Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Week 15: Monster Revision

As a huge horror fan growing up with the old black and white Universal monster movies, I’ve always wanted to read the original stories that not only inspired these classic films but also ultimately led to the popularity of the horror genre today. Reading Frankenstein was a great opportunity to examine the rise of popular horror as well as the beginnings of science fiction.

Monsters are by far one of my favorite aspects of horror, especially when stories deal with the idea of the tragic monster. In Frankenstein we have this creature that is brought to life by Dr. Victor von Frankenstein while in his deep study of the natural scientists thinks himself capable enough to create life where it has ceased. Although he is successful he is appalled by the monster and flees, but later in the story we find out his creation is articulate and wants to learn. What’s unfortunate is that despite his good intentions, he is rejected by all those he comes into contact with because of his appearance; this leads us to the question of who really is the monster in the story. Victor’s disgust and rejection leads to the monster’s anger and to him ultimately killing Victor’s bride as well as a few of his other friends, but is it his fault for not taking responsibility for his creation and teaching it right from wrong, as morals are not genetic and must be learned.

In the end good and evil are not as black and white as they seem. In the story, light is a symbol for progress and life. But there is a duality to it as light is also linked to fire that may bring warmth and also pain if you venture too close to the flames. One of the monster’s first sensations is the feeling of light being pushed upon his nerves. Light also reveals his appearance to others and causes them to fear him.

There is no plain answer to who is at fault for the deaths of his friends and the misfortune that falls around Victor, but in some ways I think it’s better that there is no clear answer. It’s the duality in themes like these that I really enjoy in horror and sci-fi because it lets the reader decide how to interpret it and brings up excellent topics to question and discuss. 

In order to expand upon this theme of monsters and society through my revision, I decided to go back and watch all of No Such Thing with Stephanie Rohrbach. One of the main things we noticed was that throughout the movie there were many characters introduced, but none of them were as lively or as emotional as The Monster was. I’m not sure if it was just the acting or if it was intentional, but it really says something when the monster acts like more of a human than the rest of the humans do. That can also be said with how they treated the Monster. They showed him off treated him like some sort of media fad, which is exactly what The Boss of the media center wanted to do to Beatrice when they found out she had survived the plane crash.

The media wants to sensationalize anything to make a quick profit. They focus on any kind of flaw someone might have and blow it up, criticizing it for the world to see. The Monster basically showed what happens when the media gets their hands of you, he isolates himself, turns to alcohol and becomes incredibly violent. So although the pacing in the movie was odd as well as the acting, it still made some great points about society and how the media create their owns monsters for the worlds entertainment.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Week 14: Sci-fi Satire

With all of the dark themes and genres in science fiction and fantasy, there has to be a genre that pokes fun at the serious side of everything. And that is why I am glad that Science Fiction Satire/ Parodies exists. I think sci-fi is one of the greatest genres to parody because of how absolutely absurd it can be at times, especially when someone not familiar with the genre examines it. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a great example of taking the crazy sci-fi genre and making it even crazier, but something that I think really speaks to not only the people who create media for this genre, but to the fans as well is the movie Galaxy Quest.

The movie takes influences from the early Star Trek shows in almost all of its aspects from the crewmembers personalities to the setting itself. It follows the story of these once popular sci-fi show actors and throws them into this war between a violent alien race and a peaceful race that has been influenced and inspired by the TV show (that they think are history records) enough to fully recreate the ship and live by the captain’s motto. It makes fun of the common tropes like the disposable crewmembers that always die in episodes, or the fact that the bomb timer is always stopped just as it hits 1 second left.

By far my favorite thing about the movie though is how the fans are portrayed. Fans of sci-fi are often demonized and stereotyped as the basement dwelling, super-nerd that we’ve come to known from pop culture. But this movie shows that it’s from your love of this genre that you can accomplish great things. In the end it’s because these kids know so much about the old TV show that they can help the crew navigate the inner working of the ship and ultimately help them save the universe.

The movie is a satire of popular sci-fi shows like Star Trek but it succeeds because it not only pokes fun with the common tropes of the genre, but it recognizes that there are people who truly believe in these sci-fi heroes and rewards them for their love of these series. I personally think that it’s one of the most successful pieces of science fiction satire today.

Week 13: Speculation about Literary Speculation

Out of all the weeks during this course I have either been extremely familiar or at least somewhat familiar with the theme for that given class. But for this week I couldn’t quite grasp what exactly Literary Speculation was about. We examined a few pieces of media, one of which I found more interesting than the other, but I still couldn’t quite figure it out.

With Primer the story involved a pair of seemingly regular scientists/engineers who ended up creating a means of time travel while developing what seemed to be a levitation device. Everything had a low budget feel, which I think added to how believable everything was. The whole setting, the characters and their performance, everything seemed so real that what they were doing in the film could be happening right now is some engineer’s basement. So what I gathered about Literary Speculation from this was that it was taking an everyday, seemingly normal story and adding that sci-fi twist to it.

But then we read The Aquatic Uncle. It had things in common with Primer in that it was sort of in a plausible setting, the period in which water dwelling creatures began evolve into land dwellers.  Despite having a more scientific but still plausible setting, the story has a much more folk tale/ myth feel to it in that the story involves anthropomorphic creatures conversing with one another, which leads to the story’s ending that sort of teaches the moral “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” This story reminded me much more of one of Aesop Fables with a sci-fi element than anything that could have happened in modern times.

The legends and mythology of the past were created in order to explain how and why things happened back when science was still in its early stages of development, so I guess that’s kind of of how I see Speculative Literature. We use speculative fiction to theorize or predict how things are going to happen in the future or fantasize about how things happened in the past. Its purpose is to make us think and prepare us for what is to come.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Week 12: Feminism and Grubs

I really enjoyed reading Bloodchild this week. I admit there are a few issues I had with it when I began to read it but as I continued I enjoyed it more and more. Sometimes its hard for me to enjoy stories where you are thrust so suddenly into the plot and there is really no explanation because as an artist I find a lot of enjoyment out of fully visualizing the character and the setting, it makes my reading experience that much more enjoyable when stories allow me to do that. But I can see the appeal with leaving out so many explanations for the reader especially when dealing with a short story like this. You want the reader to fill in the blanks and use their own imagination to the fullest. I also saw this when I read “I Live With You” as well this week. There was no explanation to what this other woman was or how she was able to live in the main characters house so easily, but I liked it because I got to speculate about all of those details.

My favorite aspect of Bloodchild was the role reversal of reproduction and how the main character reacted to witnessing it, knowing that he would have to go through the same thing. I really liked the parallels between this fictional form of reproduction versus what actual childbirth is like for women, because in all reality they are almost exactly the same, minus the fact that tiny insect like creature are growing inside instead of a human baby.  The fact that males are used to carry the alien’s offspring is a great examination of how women have been treated in the past and in some instances in the present. Women were basically deprived of their humanity and reduced to a function just as Gan and the other men in the story were.

So it’s these feminist themes that I really enjoyed in the story, and I really wish there was more of it to read because I feel like many of these theme are an untapped potential for literature and media. Hopefully stories like Bloodchild might inspire others to create their own feminist/alien reproduction reversal stories in the future.

Week 11: Cyber-verse

Cyberpunk and Steampunk are actually two of my favorite sub-genres of fiction, so I was excited to read something from them for the class because usually when I encounter cyberpunk it’s either in movies or video games. I read Johnny Mnemonic, which I think really screamed classic cyberpunk story. You have the bad-ass cyberpunk heroine that everyone relies on for her skills and a society where digital information is a commodity. But I think one of the main ideas of cyberpunk that I love was the main hacker’s ability to store information in his brain. We’re in a society right now that values that digital information above a lot of things, so how long until we start using implants and modifications that allow us to do the same thing?

Another reason why I liked it is because it reminded me of one of my favorite video games called Remember Me. It’s far into the future and things like memories have blossomed into a big industry. A company makes this device called a Sen-Sen that allows you to store and replay memories as well as remove bad ones and upload and share memories on the net. Nearly everybody in the world has one and it’s a booming industry but it’s not without its faults. Humans can become addicted to these memories, which causes their Sen-Sen to degrade and mutate them into sub-human creatures. These memories can also be stolen, hacked and “remixed” by “Errorists” to make you believe certain events had different outcomes, effectively manipulating the victims as they want.

I love all of these themes in both Johnny Mnemonic and Remember Me because in some ways I can see out futures becoming more and more like that. The social issues involved with these two pieces of fiction are heavily based in the reality we know now. The degradation of the Sen-Sens causes people to degrade and their slum like sewer environment reflects that. Next thing we know Facebook could be affecting us the same way after brain implants become a part of our regular culture. Our technology today could have terrible consequences for us in the future and we would have no idea because we’re blinded by the hope that these things might bring us together.