All posts by Ian Snieckus

Blest be the milk of Meshe!

I was glad to see that TVTropes brought up this aspect of LHoD, as it was one that I’m kind of thrown off by. I don’t know, the references to the prophet Meshe just don’t seem believeable to me. While I understand why Le Guin does this, and i don’t really have a problem with the typical “By Meshe!” explatives, I just can’t take it seriously that the Yomeshta specifically reference Mehse’s breasts… maybe i’m just being immature but it always takes me out of the story whenever they do that (unless the reference itself is actually supposed to be satiristic), especially after all the male-gender pronouns Le Guin uses…

Anybody else giggle immaturely whenever someone yells out “BY MESHE’S SWEET MILK!”? I hope its not just me lol…

The Reveal

“Over a twenty-year period a fleet of large freighters had shuttled to and from Mars, dumping the ballast into the sea near the landing grounds of Cape Kennedy… the intention had been that the ballast should be swallowed by the Atlantic […] waters, but all too soon it was found that the microbiological analysis of the sand had been inadequate.” (351)

“What they had done was devise a method of curtailing the amount of life a person could have. If he was ten minutes late, he lost ten minutes of his life… If someone was consistently tardy, he might find himself, on a Sunday night, receiving a communique from the Master Timekeeper that his time had run out, and he would be “turned off” at high noon on Monday, please straighten your affairs, sir, madame, or bisex.” (373)

In nearly every science fiction story, there is an established sense that there is something wrong with the world being described, that there is some drastic difference from our own world (or, better put, from our expectations) that isn’t immediately explained or obvious. In these cases there are bound to be specific instances where the differences are exposed to the reader (the “aha” moment, if you will). The interesting thing about this phenomenon, and the reason I selected these quotes, is that the reveal isn’t about what is happening, but about why it is. It isn’t, for example, the scene of martian sand enveloping derelict hotels, or the man in a clown suit raining jellybeans on a procession of workers that makes us think our expectations were wrong, but the realization that the alien landscape that we were described was in fact earth, or that the motivation behind ruthless scheduling is that tardiness is punishable by death. This means that when reading an SF story, the reader is inherently expecting the world to be different from our own, but does not necessarily anticipate if or how the story will break from the norms of its genre. J.G. Ballard’s work is especially powerful in this reveal because the break from the expected SF story line is that the world we read about in The Cage of Sand is more alike our own than we expected it to be.