Bloodchild

Posted: May 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

Octavia Butler’s, Bloodchild was an interesting piece of diverse science fiction. It certainly belongs in the genre, that’s for sure. Bloodchild introduced us to a world where humans are treated as host creatures to bear the young for the larger, insect-alien population. This particular family lives on a reserve for humans and they are frequented by a politically powerful alien who hopes to use them as hosts in return for her compassion and protection.

What I found most interesting about Bloodchild was it’s take on the relationship between the alien and the main boy, Han. I found this relationship to be the most disturbing thing about this world. The alien treats Han with same kid of love we give our pets, it feels like. We say that we love them, but they are lesser than us for the most part. You wouldn’t save your dog over your cousin because human life is more valuable.

The relationship is switched in this case. The aliens keep humans in a reserve, like humans build wildlife refuges in Africa. And the alien treats the family like pets and not like equals, because we are now the lesser beings. So, is this real love then? Can there be true love without equality? We love our pets and they love us. But that returned love also comes from their dependency on us. What’s more, we can never truly understand each other.

Overall, Bloodchild disturbed me. I couldn’t accept the relationship between the two main characters because of that pet-owner similarity.

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Dune

Posted: May 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

I only read about the first 50 pages of Frank Herbert’s Dune, but I remember seeing the movie when I was very young. The story follows Paul Atreidies, a young man who is destined for greatness as his noble family come to watch over Arrakis, a desert planet. Arrakis is the only source of Spice, a valuable mineral, in this universe, so there’s a lot of complicated politics surrounding the planet. It doesn’t help that Arrakis is inhabited by giant sand worms that could swallow cities whole if given the chance.

From reading the first bit of the book, I was surprised by how normal it all felt, reading wise. From what I remember of the film and from what I looked up on Youtube, the movie is very… psychedelic, for lack of a better term. Everything seems very flow-y and out of your mind. Both the cinematography and the character narration is dreamlike. But the book itself doesn’t read that way. It was exceptionally normal in comparison, with standard tone and dialogue. Because of this, I felt like the book was far more relatable and I enjoyed it more that the movie clips.

On the actual content and themes of Dune, I was surprised by the absolutely overwhelming amount of prophesy in the story. Literally, everything is prophesy! This person is destined to do that and this savior is going to be born to this person who was born under some other great sign. It makes it seem like nothing in the book is in the character’s control. And that’s what really turned me off about the story. I’ve never been a fan of fate. If it exists, it’s always a more interesting story if the characters are fighting fate or a prophesy is fulfilled in an unexpected way.

But even the Spice is a way for people to enhance their minds so that they may understand the universe and read the future. I found it all tiring to encompass and in the end that’s what ended Dune for me.

Space: the endless chasm of nothing that stretches throughout the known universe, broken only by the occasional speck of existence, usually taking form as stars and planets. Space is a void, vast and empty, and traversing the depths of this vacuum has become a common subject in the science fiction genre. In fact, the combination of the use of the spaceship, exploring alien cultures and worlds, and a large cast of main characters seems to define the Space Science Fiction genre.

This is, by far, my favorite section of science fiction. Because, come on, it’s SPACE! For this entry, I’d like to discuss what, in my opinion, are the three most pinnacle examples of Space Opera: Star Trek, Star Wars, and Firefly. I hold each of these franchises near and dear to my heart and would like to comment on them.

Star Trek:

Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek was a futuristic television series that centered around the crew of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701), as they explored new solar systems in the Milky Way Galaxy. Star Trek was known for presenting vastly different cultures in the form of alien species, though they were almost always humanoid. These cultural explorations are an integral part of the Space Science Fiction genre. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, reportedly used his show as a way to present different, and sometimes taboo, societies to the general public. He figured, if the represented cultures weren’t technically human, the show’s audience wouldn’t take the taboos as personally as they normally would.

Though considered campy and sometimes overdramatic, Star Trek really helped to define the Space Science Fiction genre. The cultural explorations and the cast of characters are the main reasons why Star Trek is one of my all time favorite shows.

Star Wars:

Another representation of Space Science Fiction came in the late seventies with George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise. The franchise focuses on a long going fight between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance as we follow several main characters in their struggles. Like Star Trek, Star Wars presented us with many alien civilizations on various worlds throughout the galaxy. However, due to advancements in modern technology and graphics, the representation of these worlds was far more foreign.

Star Wars is probably the most popular franchise in Space Opera, but, ironically, my least favorite. The films are very good, but I was never overtaken by them emotionally. However, if there is anything that Star Wars does right, it’s spaceships. The franchise shows off the staple spaceship in the form of the Millennium Falcon, the Death Star, and the Star Fighter, which are all integral parts of popular culture.

Firefly:

One of the most recent, original, televised portrays of the Space Science Fiction genre came to us in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, a series that aired in 2002. Similarly to Star Trek, Firefly focuses on a group of main characters that live on the spaceship, Serenity. And in lieu of Star Wars, the plot focuses on the aftermath of a large solar system recovering from the aftermath of a war between the Alliance and the Rebellion. What sets Firefly apart form other works in this genre, however, is the lack of alien races. In this world, human beings outgrew Earth’s capacity and moved to a larger solar system and terraformed its many planets and moons. However, the difference between the casts of the peoples of this world thoroughly takes the place of any missing aliens in the series.

Joss Whedon’s Firefly is one of my favorite things in existence. Its cancellation is one of the world’s great tragedies. This is one of those things that should be in everyone’s lives, no matter the cost.

Overall, I think I’ve gone on long enough. I love Space Science Fiction and I hope the genre only continues to grow.

Witches and Wicked

Posted: May 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

I’m finally filling out an entry for the Witches Week because I finally finished the novel, Wicked, by Gregory Maguire. I started the novel over a year ago and only read chapters periodically. Overall, I found Wicked somewhat dull. The tone was very dry and historical, not lending much emotion to what was taking place in Oz.

However, the history of the world was very interesting. I loved this in depth look in Oz and its government and social structures. I felt that the world building in this book was very well done for this reason. It also shows why the witch genre transfers so easily from horror to fantasy. Oz is most certainly a fantasy world, after all.

The take on witches in Wicked is also somewhat interesting. It the world, witches and their magic are actually quite respected. People go to school to study magic and some of the strongest magicians work directly with the legendary Wizard. Of course, the most interesting of all the characters in the book was certainly Elphaba. Elphaba is the crossover in the horror world in this book. She is born with green skin and sharp teeth and is otherwise quite monstrous. Even her family is quite macabre, with her adulterous mother and weak father and her half-sister who was born with no arms. Elphaba is given no graces in her world and though she often tries to connect with others, she is usually misunderstood and scorned in response.

Though I found the writing style dry, I actually did like Wicked. The word and the sympathetic view towards the Wicked Witch of the West was very interesting and I like it a great deal because of that.

The Distance of the Moon

  1. Are there any prominent symbols in the story? If so, what are they and how are they used?
    1. The moon and the sea are the most obvious symbols. I think they are meant to represent the distance between the characters, the narrator and the Captain’s wife most of all. As the moon distances itself from the earth, the wife goes with it, seemingly becoming less and less human. The narrator, however, chooses to stay grounded and watch her leave in the end. The narrator then spends the rest of time staring up at the moon with longing, the same way someone might who is in love but doesn’t connect to the person they are in love with.
  2. What connections did you make with the story you read? Discuss the elements of the work with which you were able to connect.
    1. I most connected with the surrealism of a world in which the moon was within touching distance. I liked the fantastical view of the world over the characters or the actual plot. I really liked how the author describes certain logistics, like how gravity suddenly flips when you cross the threshold of these two worlds. It actually reminds me of an animated, Pixar short that came out a few years back called La Luna. In the film, a boy and an elder man use a ladder on a rowboat to climb onto the moon. I wonder if the film took any inspiration from this work, or vice versa.
  3. What changes would you make to adapt this story into another medium? What medium would you use? What changes would you make?
    1. I would definitely adapt this story into film. It provides the perfect visuals for a cool, science fiction-fantasy movie. What I would change would be the tone of the piece. As it is now, the story is very dreamlike, told as if in review. I would make it more ‘in the moment’ so that we could see the relationship with between the two main characters with more dialogue. That would make us like the characters more as well, which is important in film.

High Fantasy

Posted: February 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

Ahhh, Tolkien. I know there are many different subgenres of Fantasy, and I’ve personally christened this version ‘High Fantasy’. To me, High Fantasy consists of a large, involved, and thoroughly developed other-world, the presence of magic, and a common set of magical creatures including Dragons, Fairies, Unicorns, ect. The world itself also idolizes medieval culture, with large farmlands, unexplored wilderness, and large castles. Tolkien is probably the prime example of this High Fantasy, to me. Middle Earth is so involved that it consists of more than one separate language and culture. There’s a plethora of magic, including wizards and magical objects. And there’s so many classic, magical creatures it’ll make your head spin.

I’ve read Tolkien’s The Hobbit before, in High School, and found it somewhat flat. Though the adventure was cool and the world involved, the characterization was sorely lacking. Nonetheless, I liked it. I do believe it follows the Hero’s Journey, though I can’t recall what exactly is Bilbo’s lowest point, after all these years.

On the other hand, this week I reread Eragon by Christopher Paolini. I remember reading this book and its sequel for the first time when I was very young and I adored it. I was actually somewhat surprised it wasn’t included in our reading list for this week, even though it could be considered a little juvenile in the beginning.

Eragon is the story of a boy named Eragon who finds one of the last dragon eggs in the world, hatches it, and goes on to become a Dragon Rider against the evil overlord, Galbatorix. The story takes place in the world, Alagaesia, which is very medieval, has magic in the form of spell work and blessed/cursed artifacts, and, obviously, is the home of different magical creatures. We meet dragons, elves, dwarves, and golbin-like creatures called the Ra’zac throughout the first book.

Throughout the story, Eragon most definitely goes through the Hero’s Journey. He’s called to adventure when he finds and raises his dragon, Saphira and then refuses that call because of his dedication to his uncle. However, when his uncle is murdered, Eragon must leave his home anyway, signifying the crossing of the Threshold. He has a mentor named Brom, who trains and tests him. When Brom is murdered, Eragon reaches a very low point in which only the arrival of the ‘goddess’, an Elvan woman named Arya, can save him from. And in the end, he becomes a true dragon rider and faces off against a Shade, one of the word’s darkest creatures.

I still love Eragon and think of it as my favorite example of high fantasy.

Written Horror vs. Film Horror

Posted: February 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

On the subject of “The New Weird”, I would like to talk about the different feelings I get from either watching or reading in the horror genre.

I’ve read many different stories in my life and felt a variety of emotions from those stories. I know what its like to be excited for a character’s success and heartbroken over another character’s death. But, for some reason, I’ve never been truly frightened when reading a story, whether it features horror or not. For some reason, even though the character’s blood is racing in their veins and there’s a killer stalking them, I can’t help but feel only slightly unnerved by their predicament. It is because I can ‘pause’ and look away from a book? Or maybe staring at black and white words on a paper, no matter descriptive, just can’t convey the urgency that makes me feel scared.

The closest I’ve ever come to being taken by written horror is when I read a series of Young Adult novels called The Demonata by Darren Shan, several years ago. The books were excessively gorey, featuring floating heats in walls made of flexing muscle and a teacher that literally gets ripped in half in front of her students. I remember feeling sickened and horrified and compelled to continue, but still not really scared.

However, when watching horror movies, I find myself with a completely different reaction. I’m usually shrunken in my seat, with a hand over my mouth in preparation to scream by the end of the first scene in a horror movie. My heart races, I’m holding my breath, and I can’t bear to blink. Horror movie terrify me and I’m with the characters every step of the way, even in bad ones. It doesn’t even matter how much or how little blood/gore is involved.

I love being scared and therefore love watching horror movies. I’m even one of the rare people that absolutely adores the found footage genre. And yet, written horror doesn’t seem to phase me. I find it more interesting than anything else. Maybe it’s the sound design. Maybe it’s the pacing. At the end of the day, I don’t know what distances me from written horror. I guess I’m just ‘weird’.