Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

            So long and thanks for all the fish! Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is not only a gut-busting read but a hilarious radio show, and a pretty good movie. Taking the mundane and tropes of the sci-fi genre, and turning them upside down and into an interesting adventure for the ever so stubborn and very British, Arthur Dent. I haven’t listened to the radio show before and really quite enjoyed it. It was the book coming to life and felt like you were there with the characters following along on this strange adventure. The odd random situations from the bureaucratic Vogons that are basically alien politicians, to the waiting in the queue to just save a friend. It’s also hilarious how Arthur has a more practical reaction to how some humans would react to the Earth blowing up, being thrown into space, and aliens and new cultures. He is confused, in a panic, and not having any of it.  He has that constant ‘I’m not going to be part of this’ and yet keeps following Ford. That he does have that drive of curiosity that his is stubborn to follow because experiencing something new is altogether very scary. I feel Adams really just wanted to show that just going out and doing something new no matter how scary is important to living that it builds your character and makes you a better person.

Now to the future of sci-fi, I’m not entirely sure where it’s headed. I think with such a rich background we’ll see more twists on the old. But less about just high adventure, I think were at a time were a story of being human is more interesting than battling it out with an alien race. But that is also something I see coming up again with peoples fear of illegal immigrants. There is also, the idea of having to leave Earth, because it is dying. A lot of our future in sci-fi is looking at the future of the actions we are taking and not taking. So I guess the future of sci-fi is as it has always been, the prediction of the changes of our culture through the fascination and fear of new technology.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Literary Speculation: A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is a very gross novel, well written but gross. I could never bring myself to feel fully for Alex, it truly was wrong when they “treated” him. But he is a protagonist you are never suppose to really like, even in the chapter when he become an adult and is looking for a lady to have kids with. He still jokingly lets you know he is still one of your droogs. Which still gives me a turn in my stomach. Never the less it is still a book that gives an interesting insight to the most base criminal, created out of society. Here is what we now, Alex was not born rich as were his droogs. Britain came up with the brilliant plan of basically building shot holes and shoving all the poor people into to them. Which they actually did, and are still a problem. Also in the book there is a great divide between the poor and the rich, and indulgence is orgasmic in this retro culture. So Alex grew up with violence and with a culture that ignores it or does little to help it. The line in which he has to cross to at least be somewhat well of is a bit tricky since he isn’t rich and won’t have shining recommendations. Especially not from he teacher’s who immediately saw him as a delinquent and treated him as such.

Need I go on, this is something that is still happening today, we still create little Alex’s. Much of the novel is really how we treat criminals, now matter how awful they are or how little the crime, they are just animals. You treat a person like that long enough they become one. Alex even admits to this at one point, jokingly of course to his droogs, but he is telling the truth. His character sees no way out, he has built this power and he aimed to keep it. It was what he saw as the only attainable thing. Till of course he is older, and gets the living shit beaten out of him, since he can’t act violently. Which the government see’s as a somewhat success and removes the treatment. Which is a weird round about way of avoiding the real problem which is where it started, which is them creating a huge gap between the poor and rich.

Cyberpunk and Steampunk: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash is a fun novel that has a bit of everything for everyone; it has action, romance, science, humor, language, culture and history. Neal Stephenson balances this excellently with his wealth of knowledge. Stephenson grew up in a family of scientists and he himself studied physics and geography and many other things, he also has a vast knowledge of computing systems. So his writing is very smooth in the book, it doesn’t feel like he did vast amounts of research for his book and then relayed it to you. No it feels more conversational with some extra description put in to move the plot. The rest is up to you to discover, if need be. The parts of the book I loved were the connections of code to old Sumerian and how the virus created a shared language and that the story felt like a loose story of the tower of Babel. That of course eventually had to crumble.

Stephenson is very talented in the arena of multiple topics with in a story, which is why he is so good in the genre of sci-fi. He easily writes multiple layers into a story with out it sounding condescending. Often time’s writers sound mechanical when describing something that is of the future. But Stephenson just breezes right through, which makes it really fun to read his works. Snow Crash is just one of those books, and its really quite amazing how much he predicted, this book came out in the early 90s. We were just getting into the idea of social networking, electronic music, computers, and video games were expanding. The idea of avatars and Internet personalities, a now every day thing, was something completely untapped in the early 90s. And the idea of it being used through virtual reality, a thing that is now coming into the forefront. You gotta give props to this guy. This is the second time I have read this book and I have seen more in it than I did the last time, mostly because I’m on the internet more now. The virtual reality is a really interesting item, he plays it very low key, but its so entangled in this web culture, that I feel that’s really where it’s going to go. I mean sure its being used for video games and porn right now, but Facebook has been interested. I think it’s going where Stephenson has written it. It’s going to be a social playing ground, and hey maybe we’ll interact with some ‘realality’.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Fiction of Ideas

Aye and Gomorrah by Samuel R. Delaney was an interesting read for its idea of gender fluidity, which is something that’s being brought into the forefront in today’s society.  The focus on astronauts being agender and citizens being interested in having sexual acts with them. The use of Gomorrah in the title refers to vice and homosexuality seen in Christianity as major sin. Whereas in this story open sexuality though hinted at as being a bit of a vice with the agender astronauts, but overall sexual act seems to be more fluid. Almost like a transaction between a supplier and a client. A very interesting introduction into the area of science fiction that is about discussion of ideas and not really about adventure.

             Movies like Blade Runner ask what it is that makes us human. Is it our state of conscience or the belief that humans have a soul? Well it’s really hard to state confidently what it is. Even if we have a soul, if a robot can achieve intelligence and portray emotion then how is that not a living being? The idea to think and create new ideas and feel love and hate is part of being human. We have synapses and a nervous system and hormones that fire through our body. These biological aspects of our body create our emotions and thoughts. I don’t see how that’s different from a computing system that becomes intelligent. Science still can’t fully answer the questions still raised beyond the biological make up of a human. So if robots can become as intelligent and emotional as humans, then to me they stand on equal ground.

Space Opera

Into the unknown we go into epic tales of adventures in space! Space Opera, the genre of sci-fi we know best for Star Wars and Forbidden Planet. For this week in Space Opera I re-read Ender’s Game and Stranger in a Strange Land. Both their own forms of Space Opera. Ender’s Game takes place in a future where humans are at a war against insect like aliens. The book is quite interesting in using children, instead of the usual adults being soldiers. The psychological effects on what it does to the children, reflect what really happens to a lot of soldiers in war. But putting from a child’s perspective makes the whole idea all the more perverse. The books that follow this series, you can see the aftermath of what the war caused and its repercussions that effect the adult Ender. Re-reading the book allowed me to have a better understanding on the politics in the book.

Continuing onto Stranger in a Strange Land, I enjoyed the beginning of the book but once it started pushing the female characters to just sexual objects, it was harder to continue on. Though the portrayal of women was a bit better than some portrayals at the time. But overall the overall theme became lost once it became a male fantasy about having a harem. Both books follow the tropes of Space Opera in characters learning about new cultures and explore new planets, both take us to new realms but leave us in themes that can be still applied to today. War can be just a big miscommunication and often time the answer is talking and love and freedom of expression can break down societal barriers.