Historical Line – The Destruction of Humanity
- The Conquest of Gola (1931)
- There Will Come Soft Rains (1950)
- When It Changed (1973)
- Speech Sounds (1983)
I chose each of these texts because they are each about the break down of humanity and what it means to be human. In the “Conquest of Gola” the humans are invading the aliens or the “Golans”, but the reader is inclined to sympathize with the alien because the humans are invading a land that is not theirs to take. The humans are breaking down humanity by tying up the women and turning the men against them. The breakdown of humanity by men is also seen in “When It Changed”. Yet, in this instance, the men were or presumably would be more successful in taking over Whileaway. The women are happy and have adapted to their planet without men and have been for the 600 years men have been wiped off the planet. However, when the men reappear, the men’s view of Whileaway is that it is theirs to take and the women to procreate with – whether or not the women like it. In “There Will Come Soft Rains” a much different view of the destruction of humanity is seen when there is no humans. The automated house continues on and on every day, but there is no one to fill it. It gives a grim view of the reality we could face if nuclear wars happen. This story was written during the Cold War when “There Will Come Soft Rains” was not farfetched. “Speech Sounds” created a world that had suffered the effects of a disease that took away the ability to speak, read, and so on. The adaptations afterward were not glorious and the aggression and violence among humans was unbelievable. In all of these texts the messages have been effective and complex. Yet, I do not believe that the destruction of humanity was portrayed significantly better as time went on, nor do I believe it worsened. I think that the historical context of each text is very telling to the text. The later texts, however are able to incorporate a bit more because they are able to incorporate past events into their stories.
The Left Hand of Darkness begins by telling the reader that the novel will not be fluent; it will not follow one voice, but rather use a collection of voices to tell one complete and true story. Genly Ai, the alien/outsider to his surroundings, tells the reader “The story is not all mine, nor told by me alone. Indeed I am not sure whose story it is; you can judge better. But it is all one, and if at moments the facts seem to alter with an altered voice, why then you choose the fact you like best; yet none of them are false, and it is all one story” (Le Guin 1-2). A single event/situation can be seen from many different perspectives, but the accounts of that story vary – just look at the differing views from eye-witness testimony. However, I believe that is why this story is not told from just one perspective or one voice, but rather a collection of voices. By having a collection of voices/perspectives telling the story, the biases within the story are not as prominent and therefore the reader can distinguish between what is actually happening versus what the narrator is telling us is happening. The shifting narration style also helps break up the story into folk tales, background knowledge, and current events without having to have one narrator relay all the facts on the reader.
**Unfortunately, I do not have page numbers because I am using my kindle.***
“It’s hard to see when you’re star class. From the bottom it’s easier to see” (chapter 13).
This statement from Kathy exemplifies the sharp contrast between the classes. Typically, the upper class believes that they know what it is like to be “working class”. However, this novel proves that the assumptions that the star class has made upon the consumers are false and exaggerated. Since the two classes are so far removed from one another, the classes do not fully understand each other. When Fowler learns of Mitch’s new identity as a consumer he says “…you chose the lazy, easy-going life of a scum-skimmer, drowsing in the tropic sun” (chapter 14). Yet, the journey through Mitch’s new identity proves that his life was not easy and he was not enjoying his time in the tropic sun. Instead, he was working long, hard days and was in a never-ending cycle of acquiring debt that he would not be able to pay off. Mitch’s days as a star class citizen would not have given him insight into the world of the consumers. Yet, upon living the life of the consumer, Mitch was able to come to an understanding about the other, lower classes of his of his world. Yet, if his perspective was not shifted, it would be difficult to see any transformation within the protagonist because from his star class perspective, Mitch was blinded to the rest of the world.
Lovecraft’s stories may seem as though they are just “pulpy fun”, however while the “pulpy fun” can be seen on the surface – there is seriousness within the text of his fiction. He deserves the recognition for the meaningful and insightful works of science fiction. Lovecraft’s A Colour Out of Space depicts a vision of the town before and after the meteorite has affected the town. The apocalyptic meteorite has destroyed the town leaving the vision of:
“Poultry turned greyish and died very quickly, their meat being found dry and noisome upon cutting. Hogs grew inordinately fat, then suddenly began to undergo loathsome changes which no one could explain. Their meat was of course useless, and Nahum was at his wit’s end. No rural veterinary would approach his place, and the city veterinary from Arkham was openly baffled. The swine began growing grey and brittle and falling to pieces before they died, and their eyes and muzzles developed singular alterations. It was very inexplicable, for they had never been fed from the tainted vegetation. Then something struck the cows. Certain areas or sometimes the whole body would be uncannily shriveled or compressed, and atrocious collapses or disintegrations were common. In the last stages – and death was always the result – there would be a greying and turning brittle like that which beset the hogs. There could be no question of poison, for all the cases occurred in a locked and undisturbed barn” (Lovecraft).
The vision that Lovecraft leaves the reader with is one that reminds me of the poisonous aftereffects of a nuclear bomb or war. However, when Lovecraft wrote this story the atomic bomb had yet to be designed. While this “alien” force brought about the destruction in the story, there are currently real weapons that can cause this type of destruction in today’s world.
“A great man had married, and the streets were alight to welcome his return with his bride. ‘Even the skies have illuminated,’ said the flatterer. Under Capricorn, two Negro lovers, daring the wild beasts and evil spirits, for love of one another, crouched together in a cane brake where the fire-flies hovered. ‘That is our star,’ they whispered and felt strangely comforted by the sweet brilliance of its light”(Wells).
I chose this quote from “The Star” by H.G Wells because the irony in this passage was disheartening. The tone of the story was dark, ominous, and the narrator was strangely distant. The narration made it easy to skip over this passage. However, this passage, displays the hope for a promising and loving future that will never happen because of the catastrophe of the star.
Wells, H.G. “The Star.” The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Ed. Arthur B. Evans, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., Joan Gordon, Veronica Hollinger, Rob Latham, and Carol McGuirk. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2010. Print.