All posts by Spider

The matrix is an abstract representation of the relationships between data systems. Legitimate programmers jack into their employers’ sector of the matrix and find themselves surrounded by bright geometries representing the corporate data.

Towers and fields of it ranged in the colorless nonspace of the simulation matrix, the electronic consensus-hallucination that facilitates the handling and exchange of massive quantities of data. Burning Chrome, page 549

 

This passage stuck out to me in particular because I have no idea what it’s talking about. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be visualizing here. Maybe, like, Tron? “Bright geometries” and “towers and fields” seem to suggest some sort of actual physical dimension to the representation of data, like cyberspace really occupies space. Except it doesn’t in real life, at least not in that sense of space, but then it would probably be a lot less interesting to try to describe a bunch of big electronic rectangles sitting around. I guess having some implication of cyberspace as an actual location (even though it’s “nonspace,” it’s just an agreed-upon digital visualization of data) makes it more probable as the setting for the action of hacking it? To me this is the most jarring, unfamiliar thing about the story. There’s that weird omnipresence to technology, the scary-but-exciting idea of cyberspace existing somewhere other than inside the computer.

So linking to this interview is… complicated. This version of the interview has part of it. This version has another, different part.

So as not to just dump the link and run, a couple things that might be cool to look at:

  • (2nd link, page 167)
    Once I figured out what he was even talking about, Jameson didn’t really sit well with me, and I think the second question posed on this page does a fair bit to explain why. The interviewer, Larry McCaffery, remarks that “the mythology or background sections in The Left Hand seem to have been created with specific intentions in mind.” And I agree. Even though le Guin goes on to deny that this was conscious, in the sense that she wasn’t consciously academically analyzing her story while writing it, to me the sections not narrated by Genly or Estraven are absolutely intertwined with the plot elements. Those sections serve as a lens onto the actual action, and vice-versa, allowing us to understand plot and myth and science and anthropology as part of a text that feeds into and interacts with itself (the most obvious example: the second chapter about brothers vowing kemmer, and the final revelation that Therem and Arek had done the same). But Jameson bases his theory of ‘world reduction’ on his analysis of the text as lacking any real narrative cohesion, anything to unify it other than reduction. I don’t see that lack at all.
  • (1st link, page 40)
    Gregory: A number of feminist critics, including Joanna Russ,** criticized The Left Hand of Darkness for being too “masculine” in its presentation. How do you respond to that sort of criticism?
    Le Guin: […] I was writing that novel back in 1967 and 1968, and we’ve all moved on a long, long way since then.* When I’m at work on a novel I’m not trying to satisfy anybody who has a specific program they want propaganda for. I dissatisfy a lot of my gay friends and I dissatisfy a lot of my feminist friends, because I don’t go as far as they would like.
    *interview date: 1982 **emphasis mine

TvTropes on LHD

So, the tropes that stuck out to me as issues or just as interesting:

  • Gender Neutral Writing – I’m kind of conflicted about this. I spent a little while angrily googling things like le guin interview pronouns, and found out that she herself advocates for the use of singular ‘they.’ So I’m inclined to think that the weird, annoying retrofitting into the ‘he’/’she’ linguistic gender binary was intended as a way in which none of the non-Gethenian narrators are fully reliable narrators – they’re imposing their own structures of understanding onto a people to whom those structures don’t apply. But on the other hand… there was nothing I can think of in the text that discussed the issues of doing that, and because I’m really invested in getting singular ‘they’ more widely accepted, it makes me uncomfortable to think that readers are coming away without ever questioning why a reliance on binary pronouns might be problematic.
  • Medieval Stasis – I just really question the actual importance of what the reasoning for the super slow technological development is, in the sense that the in-universe explanation could be basically anything. It seems a little handwavey to me: yeah, it’s cold, we’re busy surviving, whatever… Really it’s had the technology it does for as long as it has, in the end, because le Guin wanted it to. (And I’m not saying that as a criticism! I like the setting. I think what I mean is that excessive musing or worldbuilding on How This Came To Be would actually detract from the fact that it is.)
  • UST – Yeah, I definitely thought they were going to kiss.

Untitled

 

Not my TvTropes post yet, only that I kept forgetting to post this ever since I found it last Thursday and thought it was interesting in terms of worldbuilding: his name is essentially ‘Henry Love’ transmuted through three changes in two existing Earth languages. In her introduction, Le Guin casts herself in opposition to the tendency to define science fiction as inherently extrapolative, but what else is this but one potential development of human language? Not predictive, sure, but there’s that inclination to want to push existing culture in a direction, to see where it could go; I was  really surprised to see her blanket dismissal of extrapolation, considering.

(And in a way it reminds me of the system of names in Lovecraft. ‘Francis Wayland Thurston’ sounds as likely to be a foreign devil-worshipper as ‘Henry Love’ sounds like a time-jumper from an interplanetary space democracy. Use a different name – Castro, Genly Ai – and suddenly the whole character is more plausible. It’s connotative shorthand.)

insider language

Among both the advertising upperclass of The Space Merchants and in the reader ‘forum’ of Brass Tacks, an ability to consciously form ‘beautiful’ language. A reader comment (Bob Tucker, page 157) could easily encapsulate the desire of Mitchell and others to write the words which unconsciously convince consumers to consume:

shows an admirable talent of word-arranging

Just as a later part of the same letter, in which the reader mocks another reader-writer who had contributed to Brass Tacks, could serve as a mirror to the ‘common’ way the consumers themselves speak:

i think yer book is lousy and i want my monie back. the stories are punk and they ain’t even good stories. yer wholed mag is punk awful.  i dare yew to print this!

Although, while Bob Tucker intends this comparison to reflect badly on the Mr. Avery in question, in The Space Merchants the consumers’ way of speaking, in its marked difference from Mitchell’s carefully-wrought elite literary professionalism – in fact serves to make him the outsider, for a time.

(and mitchell’s way of speaking is the way i’ve been conditioned to write for classes but if i was talking about this to anyone else at all it’d probs look more like this)

connotations of the medium

I know that the pulp magazine was a newer medium at the time Amazing Stories was initially published; perhaps the lack of a longer history of the medium itself (as opposed to print books) made the physical item itself seem conceptually connected to the genre of the stories within–it’s not difficult to imagine a reader getting caught up in the feeling of participating in the same kind of exciting, forward-thinking novelty that defined ‘scientifiction.’ The paper quality, font choice, and columned layout also seems to recall newspapers: while a magazine for fictional works, Amazing Stories may have drawn a line of association from itself (which will become cold hard fact) to informative journalism (which already is).

human reaction to The Star

I chose the same quote as Ender’s Argument did:

The leader writers enlarged upon the topic; so that in most of the capitals of the world, on January 3rd, there was an expectation, however vague, of some imminent phenomenon in the sky; and as the night followed the sunset around the globe, thousands of men turned their eyes skyward to see—the old familiar stars just as they had always been.

However, what struck me about this quote was the way it seemed to dismiss the idea that mankind could easily and correctly predict the behavior of something totally out of scale to anything they’d experienced before—I think it reads as a criticism of that confidence.

Wells, H.G.. “The Star.” The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Ed. Arthur B. Evans, et. al. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2010.  41.