Things I Think

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Archive for November, 2011

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.