All posts by TK

“Do you think that’s air you’re breathing now?”

There were two parts in this story that really struck me when I read them. The first was this, on page 555: “Trying to remind myself that this place and the gulf beyond are only representations, that we aren’t ‘in’ Chrome’s computer, but interfaced with it, while the matrix simulator in Bobby’s loft generates this illusion. . .The core data began to emerge, exposed, vulnerable. . . . This is the far side of ice, the view of the matrix that fifteen million legitimate console operators see and take for granted. ” I’m not sure why, but it just seemed extremely conscious of the nature of image and representation, and it triggered a whole stream of thoughts for me. How exactly does programming work in that world? Is there a reliance on the the matrix simulators, to be able to manipulate code “physically”, in order to change coding in reality? Or are they both on the same plane? How does the matrix simulator translate things, and how is it coded to do so? It’s interesting, because everything online, on television, on screens in general, is just a stream of zeroes and ones, and we (even right now) see them as language, as images. I just felt an extreme awareness of the artifice of imagery online. Bright colors and borders and interesting fonts are just hiding that stream. That is something we take for granted. The fact that this website exists is a marvel, when you think about it. There’s an entire world, an entire universe, really, in our computer screens and our phones, and it’s constructed by clever numbers.

Also Jack talking about Bobby’s problems with women was gREAT but I won’t elaborate because I could talk about it for centuries.

 

i feel like brecht would have a field day with this…

Suddenly Ethnicity and Deliberate Values Dissonance were particularly interesting (primarily because upon reading the former I laughed out loud), but I think considering them in connection can be beneficial, especially in the context of part of our conversation on Thursday, when we talked about what we perceived to be a blending of cultures in Genly’s home world. Most of the time when we read something, we perceive the default characterization to be set as white male. Genly’s name isn’t codified as white male however, so this does play with our perceptions of him as a character, but the added notation of his “dark skin” (which we perceive as “of African descent” black, not possibly “Desi” black) is another offhand detail that produces a sense of….disassociation, I suppose? In which we can see similarity between ourselves and Genly, but not enough to the point where we can slide comfortably into his skin. Granted, this is a bit problematic, because one of the reasons why the white male is the default is purportedly because it’s just easier to identify with white males (not that decades upon centuries of social conditioning has put that into place or anything), so….as a result of this, are we meant to not identify with Genly because he’s different? Or because he’s just similar enough for it not to matter?

“. . . a most interesting wish-fulfillment dream fantasy.”

“The mysterious leg cramp was obviously psychogenic. Although unable to accept consciously the logic of Webster’s argument, he would willingly have conceded to the fait accompli of physical capture, gratefully submitted to a year’s quarantine at the Parasitological Cleansing Unit at Tampa, and then returned to his career as an architect, chastened but accepting his failure.” (352)

“Ironically, he had gotten exactly what he had asked Rekal, Incorporated for. Adventure, peril, Interplan police at work, a secret and dangerous trip to Mars in which his life was at stake—everything he had wanted as a false memory.” (399)

Both Ballard and Dick, in these passages, and Dick to a larger extent in “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, are exploring ideas about desire and wish fulfillment. In “The Cage of Sand” passage, we begin to get the sense that Bridgman is at a bit of an impasse. He has become a bit comfortable being where he is, but he does not want to move on, so he is in a state of limbo, which renders him a bit immobile in responding to situations in which his living arrangements could change. He doesn’t seem to know if he wants to stay inside the reservation or not, and the wardens and Webster’s message to him are forcing him to sort out his feelings sooner than he would like to. Quail has fallen into the “be careful what you wish for” trope, but he is also facing a crisis of desire. He got precisely what he wanted, but by doing that, the experience revealed to him that what he wanted wasn’t really what he wanted. He wanted the romance of going to Mars, of being a secret agent, not the nitty gritty drama of it.

us/them

There’s something quite difficult about using insider language in spaces that aren’t specifically focused on the subculture, because of the fact that insider language is extremely exclusive. In certain cases, ideas about the group or the media being consumed can only be relayed in jargon, but usage of that jargon isolates people not familiar with it. Even if the people on the inside mean to be inclusive, the language utilized can create a sense of an us/you dichotomy. This is something that occurs in many of the letters that get sent to the editor in Astounding, and also, on the flip side, something that happens in the reviews of the science fiction anthologies. They appear to obey these codes by reinforcing how certain science fiction stories don’t fit into preconceived ideas of the literary canon.

This does happen in “The Space Merchants”, but perhaps with the awareness that it’s happening, because in the use of jargon like “Consies” and references to the “Walk of Martyrs”, the narrator includes us in the club by assuming we already know what he’s talking about. We’re thrown into the story as insiders, and this precludes making us outsiders, because we learn as we go. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know that Consies is shorthand for Conservationists; we’ll learn that as we go along.

Pulp Fiction

I’m having a difficult time articulating a response to this, to be completely honest. My mind keeps returning to the ebook vs paper book debate that’s happening, and I suppose that means something. I mean, I guess the format of the magazine irritated me a bit; I hate reading in columns. I don’t like the way it looks on a page, cluttered and clunky. This means something, because I suppose it makes me far more conscious in the way I perceive the world we live in now, even the work we do on this blog. How this can be typed out, as long as I want it to be (within reason, of course) and disseminated across the planet in a matter of seconds, whereas Gernsback and the staff for “Amazing Stories” had to put their work out on newsstands, were dependent upon subscribers and advertisers to put their work out there. And how they were also limited by space; those columns that I hate so much needed to be done to conserve space, so fewer pages would be used, and more copies could be put out for cheap. The paper had to be cheaper, of course; glossy paper means higher subscription prices and maybe fewer subscribers. Sure, it would be nicer looking, but it would also be way more money to print. I mean, there’s always the argument that the magazine material reflects the content, but I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. Making a cheap item look expensive is way easier now. Also glossy paper is way cheaper.

“The coming and the passing of the Star”

“Beyond the orbit of Neptune there is space, vacant so far as human observation has penetrated, without warmth or light or sound, blank emptiness, for twenty million times a million miles.” (“The Star”, 41).

I thought this was particularly striking, because it reminded me of a line spoken in the film “Melancholia”, which I’m sure was probably inspired (just a bit!) by Wells’s short story: “Life is only on earth, and not for long.” The film and the short story have the same basic premise in common: a planetary body is going to collide with the earth. These particular lines really resonated with me because….I suppose the idea of being alone in the universe is more terrifying than not being alone because it means that…all the effort we, humans, put into making a mark, into making sure we are remembered, is meaningless. If we’re alone, who is out there to see any of it? When we’re gone, and every mark that we’ve ever made fades to dust. It’ll be like we never existed at all.

What’s the point? I’m not having an existential crisis, I promise, (I’m probably overdue for one though) I’m genuinely wondering. Why do we make these things, why do we try so hard to carve our existence into stone if it’s going to fade away, no matter what we do?

I’m gonna try answering my own question, and say that….because maybe it’s meaningless in the extremely long run, yeah. But, in terms of the here and now, it’s…comforting? I don’t know exactly why I turn to “Melancholia” when I’m in need of comfort, because that movie is REALLY depressing. Beautiful, don’t get me wrong, brilliantly acted, the cinematography is gorgeous, like WOW, but still depressing.

But it’s not about the big picture, really. At least, not immediately. It’s about the people. It’s about the characters. It’s about emotions. It’s about connections between the people, rather than the big picture. Maybe that is the big picture? I’m talking myself into circles here.

But I guess what I’m (very long windedly) trying to get at is, what we do in relation to the world we live in and the people we live with is made twice as meaningful because we know that we are going to die, and we don’t know if we are alone in the universe. They may not seem like they mean much (“Which only shows how small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.”-49), but what else are we going to do, really?