Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Michelle's New Guide to Life

     Okay, so, maybe not my new guide to life, but definitely on my list of favorite books of all times. I'm talking about, of course, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I had actually started the book at the beginning of the school year, but quickly found that I had no time to finish it. That's why I was exptremely pleased to learn that there is a radio drama version of it. Needless to say, I could be found doing my work in class and chuckling often to myself(I think others thought I was crazy). It was honestly one of the funniest books I've read in a while and I absolutely love Adams' style of humor. It's a sort of dry, ironic humor that I can't get enough of.

     However, if you look beneath the dry wit, you will find a lot of social commentary cleverly hidden within metaphors. Adams discusses everything including religion, politics, and technology.
"This planet has — or rather had — a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much all of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy." In just two sentences, Adams has summed up humanity's greed and the absurdity of it. By stepping back and viewing "the planet" objectively, it is plain to see that it is a never ending vicious cycle.



     Bloodchild was a strange but interesting way to cover feminism, female pregnancy and childbirth. As a process, pregnancy is pretty gruesome. I remember, when my sister was doing her clinical rotations in nursing school, when she was done delivering babies, she told me that she would only adopt. Usually people gloss over the gory details when speaking about this, however, Butler explains how it is(without the flesh eating larva). This story, although science fiction, sticks closely to reality.

     Childbirth is dangerous and can sometimes kill the mother. In order to keep their race alive, the Tlic use Terrans as incubators for their eggs. The interesting point is that Butler used a role reversal, and made the males the preferable carriers. It would be just as interesting to see how men today would react if they were suddenly told that they were the ones to bear children.

     It was refreshing to read a story that brought up such an interesting idea in such a way. Butler managed to convey all the reality of a situation that the female gender has to deal with today, in the scope of an alien race and future. I feel like I should read more short stories that, though they are indeed short, can still invoke the same amount of thought afterward.

Cyber Punk and Steam Punk

     The only thing I really knew about Cyberpunk and Steampunk was the aesthetic. I only saw the people who dressed in that way or the gears and the style depicted as "Steampunk". So, it was really nice to listen in class and learn all of the different trends that go along with cyberpunk as a genre.

     My favorite part was the exploration and definition of the cyberpunk heroine. In class we talked about a girl who is strong and kicks ass. A great example of this is the movie Tank Girl. Rebecca is the heroine with a strong personality. She is loud, independent and ready to fight for what she believes in. She is caught in shootouts, she fights, has her sister abducted and taken prisoner throughout the entire movie. While she was a prisoner, she didn't give in. She manipulates her captors and escapes to find her sister.

     All in all, the cyberpunk heroine is a refreshing change from the damsels in distress. Although she may not be all decked out in that steampunk attire that I mentioned earlier, the cyberpunk heroine is a definite precursor to the strong female leads that we find in mainstream media today.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Aquatic Uncle

1. Are there any prominent symbols in the story? If so, what are they and how are they used?

There are many symbols within this story, but the most prominent ones are the land and the sea. Italo Calvino uses the sea to represent the old way, tradition, stability, and safety. In contrast with this, the land represents a new era, exploration, and innovation. These symbols are used to show the divide between these two ways of thinking and the characters represent all of the people who think differently along this line. For example, the great uncle is greatly entrenched in the old ways, Qfwfq has roots in those ways, but he is trying to move with the times and join the new age, and Lll is greatly entrenched in the new ways, but she wants to join the old age.

2. What connections did you make with the story you read? Discuss the elements of the work with which you were able to connect.

The connection I felt almost immediately is with the way the family treated N'ba N'ga. They dismiss his thinking as old and outdated, however, what he says has great weight because they believe him to be wise. It reminded me very much as to how some families treat their grandparents. They feel as though they should respect and listen to everything they say, even if they happen to be incredibly racist and unyielding to change. I also saw a parallel with Lll returning to the sea, the old ways, and society today. It seems as if the young are always yearning for the past. For example, fashion has returned to 90's. There seems to be a want for a revival for how things were done in the past and it reminds me of Lll diving into the water.

3. What changes would you make to adapt this story into another medium? What medium would you use? What changes would you make.

This story greatly reminded me of fable or a fairy tale. A story that uses symbols to make connections so that these stories remain relevant after so many years. This fable-like tone causes me to immediately want to adapt this story into a children's story. The story, relationships between the characters and Qfwfq's revelation at the end would remain the same, however, there would be a lot less detail. The illustrations would be very colorful and there would be a clear divide between the sea and the land (blue and red). The creatures of the land would all be warm colors and the sea would be cool. As Lll transitions from a land creature to a sea creature, her color would gradually shift to become cool(every time she goes and meets the uncle). I feel like this would create a way to see the rift forming between Lll and Qfwfq without using a lot of dialogue.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Science Fiction as an Examination of Human Culture

     One of the things that intrigues and excites me the most about science fiction is that, as much as it is set in the foreign and unknown future or lands, it usually contains an examination of human culture or social criticism. It is a medium that allows the author to take aspects of society today, and blow them up to an absurd scale. 

     A wonderful TV series that I watched over winter break is a fantastic example of this. It was one of those days where you scroll through Netflix, not really caring what you end up watching. I saw Black Mirror, thinking that it was innocent enough. I was not prepared for what was to come. Black Mirror is a BBC show where every episode is not related and are stand alone. Each episode, takes an aspect of society or technology and explores what the future would be like and the ramifications of these things. For example, in one episode, most humans have a chip in their skull that records everything you ever see or hear. You can watch these at any time or, for your convenience, pull it up on a TV screen for everyone to see and enjoy. At first, this sounds like a wonderful idea, until you see a future based on this technology. This future world is one without trust. There is no need to trust someone when you can just hold the accountable right away, by searching through the memories.

     Every episode is very poignant and a concise criticism on society as well. The one episode that got to me the most (and is my favorite episode) was the first episode of the second season. In the episode, a woman's husband dies and she is having difficulties coping with a life without him. He had a very big online and social media presence, and there is a program that allows a computer to calculate how he would react, and email the widow. It escalates to phone calls, and finally, a full grown robotic replica. This episode shows the ramifications of living in the past, with the dead, and not properly grieving. However, what scared me the most was the knowledge that the writers got the idea, after they learned that creation of this software is in the works. This article (, while it contains spoilers, marks all of the technology seen in the series, that is currently being worked on today. 

Firefly, the Ultimate Space Western

     I'm just going to get it out of the way, and state that I absolutely love Firefly. So, it will come to no surprise, that I chose to rewatch all of it, rekindling my love, for this week. However, it was good for me, because this time around I was studying it more thoroughly than I ever did in the past.

     Wikipedia defines Space Opera as "a subgenre of science fiction that often emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, weapons, and other technology."

     While Firefly does fit under the category of Space Opera, it also is more related to Space Western. The western themes are undeniable, with shootouts in every episode and the theme including the ship flying over a herd of cattle. I love that they are able to take a an old genre like the western and revamp it with mixing it with science fiction. Not only are they revamping the genre, but they are also exploring themes in ways that they werent explored due to the stigma's of the times.

     I think the foremost example of this in shown in the role of "Companions" in this world and the role that Inara plays on the show. In westerns and today, escorts or prostitutes are regarded poorly and have no respect. However, Whedon turns this around in Firefly by the use of Companions. A Companion is a skilled, well-educated member of a guild of professional courtesans/entertainers. It is somewhat of a state sanctioned prostitution, however, these girls are treated with utmost respect by everyone. It is mentioned multiple times that many are surprised that a ship as lowly as their Firefly has a respectable Companion on board.

     I love how the flexibility of this genre allows for old themes to be revisited and recreated so that it reflects society today, or even shows advances that may be possible in the near future. These advances dont have to be solely technological, but culturally as well.

Mythic Fiction and Contemporary Urban Fantasy

     Last blog post, I talked about the fantasy genre and the appeal of fantasy to viewers. I namely spoke of my own experiences and the escapism that can be found in these creative books. Mythic Fiction and Contemporary Urban Fantasy are subgenres of fantasy that make escapism much easier(this might explain why it is so popular with the young adult fiction demographic). This type of fantasy introduces fantastical elements into the "normal" life of a character. This allows the reader to clearly imagine that something very much like that could happen to themselves. It creates a more immersive story for the reader.

     Personally, one of my favorite examples of this genre(besides Harry Potter), is the Percy Jackson series. I started these books in the 5th grade, and waited for a new book to come out every year since. I loved the constant adventure and humor that could be found, but most importantly, I enjoyed thinking about the world as if it was not only plausible, but real. Rick Riordan managed to make Greek myths contemporary and relevant to the Untied States. When I went to New York City on a field trip in the 6th grade, I looked about the Empire State Building imagining that it was the entrance to Olympus.

     As mentioned before, this type of fantasy can be found in the most popular young adult books. Off of the top of my head I can bring up four extremely successful series that make use of contemporary urban fantasy (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Twilight,and Mortal Instruments). I thought it would be a fun exercise to explore this trend. So, I went to the website of the Young Adult Library Service (, and looked up the best young adult fiction books for this year. Here are some that I found right away.

The Accidental Highwayman. By Ben Tripp. Tor, $17.99 (9780765335494). After being mistaken for his master, the notorious highwayman Whistling Jack, Kit Bristol and his horse Midnight are thrown into a world of magic they thought only existed in fairy tales.

Evil Librarian. By Michelle Knudsen. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763660383). Think librarians are a yawn? Then you haven’t met Mr. Gabriel, the new librarian at Cynthia’s school. He’s not dull; he’s a demon!
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. By A. S. King. Little, Brown, $18.00 (9780316222723). Beware of drinking liquefied bats! Glory O’Brien does and suddenly finds she can see the past and future of everyone she encounters. Everyone except herself. What does her future hold?