Things I Think

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Archive for October, 2011

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.