I saw Ender’s Argument’s post prior to writing my own and I do agree with the contrast between nature and technology being a common and questionable recurring theme. Another interesting point you made referred to the thought of nature and technology being entwined in each other throughout the story. This raised an important thought for me that in order to create a plot within the subgenre of cyberpunk, you have to fuse both humans and technology in the story. I literally mean having the computer and man become one within the story, biologically as well as scientifically. I think Gibson’s article supports this thought by him saying “slug it all back into the skull and watch it run on blood sugar, the way a human brain’s supposed to.” He’s thinking toward the essentials of having a human body and having that body connect with technology in order to have a cyberspace. So as long as there are humans that are being shaped and changed by technology, we can say that we are in a world that is controlled by cyberspace.
Genly’s reports and, in chapter 7, Ong Tot Oppong of Chiffewar’s field notes tell us that the Gethenians don’t have a word for war because they know nothing of it. To which I respond that they’re damn lucky…The interesting part is not the fact that the Gethenians differ from others in that respect, but the issue is that when Oppong wonders ‘why’ the Gethenians do not have wars, she immediately answers not with an objective view but with the ideals and opinions she has developed from her own life. (I would point out the times that Genly does this, but essays are forbidden). When I saw the trope “Perfect Pacifist People”, I thought of this connection immediately and the fact that Le Guin is creating a parallel between what Oppong is doing and what we of the West have been doing to other cultures unlike our own for years.
To elaborate, while Oppong is exploring why the Ancient Hainish might have created androgynous people and why they do not have wars, she assumes that not only did they take away the male-female/dominant-submissive binary that wars emulate, but they have another enemy to worry about: the cold. Immediately when I read this assumption, I shook my head in disagreement. I mean, didn’t Genly make a point to say that Estroven felt like he was in a normal spring night in an early chapter? So I thought “that’s not an accurate assessment. How do you assume that?” To my response, Le Guin might say “exactly”. The point Le Guin may be trying to make is “why assume that certain conditions that are disagreeable for us are just as disagreeable for the culture living in it?” Another important binary she is trying to end besides the male-female binary could be the “us versus them” assumptions we are guilty of projecting on others unlike ourselves.
“In a sudden excess of refound confidence, Bridgman drove his fist into the dark sand, buried his forearm like a foundation pillar. A flange of hot metal from Merril’s capsule burned his wrist, bonding him to the spirit of the dead astronaut. ‘Merril,’ he cried exultantly as the wardens’ lassos stung his neck and shoulders. ‘We made it!'” (358).
“He awoke–and wanted Mars… Great and greater yet: the dream grew as he became fully conscious, the dream and the yearning. He could almost feel the enveloping presence of the other world…” (386).
Both Bridgman and Douglas Quail suffer from the same human ailment: obsession. Although in ways that differ from one another, they similarly exude the same craving and need for the object of their desire, which would be Mars. What makes them different is the source of their yearning: what makes them have this dire need to go to Mars? For Bridgman in J.G. Ballard’s short story, “The Cage of Sand”, this obsession comes from his unfulfilled journey to Mars and the hypnotizing effect that the Martian sand has on his psyche. It is the closest thing tying him to this obsession and, even against the authorities will, he wants to stay on the Martian sand for the rest of his life. For Quail in Philip K. Dick’s short story ,”We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, this early obsession with Mars is a result of his repressed memories of his mission there as a trained assassin. His latent memories of this planet cause him to even want to gain false memories through Rekal, Inc. Both of these characters seem to stop at nothing to reach the place that holds their obsessive attention. It is intriguing how, even today, humans have this obsessive desire to be on, or travel to Mars.
Hearing the title “SF insiders” just makes me think of another way of saying “hardcore SF fans”. My definition of a fan is someone that researches, respects, enjoys, and understands concepts that are involved with the topic they have become a fan of. A group of SF fans that interact with each other have a mutual understand and even memorization of what interests and attracts them to becoming a fan of this genre. The reason why I said fans understand concepts rather than specific details is because even if SF fans are introduced to a world unlike their own where there are terms, destinations, and characters that are unfamiliar to what they know or are supposed to know. However, there is enough respect for the genre that allows fans to continue to enjoy and disregard the need for answers to questions such as “what does this mean?” and “what is that?”
An example of this level of fandom is portrayed by the fact that in The Space Merchant we are given words that we are not familiar with in our world. We are supposed to feel this inside connection of understanding the story without having to recognize a true tangible connection to our lives. Just as other hardcore SF fans, this does not deter us from our need to read the story, our desire to understand the protagonist, and our curiosity as to how the protagonist resolves the conflict he is in. Unfamiliarity may shut down our ability to use logic, but it broadens what we allow into our imaginations and helps us to build off of different realities. The more this happens the more we respect the unknown and unfamiliar.
In my opinion it is somewhat impossible for those of us, being the youth and young adults of today, who have been born right before or during what could easily be called the technological age, to fully imagine the impact a flimsy, cheap printed magazine on the people of 1926. But knowing that the publication of such a magazine was way before a time where pointing and clicking gave you access to an infinite amount of global information, Gernsback needed a way to publish a mass amount of multiple, bound-together pages and cheap, non-glossy paper would most likely be the best way to do so.
Regarding the contents of the magazine, what interested me the most was not the stories but the advertisements in the second issue. Referring back to what I said before about the difference in times, I was captivated by the advertisement of what seems like novelty items. I think the reason why is because today we are so desensitized to the effects of annoying commercials and we are so quick to getting rid of pop-up advertisements, that actually imagining holding this magazine and reading through it would make me interested enough to read everything I have paid for, even if they are just advertisements.
The quotation from H.G. Wells that struck me the most was, “but of the new brotherhood that grew presently among men, of the saving of laws and books and machines…this story does not tell.”
This quotation appeals to me because we are given a description of what we are used to in post-apocalyptic stories (besides survival): the persistence of human nature to uphold and protect culture and social norms after tragedy. However, throughout the story, and especially in this part, Wells keeps us as distant from the individuality of humans as possible by rejecting it.