The Stone Gods, Jeanette Winterson

I think the comparison between Billie and Spike is essential in the importance of this novel. Throughout the reading we discover that Billie is a human woman living during this time and Spike is a robo-sapien that was created to go on a mission to Planet Blue and will be destroyed after the mission in order to not compromise any data. We also learn that Spike is very attractive, even to Billie who mentions it many times. This is interesting because several times in the novel I found myself picturing Spike as a human. The way she is described and her intelligence made her comparable to a human for me. Billie also displays great intelligence and a sort-of resistance to the way the world is being handled during the time. However Billie shows very much emotion. The fact that she shows her emotion and frustration allowed me to envision her as more humanlike than Spike.

The two central figures are comparable though because they are put in many adventurous situations entering the new world. However, the story does introduce a love-like story along with a survival story. The emphasis on the two characters really makes me question what is considered human. It makes me think about if one feels love- shouldn’t that be considered human? Things like language, actions, sex, and personality are qualities that I associate with being human. Spike consists of these qualities and portrays herself in many ways like a human. However, there is always something me holding me back from completely classifying her as one. When it was described that she was built solely for one mission and had no purpose after that except for being destroyed really made me question the process because Billie was connecting with her. I think the author included this connection purposefully in order to create the question of human boundaries and it was successful in making me question them.

1 comment February 27, 2010

Dawn, Octavia E. Butler

  I think there are many similarities that can be made when comparing Octavia Butler’s novel Dawn and Marge Piercy’s novel Woman on the Edge of Time. Elements of gender and language are repeated themes between the two novels. The main character in Dawn, Lilith, is confused of her whereabouts and the time period she is now in. She is held captive by these alien figures that repeatedly ask her questions without ever uncovering their motives. When she is removed from isolation and a “man” enters her room to begin explaining her situation we, the reader, start to see the parallels of language and gender standards between the two novels.

In Woman on the Edge of Time language can either be oppressive or freeing. Words are made up or eliminated all together and replaced with an all-encompassing word. For example any pronouns such as his/her was replaced with “per” eventually understood as person. In Dawn when Lilith meets Jdahya she asks him, “What his people call themselves?” On page 23 he answers, “We are Oankali.” She replies, “Sounds like a word in some Earth language.” He responds, “It may be, but with different meaning.” Finally she says, “What does it mean in your language.” This dialogue portrays the differences in language developed by the author between Lilith and Jdahya, yet they can understand each other. In both novels the language between the two different worlds are different but communication is still achievable.

Along with language, gender norms are also similar between the novels. “Lilith states I glanced at the humanoid body, wondering how human like it really was. I don’t mean any offense, but are you male or female.” (page 13) Jdahya responds that it is wrong for her to assume that he is a sex that she would be familiar with. It happens that he is make, but a character discussed later in the story is never given a specific gender and is referred to as “it”. The same assumptions are made by Connie when she comes into contact with Luciente from Mattapoisett. The gender norms of their society are completely different from anything the human population is used to. In both Dawn and Woman on the Edge of Time gender is varied between present and future societies as well as language.

1 comment February 17, 2010
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The Female Man, Joanna Russ

  In the narrative Female Man written by Joanna Russ, one particular chapter stuck out in my reading. In Part 8 Chapter 5 Alice Reasoner, Jael, is making interesting interpretations between herself and each of the three other characters. She makes the statement, “they are four versions of the same woman.” Jael concludes that their genetics are the same and each would look alike and think alike if it weren’t for their environments. I think she introduces an interesting concept of how much our environment has an effect on our personalities and characteristics.

Each of the four woman have distinct qualities that correlate with their universes. Joanna is from a place similar to Earth in the 1970s and is described as attractive, not depressed, and sits with her spine like a ruler. Janet is from a utopian society called Whileaway and possesses all the Whileawayan improvements, no sinus trouble, no allergies, and she is muscular. Jeannine lives in a world where the Great Depression never ended and is described as intelligent. Jael notes herself as strong enough to throw them all across the room. She says, “they ought to be equally long-lived but aren’t and ought to be equally healthy but were not.” (162)

Jael makes several inferences about the way things should be and how these women should compare, but blames their differences on the effect of their environments. Is this a fair accusation? I believe that knowing all the woman originate from very different universes, where the role of gender is widely contrasting and the norms of civilization are completely different supports the idea of their environments molding their characteristics. Lastly, Jael states, “So plastic is humankind!” (162) I took this to mean that all humankind can be shaped and molded by their surroundings. A person’s environment directly impacts their beliefs, meaning someone’s values can also be changed. I think Russ included this section purposefully to sway preexisting ideas during the feminist movement.

Add a comment February 12, 2010

What I Didn’t See, Karen Joy Fowler

The narrative written by Karen Joy Fowler immediately, by the title, puts an emphasis on the event the narrator does not see. What I Didn’t See has a female narrator that describes how men take advantage of these two women merely because they are women and not because of their intelligence or talent. The men use these women because if they were to complete their mission of hunting the gorillas, that they were women would deter other big game hunters from the gorillas. During this trip, Beverly goes missing and the main character misses how this happened. The narrator is sent home and not until years later does her husband revealed what she had missed seeing.

According to statements made earlier in the narrative, I immediately thought I knew what happened to Beverly the day she went missing. I wasn’t sure of the details but earlier in the story cannibalism was mentioned as well as the two women having to hide their bodies in fear of being eaten. “Beverly and I would have tried, only we couldn’t bathe without the nuisance of being spied on. Whether this was to see if we looked good, or only good to eat, I did not wish to know.” ( 342) From the beginning I believe they foreshadowed the event that would eventually take place. The fact that when this statement was made, they were sitting by a body of water wishing they could undress and wash themselves but were in fear. At the end of the story when Beverly is removed from the story, the last place she was seen was by a stream of water with the other woman, the main character. I think it was very interesting how this connection was made between the two incidents. It isn’t very clear but I believe it was included for a reason.

The event the narrator didn’t see was thought to be her disappearance due to a gorilla but eventually her husband reveals the evidence that it was discovered Beverly was taken by the porters accompanying the mission. He said he noticed their strange behavior and anger. The reader then realizes that the event the narrator didn’t see was much more violent than imagined.

1 comment February 6, 2010
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The Evening and the Morning and the Night, Octavia E. Butler

The story The Evening and the Morning and the Night, written by Octavia E. Butler tells of a disease, Duryea-Gode disease(DGD) caused by the aftermath of consuming  a cancer-curing drug. The main character in the story, a young girl Lynn, had a rare case of both her parents being victims of this disease. This girl as well as society saw her case as inevitable and unavoidable that she too would begin to drift and begin her self-mutilation. After the death of both her parents, she attends college and eventually moves in with four other DGD students. Comparing this girl and her interaction with the other students and her eventual interaction with the other female characters in the story explains the habits and traits of this DGD infected girl.

Shortly after living within the house of DGD students, Lynn has adopted the term “house mother” because she is constantly reminding the other students to do their house chores and the other students don’t seem to mind her and always comply. Later in the story the reader, as well as Lynn, is told that she possesses an odd scent that is a pheromone. This scent influences others, and although Lynn was unaware of it, she begins to think that things in the past would make sense if she did have this. The relationship that slightly formed in acquiring this knowledge was with a nurse at Dilg, named Beatrice. Beactrice describes to Lynn how they are very similar and quite rare. Lynn suddenly realizes that she is saying is true because she had a sudden unattraction and dislike for her when they first met for no clear reason. The relationships portrayed within this story are interesting because they force us to view the characters in individual viewpoints.

  After Beatrice reveals these things to Lynn and says she will always have a job waiting at Dilg, Lynn reluctantly says she will probably eventually join with them. Her decision shows the reader the hardships and responsibility thrust upon functioning people with DGD. It is like if you haven’t torn yourself apart yet, you must contribute to their society and well-being for the future as well as care for those people who have already drifted. Lastly, when Lynn meets Alan’s mother, she is at first terrified other but the longer they stand there and interact with her Lynn allows her to touch her face and she becomes more comfortable. Lynn already is becoming accustomed to the routines and services she will most likely be apart of in the future. We are left at the end with the question of, If Alan will follow and contribute on their future obligations to lesser off DGDs. From evidence throughout the story I can predict that as long as he is a functioning DGD he will give as much as possible to the improvement of their society.

Add a comment January 29, 2010

Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time

 

Although I have not finished the entire book yet, the question has been on my mind since the beginning of the novel. Is Connie crazy? And is this futuristic place of Mettapoisett real? The story focuses around Connie and her treatment within the mental hospital and her visions of a “person” from the future. She travels back and forth through time and communicates specifically with Luciente, who is a sender while Connie is described as the catcher.

My question is, how are we supposed to trust the account of someone who is detained in a mental ward. Connie gives a detailed account of how the drugs make her feel and the mistreatment of the nurses and the doctors toward her, but I feel like we must also remember that the reader is only hearing her point of view. Connie makes it seem like the world is against her and she can’t catch a break or earn trust from anyone. Maybe the reader should consider, why are all these people against her? Is there a reason that she is being confined and admitted into a mental hospital. Perhaps that she actually is mental?

After hearing Connie’s description of the future world and Mettapoisett I believed that this place could be possible and the effects from our habits in this world could very possibly lead to a time like this. However, Connie at first becomes discouraged and thinks that after everything she has gone through, her hope of her children having a better life eventually has also demolished. Connie’s situation sparks pity and sympathy from the reader for the hardships she must endure. However, it is interesting that many people and events within the future society remind her of her home and family within her own society. They also seem to relate with her wrongings and agree with her. For example on page 119, Jackrabbit says, “we’d be stupid not to sense you’re confined wrongly. That you hurt and sadden there and no one seems to want to help you heal. That you are fed drugs that wound your body. Enjoy us.” Hearing these descriptions makes me believe that this could be a way of her coping with the terrible situation she has been placed in. She needs someone to understand her side and she could easily just of made that person/place up. When I reach the end of the story, maybe some of my questions will be answered, but at this point in the novel I truly believe it is possible because Connie is admitted and constrained that she really is crazy and she is hallucinating her connection with the future.

1 comment January 26, 2010
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The Heat of the Universe, Pamela Zoline

  After our group discussion on The Heat of the Universe, written by Pamela Zoline my views on the norms of science fiction began to widen. My initial reading of this story left me confused and somewhat uninterested. However, allowing myself to see this narrative as a work of science fiction, although it does not contain the stereotypical plot lines of aliens and spaceships, permitted me to expand my definition of science fiction as well as develop interest in the narrative.

Zoline develops the daily events of the main character, Sarah Boyle. She includes sections of pure factual science as well as details about Boyle’s cleaning routines, shopping experiences, and child care. At the conclusion of the story, the reader witnesses the explosion of Sarah Boyle. She is continuously crying and begins throwing and destroying items around that house, when for the majority of the story she was described as constantly cleaning and organizing them. Zoline also leaves the last lines of the story with the picture of Sarah throwing eggs in the air but the reader never actually sees them fall.

The last lines in the narrative give a science fiction element to the story. This image also allowed me to go back and read the story revealing the levels of the narrative that portrayed her individual story and also how it related to society at the time. Sarah Boyle is self centered in her universe of caring for the children and the cleaning of the house. She is deep in thought about keeping things organized and the details of her day, but the narrative also includes subtle science points that causes Sarah to think about how everyday occurrences have an effect on her and her children. She talks about the long term and possible negative effects of something miniscule like eating bowls of frosted flakes. The little details like this begin to turn into major details of her life. Comparing Sarah to other women during this time, and the accepted roles of women, allow the connection of an individual level and societal level to be made.

The inclusion of “levels” and the images portrayed throughout the narrative expanded my definition and views of science fiction. Before reading this story, I strictly thought science fiction had to include other life forms and bizarre planets. However Pamela Zoline’s story, The Heat of the Universe conformed my view point entirely.

Add a comment January 15, 2010

Created He Them, Alice Eleanor Jones

  The short science fiction narrative Created He Them written by Alice Eleanor Jones tells a distressed housewives point of view describing her life after a nuclear holocaust. Ann Crothers, the housewife, depicts her less than ideal living situation. She lives with her ungrateful and spiteful husband and reveals that once her children reach a certain age, they will be taken away from her. Throughout the story her husband maintains a different point of view of their lives together which reveals the different strains the society weighs on any parents during this time.

From the beginning of the narrative Ann Crothers carefully completes her daily tasks in order not to upset her husband. “She had already poured his coffee; he liked it cooled to a certain degree; but if he did not get up soon it would be too cool and the bacon to crisp and he would be angry and sulk the rest of the day. She had better call him.” (67) She prepared his breakfast conscious of every detail. She even reveals she must put the children in the basement and keep them quiet so any noise they make would not make her husband angry.

Ann Crothers is nervous and thorough to prefect things for her husband, however throughout the day she wishes he would die and repeatedly says she would kill him. She does however care deeply for her children. She takes them outdoors and wheels them down the street when the other women in the neighborhood begin to admire the children. This event connects the women in the society with Ann Crothers and their love for their children. The strangers in the neighborhood show admiration for the children yet their father does not acknowledge them once.

Henry Crothers, the husband, is demanding and critical of his wife. He sees her efforts as lazy and unworthy of his praise. However, telling the narrative in his point of view the reader would be exposed to a male’s coping process with his children being taken from him. In result of nuclear attacks children could be born with mutations or be stillborn the majority of the time. Henry and Ann are blessed and burdened with the fact they can still produce healthy children. Ann states, “we are among the tiny percentage of people in this world who can have normal children. We hate each other, but we breed true.” (75) Lisa Yaszek from Ladies’ Home Journal explains that Henry is a petty tyrant who neglects his children because he knows they will be taken away from him. (88) Although Ann wishes Henry would die, they also know their importance in society and their duty to create children like theirs. They must do this to live, and they must live together.

The hardships during this time turn husbands and wives against each other to cope with their situations. The narrative Created He Them, written by Alice Eleanor Jones reveals the society’s issues and public problems deeply impact the lifestyle and issues in the private sphere as well.

*All references taken from Daughters of Earth, Justine Larbalestier.

3 comments January 9, 2010

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