Monday, November 24, 2014

Week Fourteen: Writing Assignment

Sadly this class is coming to a close, but I'd like to think it goes out like a bang. Just like Earth in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. For the final week, the assignment was the listen to the radio version of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. At first I was really skeptical. I am a very visual person, so radio plays seem to really freak me out. It's really sad because it's almost impossible for me to focus on just talking. When I am listening to something my mind will wander and I'll lose my focus and then I'll hone back into the radio cast after a while, but I'll have lost my place and will have ended up very confused because of it. It takes me forever to get through something because I'll have to rewind and replay a certain section a thousand times to understand it. When I am watching television, if I don't catch something I at least have visual clues to fall back on to understand what was said. And even then I don't trust myself, and when available I always have subtitles on so I can listen, read, and view what is happening. I like reading or at least reading along better because I can "pause" it and come back to it. And I was excited to see a radio script listened under the resource page, but it seemed to just lead to a version of the book, which was nice in it's own right, but it didn't match up with the radio cast so it was useless in this case. 
After about forty minutes I was able to get the hang of it and listen into it just a little bit better. I really liked the intro and outro to the different sections of the show. I can imagine that this radio cast was played episodically on different radio stations across the country. I was somehow surprised that it played for 20 to 25 minute intervals. I guess I forget that a normal consumer wouldn't sit in front of their radio for three plus hours to listen to a radio version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The only thing that I could never seem to grasp was when the different voice actors were talking. Arthur and Ford's voices were too similar that I would lose track of which one was speaking and then end up confused after the end of a piece of dialogue.
It was also really nice to see this work in another light. I have read most of this book and seen the movie many times. They all tell the story a bit different by they weave themselves together really nicely to create this small universe that just revolves around Adams' writings. There were things that enriched both the viewing and reading of the novel. It's like the trifecta of senses that when appreciated together just heighten the consumer's love for the work. When you read, everything is stuck up in your mind. You are able to imagine things very well, but you can only read in your voice. Everything starts to take on bits of your character and you imagine things only within the breadth of your normal aesthetic. When you watch a movie, everything is done for you. There is not a lot for you to imagine up on your own. But, a radio play allows you to imagine everything with the help on an audio track. Everything is supplied for you, you just have to lay back and imagine the gross Vogons.
All in all, it was very pleasant. I enjoyed the voice and the folly acting was very good. It was nice to experience a novel in a not so typical way. 

Week Thirteen: Writing Assignment

As this course comes to a close, we start exploring speculative fiction. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood is a perfect example of this not-genre genre. Speculative fiction is not bound by a singular genre, instead it pulls and shares from many aspects of other fiction. In this particular case, Oryx and Crake shares many of its elements with science fiction. Atwood herself even addresses the fact that even though a lot of Oryx and Crake shares science fiction attributes, Atwood says it's speculative fiction because this novel hasn't addressed "anything that wasn't been produced at the time." It's seems like we've stumbled upon a similar problem that we faced during Cyberpunk. Although Neuromancer was very indicative of that genre, it didn't reveal anything that wasn't already being explored in real time. All of the technologies in Oryx and Crake, the genetic modifications, the organ farming, etc. are all being developed now. However, not being pigeonholed into a genre is sometimes a really good time. 
Genre is a very important distinction. However, genre can sometimes turn off a reader who has had a bad experience with that category before. The way you experience a novel can be highly affected by what genre it's in. Therefore, when you read something without putting it into a genre, you can read it for what it is. The reader isn't necessarily hung up on whether or not they are reading science fiction or fantasy. Because of this they are more free to pay attention to what is happening on the pages. When we read a book in class under a specific genre, I already assume something about the work before I begin to read it. Especially when it's a genre that I don't necessarily care for. All that is going through my mind is that I am not looking forward to reading the space opera book. Without a specific distinction of what I am getting into, I can potentially like the story better. And in this case, I did. I began to really read the story and I got into it.

Week Twelve: Writing Assignment

Majoritarian culture is defined as a culture resulting from the influence majority. Unfortunately, it doesn't always mean the majority. Societal concepts define what majorities and minorities are, especially when it's considering race. Therefore, there tends to be an overarching lack of minority voice in majoritarian culture because of majority overshadowing. Thankfully, we got mostly a nice reprieve this week while reading Dawn by Octavia Butler. This book begins by introducing us to the main character, Lilith, isolated in a room for what seems like years on end. We find out that after nuclear fallout, Earth as we know it has been destroyed and the remaining human race has been "collected" by an alien race called the Oankali. Lilith has been chosen to teach and integrate the remaining humans back into their new surroundings on the Oankali space craft. Lilith lives with an Oankali family for a while and learn about their culture and finds out why they've brought humans onto the ship. The Oankali seem to be gelatinous, humanoid creatures covered in thousands of small flagella like tentacles. Although humanoid, their appearance takes Lilith quite some time to get used to so they seal Lilith in with the people she is going to usher into their new life so as not to cause a revolt. The Oankali's end goal is to mix genes with humans and repopulate an earth with an Oankali-Human hybrid.
In Dawn, Lilith is a strong and confident woman. She is entrusted with the Oankali's plans and they believe that she is the best candidate to lead the humans into a new future. She is also black. Sadly, it's not often that we see a strong, black character represented in today's media. Society is slowly getting better about race representation in books, television, and movies but it's really far too slow. 
Conversely, this book does tend to package everything as far as gender relations and sexuality under the same guise as the majoritarian culture today. The book really does categorize everything as male and female. Even those the Oankali have a third gender called the ooloi, why would an alien race be male or female anyways? It's just seems a little gender normative for something that is literally not from this world. Especially with how they gene trade. I feel like over time they would have evolved into something completely different. And how do they even fit in those roles? The Oankali don't really have sex organs so how does one distinguish male from female. Also, once the humans are together along with Lilith in the "desensitizing" room, they begin to "pair" off together. One man and one woman immediately begin shacking up in the area. After nuclear war and as many years as humans seems to have existed on the Oankali ship, it's hard to believe that all of the humans that they recused were straight. 
So, although this book breaks some majoritarian values, it still aligns itself with other ones. All in all, it was an interesting book, but that I am not likely to come back to again.

Week Eleven: Writing Assignment

This week is all about Cyberpunk. For this genre I decided to explore Neuromancer by William Gibson. I'd heard a lot about this title in the past and decided to give it a try. Cyberpunk is a genre that deals almost exclusively in virtual, and augmented realities. Neuromancer is no different. It follows Henry Case slumming it in Japan. At one point he was a talented computer hacker, but he ruined it all by stealing from the client. To punish him, the client poisoned him with a specific toxin that damaged his nerves and halted him from ever entering cyberspace again. He is offered a job working with an ex-military man and a street mercenary. They repair the damage done to him so he can ride the waves of cyberspace once again. As Case and the mercenary Molly hack through their new jobs, it leads them to the family of Tessier-Ashpool family and the A.I. Neuromancer.
Cyberpunk, although really cool, is somehow really behind today's reality. Cyberpunk does not age well. In Neuromancer, everything is about the matrix, some sort of cybernetic space way where one can enter and become "one" with the code. It's a little too unbelievable and relies heavily upon the same outdated framework that Tron does, for example. Everything that Case and Molly are doing in the novel has already kind of been caught up with. Basic smart phones can do almost everything that our protagonists are doing. The things they are describing in Neuromancer are here today or at the very least in the not so distant future. The biggest reality bender in Neuromancer was called the simstim. It allowed Case to experience not just an imagined virtual reality, but the reality of someone else. Case used the simstim to experience Molly's reality. However, we already have brain-to-brain connections being worked on today. These reality-bending technologies are here now. And although they seem monumental and crazy sounding in the novel, everything seems to be leading up to it in real life. It's possible that because we are living in such a technologically advanced era that what fits in this novel doesn't seem all that surprising. The familiar landscapes are not that far-fetched. I think everything in this book might mean just so much more if I had read it maybe ten or even five years earlier. The real and virtual are just getting increasingly closer each and every day. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Aquatic Uncle

1. Are these any prominent symbols in this story?

The Aquatic Uncle does not use symbols. If anything, it uses allegories to add depth to the work. There are many qualities in this story that the reader can find in their own life. The Uncle could represent the old curmudgeon who is set in their ways. Although the world is moving around them, they won't "evolve". Also, in the end of this story, it is implied that although others can be "better" than you, it is better to be yourself. Qfwfq watched as others become something else and developed qualities superior to himself, but he "wouldn't have traded places with any of them."

2. What connections did you make with the story?

To be honest, there were not a lot of elements in this story that I could connect to. Fortunately, I have never been in a relationship where my significant other runs away with a very old relative of mine. This story isn't really about finding yourself and it's not about coming away from a situation better than you started. The main character didn't really learn anything from this experience and as the world continued to move, he didn't seem to better himself. If I were to stretch, I guess I could connect with being embarrassed of your elders, sometimes. Qfwfq felt the need to apologize about his uncles actions and sometimes I feel the need to do that to. But what is family if they are not embarrassing sometimes? But, other than that there were not very many parallels that I could find.

3. What changes would you make to adapt it to another medium?

In order to adapt this story to another medium, you'd have to take into account which medium it would be applied to. If it were to be a movie, the "script" would have to be beefed up and it would have to be more spectacular, probably with a lot of emphasis on the evolution from sea to land. There would be a lot of romance between the two main characters with the ultimate climax of her leaving happening with only thirty minutes to spare. There would probably be explosions. Conversely, if it was a T.V. show it would be segmented more. Each part would be a different episode. Qfwfq introduced, back story on how his family evolved would just be episode 1. Episodes 2 to 9 would be about him finding himself and loving Lll. Episodes 10 to 12 would be him introducing her to his Uncle and Episode 13 would be her leaving. There would be cliffhangers, there would be betrayal, and it would come with an amazing opening sequence. But for either medium, there would have to be more intrigue and more drama. Qfwfq and Lll would have to fight about her going back to water and Qfwfq would have to be devastated. There would have to be some coming of age moral and other classic tropes that consumers heavily rely on.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Week Ten: Writing Assignment

For this week, we are learning about Psci-fi. I read Accelerando by Charles Stross. It tells the story of the different generations of a family all connected by a specific technological point. In the beginning we follow Manfred Macx. He's in Amsterdam when he receives a phone call from some very distressed lobsters. The government has begun to upload lobster consciousness into the web. He then teams them up with an old colleague to try and fight for their artificial intelligence. As all of this is going on, his controlling ex-wife forces him to get back with her and they have a daughter together. A little while later, he is mugged and his memories are stolen. He is than forced to rediscover who he is. At this point my reading petered out and I wasn't able to continue. 
This book reads like 1984 with too many scientific descriptions that I really couldn't keep up.
However, I'm sensing that I'm supposed to be confused, somehow caught up in all of the jargon makes it easier to overwhelm me and push the technology down my throat somehow easier to change everything without me noticing because I am still three steps behind trying to figure out what "nanolithography" means.
Also, the realities that were shown in this book don't seem very far off from the future. It seems like the primary technologies that the book keeps referring to are metacortices and exocortices. Apparently, an exocortex is something that humans use to make themselves smarter, like a computer or the glasses that all of the people wore, or the A.I.s. A metacortex is a "superior brain" made from combining something else, so technically what the government was attempting to do with the lobsters. The exocortices are something we are living with today. Smart phones, google glass, etc. Metacortices are something that I haven't heard of yet, but that doesn't mean it doesn't loom on the horizon, especially with the cloud.
All of the technology mentioned in the book makes you think about your own reality. What we are doing and how it could all potentially go wrong. Books like this always seem like a cautionary tale about artificial intelligence. In some way or another is always surpasses human intelligence. And when you think about it, it seems like a no-brainer. How smart is a computer? Way smarter than me, for starters.

Week Nine: Writing Assignment

To be honest, I was expecting this book to be awful. The cover art is jarring and completely off putting. But once I started to read it it really wasn't that awful. It was a quick read and it was fairly enjoyable.
This book is about a young rabbit named David. His father is an engineer on a spaceship and suddenly calls David into work one day. He requests David's help as an invading starship is threatening their planet. Just as their starship takes off, the encroaching invaders destroy their home planet and leave nothing behind. They then fight for their lives and unfortunately no one survives but David and two of the royal family aboard the ship. They are rescued and the King is so thankful to David that he declares him a free bunny, just as he passes away from injuries sustained in the crash. The rescuers then attempt to set a course for safety when they are halted by another invading ship. David and the crew are then set into a battle to fight for home.
I didn't mind this book. All in all, I just wish that it had taken more time to introduce the characters in the beginning, because I felt like I was just thrown in. It read more like a fanfiction. It really read like I was already supposed to know everything about this universe, and because of that it was all a little confusing. And somethings just got more confusing. Like why are there anthropomorphic rabbits? And why are they slaves? I think at one point there was a dog mentioned? Are there anthropomorphic dogs thrown in with the rabbits? Are there just a bunch of talking animals running around in this universe? And the youngest lord boy said that his family had invented them? How? Why? None of this is answered and it's odd, but I had read Watership Down so it did at least seem a little familiar in the rabbit respect. 
Also, it ended abruptly. There is a second book and I would also like to read that one to put this one in a little more context. It felt as if the author had a set page limit and he had too much stuff to try and fit into the pages and he just didn't have enough space. Overall, I have a feeling that I am going to forget about this book actually existing but still remember passages and imagery about this and wonder if it was all a weird fever dream.