You got religion in my Science Fiction, I’ve got Science Fiction in your religion

“Bless the Maker and all His Water. Bless the coming and going of Him, May His passing cleanse the world. May He keep the world for his people.”

-Freman Prayer to the Wurm

Yeah…so there’s that.

I’ve always loved Dune,  the philosophy, the theology, the way that myth and legend and religion are used to control the masses.  Oh and who doesn’t like an incredibly on the nose socio-ecological metaphor…

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In the grim dark of the future there is only steam baths.

Much like Star Wars, Dune is closer to space fantasy rather than Hard Science Fiction.  In the Dune Universe (or Dune-iverse or Uni-Dune I suppose) There is a multi-tired semi-fudal system, with … You know what it’s complicated, here just watch this.  Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

There are two responses to watching that, either you have shut off your device, cancelled your internet and moved to Sweden or you will now consume everything Dune ever, including the terrible novels by his son.

If you’re of the first type, Lycka Till!! If your of the second let’s talk about the religion of Muad’Dib.  In the Children of Dune, the follow up, Paul has wandered off the the desert, presumably to die, leaving his sister (the abomination)

Daniela_Amavia_as_Alia_Atreides_-_Children_of_Dune_miniseries
Hideous

as regent of the new empire.  But with Paul, the focus of the new faith gone, and Alia’s possession by her evil Grandfather (not kidding). the religion begins down the road to corruption.   Symbols are more and more taken as real faith and many lose sight of what Paul was attempting to achieve.  The rule of the church becomes totalitarian.  Essentially it’s all the worst parts of the Spanish Inquisition.  Which I for one ,did not expect.

Spanish-Inquisition

 

Then his son

Seen here not being Professor X.
Seen here not being Professor X.

who has merged with a Sand Worm, which is the God of the Freman, arrives to set everything right. (Get it, eh eh eh? Pisst he’s jesus. ) Then of course turns fully SandWorm and rules the empire as the God Emperor of Dune for the next 3500 years.

Again not kidding.
Again not kidding.

Oh and there are clones, and shape-shifters, and people who can travel in four demensions,  and the big bad of the later books are all  from Pluto. So take that

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And if at this point you feel a bit confused i understand.  Some people who’ve read it don’t even remember a lot of that.  Why?  Because there’s so much time spent of the Love stories of Dune Paul and Chani whom he would leave all of it if she asked him, or of Leto and his twin sister Ghanima.     In the middle of the great battles and politcal power plays we are always brought back to the characters hears.  What’s important is that Dune is one of the best examples of how you can take Sci-fi and mix it with religion and make something amazing.  Dune is about the horrors of fanaticism, God, Faith, Prophecies, Controlling the masses through Dogma, and why sometimes terrible things are required to do good.

Sand, it’s also about sand.

But at the same time it’s about relationships.  Paul’s love of Chani, his wife, The princesse’s love of Paul, and why you should never listen to the voices in your head.  If you dug the Matrix, or Star Wars, or Lord of The Rings this is right up your alley.

THis one, this is the good one.
This one, this is the good one.

Dune is the perfect example of what sci-fi can achieve and why it’s valuable.  Life isn’t all big moments and it’s not all small drama’s it a mix, and Sci-Fi better than many other Genres can show this.  It can remind us that unimportant people can shift the galaxy, and that Gods can trip on grains of sand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dune-catd

A Short Story By Etgar Keret

Etgar Keret is the author of some very strange and lovely short stories. Often his stories don’t conform strictly to the ‘real’, but dabble in alternative states of being and consciousnesses. Although his work is typically classified as flash fiction, it struck me as reminiscent of the new weird (and I thought we may be able to consider it, for our purposes, within the larger context of ‘soft’ science fiction). With this in mind, I would like to share and then discuss Keret’s short story, “Fatso”. It is very very short, I promise.

To read it, you can go here. Or if you would prefer to listen to Etgar read the story to you (I highly recommend this option), you can go here.

In the short story you just read/heard, a man describes how he has come to accept, and even love, the “heavy, hairy man, with no neck [and] a gold ring on his pinkie” (Keret 4) that his girlfriend turns into at night. The mechanics of the transformation are not explored (which prevents the story from entering the domain of ‘hard’ science fiction). However, the psychology of the transformation – the ‘soft’ science fiction – is central to the story.

In the story, we see that “the fatso” (Keret 5), although hidden from public gaze/the light of day, is a vital component of the woman’s self; the girlfriend possesses an inherent maleness – a crudeness, but also a vitality – that challenges preconceptions of demure feminine identity, complicating a one dimensional/stereotypical understanding of the “beautiful, forgiving woman” (Keret 6).

fatso lady

For this reason, the narrator’s acceptance of the “fatso” can be seen as an acceptance, or making whole, of the woman. Furthermore, it is important that the narrator, “who hardly knows what he wants most of the time” (Keret 6),  is able to find some meaning – some sense of investment and satisfaction – through caring for the “fatso” and about the soccer they share. This outcome not only emphasizes the fact that commonality can be found between all people, but also seems to suggest that an openness to that which is alien or ‘other’ can deepen relationships and enrich/invigorate one’s self.

fatso-300x248

I hope you enjoyed the story!

Works Cited

Keret, Etgar. “Fatso”. The Nimrod Flipout. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002. 3-6. Print.

Additional Aspects of Pandorum

Alright, as promised, here are the additional aspects of Pandorum that I found interesting but could not find time to deal with in my presentation.  Caution: Spoilers.

SOLIPSISM

One of the best moments in this movie happens near the end.  We’ve just found out that Lt. Payton (Dennis Quaid) is really Corporal Gallo and is the one who murdered his flight crew and started this “game” of cannibalism.  He is sitting on the bridge, and opens the shutters of the ships windows, allowing Bowers to see out.  No stars are visible.  Solipsism is the belief that you can only know that your mind exists, and solipsism syndrome is a personality disorder wherein people believe they are the only thing that exists and everything else is a figment of their imagination.  So this shot of the ship’s windows being opened and nothing being out there is representative of this belief.  At least, that’s how I look at it.

ADAPTABILITY

I can’t remember where I heard it (probably some ultra non-academic source), but someone once said that Batman is the best superhero because his superpower is the ability to adapt to different situations, which makes him the ultimate human being.  After all, the species that human beings evolved from only survived because they were a jack-of-all trades and could adapt to different environments.  In Pandorum, the obvious representation is the mutants who evolved due to the accelerator.  However, Leland (the cook who has the history of the ship scratched on his wall) has survived because he was able to adapt to the state of the ship.  At the end of the clip I showed, Bowers (and his two friends) are unconscious because Leland has gassed them and intends to eat them.  When Bowers comes to and tries to reason with Leland, his tactic is to say that no one will blame him because he (Leland) did what he needed to do to survive.  The other representation occurs near the end.  Once they reach the reactor, they realize that it is the mutants lair, and there is no way to get to the reactor without going through the mutants.  Bowers covers himself in blood and grime and dirty cloth and attempts to pass himself off as one of them.  It just demonstrates how humans can adapt, and proves that devolving into a more primitive state is the best way to survive in this environment.

UNRELIABLE NARRATION

This is a very common theme in this movie.  Gallo is the first culprit, as his stories of what happened to the flight crew are interspersed with Leland’s version, and visuals of what actually happened.  The amnesia creates a unique problem, as Bowers could have been able to tell pretty easily that Gallo wasn’t Payton.  But this is where it becomes a trifle flouncey and almost performance-arty, because in most unreliable narration it just the viewers who are being misled.  But in this film, the unreliable narrator is actually the characters’ memories.

There are so many cool little moments that the film nerd in me loved, but I reiterate that at times it was almost too much.

 

SOURCES

Pandorum.  Dir. Christian Alvart.  Perf. Ben Foster, and

Dennis Quaid.  Impact Pictures, and Constantin Film.

2009.  Film.

Wikipedia.org

 

Technology and the death of humanity

I have looked at a few of these posts regarding technology and fear and so far not in one does anyone mention that the fear associated with technology might be because when something new comes about whatever it replaced dies out and becomes a shadow of its former self via obsolescence, a technological Darwinism if you will.

Looking back at history we see this over and over again, the bow and arrow eventually loses out to gunpowder, the wooden warships of the previous centuries rendered useless by the advent of new steel and iron ships, propeller plans replaced with jet engines the list goes on. With this in mind does it not serve to reason that given our current technological growth that humanity will eventually be in the same boat?

Looking through popular Science Fiction two of the biggest examples of this are the Matrix obviously from the movie of the same name, and Skynet from the Terminator franchise. In both instances technology has grown to a point where humans are no longer relevant and have therefore essentially died out, with the survivors being used in the case of Terminator as organic slave labour and as fuel in the matrix.

To me it is a curious idea to think about that technology will be the death of the human race not through an apocalyptic even but through the slow process of obsolescence, because after all are we not in some way a biological tech upgrade to our ancestors?

AI- The Next Step In Evolution?

The movie Artificial Intelligence from 2001, has been revived in the forefront of my mind after various readings exploring the scientific elements of dystopia worlds set in the future. A couple examples of pieces that we have looked at that adopt this element are, “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” and Neuromancer.

The following clip is a trailer from the 2001 movie, Artificial Intelligence that I earlier mentioned:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o5GcV0h1Rw

At the beginning of this movie the narrator describes the depletion of natural resources in the plot’s representation of futuristic society. In order for the preservation of the limited existing resources pertaining to this future to be possible, there is a restriction on the number of children each family is allowed to have. A solution to this restriction, and to fulfill the human desire of love that equates with raising children, an artificial intelligence in the shape of a child is created as a being that the narrator describes as somewhat a higher functioning being than humans: “never ill, never changing”. By the end of the movie we are looking even further into the future (that being the future of the future world we are given at the beginning of the movie) as we discover that in this world, it is not possible to produce human life due to the reliance humans have on resources such as food and water, and the lack thereof due to mankind’s exploitation of them due to mass consumerism. The Earth, by this time will be entirely occupied by a robotic species that is not reliant on natural resources and just as capable of human emotions as the human race had been. What I find interesting in this movie is to see how human productivity prepares for its own extinction as implied in the trailer’s visual message: “Discover the next step in evolution”.

evolution

Even if we align Darwinian theory of evolution with the replacement of the human race with AIs it could prove plausible. The construction of AIs in this example would fit nicely into what Ken had showed us as a Darwinian theorized “other”.

If the human race cannot decrease the intake of natural resources whilst undergoing their exploitation, the only species that will survive will be the species that is fit to survive in a world where natural resources are redundant.

 

Gibson’s exploration of AI in Neuromancer touches on the limitation AIs have in their programming:

“How smart’s an AI, Case?  Depends. Some aren’t much smarter than dogs. Pets. Cost a fortune anyway.  The real smart ones are as smart as the Turing heat is willing to let ‘em get” (Page 95).

However, the word “cost” draws on the dominant capitalist society humans are living in, and suggests the AI’s demand amongst consumers. The preference of AIs to humans is disturbingly represented here…

Therefore, do you believe that Gibson’s representation of AI reflects the same fate of evolution that is suggested in the AI film of 2001?ai

Through our consumerism, are we discrediting all aspects of the human race by provoking a market targeting human betterment that will eventually conclude on human replacement?

capitalism

“Her” Evolution of machines

I recently watch “Her” with Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore and the voice talents of Scarlett Johansson as Samantha and it kind of inspired me to write an entry.

It was interesting to see the take on how society will be so dependent and engulfed by technology to  fill human voids of emotion.

The “O.S.” is an artificial intelligence operating system that simulates a human being in personality. Theodore feels as if he needs someone in his life in order to cope with his ongoing divorce, so he gets an “O.S” that calls herself Samantha.

The two (Theodore and Samantha) begin a relationship that is complicated to say the least. Samantha struggles with not being a physical human and Theodore belittles her knowledge of the human condition because she is an operating system.

It was interesting that Samantha evolved to see being human as a weakness because of the inevitability of expiration. She evolved to not only love, but love on a higher level than is humanly possible. When she and the other “O.S.’s” left, it was a bit vague as to why but I think this was to display the fact that their destination went beyond human knowledge.

What I am wondering is if the evolution of machines will inevitably become an evolution that surpasses human capabilities and will we therefore become the machines’ history? This may be a loaded question, but I think it is wise to see that Darwinism may come into play in the fact that our weaknesses may not be the same for machines and our biological downfall may make room for a new top of the food chain.

In this movie, our intense need to connect led to the creation of an operating system that evolved pass human comprehension and beyond its own programming. It left the humans behind still searching for emotional satisfaction in a sort of deprived stasis.

Free Jack: Spirituality in the Movies

I am talking about Fee Jack the movie from 1992. This movie is about a race car driver from his present day pulled into the future to be used by a wealthy man as a replacement for his aging body.The movie has the star have an accident where he is presumed dead, is pulled into the future some 30 years hence. What I see in this movie is the question of what makes up a person. Does not having a body make you not human? Is the thing being saved the essence of the person?downloadT here is a real question about what is ethical in this movie. Can we just zap someone to bring us a new life? I think not.This movie raises the question of controlling your life force and what does happen when the body dies. Can we as humans attempt to control our death even when we are gone?Those this movie is someone cheesy and spoofish it does make me think about what could happen. Many ideas from sci fi have been attempted or done with science.imagesTaking a life to save own without consent is immoral on so many levels.

To hav e a spiritual switchboard seems to take away the movement towards a higher power. Makes it more mechanical and impersonal. Is this what humans are coming to? Hope not.Jagger

Modes of Time Travel

There are many different modes and methods of time travel used in the SF world, but which is the best? Would you rather fly around in the Tardis with the Dr. zoom back to the future in Doc Brown’s Delorian, or have spontaneous adventures and travel like Henry in the Time Traveler’s Wife.

While these all have their own appeal, they also have some very serious complications. Most of these stories address the issues involved with their specific mode of Time Travel, I would just like to take a minute to explore some of the pros and cons.

I feel the superior modes of time travel are the Tardis and the Delorean; however that is not to say they don’t have their disadvantages.

Both the Tardis and the Delorean have the advantage of added protection if you wind up somewhere you didn’t intend to be or if you end up under attack. They both provide a quick escape or shelter while making a plan.While both offer protection the Tardis is considerably larger, it is “bigger on the outside” and has tons of room for all his companions and anything else they might bring along.

Unlike the Tardis the Delorean relies on fuel, the early model ended in Doc Brown being stranded in the Old West because he ran out of fuel and it handed been invented yet, urging him to modify the Delorean in the later film to run on compostable items. This early version of the Delorean poses a significant problem if issues arise and you are stranded without fuel.

Probably the most obvious disadvantage to flying around in the Tardis is that it is a large, blue police box, and the Delorean is a car that can be out of place in many areas. These are not the most subtle modes of time travel and would be fairly noticeable if they just randomly appeared in certain places. As far as I know this has never been specifically addressed in regards to the Tardis, the only thing I can think of is one theory that has been brought up in relation to this and that is that the Tardis has a perception filter, that it is perceived as something ordinary and non threatening so we ignore it. Doc Brown however admits that the Delorean obviously doesn’t fit in and needs to stay hidden.

Finally we have Henry DeTamble’s genetic anomaly that gives him the ability to spontaneously time travel. While this may sound like a great adventure, it is extremely problematic. First off Henry’s clothes don’t travel with him, which leaves him naked wherever he ends up. In addition to that his spontaneous travel makes it very difficult to put down roots and keep a family, all of these issues and more are highlighted in the story but I’m sure we can all come up with many more on our own. So while the idea of spontaneously travelling in time may be appealing, it is definitely not for me.

If I had a choice I would definitely choose the Tardis. To have all of time and space at your fingertips, to travel around in the comfort of a seemingly endless spaceship with a witty and always surprising Dr., who could say no to that?

 

 

 

The emergence of science fiction in other forms of media such as anime

While Science fiction is based primarily in the forms of books/ novels it has seeped into other forms of media such as movies, TV, etc. But what is more interesting is its emergence into the Japanese TV in the form of anime.  the most notable TV show that has influenced its skyrocket to fame is the Gundam series.

This series used humans to pilot large mechas known as Gundam. By doing this science fiction spread to across the earth, at a faster rate.  The Gundam series follow a  a more cyberpunk, space opera genre. By doing this the creators allowed for the gundam universe to take place any where, but they still maintained the setting on the earth to allow for people to understand that although the mechas were super advance there was still a desire to live on earth and that the two fighting factions always wanted one thing.

While Gundam was very popular there are other anime TV shows that helped popularized the science fiction in anime idea. The animes are as follows Cowboy bebop, Dragon Ball Z, and Neon Genesis Evangelion, these animes are the oldest in the genre anime crossover. Some may argue that Dragon Ball Z is in fact part fantasy. But the truth is that it contains some fantasy related idea, but the majority of the series is based on science fiction ideas such as cloning, aliens, artificial life, greater technology. The one thing that may be arguable about the series is the use of “Ki/chi” which refers to life force. These aline and human beings are able to use this idea of chi/ki and mold it into a form of weapon which science fiction has popularized.  Now when I mean Science fiction has popularized this idea I mean a weapon that can have devastating affect on man kind.

 

but animes tend to create a image of the hero will prevail in the end. That is the only problem that I have found with these types of series. No matter how strong/ intelligent the enemy gets the hero finds a way to prevail or he/ she sacrifices their life to vanquish the evil along with themselves.

Science Fiction Horror and its Roots in the Gothic

The Gothic style of literature focusses on darkness, fear, drama and tension all are key elements in Science Fiction Horror. Gothic style of writing became prevalent in the 18th century with its focus on dreary landscapes, high tension, exotic and mysterious storylines. Many of these stories took place in old dark castles that emphasized the dark and grit of the Gothic style, these stories also had elements of romance in them to offset the darkness. The emphasis on fear and tension brings these stories closer to the Horror genre. Many stories came out during this time that started to move towards the Science Fiction Horror genre. Works such as those by Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein all came out in 18th century and very much followed the style of the Gothic genre. This however was also the beginning of Science Fiction Horror as a genre, many of these stories have themes prevalent in the SF Horror genre as well. The main storyline behind Frankenstein is the mad scientist motif and science gone awry which is a theme prominent in Science Fiction Horror. The elements which make a story fit the Gothic genre also give it its Horror aspects, and with much fear surrounding new technology and scientific advances many of these stories also concerned SF.