Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Last last blog

Good times. Being able to take a class about science fiction was definitely not something I thought I could do when first coming to college. And my expectations about the class at the beginning of the semester (that it would be solely entertaining) have been shattered after hours of intense, intellectual discussion every Tuesday. So overall I was entertained but also learned. What a concept! Have to say though- I think that some things we could have done without and others definitely need to be added for future classes. I didn't like 'The Gods Themselves' in the slightest. But some books that I love really have to be put on the next syllabus. Really. Like 'The Sparrow' by Mary Doria Russel- that is an amazing alien encounter story. And very well written. Having read Earth for my final paper also was fantastic- that book, more than anything else this semester, applies to real problems in the world today.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Last Blog

Well, being the last sci-fi blog i'll be doing I thought I'd leave some final thoughts. Look to Windward seemed like an awesome book, wish I would have had time to read it. I'll definetly put it near the top of my summer reading list (right behind the new Shadow-series book and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I have still never read). I learned a lot in this class, mainly about how different people think different things were significant in novels. I would think one thing was the overpowering theme of the book, and then I would get to class and we would talk about something completly different the whole time; it really got me thinking about the novel as a whole instead of focusing on the part I thought was the coolest. Hopefully Prof. Jackson gets to teach this class again soon. Ok, enough wasting time on this, gotta dive back into my paper! Have a good summer all :)

p.s. - i started posting some of my comments on my own blog near the end...sorry for that. I check and update that one way more often and it just became a habbit. Word

Aww I'm all sentimental

This is the only class I cared about this semester, except for this inconvvenient Saturday morning class that met three times, but aside from that, I only wanted to be in this one. Amid writing bullshit ethnographies and reading about how crappy Latin America is to peasants, I got to read some really fucking good scifi that I didn't know existed. I took this class to be with my friend Rachel and to discuss Ender's Game in some academic sense and to have a class with Jackson. And those were all fulfilled just fine, and the new authors I've now got about a million books by make this semester worthwhile. Granted, I could have done without Ursula Leguin in general, but everything else was cool.

The best comment made in class last week was "when does more technology stop being an improvement?" and I think that in certain areas of technology today, that has even been reached. I feel like that there has never been a time before now when all scientists should absolutely be shown a required set of movies, namely the ones about medical mutants eating brains and spaceships called to Earth with radio waves obliterate us, not to mention anything to do with artificial intelligence. I read a news story recently about scientists putting the largest amount of human dna ever into mice for ummm god knows what. When questioned as to whether the mice would gain human intelligence, one scientists said don't worry, if the mice start showing human-like behavior, they'll be killed. They were talking about a human developing in a mouse body! AHHH! I understand that medical improvements are always necessary, but come on! I guess pretty soon we're doomed anyway, but I'm still holding out hope for a sudden jump into colonizing other planets so I can get the hell off of this place, preferably taking my hometown with me (not the people, just the beaches)

Friday, April 29, 2005

Final

So this is my last entry of the semester...I really liked this class. It was always entertaining, but more importantly, I always learned something. In fact, I came away from almost every class with my brain hurting (but in a good way Professor). This is not something that I can say about most of my other classes. Looking at the critiques of society found in many of the books, the issues that are envisioned or expounded upon are rarely touched to the degree that we have this past semester. I have not only found a new appreciation of books that I have read before, but I have also found a new way to look at politics, scientific "progress", and the other. The other is the topic that made me think the most. It has so many instances in the "real" world that are directly applicable, especially since for all intents and purposes at this point we are alone in the universe, and dehumanization is not unknown.
For a few last comments, I wish that we had been able to talk about the ending of Look To Windward more that we did. I found the epilogues rather jarring. Just the amount of time, and the coincidences necessary to complete the story of the scholar, instead of striking me as unrealistic (which it is, i have to admit), had me sitting with my jaw open. The audacity of Banks had me stunned, mind racing with the implications. the nanomachines used in the Culture assassin are the ulimate perversion of a technology, since it was mentioned that they were originally designed as the unlimate construction material. I think talking about that, and the very precise strikes on individuals would have been beneficial. And the kicker of course, that Huyler was a Culture Agent brings the story full circle, but sends my mind at least, racing with the amount of information and planning necessary to pull something of this magnitude off. The culture had to have been in on it from the beginning. Give me the KGB any day, Special Circumstances is scary shit. Hope everyone's papers go well!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Eternal Life

Look to Windward is one of those books, like Alice in Wonderland maybe, that you can decide is either brilliant or insane. I'm not sure what I think. It is certainly interesting and I had no trouble getting through it, but I had a difficult time visualizing everything- it was sometimes just a big cosmic mess of colors in my brain that made no sense. I felt like I was intruding on someone's private, bizarre dream. One of the themes in the book that grabbed me the most was the contemplation of death and the afterlife. The culture folks had the option of basically living forever and spoke sarcastically of 'death fads' where people would choose to die without being backed up. As a human, the idea of living forever is of course enticing but at the same time it completely messes with my view of life. If we are all just lucky enough to make it to our 80's, then we hopefully live our lives like it is the only life we have. Life is precious. In the Culture, life is meaningless. If you can live forever, then what is the point? Acquiring wealth, prestige, accomplishments- they would mean nothing. Not that they mean a whole lot anyway. I guess my point is that their view of death profoundly influences the Culture- the way they live and interact with one another and other species.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Tolerance vs. Acceptance

While reading this, I was continuously trying to place this whoel society in parallel to some stage of American diplomacy. Why? Because I found it entertaining that even behind many ruses, a foreign diplomat so FOREIGN was accepted. He had three legs! Goddamn! And they were okay with him walking around. Now, what this reminds me of is in Gone With the Wind, when the description of the new composition of the town was given. Where never a foreign accent was heard before, after the war started, the Confederate streets were full of European accents and no one turned their head anymore. This seems the same as in Look to Windward, where foreignness has been dulled down to acceptance. At what point do instincts against something so utterly different get worn away? Have we ever actually reached somethng so accepting as a society?

Speak Slowly and Carry a Bullhorn

As I was reading Look to Windward, something that I think had been stewing in my brain for most of the semester became a coherent thought. I think that it was nearly triggered by Speaker for the Dead and the Star Trek episode we watched in class. Anyway, while reading Banks, I thought, how convienient that all these different species can talk to one another with no apparent difficulty. That the language barrier had been overcome was completely taken for granted, and even though it was made clear that some of these species had been living together for millenia there was still no issue, other than an accent. Now I realize that in our current international world order this translation/communication problem is often overlooked as well, simlar to the situation in Look to Windward. But I would say that this situation is slightly different, as we are all one species, and many of the European languages have evolved from a base language, making laguage groups. Still difficult, but not as difficult as I would imagine communicating with another species would be. This presumtpion of being able to easily communicate is not something that I can take easily, even with the background offed, in this book at least. Communication is difficult even when native speakers are the ones talking. Throwing in the language barrier should create huge difficulties, and what if certain sounds can't be made by antoher species. Language is taken for granted too often.