themselves. But do we have the right to interfere?

Please come find me. I am only just beginning to understand the humans, and I am afraid. If you leave me here, I may end up being tortured or killed. I just want to be with my people, and my sister before it is too late.




Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Posted in Science Fiction on October 24, 2011 by catho89

What makes us human?

I believe our humanity is in our strengths, and the virtues of our character. But it is also in our weaknesses. But what if we no longer have the same weaknesses? What if what once killed us, no longer effects us. We’re still humans, just different. Right?

I have been thinking over what I consider most alien about Lilith’s new world. It’s not the aliens, with their grotesque features; they have more human qualities than some sci-fi aliens. It’s not the living ship, nor the new world Lilith lives in. For me, Lilith becomes increasingly alien as the Oankali improve her throughout the novel.

Cursed with a hereditary “talent” for cancer, Lilith develops cancer while she is asleep. But “correcting genes have been inserted into [her] cells, and [her] cells have accepted and replicated them. Now [she] won’t grow cancers by accident” (31). Not only do the Oankali remove her cancer, but they have improved Lilith’s body so she is no longer threatened by a cancerous death. Her immune system has been strengthened, and she can resist many diseases (32). The Oankali even make alterations in her brain chemistry so “[she] can reach [her] memories as she need[s] them” (75).  This helps Lilith access her memories like the Oankali, and learn more efficiently.

The Oankali take away the threat of disease, and give Lilith a higher intelligence that she doesn’t have to earn through typical learning standards. By tampering with the human body and correcting what they believe needs fixing, the Oankali take away some of Lilith’s most human qualities. However, these corrections are considered improvements, so it is difficult to perceive these changes as wrong. And just because she has been changed, she is still Lilith. Should we consider her more alien, even though she is still Lilith? Is she still Lilith with her new abilities?


We3, Underneath the Armor

Posted in Graphic Novels on October 19, 2011 by catho89

Firstly, wow. I have never struggled so much to read a graphic novel before. Turning each page pained me more and more as I grew emotionally attached to the animals. I gave my dog many treats after finishing the story. He was pleased. Anyway…

One of the first moments that struck me was the first up close and personal encounter with We3 on page 15, I believe (my version does not have page numbers). After We3 pull through with a successful assassination, and they are back in the USAF Experimental Area, they are in a room with scientists and technicians,  hooked up to many different wires and such. The top panel is a long shot, putting visual distance between the reader and We3. At this point we can only see the body armor shells, seemingly inanimate, unaware of what is inside.

The next two panels are closeup shots from man’s point of view. Specifically, from the men working on We3. The panel that impacted me most is the panel where we can see the reflection of the men in 1’s helmet.  Before we can see what is underneath the helmet, we can see what, or who is responsible. The reflection clearly shows who is pulling the puppet strings of these weapons. The next panel is the last image before we see underneath the armor. The armored shells are slick, shiny, and lifeless, providing a visual contrast to what lies beneath the armor.

The final panel is an image of We3 without their helmets. This is the first visual encounter with the faces of the animals. Each animal looks off into the distance, not with a look of vacancy, but unawareness. This one large panel is also framed with smaller panels, or security screens that show close-up shots of each animal’s eyes. Through their eyes it becomes clear that while they might be enhanced weapons, they cannot grasp what they have become. Their eyes relate their innocence and their humane qualities, evoking the sympathy of the readers.

As a bit of a side note, the use of eyes to provoke sympathy can also be seen in the aliens in District 9. This demonstrates that familiar animals are not the only creatures that can evoke sympathy with their eyes. As long as there is a display of humane qualities expressed through the eyes, the creatures will always have the sympathy of this viewer.


Neuromancer, not to be confused with Necromancer

Posted in Neuromancer on September 26, 2011 by catho89

Talk about plunging feet first into a new world.

From the very beginning, William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer forces us to take cognitive leaps and bounds with our understanding. By giving us no option but to blindly trust his words (especially the ones we don’t understand), we are submerged deep into Gibson’s cyber world.

As I began to read Neuromancer, it was obvious that the pages were saturated with words beyond my understanding. Not only with Japanese words like “gaijin” or “Yakuza”, which are literally beyond my understanding because they are in another language, but with words like “sprawl”,”dermatrodes”,and “simstim”. Gibson uses a technological language far beyond his own time, but even as a modern reader, I consistently find I don’t understand most words he uses. However, through repetition, my understanding of these words becomes more concrete.

But then, as soon as I start to think I am understanding Gibson’s world, he throws you entire sentences, or even paragraphs as curve balls.

“And flowed, flowered for him, fluid neon origami trick, the unfolding of his distanceless home, his country, transparent 3D chessboard extending to infinity. Inner eye opening to the stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority burning beyond the green cubes of Mitsubishi Bank of America, and high and very far away he saw the spiral arm of military systems, forever beyond his reach” (53).


“The gate blurred past. He laughed. The Sense/Net had accepted his entry as a routine transfer from the consortium’s Los Angeles complex. He was inside. Behind him, viral subprograms peeled off, meshing with the gate’s code fabric, ready to deflect the real Los Angeles data when it arrived” (60).

These are just a few of many excerpts that leave me more than a little puzzled, because the world I am trying to understand is so abstract. This is Gibson’s concept of cyberspace and the internet before they had even been established. Gibson deals with the theoretical world of cyberspace, and we are seeing it from his point of view, which may be one of the most difficult concepts for a modern reader. Is it more complicated to adapt my own predefined view of cyberspace, or to conceptualize Gibson’s vision without familiarity?


It’s the end of the world as we know it

Posted in WEB DuBois on September 21, 2011 by catho89

Whoisbenconner‘s idea about the breaking of social barriers brought me to the scene when Jim and Julia meet for the first time, and made me consider their contrasting point’s of view of one another.

“He heard a sharp cry, and saw a living form leaning wildly out an upper window. He gasped. The human voice sounded in his ears like the voice of God” (259). Jim’s initial reaction to hearing Julia’s voice has nothing to do with her sex or her race. Her “human voice” rang like ” the voice of God.” Unencumbered by the social norms of the society he operates within, Jim’s humanity shines through when he hears another human being in need.

However, Julia’s reaction to Jim is more along the lines of what I expected.

“They stared a moment in silence. She has not noticed before that he was a Negro. He had not thought of her as white…Yesterday he thought with bitterness, she would scarcely look at him twice. He would have been dirt beneath her silken feet. She stared at him. Of all the sorts of men she pictured as coming to her rescue she had not dreamed of one like him. Not that he was not human, but he dwelt in a world so far from hers, so infinitely far, that he seldom even entered her thought” (259). Unlike Jim, Julia’s “stare”  immediately notices Jim’s race. And even though she recognizes that he is human, like herself, she can barely acknowledge his existence because “he seldom even entered her thought.”

This brings me to my question: Which is worse, to be regarded as less human because of the color of your skin, or to be so undervalued as another human being that others won’t even acknowledge your existence?


Feminism, Frankenstein, Foccacia

Posted in Frankenstein on September 13, 2011 by catho89

With bread in the oven, I have started thinking about Frankenstein and his own, unnatural bun in the oven. I have been considering the role of the female and how it pertains to nature in the novel, and how Frankenstein himself takes away a woman’s natural power to give life.

As Frankenstein “pursues nature to her hiding place” (36), Shelley personifies nature as a female entity. Frankenstein aggressively chases her down and usurps her natural, biological powers in pursuit of the gift of life. Frankenstein believes “a new species would bless [him] as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to [him]” (36).  Frankenstein is deeming himself the creator and the source of life, dismissing the primary biological role of women and creating an unnatural life from death. Arrogantly,  he does not even stop to consider the responsibilities of bringing life into the world. Frankenstein boldly goes where no man physically can go, or ethically should go.

Immediately after creating his creature, Frankenstein is filled with regret and remorse, and abandons his child. The very thought of the monster causes him to “gnash [his] teeth…and [he] ardently wished to extinguish the life which [he] had so thoughtlessly bestowed” (71). Even the monster knows that he is “the miserable and the abandoned…an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on” (189). Unwilling to take responsibility for his creation, Frankenstein rejects the power he wrongfully took.

I’m having a hard time wrapping this up in some succinct point that Shelley is trying to make. I guess it is as simple as man should not tamper with or take the place of nature if we are unable to bare the responsibilities or the consequences. I guess that is the point she is trying to make…

What do you think?


Just like Mary Shelley, Just like Frankenstein…

Posted in Frankenstein on September 6, 2011 by catho89

Clank your chains and count your change

Try to walk the line

Hunter and Garcia

Now that that is out of my system…

When I first read Frankenstein in high school, I considered Shelley’s view of science as very black and white, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong. However with a few years under my belt, and the vast wisdom of a 21 year old,  I see the gray area. Rather than the unquestionable horrors of technology, and the depravity of science, I feel the unease, and perhaps the wariness that Shelley feels. Especially in the cases of Frankenstein and Walton, who put so much trust in discovery and knowledge without considering the consequences, it is understandable that we should be skeptical.

“What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle…” (Shelley, 6).

This light, or rather, this knowledge, can either be enlightening or blinding (see what I did there?), and Walton and Frankenstein walk this fine line. They push the boundaries of what is possible, risking the safety of themselves and those around them. For Frankenstein, “life and death appear…ideal bounds, which [he] should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world” (36). His desire to shed light upon seemingly dark places goes unchecked, leading to tragic ends. So its not the science itself that is wrong, it is man’s lack of caution and judgment to do what is right.

Frankenstein and Walton must find the balance between their thirsts for discovery and glory, and the limits of life and death. And as an audience, we must “learn from [Frankenstein]…how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow” (35).

But, “how many things are we upon the brink of being acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquires?” (33). Where do we draw the line?

And now it’s time to make some cookies!