Monday, May 21, 2007
In this part of the novel, Rat Korga is educated through the technology of the glove, which allows him to read whole books in a few seconds. I personally found this section of the novel to be one of the most touching and engaging parts of the whole novel. It seems to me that this few pages are Delany's way of expressing his love for literature, and his feelings about his own education. Rat Korga's eyes are opened by the literature. In a few minutes he learns history and philosophy and a love for his own planet, things he was never able to think about before. Not only does the glove seem to make up for the RAT process, it actually compensates for Rat's mental weaknesses, which was what made him unhappy in the first place.
The glove changes Rat, and when it is taken away, he is left dissatisfied, an emotion he is not supposed to feel. Later in the novel it says that Rat begins wearing one work glove, as if in his diminished state he is trying to reach again for the knowledge. It is the knowledge that makes Rat human, and able to function and understand the world around him. I think that this part of the novel is also Delany's commentary on the importance of knowledge, especially to black americans. It seems that Delany is playing off of WEB Dubois' argument that blacks need to seek out a higher education, so that they will be able to challenge whites on every issue.This part of the novel also reminds me of the traditional slave narrative, in which a slave is somehow taught to read and write, and how that only awakes feelings of dissatisfaction and a need to challenge authority. It seems that by keeping the RATs uneducated and in essence stupid (although we are led to believe that Rat Korga is one of the stupidest) they are also being kept under control.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Derrick Bell’s short story “The Space Traders” and the film “The Brother from Another Planet” are both science fiction versions of traditional slave narratives, but they are very dissimilar in tone.
The film “The Brother from Another Planet” seems to take a much more cheerful outlook on
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
But Shawl goes even further- she makes her characters people of color, who have been forced into new white bodies, so that they are a group of people with black identities, but who will bear white children and create a new white world. Dr. Ops, the AI which supervises them, represents an overseer or a slave trader. This story of colonization is converted into a story of abduction and slavery. Even Wayna's physical reaction to the change is tied to the idea of slavery. "Then the pain hit. White! Heat! There then gone- the lash of a whip."
Eventually, in a way that mimics the traditional slave narrative, Wayna comes to accept her new place- she learns a trade and gives up her old friends. She starts to accept Dr. Ops instructions. She becomes accustomed to her new white body and white way of life.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
In his short story "The Comet," DuBois creates a situation- perhaps what he believes to be the only situation- in which the black character, Jim, is released from the veil that society has put on him. In the story, Jim and a young white woman find themselves as equals, simply because everyone else is dead. DuBois story assumes that the only way a relationship between a black man and a white women would work is if they were literally the last two people on earth. In "The Comet," Jim is also released from his obligation to teach the world about his culture, his blackness, because his status as the last living man surpasses his role as a black man.
At the end of the short story, when it is discovered that there are still other living people, Jim immediately resumes his former role as a black man, a person at the bottom of society. This shows that whatever he and the woman learned in their time together was not lasting. It would take more than this to make a change.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Akomfrah’s documentary, Last Angel of History, opens with the story of Robert Johnson, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the blues. Akomfrah uses this story to set up music and black culture as a “black technology.” This makes music the center of a relm of science fiction which embraces and celebrates black technology and history. The film then goes on to discuss the three major black sci-fi musicians, Sun Ra in jazz, Lee Scratch Perry in Reggae, and George Clinton in funk. The film uses George Clinton’s Mothership Connection as an important part of the Data Theif story line, saying that the phrase “Mothership Connection” is a key to a code that will reveal the future, and that the rest of the code is scattered throughout black history and music.
Kodwo Eshun also talks about these musicians in his essay Further Considerations on Afrofuturism. He says that “Afrofuturism studies the appeals that black artists, musicians, critics, and writers have made to the future, in moments where any future was made difficult for them to imagine.” It is these moments that the Data Thief is trying to find and use to unlock the secrets of the future.
In Last Angel of History, Eshun is interviewed and he claims that alien abduction has already taken place, in the form of slavery. This certainly sets up the argument that Octavia Butler’s novel Dawn is a neo-slave narrative, with the Oankali taking the place of white slave traders. In fact, in Dawn the biological exchange is referred to as trade, and the Oankali consider themselves traders. The character of Lilith is a science fiction look at a very traditional character- she is a black woman who starts out free but ends as a resentful black mistress, and the mother of mulatto children.
The Data thief is a gatherer of information. His job in assembling the code is to make a composite of all black history. The film Scratch presented DJs in a similar way-
Scratch music is a composite of all music history, shaped and presented through the artistic interpretations of the DJ. In Last Angel of History Greg Tate says that “sampling allows musicians to concentrate all eras of black music onto a chip.” There is also a discussion of “jungle” music, which uses technology to mimic the sounds of traditional drums and rhythms. The film points out that by using technology these musicians not on compile the past, they also embrace a cyborg identity- which becomes an allegory for blacks who need to prove their own humanity because of their color.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Monday, April 9, 2007
The constructs in Lilith’s Brood really are both Human and Oankali. The constructs are raised in an Oankali family structure and in an Oankali town, in this case Lo, which is itself a living entity; yet their humanity is important to them. They are missing the human drive for violence and some of the human need for independence, yet they understand these needs in a way the Oankali never could. Although the Oankali set out to create a new race, part human and part themselves, they seem almost surprised by the human needs that surface in their construct children. The human parents, on the other hand, seem to be pleasantly surprised by their children’s human qualities, as if they did not expect them.
In Adulthood Rites Akin spends part of his youth living in the Human town of
In Imago, Jodahs is the first human-born ooloi construct, yet despite its alien sex; its narrative gives us the first glimpse at the ultimate blending of human and Oankali. In many ways it is the most human construct we have encountered in these books. It is easily accepted by humans because its body strives to please them, physically and chemically. It shape shifts to fit the fantasy of its human. “Oankali ooloi frightened humans because they looked so different. Aaor and I were much less frightening. Perhaps that allowed humans to respond more freely to our scent. Or Perhaps, being part human ourselves, we had a more appealing scent.” It is seductive, yet the humans’ feelings for it go beyond a physical or chemical attraction. As Nikanj says at the end of the novel, pheromones only help Jodahs at first, but eventually the humans just love him. The humans Jodahs “converts” do not harbor the same resentments as Lilith. They do not feel forced into mating with him. It finds a colony of humans who have somehow managed to reproduce, but who have been passing on genetic disorders and have crippled themselves with inbreeding. His seductive, lovable nature makes it easy for him to convince these humans that they should join him and have construct children, even though they know that they are capable of having their own human children.
Monday, April 2, 2007
I wanted to make an extra comment on the topic of mixing or sampling. I recently took a class on modern American theatre, and we talked a little bit about some recent playwrights who have started using “sampling” as a way of writing a play. How this works in theatre is that the playwright combines little bits and pieces from several plays or from other sources, like song lyrics, poetry, or excerpts from novels to create the play. These plays also sometimes use other techniques like multimedia and projections. Another thing a playwright could do is mess around with things like location or the chronology of the play. I don't know what that might have to do with science fiction, although the plays end up being pretty abstract and weird... Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting connection to my other classes.
Sunday, April 1, 2007
In his essay “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism,” Kowdo Eshun says that the afrofuturist movement looks to the past, in hopes of emphasizing the positive history of black culture, while also looking forward to create a future role for black culture. Since so much of history is based in white culture and philosophy, he says that; “It has been necessary to assemble countermemories that contest the colonial archive.”
Turntabilism and DJ culture are steeped in this idea, because at the most basic level a DJ is creating something new from pieces of the old. Digging for old or unusual albums is very important. The music used for sampling is often music from another era of black culture. For example, a DJ may choose to use something from the jazz era in his work, and in this way he is highlighting black musical history. In his essay, Eshun also points out that many musical artists, including George Clinton, Bob Marley, and Sun Ra, look back to ancient African myths and beliefs, including ideas about religion and cosmology, for inspiration. This again puts an emphasis on African cultural history.
But musicians, including DJs, are not simply dwelling in the past. They use the inspiration that they get from their cultural heritage to try to create a new forms of expression. The turntablist music is new, creative, and even futuristic. It is based in technology- the ability to manipulate music by speeding or slowing the tracks or by scratching. Scratching, originally a “mistake” sound, becomes a powerful rhythmic tool- and it is created by a technology that is not considered a normal instrument. Another tool used heavily in early hip hop music were electronic sounds- again, created by computerized, technologically advanced tools that are not traditional instruments.
The DJs in “Scratch” also seem to have a fascination with the future, with science fiction, and even with aliens. Mix Master Mike claimed in the film that his music had attracted intelligent life from another world, and while this was one of the more outrageous claims, many of the other DJs seemed to have pictures of aliens- Qbert had an alien mask sitting next to him during his interviews. Why are all of these DJs so fascinated with aliens and with science fiction? It may be that because they become interested in the technology they use to create their music they also become interested in more theoretical technologies. I also think that it may have something to do with the age and interests of the people who are attracted to this music. Many of the DJs started learning as young teenagers- and many of them were also male. It seems like young teenage boys are the main group with an interest in science fiction movies, books, and even comic books. Qbert related his music to “the force” from Star Wars for example.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I am currently a junior, and I am a drama major. I specialize in costume design and construction, and am hoping to have a career in this field. I have worked for Shakespeare and Company in Massachusetts and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia constructing costumes, and this summer I am looking forward to working with The Williamstown Theatre Festival, which is also in Massachusetts. When I graduate, I am planning on moving to New York, and hopefully I will find work in the theatre. I wanted to put this info in my post because I find that the more I learn about the theatre, and costumes in particular, the more I relate the rest of my life back to my work. When I see a movie one of the first things I notice is the costume design, and so it is likely that if I decide to write about a SF movie I may make comments related to my work and how it links to our class topic of Afrofuturisms. Science Fiction costumes are a lot of fun because they can be imaginative and outrageous, but they also often reference historical periods or modern day culture, and I don't think I will be able to resist talking about them when I analyse a movie. I also think that I learned most of my text analysis in drama classes, so it may be that I analyse literature a little bit differently than students who have spent more time taking English classes.
Science Fiction and Fantasy have been my favorite fiction genres since I learned to read, or even before that, as my parents read the "Oz" books to me when I was still in preschool. In grade school, I became an avid reader when I discovered adult fantasy books. Later I became tired of dragons and wizards and so forth, and I started to read more science fiction. Since I got to college I have been so busy working and reading plays for school that I haven't had a lot of time to read for fun, and I miss reading SF! I decided to take this class because Octavia Butler is one of my favorite authors, I have read all of her books, and I figured any class that had her work as required reading was the class for me.