This is a letter from your human mother, Lillith. I have had a very hard life, but I want you to know that deep down, I do love you, even though I will not express it in the greatest fashion. I was one of the first awakened humans to train another group of humans how to survive on Earth again. I also provided the Oankali with the cancer gene they use in research now. You are park Oankali, and the ooloi responsible for your birth as well as us is Nikanj (for short). One thing that you must understand is that you are of a species on your own. Part human, part Oankali, all Akin. Also, you are one of the few males to be born. These two factors will have drastic and unforeseen effects on your life, and it is my greatest wish that you will surpass these obstacles and live your life to the fullest. Please try to remember that you are part human. We are a proud species, and the mere fact that you have been born potentially undermines our continued existence as true human beings. Nevertheless, you are my child and I wish you the best. You will not be alone in this life. You will have the Oankali, hybrid siblings like yourself, and me. It takes a village to raise a hybrid right? Just please understand that my life has been filled with extraordinary circumstances which sometimes prohibit me from being communicative. I wish you the best in this world.
P.S. Feeding you was a pain
We talked in class on Tuesday about the forces of agency in Lilith’s Brood. Who has it? At this point I’ve only read up until page 163, but I have found that the Oankali have all the agency. For instance, Lilith can’t even open doors on her own until around page 150 or something. She can’t even change location without asking up until that point. The fact that she is constantly watched is also striking. It gives a false sense to any freedom or minute act of agency she might appear to have. One of the biggest scenes which portrays the Oankali’s power over Lilith is on page 43 when Jdahya tells her that she will produce offspring for them. He basically tells Lilith that she has two options: go through with the plan or die. Jdahya and the Oankali alike do not make these statements in brash fashion. When Jdahya lays the life or death scenario down, he poses it as an offering to end Lilith’s suffering. Lilith describes it by saying, “it was a gift he was offering. Not a threat” (43). Isn’t it a threat though? Just because Jdahya was like “do it or die!” doesn’t mean he has offered any other option aside from complete compliance. On page 154 there is an example of how used to this treatment Lilith has become. She asks Nikanj to enhance Joseph and he says no. To herself Lilith says “that was that, and she knew it” (154). This line just goes to show that the Oankali may seem kind, but they really only leave the options they want. Lilith is more or less forced by action or scenario to do what they want.
One of my favorite scenes on p. 50 and 51. It’s when #2, otherwise known as Tinker in the wanted ad, jumps down from the tree to attack the soldiers on foot. At the same time, #1 or Bandit, rockets through the windshield of the military vehicle. Both scenes seem to take place at the same time. I like these pages because the way they are set up visually, and also for the violent capability showcased by both animals.
First of all, this is a visually striking scene. For Bandit, the illustration of him actually going through the vehicle looks like one of those time lapse videos. You can see him in each stage of the action. It looks like the artists drew that as one picture first, and then added the clipped images to throw on top. Tinker just seems to be shooting razors from the trees, but the clipped images slow down that action and show you piece by piece what is happening. What intrigues me is that while these little boxes show the action like slow motion, the way they are set up makes it seem like a lot of fast paced action as well. It’s hard to explain but it achieves some dual effect for me as I read it.
The other thing I really like about this scene is the violence. And I don’t mean that because I’m sick in the head or something, but these two scenes in tandem truly show us just what these animals are capable of. For instance, both scenes have a little box showing the eyes of Bandit and Tinker They are the eyes of predators. This makes those cute cuddly animals, who you might feel sorry for earlier in the story, seem a bit terrifying. The nature of these military guy’s deaths is so visceral and graphic that I can really get a sense of animalistic lethality. In the little boxes you can see a bullet about to hit someone’s eye, a mouth gasping in surprise, teeth being shattered, and a severed foot flying. That’s just for the dog. In Tinker’s half they have split open fingertips, eyes being punctured by razors, teeth and gum sheered in half, and a guy getting impaled face to throat. These wounds just show how completely and utterly Bandit and Tinker can destroy a human, because even little things like fingertips, eyes, and teeth are getting mashed.
Simply put, this scene shows how lethal these main characters can be. I love them, but at the same time I fear them. Tinker and Bandit’s opposition get cut to shreds. The time lapse artwork along with graphic detail really help bring this brutality to the fore, while showing the true lethal abilities of the animals.
I’ve really enjoyed reading this book Neuromancer so far, but I have to agree mostly with the difficulties discussed in Tuesday’s class. It’s pretty confusing due to the lack of solid setting, the time lapses, the names and descriptions. However, I think the two things which mess with me the most the dialogue sentences and technology. When the characters speak, it often sounds like fragmented thoughts. For instance, on page 53, the Finn says “Looks stock. Soon fix that. But here’s your problem, kid.” SO much of the dialogue goes like this. While it adds a cool fragmented feel to these conversations, it also makes it difficult to read fast sometimes for me. The random punctuation and chopped lines slow me down. I suppose this could be the desired effect: disorient the reader. Well, kudos to you Gibson you’ve gotten me a couple times. The other thing is the crazy technology that gets mentioned. Now while I understand that this is science fiction, and this happens all the time, I’d still like some sort of explanation early on. The first weapon which Case uses is called the cobra. It is described as a “steel whip” on pages 16-17. However, he never used the damn thing and I’m left wondering whats so special about it. Other things such as the simstim or the dermatrodes. I just get caught up with the technology itself, and the actions he takes with them, what these technologies actually do. However, like we said in class, the more you read the easier it becomes to pick up on the lingo and the descriptions.
The first thing I noticed in this story is the sense of alienation portrayed through the character Jim. In the first line alone he is standing and “watching the human river…”(253). I think it is funny because the fact that he uses the word ‘human’ makes the sentence seem inhuman. I feel like I would normally describe that scene as a bunch of people or very crowded streets. Then they wanted him to go into the vault because it was “too dangerous for more valuable men.” This little line, again still on the very first page, let me know that our first character isn’t held in too high esteem within society. I honestly didn’t know what to think of this character until a later line. “He had not noticed before that he was a Negro” followed by “He had not thought of her as white”(259) Pretty potent stuff. He probably only thought of himself as a ‘Negro’ because of the way Julia looked at him. In a world where everyone seems to have died but yourself, why would you care what your race is? Under such circumstances, he obviously sees her and just sees a woman. I appreciate how the author is using science fiction in order to shed light upon social issues, such as racism. I think it’s important to note that we as readers find out Jim’s race only when he meets white Julia for that first time and is really made to feel like a ‘Negro’. Thanks to this setting where a comet has somehow killed everybody with gas, we can appreciate equality through this lone wolf character Jim. Given the time in which this story was written, I think that readers back then would learn from the ending – about how pointless racial hatred seems, given that Jim saved Julia simply for being a fellow human.
After seeing the picture of Victor’s reflection ( over making the creature a mate) I decided to take a look at that passage again, and think about that possible future. Frankenstein decides that the female creature he would make could very likely end up a “thinking and reasoning animal.” (p. 145) I found this interesting and ironic, simply because this thought finally occurs to him during round 2 of the creation process. A couple people had to die first. Nevertheless the thought occurs and he decides the deal is over. I think this was a good decision. The creature says he will quit the society of humans once he has a female companion, but what is to stop him from breeding? I can’t help but think of I Am Legend, or some other movie along those lines, where humans become the minority and the hunted. To me, this little visionary scene of Victor’s one of the most science fiction based scenes in the book, especially for the times in which it was read. If I was alive in 1818 reading about this horrifying and intelligent creature I would think it couldn’t possibly get much worse. But then Victor’s thoughts throw in a new kind of horror – world domination! The thought of human enslavement or extinction is bad enough, but to know that the oppressors or destroyers are just like this creature is a killing blow. Even now, after reading this book a couple of times, I think that while the creature is fearsome enough, a whole race of them is scarier. The way this scene is embedded in the story reminds me of the “it’s alive” scene from earlier. Quick and precise, yet heavy handed.
It has been awhile since I’ve read Frankenstein, but it is refreshing to look at it from the science fiction perspective. For this first section of assigned reading, I kept in mind our discussion on the definition of SF as “cognitive estrangement.” My interpretation of this is: The ability to portray important values, philosophies, or moral issues through characteristics apart from our own societal or physical norms. However, in SF the stories contain characteristic changes based in science as opposed to magic or fantasy. In writing, this process can be achieved through the setting itself, character perspective, description, or perhaps all. In the case of Frankenstein, I think that Shelley shows cognitive estrangement through initial setting with Walton, and later through Victor, in both his story and his descriptions.
Walton’s little adventure to the arctic lands sets the tone for this story. It’s foggy, cold and icy, creepy and lonely. Victor even mentions that such a setting allows a listener to be fully enraptured by his story, as opposed to a cozier setting, where one might think him crazy. However, I think this setting is a small factor to the real SF essence. The meat is in Shelley’s ethical and moral issues brought to light through Victor and his creation. Are humans supposed to have ultimate knowledge like Victor gained? Was his abuse in the creation of life, or the abandonment of it? Science is forever striding forward, but has Shelley offered her personal ending to such endeavors? Victor flees the scene at the sight of his accomplishment. He successfully animates dead flesh, and sparks life in the stiff and unmoving limbs of a piecemeal corpse, yet he runs at first sight. Why? The word “animation” itself only receives a negative connotation from this point in the story and on. Previously, it was positive. For instance, there was an “active spirit of tenderness that animated both” his parents (24). Their kind treatment created a very nice childhood for young Victor, one that he denied his own creation. To conclude and keep this short, I think that Shelley, as a sort of Prometheus herself, uses the SF genre to argue serious moral/societal issues, some of which I’ve brought up. At this point in the story these issues are showing themselves through Victor and his creation, but we’ll see where it goes. On a side note, I think that the use of the word “animate” in all its forms is an interesting study for Frankenstein.