I came across this last night and it reminded me about the discussion in class re: the particular aesthetic of the dark room with the neon lights or the harsh glare of the computer screen when dealing with hacking and/or cyberpunk:
[Edited by AG on 11/28: I moved my comment down into a comment, so that rathiri’s post wasn’t crowded by my words.]
Cyberspace. What is it exactly? Wikipedia ascribes a Dr. Don Slater as describing it as a “social setting that exists purely within a space of representation and communication”. I don’t know how reliable this quote is or if this dude actually wrote this in a paper. What I do know is that this phrase sums up to me quite elegantly a cyberspace which exists today and which I can comprehend (though perhaps I can only really comprehend it because it exists). What are web pages but the translation of code into color and shape? Just as the meaningless syllables we string together somehow constitute a deep and complex communication, a chunk of letters, dashes, and squiggles can convey information that is more than the data itself (or rather very few people can see the result from the hard data itself, and to most it is quite magical that a few keystrokes here can transform itself into a unicorn leaping across the page every ten seconds).
[“The matrix is an abstract representation of the relationships between data systems.” Gibson]
But while this kind of cyberspace exists, and we interact with it everyday, I don’t think we exist within it. To be in cyberspace involves a third dimension to what we have that just does not exist yet. What I think of is something more along the lines of the Metaverse from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (the book was truthfully the first thing that came to mind when I read the heading for this section of the class). In “Burning Chrome” there are strong visual analogs for technical happenings that give me this feeling of immersion much like the Metaverse, though not quite. In fact the narrator explicitly compares it to a 3-D chessboard, giving coding, something we know of as purely 2-D, a much more tangible impact in a physical sense. It reminds me of cartoons when a character falls into the television or the computer or a video game; a very Matrix like scene generally follows where the new existence is pure data, composed of binary bits, ones and zeros, stretching in all directions.
Anyways sorry if my ramblings were a bit unintelligible, I am half asleep at this point in time.
Reading the TVTropes page for Left Hand of Darkness surprised me a couple times because some of the observations listed hadn’t occurred to me when reading the book. For example under Deliberate Values Dissonance a troper remarks on how, despite Genly’s disparaging manner in regards to feminine things, he doesn’t come off as a Straw Misogynist. It wasn’t the observation that surprised me (we’ve of course touched on Genly’s sexism in class) but rather the possibility of Genly being a Straw Misogynist. I guess the phrase gave me pause because this may be the first time I’ve come across reference to such a character; I’m more used to Straw Feminists! Another phrasing that surprised me, or I should say, caught my attention, was how the discrimination against the ‘perverts’ was shelved under Fantastic Sexism. I was thinking of their attitudes more along the lines of transphobia to be honest because the sex dichotomy doesn’t exist on Gethen, so the idea to regard the discrimination as sexism somehow never occurred to me. One thing which amused me was the parallel drawn between Gethen and Siberia, and more clearly the Gulag and Pulefin Farm.
“He disliked this failure of compassion, a nagging compulsion to expose other people’s motives…particularly as his own motives…were so suspect. Why was he there, what failure was he trying to expiate?” (Ballard 344)
“‘Mr. Quail…you possess a most interesting wish-fulfillment dream fantasy. Probably nothing such as you consciously entertain or suppose. This is commonly the way; I hope it won’t upset you too much to hear about it.'” (Dick 401)
I feel both Ballard and Dick seem to implicate that the mind is more than the conscious. The mind can hide from us truths we do not consciously comprehend, though these truths can be found in certain circumstances, such as deep introspection or a drugged almost-coma. By using this premise the author (sf author in this case) can utilize the man vs self conflict to drive the story or to create plot. The author can utilize this device to even impact the surety of the readers in their own minds and in the truths they take to be self evident (though I don’t believe this result seen from either Ballard’s or Dick’s stories; perhaps from Ellison’s though).
When someone believes something wholeheartedly, when someone’s entire world of thought is built off these specific beliefs, it is very hard to challenge them. As stated by Powell in Asmiov’s “Reason”, “‘You can prove anything you want by coldly logical reason–if you pick the proper postulates. We have ours and Cutie has his'” (173). Similarly, in The Space Merchants, Mitchell does not see the least bit of reason in the Consies’ cause and views the world in a very specific way that we, as readers who did not grow up with those specific postulates, might find bewildering or strange, just as the humans found Cutie’s reasoning incomprehensibly ridiculous and vice versa. While Powell’s words call to mind math or debate, the actual practice of this incompatibility between beliefs as exhibited in “Reason” and The Space Merchants is more reminiscent of certain types of religious folk, often zealots. This is seen in the actual religion constructed by Cutie and the value system Mitchell follows where Sales is god above all and propaganda brainwashing is the norm.
[Due to the truly unfortunate fact that not only is my laptop dying, but I’ve also left my charger at home, this following paragraph may be a bit brief.]
I just wanted to comment on the juxtaposition of the desire on the part of AMAZING STORIES itself to be taken as a serious vehicle for serious literature while being printed in the pulp format. Though I’ve never seen a pulp magazine in person, the concept gives off a very cheap air (for lack of a better word). What comes to mind is a small booklet, expensive perhaps for children on a tight allowance, with rough pages. It hardly gives off the sophisticated air of a literary publication. Yet Gernsback’s Editorial notes both (though especially the first) seek this type of readership and acknowledgement despite the physical form AMAZING STORIES (and its all-capitalized title) present. It seems the readership however has met them on this point in some manner as seen in the little reader notes included in the “Thank you!”
“But of the new brotherhood that grew presently among men, of the saving of laws and books and machines, of the strange change that had come over Iceland and Greenland […] this story does not tell. Nor of the movement of mankind, now that the earth was hotter, northward and southward towards the poles of the earth. It concerns itself only with the coming and the passing of the star.”
While there were many quotes that caused me to think and question, the reason I chose this quote was because of the way it presented “The Star” as merely a small part of a much larger narrative. I’ve always liked when authors use such a technique because it leaves the feeling that the story read is not self contained, leaving the feeling of countless other stories waiting to be told, whether in other books or within out own imaginations. While I could’ve chosen a quote with a more analytical bent of mind, I wanted to start this class off with some of the excitement I feel every time I open a new novel.