Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This week, I listened to the original 1978 BBC radio show of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, written by Douglas Adams. British humor at its finest. What more is there to say than the fact that the audio adaptation is just an ridiculously comedic as the book? The voices are extremely well performed and convincing; it’s quite shocking to me, that the book was written in the 70s, because the humor does not seem dated or aged, like a Shakespeare comedy.

The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy introduces us to the characters of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, two beings who live on the planet Earth, as Douglas so affectionately describes, “Mostly Harmless.” Arthur is protesting the bulldozing of his house, and lays down in front of a tractor to prevent the workers from proceeding; much to the dismay of the people, who are just trying to move things along. Although Arthur is in great peril, Ford, knowing that the Earth is about to end in a mere matter of minutes, begs Arthur to go to the pub with him for a drink and “something important he has to tell him.” After a banter with the workers, Arthur, convinced that they will honor his request and not bulldoze his house, goes to the pub with Ford - much to his dismay, when he gets back to his house, he finds out that his house has been destroyed, but Ford provides no sympathy for he knows that the Earth will be destroyed.

At that very moment, Vogon spaceships come to Earth and announce that they are destroying it. Which sets off the incredible events that Arthur and Ford go through in order to survive the destruction of Earth, and with the eventual introduction of characters such as Trillian, Marvin, and Zaphod, they must escape the clutches of the galaxies officers and live their lives as space cowboys. Adventure for all. It was an incredibly fun listen! To reiterate what I said earlier, I found it rather interesting that the audio recordings was able to maintain a sense of modernity - perhaps the lack of descriptions helps the listener realizing that this novel was actually written in the 70s.


The novel I read for this week was Kindred, by Octavia Butler. Just like many of Butler’s works, the themes present ideas not dominantly present in many classical works of science fiction. Being a fan of Octavia Butler’s short stories, such as Bloodchild and Speech Sounds, I was more than excited to read Kindred. And I was not disappointed; Kindred is not only incredibly well-written, but disturbingly accurate in its portrayal of the treatment of African Americans throughout American history.

Kindred is not your typical science fiction; although there are science fiction elements such as time traveling throughout the novel, it discusses the historical endurance of the African American community and explores the politics of gender, race, and slavery. The main character, Dana, is a black woman with the powers of time travel - except when she travels back in time, she lands in a plantation owned by white supremacists in the 1800s. There, she meets her ancestor Rufus, a white slave owner who is cruel and menacing towards Dana and forces her to undergo the life of a slave. However, the purpose of Dana’s time traveling is to prevent Rufus’s death - or at least, until he forcibly rapes her other ancestor, so she can be born. The dynamics of the story play between Dana having to endure the misgivings of Rufus, otherwise she will not exist when she goes back to her current day existence.

I would not say that the text I read for this week reflects the values and perspectives of majoritarian culture. At least, not anymore - although, I say this with a hint of uncertainty, because as proven by the recent events of the election, I cannot say without a hint of hesitation that for the most part, people have looked past prejudices and racism is not as prevalent as it used to be. Of course, the mistreatment of African Americans or African Americans is not nearly as horrendous as it used to be, but there still lies many improvements that must be made for the sake of society. Just because progress has been made, doesn’t mean that we as a people have to stop bettering the lives of everyone.

A Clockwork Orange

The novel A Clockwork Orange, written by Anthony Burgess in 1962 is perhaps better known from the Stanley Kubrick film. That’s how I first learned about A Clockwork Orange, anyway. And just like the film, the novel is shockingly disturbing. It addresses topics still relevant in our world today, despite the publication date. Alex, the main protagonist, is the leader of a teenage gang – and introduces us to his entourage of fellow criminals. He commits violent crimes and eventually is arrested by the police – he lands in prison and eventually is chosen to take part in a treatment called Ludovico’s Technique, a brainwashing procedure which will last around two weeks. With this treatment, Alex will be unable to commit any crimes without feeling great pain on himself. With the treatment, he is no longer able to even think of any violent thoughts without becoming sick. Now thought as incapable of inflicting violence on society, he is released from prison. The pain Alex endures eventually leads him to attempted suicide – however, he survives, and ends up back at a hospital which cures him of his infliction. He joins a new gang and engages in the same violent behavior as before; but he is no longer content with his lifestyle. He concludes that he wants to lead a normal life.

The novel is certainly more appealing than the novel, because it actually provides the reader with closure. The character actually experiences growth – he no longer wants to act out on his violent tendencies. It provides an optimistic outlook on Alex’s character, and the chance that there is a chance for a new kind of life despite mistakes one has made in the past.

Friday, October 21, 2016


1. What is your reaction to the text you just read?

The short story Bloodchild, written by Octavia Butler, has a fascinatingly disturbing premise; human colonists have settled in an alien planet called Tlic for protection, but in exchange one child must take on the role of a N'Tlic, a chosen human to be impregnated by a Tlic. The main character of the story, Gan, is a young male who has been chosen by a high-official Tlic named T'Gatoi, to bear her eggs. It is an interesting reversal of roles, and in my opinion, parallels the fear that women face when pregnant themselves. However, the bearing of eggs in this story is far more of an unpleasant experience. And the complexity of the relationship between the ones chosen for impregnation and their Tlic's isn't necessarily formed out of love, but duty. I feel that Butler concluded the story with a bittersweet ending, because despite the atrocity that Gan has witnessed, he feels obligated to let himself become impregnated out of his own love for his sister and T'Gatoi.

2. What connections did you make with the story? Discuss the elements of the story which you were able to connect. 

The connections I was able to make with the story included themes that are recognizable in today's society - particularly with the fear that comes with pregnancy. Although women were historically obligated to provide children, that is fortunately no longer the case anymore. Even so, women who may wish to bear children have may witnessed or been told about the excruciating process that comes with labor; in my case, my mother still has scars from her cesarean section. Another element of the story that our current society connects with is the necessity of intermingling in order for both races to survive; all throughout history, we have witnessed the human race at its strongest when forces unite. This is true in Bloodchild, where the Tlic's need the humans to bear their offspring and the humans need the Tlic's for protection. Although the role of the humans is questionably submissive to the Tlic's, there are compromises willing to be made for the sake of their survival.

3. What changes would you make to adjust this story into another medium? What medium would you use? What changes would you make?

I would most certainly not portray Butler's eloquently written but horrifying account of what Gan has witnessed in Bloodchild. Just reading it made me squirm! Although, that is perhaps Octavia Butler's intention in the story, so although it made me incredibly uncomfortable, I think it is necessary for the purpose of showing the audience the tribulations that Gan faces. I would be interested in readapting the story into a graphic novel; the sequence of events that happen throughout the story would be effective if put into sequential form. I don't necessarily see the need to make any changes in the story. Although if I was to take into consideration of who would be reading it (younger audiences?), I'd make it much less graphic.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Left Hand of Darkness

Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness was one of the more interesting, if not confusing stories I’ve read for this class. While I understand the cultural relevance and impact it had on the science fiction community, I was not completely enthralled with it as I would have liked to have been. The novel was a milestone for feminist works and the novel was critically acclaimed for its sexual ambiguity. Personally, none of the characters were as compelling as I would have liked them to be; although I respect the novel for being a breakthrough when it was released, there are some critical flaws that I found unable to ignore as I read the book. I was never fully attached to any of the characters – specifically Genly Ai. I found myself to be a little emotionless as I read the book.

Throughout reading the book, a part of me felt a bit unfulfilled. I suppose because Le Guin’s expansive world was a bit overwhelming for me to understand; the ideas presented seemed interesting enough but there was room to divulge into more of the complexities of her characters and the culture she created. The ideas are great, but the plot? Not so much. It seems like it was more of a world building exercise on Le Guin’s part.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Martian

 One of the more impressive elements of The Martian, written by Andy Weir, is its impressive accuracy in portraying science and space. The author maintains a zealous commitment to this factor; not only does Weir have a background in computer science, but he studied and researched into subgenres of specific sciences that many space operas err on. In fact, the novel is credited to have reignited interest in space exploration and NASA’s program since the Cold War. However, this is not to say that the book is free of miniscule improbabilities. This cannot be helped, however, as Weir’s intention was probably also to create an interesting story with a plot.

It makes me think back to many of the space related movies and entertainment I’ve watched – and I’ve pondered on the accuracy of its portrayal in science. For example, I’ve long been a fan of Star Trek: The Original Series, and its subsequent reboots. And while there are plausible prospects in the science behind Star Trek, there are also many inaccuracies that have been gleamed over for the sake of the plot. Although there is scientific retort and discussion throughout the series, it certainly isn’t a hard science in the way Weir’s novel is.

Another example is the franchise Star Wars – and those films are perhaps even further from an accurate science than Star Trek is. Star Wars essentially incorporates the use of a supernatural force… The Force, which is similar to telekinesis, a psychic ability never proven throughout the course of human history. On the other hand, the majority of people don’t watch these franchises for the sake of accuracy…