Wednesday, May 2, 2007

"Renovating the Massa's House"

Nisi Shawl's "Deep End" is a tale of colonization. In the story Wayna and the others are being sent to colonize a new planet- Amends. In some ways, this is a traditional European story- not unlike that of the pilgrims. They are setting out to settle their own "New World". Nissi Shawl messes with this european story by making all of the future colonizers convicts, who are settling this new world as a part of their "rehabilitation". By doing this, the story becomes less like that of the early american pilgrims and it begins to have more in common with the traditional story of Australia's beginnings. Amends will be a colony inhabited by ex-cons- who have chosen this in hope of starting a new life (many chose to stay in the computer program instead.)

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.

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