All posts by js

Computers and War

It is easier for us to explain things physically rather than abstractly. A computer is a combination of plastic and metal, but what makes it work? When we talk about computers, we use medical and military terms like protection and defense; we create firewalls and anti-viruses. In Gibson’s story, this is imagined similarly. The narrator says, “Trying to remind myself that this place and the gulf beyond are only resentations, that we aren’t ‘in’ Chrome’s computer, but interfaced with it, while the matrix simulator in Bobby’s loft generates this illusion. . .” (555). The figurative language we use to speak about computers comes to life through illusions in “Burning Chrome”. Even the narrator needs to remind himself that they did not actually get into a physical place.

 

InfoDump

I really enjoyed the shorter, historical chapters wrapped up in between the standard narration of the story. The TV Trope points out another side of this,

“Although it can be done in a way that is unintrusive or entertaining, most infodumps are obvious, intrusive, patronizing, and sometimes downright boring.”

I would certainly argue that the information we receive from the historical sections are more than “dumped” and definitely entertain me. With a large novel, sometimes long chapters can be overwhelming, and the shorter folktales help break up the longer chapters. We also get quite a bit of information in the regular narration and story line, so these folktales are more than just infodumps.

Ballard vs. Dick/Ellison

I think Dick echoes Ballard’s use of a sense of failure in his characters. Dick’s passage about Douglas Quail:

“But the daylight, the mundane noise of his wife now brushing her hair before the bedroom mirror–everything conspired to remind him of what he was. A miserable little salaried employee, he said to himself with bitterness” (DIck, 387).

This passage of self-hatred reminds me of the passage where Bridgman learns a bit more about Travis:

“Obviously it was inability to come to terms with this failure of character, unfortunately discovered lying flat on his back on a contour couch two hundred feet above the launching pad, which had brought Travis to Kennedy, thee abandoned Mecca of the first heroes of astronautics” (Ballard, 343).

Neither character is a hero. Both authors make use of reminding their characters of this, Ballard with the orbiting dead astronauts and Dick with the more subtle, mundane activities of daily life. The authors push off from the typical everyday hero of SF and incorporate more descriptions of the surroundings.

On the Inside

Fowler Schocken’s opening discussion to his associates sounds a lot like John Campbell’s “Power”. Both men seem to be rationalizing their beliefs aloud and looking to their underlings (associates or readers) for confirmation of these beliefs. Schocken convinces himself and his workers, “We have a nice conference room here, men. As we should have, since Fowler Schocken Associates is the largest advertising agency in the city. . . The wolf is a long way from my door. And I think any one of you can say the same. RIght?” (Pohl and Kornbluth, 3). He asks a question to which he has already given the answer. It’s a men’s club in which the members need to constantly reassure each other that they belong. Campbell writes, “Naturally, I’m keenly interested in what you thought of stories I thought were good. But the important thing is the future, not the past. The Analytical Laboratory is designed to help me, and the authors, to know what you will like even more than to know what you did like” (Campbell, 111). Campbell expresses his interest in what his readers thought, but establishes that there are stories that he thought were good. He probably assumes his readers would concur with his choices of good stories. Both men express an insider knowledge and a desire to learn more about their associates/readers.

Pay No Attention to the Cheap Paper these Cold Truths are Printed On

I felt like the editor was eager to jump to the defense of the credibility of the pulp fiction magazine even in the first issue. Reading a magazine printed on excessively thin and flimsy paper suggests the financial value (and by extension, the literary value) as cheap.  The assumption is the more expensive something is, the more important it is. Now, I do not agree with that, but acknowledging the social expectations of a pulp fiction magazine helps us understand why Gernsback makes such over-the-top statements such as “We who are publishing AMAZING STORIES realize the great responsibility of this undertaking, and will spare no energy in presenting to you, each month, the very best of this sort of literature there is to offer” (3). Reading Gernsback’s introductions really make you, as a reader, feel needed and included in the process of creating this magazine. He emphasizes the importance of providing us with the very best, and as a reader, I feel very much catered to. I think reading a text online creates a distance between the author and the reader; I don’t even think I pay as much attention to what I am reading online. And a slicked magazine has many more ads than this one. You feel bombarded by so many unrelated attempts to get your attention and money that you just skip over them. I actually read all the ads in Amazing Stories.

 

Gernsback, Hugo. Amazing Stories. New York: Experimenter Publishing, 1926.

The Enemy

“So the star, with the moon in its wake, marched across the Pacific, trailed the thunderstorms like the hem of a robe, and the growing tidal wave that toiled behind it, frothing and eager, poured over island and island and swept them clear of men”  (Wells, 46).

Here, the star is personified. By “marching,” the star becomes like a soldier — an enemy soldier.  Wave holds two meanings: a wave of water and a wave of soldiers/phases in an operation. The Earth is essentially being attacked and invaded by the Star and its allied tidal wave.

 

Wells, H.G.. “The Star.” The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Ed. Arthur B. Evans, et. al.. MIddletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2010. Page 46. Print.