Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Drowned Giant Response

Ballard's "The Drowned Giant" speculates about a possible human reaction to a drowned giant. It is a staunch critique of human nature. In this world, there is no hysteric reaction to the giant. People are interested and investigate the massive creature, but there is no introspection about the origins of the giant. The authorities take little interest and end up letting the crowds do as they please. 
I feel this is intended to demonstrate the crass, careless nature of people in reaction to real events. The fantastic nature of a massive dead body stirs the reader, but we would have a similar reaction to a beached whale, or a natural disaster. The story uses fiction to put it in a perspective we can understand.
The people of the story then take the giant's body and start to use it as a resource. They build structures with it or create attractions at carnivals. This shows a blatant disregard of the giant and his own existence.
This shifts the readers perspective because we can identify with what we are seeing. The body of the giant is relative to us and we can’t help but identify with it, imagining ourselves being used without regard for our own individuality.

If this is Ballard’s message I, personally, feel it is an overreaction, but I appreciate the crafting he used to get his message across. It’s a simple situation of flipping the perspective of the reader so we can see a situation in a new light.

Interview with the Vampire Response

Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice, is a commentary on humanity. Rice, like many fantasy writers, writes about fantastic creatures to discuss the human condition. Louis, the interviewed vampire, tells his life story. We learn that vampires usually have companions. Formally, this works as a master/apprentice relationship, but throughout the novel we learn that vampires are desperately. They long to be with other vampires in a relationship that seems romantic. There’s dependence between the vampires.
The loneliest vampires in Interview with the Vampire are the savage vampires that Louis and Claudia come across in Eastern Europe. These vampires live in solitude in the mountains. They are mindless corpses that savagely feed on the locals. This suggests that the socialization between urban vampires is what keeps them civilized.
Throughout the book Louis mentions that vampires can’t feel, and he doesn’t have feelings. This is a lie. He’s constantly contradicting himself, talking about his feelings for Lestat, for Claudia, for Armand. This suggest Louis is denying what he feels.
Keeping Rice’s purpose in mind, the reader can discern a greater meaning from the novel. Perhaps the vampires are an exaggerated metaphor for human nature. It demonstrates Rice’s ideas of what forms relationships can take. The book also argues a lack of civility can lead to savagery, and that people can deny their nature, assuming what they are has a hold over their emotions.
Another thing to keep in mind about the book is the lack of satisfaction on the part of the boy and the vampire. Through his story we can see that Louis wants desperately to be human. He regularly contemplates death and its implications now that he is immortal, and he seems to be telling the boy his story to demonstrate the horrors of being a vampire.

The boy, on the other hand, is amazed by the vampire’s life, and is unsatisfied when he ends his story bleakly. He says he can do it right, and savor immortality and the life of a vampire. He begs Louis to turn him, and when Louis refuses he sets off after Lestat. This shows that the mistakes of the past are destined to be repeated. The book is saying that people don’t learn and that they only hear what they want to hear.

Johnny Mnemonic Response

Cyberpunk creates a dense world for the reader to explore. "Johnny Mnemonic," by William Gibson, is an example of this. Gibson does not lead us by the hand and talk us through the world before getting into the narrative. It drops the reader headfirst into a world that we don't fully understand.
 Generally, I feel this is an effective technique for a short story. In this format the reader doesn't have the time or patience to sit through a long piece of world-building exposition. Gibson lets details of the world slip out through the narrative. The first hint that this story is set in a cyberpunk world is when Johnny describes himself as a "Caucasoid."
I feel the first paragraph is almost deliberately misleading. Johnny is putting a shotgun in an Adidas bag with tennis socks. These are all things that exist in the real world, and a reader that didn't understand that this is a science fiction story may be thrown when Gibson describes the world throughout the story. This is a good setup for the piece because it keeps the reader on their toes. The reader understands that they have to look at every detail and fully absorb the piece if they want to understand it.
The other benefit of little or no exposition is that it lets the writer get straight to the action, which is usually the most engaging part of any narrative. In "Johnny Mnemonic," the first line has Johnny getting a gun ready. This immediately raises the stakes and engages the reader. If you see a gun in any story, someone's probably going to be shot. The reader immediately wants to know who and why.
I feel that these techniques give Gibson the ability to pull the reader into the world and the narrative straight away. It diminishes the importance of the setting, but it's still necessary for the reader to understand the setting. Gibson layers in this information about place and time as the story continues, after he's already hooked us.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Diverse Positions in I Live With You

One of the most compelling parts of Carol Emshwiller's "I Live With You" is figuring out who and what the narrator is. I would argue that the narrator is Nora's split personality. This would certainly make the story a "Diverse Position."
I do not know a lot about split personalities and how accurate this would be as a portrayal of the condition. However it seems to me that this other person was created to get Nora out of her rut. It makes her act and live in ways that she would not have otherwise. It's a mischievous force, but not a malevolent one. I would argue this other personality is created by Nora's subconscious mind as an act of rebellion against her social anxiety and reclusiveness.
As the story progresses, Nora starts to live with the personality, accepting some of it. At the same time the narrator starts to refer to Nora's possessions as hers: "Our credit card" for example. Then, at the end of the story, after Nora has changes and doesn't need the other personality anymore, the personality leaves, and says "your credit card and keys."
At the end the narrator says that Nora will lock her up with "your old mousey clothes." This seems to suggest that the narrator will be forced to take on Nora's old personality, furthering the idea that she has to be the other half of Nora, so she leaves.
If the story is read with this in mind it seems that the story gives insight into a state of being not typically explored in literature. Split personalities usefully crop up in crime dramas where the killer didn't know they were the killer when they were questioned or whatever. This shows this perspective in a new light. It is portrayed as helpful to Nora, giving her a life where she would have otherwise withered away her existence on TV dinners and solitude. Altogether it is a unique way of looking at a unique position.

Hitchiker's Response

Sci-Fi is a fantastic vessel for satire and Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a strong example of this. One of the most comedic and poignant pieces of satire in the radio show and book is the criticism of the bureaucratic state. It starts with Arthur Dent's house as it's about to be knocked down to build a bypass. Arthur brings up that in order to see the plans he had to go to a cellar and this, to the planning office, is considered "on display." This is then echoed by the Volgons coming to destroy the Earth for the same reason, and when the people of earth scream and panic the Volgons have the same excuses as the demolition crew has for Arthur.
This is actually a fairly masterful transition because it shifts the listener's perspective from an accessible piece of satire, commenting on something that could feasibly happen, to a more fantastic world, where aliens are coming to blow up the earth. The theme of bureaucracy continues on, for example, the guide talks about how Volgons won't save their grandmother without orders signed in triplicate, ect. This is a comment on the red tape and inefficiency of bureaucracy wrapped up in the humorous scenario of an old lady being eaten by an alien monster.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Future Speculation

How do you see your life in 10 years?
            In ten years I could be dead. It’s not a pleasant thing to think about and I very much hope it won’t happen, but who knows? Perhaps they’re having my funeral. I would like to think that’d I’d have some sort of nutty funeral. Hopefully everyone would be wearing tasteless attire. It would be funny if the funeral homes refuse to hold my funeral. I think that would be the number one criteria if I drafted some sort of last will or testament. The funeral party would have to have been refused by about three homes before I was satisfied. Not that I could be if I was dead, I suppose. Finally, I’d want the funeral party to be kicked out of the last home within the first 30 minutes of the funeral, be it four raucous behavior or blatant disrespect of the facilities. That’s up to whoever cares enough about me to hold the funeral.

How do you see life in 50 years?
            If I had died I’d probably be rotting away in a hole somewhere, but let’s imagine that I was resurrected miraculously. I’d probably be experimented on if I was resurrected. What if I held some sort of life party, like an anti-funeral? If we ever start resurrecting people that better be a thing. This one could be tasteful. I may make different life choices with a new life. Or not, who knows? I don’t.

How do you see life in 100 Years?

            I’d quite like to make it to the year 2100, just to say I’d lived in three centuries. I’m not sure I’d enjoy being old unless I was extremely healthy. Old people wander around and complain. I do that now but it’s from a perspective of cynicism and irony because my life isn’t really bad. It’s just to entertain myself, but I’d hate to have to take it seriously.