Thursday, December 2, 2010

Third Eye Surveillance

As I know some of us are writing papers on Little Brother, I thought I would share this rather creepy article.

A New York professor installs a camera in the back of his head to take photos 24/7 as a means of expression for an art exhibit. However, the University is making him wear a cover over the lens while he's teaching and on campus to protect the privacy of its students.

I thought it was 1. creepy, and 2. interesting considering the different surveillance issues we've discussed throughout class after reading Little Brother.

The link to the article (with video) is in the title. Enjoy?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A trip through time

Since we are watching Doctor Who I thought this would be the perfect time to share with you all another one of my internet finds. This is an article in which Stephen Hawking describes why, though time travel to the past is likely impossible, we may one day be able to leap into the future. A bit long, but a pretty good read if you don't get scared off by all the physics-talk. And I mean, this is one of the best physicists in the world telling us that time travel is possible. How cool is that?


And as the semester draws to a close, there is one more link I have that you sci-fi fans may be interested in: The world's first cyborg. This little robot is controlled entirely by a rats brain via bluetooth. One step closer to the Naked Brains!

Star Wars versus Star Trek



While browsing reddit, I stumbled upon the image above, which got me to thinking about the various levels of completeness in conceptualization of science fiction worlds. Many, if not all, of the stories that we read for the class had a very firm grasp over the universe that the author was attempting to create. In contrast, many of the more popular elements of science fiction are not as fully realized. Aside from the obvious comparison drawn between Star Wars and Star Trek in the picture, what other competing depictions that exhibit this dichotomy can you think of?

NASA Press Conference

The title link is to a news item about a press conference that NASA is giving tomorrow to talk about new findings in astrobiology. In other words, non-Earth lifeforms. Seems like something that all science-fiction fans should keep their eyes on.

Sin in Boneshaker

As we noted in class, I have moved from Marxist interpretation to Christian interpretation for my next paper. Specifically I am looking at the function of the blight in Boneshaker specifically as an allegory for mortal sin. I appreciated the suggestions in class and if anyone has any additional thoughts, I would like to hear them.

The End is Nigh!

Yes, it's sad but true... the semester is coming to an end. I have to say that I'm going to really miss our weekly meetings. They've been a lot of fun, and I'm really looking forward to our final, Doctor Who-filled session. I'm still hard at work on my paper, as I know most of you are. For this final blog post, I decided to post one last article that I found interesting as I was just messing around on the internet. This one, inspired by the upcoming movie, "Cowboys & Aliens," makes an interesting case that Sci Fi may be this era's Western. There are a few fun points that the author makes, as well as a few things that make Sci Fi better, so it's worth a look if your interested or even just bored, as was the case with me. The link is in the title!
Finally, relating to the Walking Dead, I just wanted to add that I've been reading the graphic novels (I'm currently on the 5th collection of... 13 so far, I think), and they are pretty intense. If you like the show and haven't read them, I highly recommend them. The show has already taken quite a few liberties, and the plot is quickly becoming its own entity, but honestly, I kinda like that, because it allows me to basically enjoy two separate stories as I watch one and read the other.

Alternative energy

Well I think I've got my topic all lined up, just need to write. I'm going to concentrate on Windup Girl and the use of kinetic energy storage, and the utter lack of any other power source. I also want to look at zero-point energy and what it is and would it actually work as described in River of Gods. And just for fun I think I might actually look at how energy is produced in Howard Tayler's Schlock Mercenary, but my main focus is probably going to be the Windup Girl.

Misfits

Hey, everyone! I hope you all had as good a Thanksgiving as me (I spent much of it at my Gran's house watching the Patriots game all over Detroit). Anyway, when I got back to Tuscaloosa, I decided to clear out a few things from my television "to watch" list, and one of them was Misfits. It's a sci-fi heavy show from England about a group of juvenile offenders who gain powers after being struck by lightning. I will warn that the language is pretty rough, so if swear words offend you, don't watch! I really liked it, and since there are only ~10 episodes, you can knock out the whole series so far in a few days. I linked the trailer in the title.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Final Post?

Seriously guys, why didn't anyone remind me to post something last week? Very disappointed. It's ok, I was in a tryptochoma anyhow. I'm shocked that this semester is nearly finished, and now have to find something to discuss on this blog. Excited about Dr. Who tomorrow, and look forward to finally saying I've seen more than one episode.
For those of you still watching "The Walking Dead" I've attached a link to the title of this blog. The link takes you to an interview with Norman Reedus, the crossbow wielding zombie killer. In the interview he takes a side on the Zombie vs. Vampire debate we discussed earlier. Although he doesn't go into great detail it's still awesome to find someone on the outside debating the same things we do.
Well, my papers about finished, and the Four Lokos is trying to kick in, so it's best I get off here and get back to the paper.

Fear Itself

While writing my paper I have come across a question that I hope you fine folks can help me with. My paper aims to argue that Marcus in Little Brother is actually a terrorist and I have found ample evidence to support this. However, I wonder if you personally would still consider someone a terrorist if their actions were terrorist like in nature, but this was not their original intent.
For example, Marcus only wants to prove that the Department of Homeland Security is flawed and immoral. He attempts to achieve this, however, through a series of pranks that are ultimately more harmful then anticipated. Since very few people are actually aware of his purpose, they become afraid of what is happening and link his actions to terrorism. So his original intent is misunderstood and has unforeseen consequences. Does that mean he should still be considered a terrorist?

Doctor Who-itis

As I'm sure none of you remember, I'm writing on the butterfly effects of time travel as seen in particular episodes of Doctor Who. In preparation for this paper writing I of course had to re-watch these episodes (along with several other episodes)! My fiance is here visiting at the moment and he is a know Who-Hater. It's been troublesome. So I threatened him with sleeping on the couch and he eventually caved and started watching it with me. Now he's hooked! I'm totally glad I got that Netflix subscription and that they stream Doctor Who.

Anyway... the point of this is to let you guys know that Doctor Who-itis is out there and its contagious. Prepare to be infected tomorrow!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The walls closing in

Hey everyone. Sorry its been so long since I last posted. Modern science (you know, things like the internet) are still science fiction in places like my grandmother's house where I spent thanksgiving. But enough of that, on to business:

My paper will be focusing on suffocation and claustrophobia in Boneshaker. I'll be looking at how these features work as plot devices in this story, but one other thing I am potentially interested in doing is comparing these themes across other texts. Andy had suggested "The Yellow Wallpaper" as one other story featuring this sense of suffocation and smothering quite prominently, but I was wondering if anyone else had any other suggestions. I'd also welcome any insights on how you think these things play into Boneshaker itself. I'm sure there are plenty of things I haven't thought of, so please throw them out if you've got them. I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving (despite Bama losing), and best of luck on the papers. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Paper Topic

Since a few of you guys are doing this, I thought I'd go ahead a put my topic on here in case anyone has any suggestions. In case you've forgotten (which I'm sure you have) I'm working with the short story "Going Deep" by James Patrick Kelly. I'm looking at it as it relates to different themes in psychology and I'm going to try to look at articles in a few psychology journals to use as secondary sources. I'm still trying to decide exactly what types of ideas, themes and relationships to examine. Any thoughts, ideas or comments are greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Containment as a paper topic

I spoke about my idea for the final paper in class the other day, but I just wanted to put it here on the blog in case anybody had any more suggestions for me. My topic was concerning the issue of containment of contagion, specifically as seen in Coldtown and Boneshaker. I appreciate any ideas you want to share.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I completely fail at keeping up with the blog...

I know I am way behind on posts. I should probably put a sticky note on my computer: TALK SCIENCE FICTION WITH YOUR FELLOW NERDS ON THE BLOG :)

So...what's going on in sci fi these days....as Bailey said, every future movie seems to be sci fi related. One that stands out to me is Tron. Once again we see the video game come into play. I'm excited to see Jeff Bridges play two characters in one movie too. Another movie that caught my eye is Cowboys and Aliens. What a funny concept? I cracked up when I saw the trailer. Daniel Craig is stepping out of his James Bond shell and getting nice and dirty in a cowboy movie. With aliens. TIGHT.

Anyways...I hope all is well with everyone's papers. Also, have a great Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SCI FI TAKING OVER

I know this is my second post but I just remembered that I wanted to blog about this: while waiting for the fantastic harry potter movie to begin, I noticed that the majority of the previews were for sci fi movies. I really think that it is easier for the current movie industry to create sci fi movies that are the best in 3D with multiple special effects to create a higher grossing film. I think that maybe we are getting tired with a "reality" movie and really looking to the movies for high action that takes us beyond our regular lives.
Thoughts?

Paper Topic: Designer Society

First of all, HARRY POTTER WAS AMAZING! And I hope tat you all have seen/will see it!

I wanted to see if any of you had any more to say about my paper topic and to further clarify it: the concept of a designer society in river of gods.
By designer society I mean: a society manipulated by its inhabitants to become an "ideal" society by their ideals. This is seen through the nutes, the virtual worlds of town and country and of alterre, and by the foetal selection (choosing male babies over female, 1:4 ratio women to men)

Please give me some feedback! :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Writing tips from 'Coldtown' author

So I checked my e-mail today and found a brand-new National Novel Writing Month pep talk in my inbox. Normally I sort of skim these and move on with my life, but this one stuck out because of the author. It was Holly Black, writer of "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown," and of course many other sci-fi and fantasy works including The Spiderwick Chronicles, which has become a movie as well.

NaNoWriMo likes to send out these "pep talks" to its participants to try and keep us rolling along with the daunting word count. I sadly am behind, but plan to make up for lost time this weekend and over dead week. Anyway, I included a link to the pep talk in the title if you guys are interested in reading it. :]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Science Taking Science Fiction to Heart

I have a few links here showing just how seriously some in the scientific community are taking some of the things we have talked about in class:

The first is the possible unification of robots under one operating system similar to the AIs in River of Gods. Alternatively, this could lead down a more disastrous Matrix- or Terminator-style scenario. I don't know that we would have another universe handy to aid in the disposal of any uppity computer programs, so, should this come to pass, we may be in a bit of trouble (but it should be quite a ways off).

The second is a bit of research from the University of Ottawa which theorizes that a zombie outbreak would likely end humanity. Again, not likely to happen any time soon, but it is still interesting to see some scientists thinking about these pop-culture/fun things. And who knows, maybe the knowledge will come in handy some day...

Kids these Days

I have noticed lately that more and more kids are reading science fiction. While this is somewhat exciting, it is also a bit different. When I was in middle/high school it was not "cool" to be reading sci fi. In fact it was grounds for becoming a social outcast in some cases. Now, however, the most popular book in the school I student teach at is The Hunger Games, a science fiction/fantasy book about a girl forced to survive in a crazy alternate world. This book is pretty amazing for those of you who have not read it, but still a bit out there in my opinion. Also, in the young adult section of Barnes and Nobles, if you can search through all of the books dedicated to nauseating vampire romances, you will find numerous science fiction books. The other day they had an entire display dedicated to The Hunger Games, Little Brother and M.T. Anderson's The Feed (another pretty good read).

So what do you guys think. Is sci fi making a comeback? Has it never gone away? Or are kids just getting cooler by the second? (hint: the last one is probably not the correct answer)

Paper 2 Topic

So narrowing down the paper topic has been rather difficult. Right now there are two topics I'm torn between. Both topics refer to The Windup Girl.
First is the role of the anti-hero. There seems to be a lack of heroes as most characters primarily look out only (or mostly) for themselves.
The second topic relates to the setting. I'm curious about the post-apocalyptic nature of The Windup Girl, and maybe how it relates to other similar stories. For example, a comparison of the survivalist nature of characters in The Windup Girl to the father and son in Cormac McCarthy's The Road, or the attempt at maintaining government and society compared to other post-apolalyptic stories such as The Children of Men.
I'll go over these in more detail in class.

Robot Actors?

So, apparently in Japan they have debuted a robot actress. I initially thought "oh! This will be like River of Gods." Sadly (or fortunately?) I was wrong. The robot is not pre-programed to act, she's controlled by actors back stage. If you watch the video, she seems very fake. She seems more like a robotic puppet than an actress. I guess she could accomplish a certain artistic effect though. If you want one character to be detached and robot-like, why not just use a robot?

Science Fiction Turned Into Fact

There's a link in the title to an article that I thought was really interesting. It's basically just a list of a few different gadgets from the world of science fiction that are becoming a reality. The list includes a portable machine created by researchers at Yale that will indicate signs of sickness from a blood test in just twenty minutes, which resembles the "Medical Tricorder" from Star Trek. To be honest, I've never actually watched Star Trek, but this seems pretty cool. Also, there are 3D holograms (from many examples in Sci Fi, perhaps most famously when R2-D2 projected one of Princess Leia in Star Wars), which a group of researchers at Arizona State are currently working on. According to the article, it might not be long before we have our class sessions with a 3D hologram of Andy in the room with us. My favorite, though, being the Harry Potter fan that I am, is the cloaking device, which the article compares to Harry's invisibility cloak (naturally). It has something to do with material that bends light in a way that makes it look as if the object weren't there at all... I don't really get it. But it sounds awesome.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cory Doctorow vs. George Orwell

My second paper topic for this class is going to deal with Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. While reading Little Brother, I kept thinking back to George Orwell's 1984. I noticed that Doctorow's novel has heavy influences by George Orwell including the title itself. But I saw that the more obvious example of 1984 was not the only George Orwell novel that influenced this book. I saw that Orwell's Animal Farm was also influential in the book. Animal Farm discusses the revolution seen in Doctorow's novel.

Topic: Explore the influences of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm in Cory Doctorow's Little Brother.

A List for Your Consideration

While trolling my favorite website, I found a link to this list of the hundred best sci-fi/fantasy series. There are a lot of shows I'm not familiar with, but I generally agree with it. I don't personally like a lot of the shows, but I can respect the fan followings. I hate that Star Trek has to be on top lists, because it bores me to tears, and just because it is old doesn't mean it's any good*. My ~favorite show made number fifteen, which is kind of hilarious based on how awful it's been the last two seasons. Heroes came in at number 80; as a bitter ex-fan, this fills my cold, dead heart with Glee. I've never been able to sit through a whole episode of Dr. Who, so I don't know how good it is. Actually, now that I think about it, number three should be number one, number seven should be number three, and numbers two and ten should switch places.

Questions, comments, complaints?

*please note that this only applies to the original series, because Picard and Janeway were awesome.

The Futuro House

This enthusiastic fan site is devoted to the Futuro House, a mass-produced flying saucer designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1968.  You still see Futuro Houses, here and there -- and if you see one not on the Flight Log, please report it, as the chief purpose of the site is to catalog all Futuro Houses that remain. The list shows none in Alabama and Maryland, alas.

I probably wouldn't want to live full time in a Futuro House, but I'd happily use one as an office, a lakeside cabin, or a guest room.

ABC' s Castle again

I love this show more and more every time I watch it. This week's episode? ALIENS. Castle and Detective Beckett were researching the murder of an astrophysicist who seemed to believe she had been abducted by extra-terrestrials. Not only did this make me happy because of the novel I'm currently working on, but it was just a really fun episode in general. I won't give anything away in case you guys haven't watched it yet and you want to, but I will say this... The number of Firefly references this week far surpassed any episode of Castle I've seen thus far. From Nathan Fillion's maroon-shirt, brown-coat outfit in one scene to him yelling at some Chinese workers in a meat-packing plant and upon receiving an odd look from Beckett claiming "I learned from a TV show I used to love."
Ahhh, it made me happy. :] Hope all you other Castle fans enjoyed/will enjoy it too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

DRM and Little Brother

First, some background.

For those who don't know what DRM is, it stands for digital rights management. What it was supposed to do was allow companies to enforce copyrights. What it did was make it a nightmare for people to backup their libraries and in one instance installed a root-kit, which is a tool often used by hackers to screw with other people's computers undetected. Which brings up the current controversy between Android, Netflicks, and Hollywood.

If you haven't read the articles yet, do it now.

The thing is Hollywood, rightfully, is worried about piracy, but is getting dangerously close to where Sony was five years ago. The reason Android doesn't have a Netflicks app is because the platform is too open. This brings up some interesting questions about the future of open platforms, such as linux and Android. By closing platforms are we trading freedom for security, and getting neither? Linux has a reputation of security, it's open nature allows security holes to be found very quickly by the community and patched just as quickly. Windows is a close platform and several iterations have become notorious for their security holes. The Mac OS is another closed platform that was believed by many to be "secure," but has become increasingly targeted as Apple computers become more popular.

In short, I guess I'm asking if this seems like a case of giving up real liberty in exchange for illusionary security.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Technology & Proposals

So one of my close friends is thinking about proposing to his girlfriend of like 4 years. He sent me this link the other day (in the title) which I didn't read as I was busy and he usually just sends me useless articles. So this afternoon he asked me if I had gotten it and I was like yeah and he started to get really excited and asked me what I thought. Well I told him I hadn't read it yet, and his bubble slightly deflated. He told me to go and read it and call him when I was done.

After reading it I jumped around for about 20 minutes and got really excited. He's going to do the same type of thing with an engagement ring come May. While I was reading it I thought it sounded a bit like geo-caching, and as that is something we have previously discussed I thought I'd post this as well. Science Fiction in my mind always entails technology, so I was amused when I read this story. Enjoy!

Holy Holograph!

Holy smokes. So I was just looking around at different topics online, and I stumbled across this. Japan has yet again shown it's technological creativity- I can't imagine going to a concert with a holographic performer. The video is definitely worth watching just because it's a rather unbelievable idea. The one thing that popped into my head though was "I wonder how the drummer and guitarist feel about this". It has to be even stranger for them to perform with a holograph.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Doctor Who

I eagerly await December 1st when we will watch Doctor Who together.

As I recently was a newcomer to Doctor Who, I have watched a lot of the newer series, and I feel that it might be a little hard to be thrown into only 2 episodes. Thus, I've included the official BBC Doctor Who website in the title. A lot of the material is from the current season with a different actor than the one we will be watching playing the Doctor. However, its still got a lot of fun things to play around with.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pandemonium

I recently came across this book on Amazon, and I wasn't sure if anyone had read or heard anything about it worth sharing. It says it is a debut novel and falls into scifi and horror genres. It is set in an America where for the past few decades demon possession has become more and more common, but the demons are something like comic book characters rather than what we normally would think of as a demon. At some point, scifi writer Philip K. Dick is possessed, and the main character has been possessed since he was a child. It sounds strange but definitely has me intrigued.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010



Like many, I was dissatisfied with the way that the novel ended. In response I thought that I would link you to an awesome short Scifi film: The Cathedral. It is a beautiful adaption of a 21st century short story by the Polish author Jacek Dukaj. It does not disappoint.

Paragon

Well folks, I think that's the title of my novel for this year's NaNoWriMo.
And because I'm doing a verrry science fiction story, I need you guys' help!
I'm really just having fun with this, and trying to throw in as many overused
science fiction tropes as possible... But also make a cool story out of it by throwing
in my own stuff. So far, I've got aliens, portals to other dimensions, a shapeshifter,
someone who can manipulate dreams, space pirates (kind of), a black market situation
on one of the moons of Jupiter, and the "Paragon," a mysterious power source
stronger than anything else in the known universe. My heroes are trying to stop the
Paragon from falling into the hands of an evil megalomaniac from another dimension.
What else could I possibly include? haha

It's the Little Things

Because I did not like the last few parts of River of Gods, I am choosing to ignore them. I really liked the story up until a certain point. I thought Ian McDonald did an amazing job of bringing together all the seemingly random stories. His characters were interesting (I especially liked Mr. Nandha) and even though this book is huge, it didn't feel like it took too long to read. For me,however, the book ended before it got really crazy, so I have chosen to replace memories of the actual ending with this article from cracked.com (linked in the title) about science fiction. Oh the internet.

Robonaut

Was anyone else horribly disappointed by the end of the story? What is the mysterious alien artifact that appeared in the sky? Why, it's a Boltzmann Brain. Was it put there by aliens? No, by our artificial descendants who escaped into an alternate reality where time moved backwards, and who managed to control the collapse of their universe so that all of their knowledge managed to be preserved in a giant stone of knowledge and send back to our universe (somehow, even though they're dead now and their universe IS the giant stone of knowledge). What a serious case of deus et machina. I guess that's fitting, given the title, but I feel it ruined an other wise well thought out novel.


So, in other news, I'm sure y'all know that the last shuttle launch is coming up soon. I'm personally excited that it's been delayed three weeks, that way I'll be home in Florida for the sonic boom. Apparently, they're sending a Robonaut into space this time. His name is R2 (I'm thinking he needs a friend named D2). They're going to have him do boring and dangerous things, if the testing goes well. Eventually, they might even send him to Mars.

Supergod

The aeais in River of Gods reminded me of the comic Supergod by Warren Ellis. The plot of Supergod is...mostly irrelevant to River of Gods, except that in the comic, India manages to create a living god in the form of a cloned, cyborg Krishna. Krishna-bot evolves beyond its expected parameters and exterminates a large number of Indians and then nukes Pakistan. So, both stories feature divine beings created by humans that eventually turn rogue (although in Brahma's case it's less apocalypsy). I recommend everyone reads the first issue, at least, because it's pretty interesting and it dwells on similar ideas about super/nonhuman psychology as River of Gods.

Update: River of Gods was published about five years before Supergod came out, so there is a decent chance that Ellis had read it.

The Laws of Science Fiction

I present another thing that I found on the internet! This one is a little more serious: a collection of laws developed from and about science fiction. Check it out (link's in the title).

I also present, for your consideration, Steampunk Iron Man . Yes, it really is that awesome.

Still watching The Walking Dead, and it is still aiming to please. A little predictable and a little goofy, but still fun and entertaining. It is not too late to get into it (only 2 episodes so far)!

Right, and a little about River of Gods: I really like this book. It is pretty dense and complex and everything, but I'm still enjoying it. I feel like I connect to these characters way better than I did with anyone in The Windup Girl. Kinda sad this is our last novel.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Armies of Robots!

So this is gonna be short, but I just found this link while I was at syfy.com in the technology section. It basically talks about the fact that the Naval Research Laboratory is developing robots that may eventually be used to fight wars for humans who want to "avoid the messiness that combat entails." The actual link to the (short) article is in the title.
I actually find this really interesting. What do you guys think? Would this be a better alternative to the way wars are fought now? Less bloodshed is always good, but it seems like it could lead to even bigger problems.

Kick-Ass

I have mentioned in class before that I enjoy reading graphic novels and last week I picked up the graphic novel, Kick-Ass. I watched the movie before reading the graphic novel and I was surprised on how much changed between the graphic novel and the movie adaptation. The difference that really surprised me is how the story ended. In the movie, Kick-Ass ends up with the girl and his life is much better compared to the beginning of the story. However, in the graphic novel, Kick-Ass doesn't get the girl. In fact, his love interest's boyfriend beats the hell out of him at the end. He just goes back to being a loser. What the hell? Why would someone end a story like that?

The Crazies

So the other night I watched the fairly new movie "The Crazies", and I was actually rather impressed with parts of it. Mainly, it was the closest anything has ever come to portraying a realistic version of a zombie outbreak. The cause is a military plane carrying biological warfare agents that crashes into the town's water supply. People drink it and get infected and sicken and end up as murderous zombie creatures. Here's what I thought made it more realistic though: first off, the zombies aren't actually dead while they're running around attacking people, they're just really disgusting and dripping blood out of their noses. I know that goes against most traditional zombie depictions, but seriously, if some sort of outbreak like that happened, it would be the still living sick people chasing us and not their reanimated corpses. Also, the way that it altered their mental state and behavior seemed more realistic to me. They remembered their past,were cognitive, and could still speak. The illness seemed to target specific parts of the brain, namely the parts that control the conscience and rage. Instead of them being mindless killing machines whose brains had turned to mush, they ended up acting like people with a form of psychopathy and elevated levels of rage. Way more realistic to me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

River of Gods Vernacular

So I am nearing the end of this imposing thick novel, and something just became apparent to me. At first, I know I just sort of read over this and didn't dwell much on it but now I'm fascinated. Has anyone noticed the vernacualr/slang used for certain words, people, etc.? Words like "noo" (for new) and "clowthz" "holidaze" "Grrls" "Boyz". What seems to be interesting is that McDonald only uses these words in certain places, and since I've really just begun to notice I'm wondering if this is meant to be a representation of the younger generations/items etc in the story or what. I know that I can recall Najia and Tal using these phrases, and Shiv referred to "grrls" and "boyz."
It sort of cracks me up because it reminds me of those goofy kitten posters on fb and whatnot that say things like "rap kittenz rapz 4 cheezburgerz" Haha. Just wondering if anyone else got a rise out of this. I'm really hoping that McDonald isn't making some statement about our generations' susceptablity and making a predicition that these words will be common use in language in the near future.

Paper 2

So I know this is a little early, but I came up with my paper topic shortly after we read Boneshaker. It just came to me and I think I can make it work. As a history major, the fact that Priest used alternate history in her book fascinated me. So what I plan on writing on is the use of alternate history in Boneshaker. Questions to ponder:

Why use alternate history?
What's the point?
Would the story be affected greatly if Priest didn't mention the extended Civil War?
What other science fiction pieces and to what ends?
Is alternate history a characteristic of steam punk (since it's set in the Victorian Age)?
Is the extended Civil War the only aspect of alternate history in the novel?


Suggestions? Comments? Criticisms? Funny jokes for the day? All would be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

This and That

So far its been a rather dull week. Slowly working my way through the massive story that is River of Gods. The multiple character perspectives add to the plot, but other than Mr. Nandha, the plot advances slowly. Haven't picked a favorite character yet, but leaning towards Lull. We discussed the characters during the first part of class, but I'm wondering who is everyone's favorite character?
Also, just finished South Park tonight, and I have to say I'm impressed once again. Two weeks ago they aired an episode based on Inception, and tonight they brought in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu. There is even a scene where Cartman interacts with Cthulhu, and it is directly based on a scene from the fantasy animated film My Neighbor Totoro.
On a final note Skyline opens this Friday. It appears to be similar to Independence Day, and focuses on a lot of action scenes. Seems entertaining enough. I've rambled enough, so until next week...

100 Year Starship

The largest problem with sending men to Mars is how hard it is to get them back. This thorny problem has a rather obvious solution, if one is sufficiently ruthless with problem solving: don't bring them back. Which is precisely what DARPA and NASA have recently proposed with the 100 year starship initiative. The idea of the initiative is to send an expedition to Mars that will remain there for the duration of the participant's lives. The title contains a link to an article about the initiative. Quite an intriguing SciFi concept.

Weaving

One thing I'm loving about River of Gods is the juxtaposition of so many different sci-fi memes. We have genetic manipulation, artificial intelligence, alternate realities, multiple universes, and aliens. I especially like that they're all introduced in separate story lines and are starting to gradually come together. I've obviously not finished the book yet, but it seems to be very skillfully done so far.

River of Awesome

River of Gods is one of my favorite books from this class's reading list. It has a few issues with pacing, and I don't like all of the characters enough to trouble through all of their sections (in particular, I find Tal insufferable), but I really enjoy it. It is not a harder read than The Windup Girl, I think, which was a relief. I really enjoy the continued theme of ancient and future meshing together; it is very cliché in works about Eastern cultures, but it is still fascinating. The theme of divinity is very interesting, too. I have an acknowledged god-complex, so it speaks to me. Is anyone else enjoying it so far?

Also, apropos of nothing, I want Mr. Nandha to have a sticker on his gun that says "Indra take the trigger", so I'm ~imagining it this way.

Star ships and Drum and Bass.

First I am a huge nerd when it comes to anything dealing with space travel. When I read about how NASA conducts launches in the not too far off year of 2047, I geeked out a little. McDonald seems to be combining these two launch systems. For those in a hurry, the first uses an array of lasers to push a payload to orbit. The second is rather more violent, it involves placing a ten megaton nuke under a salt dome underground and perching the payload on top of it at the bottom of a tunnel and then detonating the device. Oh, and by "rather more violent" I mean that the acceleration loads would turn you into greasy, chunky salsa. While on the subject, I wonder if Ian McDonald had either of these propulsion systems in mind when working on this novel? Yes they are similar, but I think they are different enough to count as different systems.

Okay, switching gears. Did anyone else picture Drum and Bass when they heard the description of the music Tal listens to? If you're curious just go to Pandora and listen to the Drum and Bass station there.

On another note, I think I may have my next paper topic.

November is....

National Novel Writing Month! (NaNoWriMo for short)
The idea for NaNoWriMo came about in 1998 when a program encouraging children to write began putting on this "contest." The idea is to write an entire novel in the month of November. Even if you don't finish the whole novel, the goal is to reach 50,000 words.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo last year, and I tried my hand at it. When you sign up on the web site (it's free!) at www.nanowrimo.org, you can set your home region if you like, and connect with other writers in your area. Every day you can post your word count to show others how far you've gotten.

NaNo encourages its participants to just write, and don't stop writing. Even if you hate what you wrote, they tell you to just take a new turn with your plot and keep writing. Anything to get to that 50,000!

Well, as I learned last year, it's easier said than done. I tried to write a historical fiction and I absolutely hated what I was writing. I was bored with my work, and got busy with school, and I gave up.

But not this year! I'm going strong so far, and I'm actually writing a science fiction piece, which is of course much more up my alley! So far it includes a band of aliens (though that hasn't been revealed yet in the story) who are kidnapping my protagonist and enlisting him to help them steal something. Little does he know that something is in an alternate universe. DUN DUN DUNNNN.

Is anyone else participating?? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and encourage you to join if you're interested. It's not too late to start writing and still have plenty of time to get to 50,000 by the 31st!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Eternal Sunshine Reality?

So I was just looking around the internet and I came upon this article that seemed pretty interesting... and a little creepy.
Apparently, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found a way to completely erase traumatic events from a person's memory. They're claiming that this could lead to drugs that will help those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The article compares it to the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," which is a very sci-fi-esque film. I know this story is more science than science fiction, but I thought it was really interesting and it shows how a lot of times, what we perceive as science fiction one day may be reality the next. It seems like there a lot of examples of this and that this is just the latest.
The article is the title for those that are interested. Any thoughts on this? Creepy or Awesome? Both?

Star Wars

Hey. I know we have to have some gamers in our class and I just wanted to say that Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 was released last week. The first game was awesome and I wrote a review on gameinformer.com. I have a link to the review on the blog post.

http://gameinformer.com/games/star_wars_the_force_unleashed_ii/b/user_reviews/archive/2010/11/02/it-could-have-been-epic.aspx

Harry Potter

As I'm sure the majority of you know, the new Harry Potter movie is coming out on November 19th. Midnight tickets are already on sale for November 18th at the Cobb on Fandango.

As Harry Potter is very near and dear to my heart, I thought I would include the newest trailer in this post to encourage you all to go and get super excited! I know its not science fiction and that its fantasy... but as one of the largest phenomenons of our generation, I thought it could possibly be excused. ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzfEH0UPEBo

Monday, November 1, 2010

Verdict on the Walking Dead

So after weeks of waiting I must say I really enjoyed the first show. However, I watched it with several other zombie enthusiasts and we had some critiques. First of all, he did not seem nearly as surprised about the whole everyone is a zombie thing as he should have been. I mean, he was quite scared in the hospital. But then when he saw the crawler at the park he just looked a bit concerned before riding away on his bike (well I guess it's a bit hard to flee in terror on a bike in a hospital gown, but still....) Maybe this plays into what previous posters were talking about with the prior knowledge thing. Perhaps he did know a little something about zombies, at least enough to not freak out completely.

Also, we noticed several scenes from the show that look like they might have been copied from other movies. 28 Weeks Later is the obvious one with the entire hospital scene. Also that scene seemed to borrow a bit from the Resident Evil series. Then, during the previews for the season, it looked (and I might be wrong about this) like they were sitting on the roof of a mall, which would be from Dawn of the Dead. Did anyone else notice this?


Section Titles

I've been making my way through River of Gods ok, and the glossary in the back has been immensely helpful on most of the Hindi terms, but I've had some trouble figuring out what the section titles mean (Ganga Mata, Sat Chid Ekam Brahma, etc.) I've only been able to find partial meanings for them online and such. Maybe I am just missing something, but I havent been able to find the full meaning. I can kinda guess what they mean, but I'd love to know for sure! Has anyone been able to find out?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Zombie Surprise

So I'm watching The Walking Dead premier right now, and I will say it is pretty good. We aren't far in yet, but so far the acting, setting, effects, etc. are all solid. A few issues with details here and there, but nothing big. So far, think 28 Days Later, but in the US rather than the UK. I know it doesn't sound like a big difference, but we have guns (kind of changes the game. you know, just a little).

Right, but the real reason for the post: the main character wakes up in the middle of a zombie outbreak, sees a bunch of dead people, then sees one corpse that had been ripped in half that starts moaning a crawling towards him. He runs away (understandable), but then, later, he sees another guy with gray skin silently shambling down the middle of the road. Now lets think... There is surely some serious shock associated with waking up in the middle of armageddon, but you've already seen that some corpses have the ability to come after you, and, if nothing else, everything you've seen is dead, so this guy shouldn't be so calm. Now why, oh why, would you think its a good idea to flag this strange, shambling man down (as our foolish protagonist did)?

Why does it seem that every zombie movie/show (at least every one I can think of) starts with the "Oh shit, zombies! But I've never heard of a zombie!" moment? Every zombie universe seems to include the general ignorance of the population as to what a zombie is and how to deal with them. What would happen if there was a zombie story set in the world where we live, where people are well aware of the zombie mythology, and many even have plans in place for a zombie-scenario. Hell, I own a book called the Zombie Survival Guide. Has fantasy/sci-fi in these slightly different universes just glossed over the living dead, thus leaving their citizens hopelessly unprepared? How would prior understanding of zombies change the way zombie stories go?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SciFi Failure

The linked article is an editorial from ign.com regarding the recent addition to the Metroid franchise, Metroid: Other M. While not personally a fan of the series, if the editorial bears any resemblance to the truth then this iteration represents a serious mis-step.Other M spends an inordinate amount of time tying the protagonist's character to her femininity, something that is out of step for a series that used the revealing of the character's gender as a surprise ending in one game.

I feel that this is relevant to our ongoing dialog about the role of female protagonists in Science Fiction. It is interesting that, in a period where women in genre writings are receiving the spotlight, a franchise with a strong female lead would take a step in the opposite direction. Apparently, the protagonist has access to all of the powers/armors she needs in the game from the start... but is unwilling to use them until the male romantic interest explicitly orders her to do so.

What do you all think?

Yay for Halloween!

First of all, I know I posted about this a few weeks ago but I am SO excited about AMC's new show The Walking Dead. It premiers on Halloween and I can't wait! It looks incredibly creepy for a t.v. show and I hope it lives up to all the hype.

Second, we have been reading a lot of books with crazy vocabulary. As Drew posted earlier, River of Gods contains a glossary, but many other books do not. Why do you think that is? Do the authors just feel like they shouldn't have to explain their made up or foreign terms?

That is all. Hope everyone is enjoying the book!

Speaking of Time Travel

Having read Bailey's post about time travel, I decided to elaborate just a little in my own post.

Time travel seems to be a popular topic in the sci fi I've been exposed to (and consequently, the sci fi that I enjoy the most). There have been all sorts of popular movies and tv shows recently that have dealt with the possibilities and complexities of time travel.

1. Dr. Who- we will be watching two episodes of this show later on with Andy (which I'm very excited about as they are two very good episodes!). Dr. Who is essentially a Time Lord who travels around in his TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space) which is disguised as a 1950's blue Police Box. The Doctor goes around in his TARDIS with a companion and experiences the universe at varying stages- anywhere from the beginning of the universe, to the end of the Earth, and to the year 5 Billion. Everywhere the Doctor and his companion go, there is always an emphasis on how time is in flux, and the actions that they take can change the course of history, or create the history that we know. There's a really great episode where they go to Pompeii on Volcano Day, and the Doctor tells Donna, his companion of the season, that Pompeii is a fixed point in history that has to happen no matter what, whereas other things can change. It turns out that the volcano only erupts because of an alien force living in the depths of it, which the Doctor has to defeat and consequently brings about the destruction of Pompeii. (remember guys.. this is fiction). There's a large emphasis on how the smallest action can have the longest reaching effects... there's a 3 part episode that concentrates on the smallest action: turning right instead of left at a stop sign. Symbolically, this is of course a large symbol of a crossroads and choosing a path, blah blah blah. But the butterfly effect displayed in these episodes shows how diverse and far reaching the consequences of turning right instead of left can create. (in this case a parallel universe without a Doctor).

2. Fringe, the White Tulip- This episode of Fringe also deals with time travel. I just watched in for one of my other classes. The man who time travels throughout this creates a way for him to time travel by placing all sorts of mechanisms into his body surgically allowing him to "jump" backwards. However, each jump uses up a lot of energy, and drains all the energy out of the things where ever he lands- people, batteries, plant life, etc.

3. The Time Traveler's Wife- Such a great movie and a great book. The main character Henry is a time traveler who goes back in time to visit his wife when she's a little girl. One of the main issues that is raised with this book/movie in my mind is which is the chicken and which is the egg? And which one came first? For Henry, his life is a chronological order that does not match up with the chronological order of other people's lives. For instance, the first time he meets his wife is when she is 21 and he is 26 or so. But, the first time she met him she was 6 and he was 40. He keeps going back to visit her while she is growing up in the field behind her parent's house. It is stated in the movie that he keeps going back to the same places because big events act like gravity and draw him in. She was a big event. When they first meet in real time for Henry, she's already known him her whole life and is completely in love with her. He falls in love with her and they get married, blah blah blah. But which is the cause and which the effect? It's very hard to wrap your head around. I've only read the book once, but I think I may reread it again soon (in all my spare time) and see if I can get a more clear answer.

Just thought it was interesting that Bailey wrote about time travel when I had just recently been exposed to all three of these examples in modern culture within the past week.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

River of Gods

I have to say that I actually really like River of Gods so far. I'm not as far in as I should be, but I'm coming along. It's pretty tough to understand at times, but overall I think it's really good. Is anyone else loving the glossary at the end? I'm using it so much, and it's so much faster than having to look up words elsewhere.
Ernest pointed out to me that A Clockwork Orange used a similar idea, but I had never seen a fiction book with a glossary in the back to help with understanding what is going on. Is this a common occurrence?

IS TIME TRAVEL REAL?

I am very excited about this one. (The title is a link to the article)
There is speculation that time travel may be real due to footage from the premier of Charlie Chaplin's "The Circus" silent movie in 1928. An old woman walks by doing what looks like talking on a cell phone. The phone even looks like an iphone...
While this could be some sort of prank that people have done (and added to the DVD set when it was released) there is the question: is this a time traveler caught on tape? And, if so, how close are we to that possibility? If it is a prank, it was very ingeniously done as it is hard to argue that the woman that walks by is not part of the original film.
It's a long shot, but I guess you can't rule it out. The title link goes to an article and the video. You can decide for yourself: elaborate prank? Alien technology? Undisclosed small portable object from 1928? TIME TRAVEL?
For sure a Sci Fi mystery. Enjoy!

River of Gods

So I'm chugging along in this book and realize that I actually think it is far easier to read than The Windup Girl was. I've caught myself not noticing how far I've actually read in one sitting. So far I also like the story. This author gives very vivid descriptions that still manage to not bog down the story. He makes his images very clear but doesn't take away from the actual book by going on and on about them. The only thing that is confusing me is the pronouns used for the aeai. I don't know how to pronounce "yt" in my head as I read and it just doesn't seem right when I attempt to. I'm starting to just read it as "it". Nonetheless this book is keeping my attention in ways that The Windup Girl simply could not.

Question. How far are we reading for next week's class? I assume halfway which is around 300 pages, but I wanted to see what everyone else thinks.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Closer to an awesome robot future

I thought I would share with you all a few more finds from the internet (courtesy of StumbleUpon, of course). As you may remember (from my very first blog post) I have a love of the giant robot. I'm not talking about the Iron Giant so much as things like the Mechs from the BattleTech universe, Voltron, Gigantor, Zords from Power Rangers, Gundams, etc. I really dig giant fighting robots that people pilot/control. Here are a couple of links to a Japanese site where they are making my dreams come true:

This one makes the Power Wheels, bikes and go-carts you lusted after as a kid look like a joke

And this one puts us one step closer to having the giant, fighting, bad-ass machines we all want to see on the front lines (really, if we have to keep going to war with things, this is how I want it to go down).

So what do you all think? Are awesome robots like these the way of the future, or just a cool bump on the way there?

Team Edward or Team Wharblgarblbrains?

I had this stray thought while I was eating lunch and figured I might as well post it. We've read two stories that feature zombies or vampires as an important setting characteristic. It hit me that there isn't a huge distinction that can be made between these two groups. Zombies are walking dead things that have a hunger for flesh while vampires are walking dead things that have a thirst for blood. So, why is there a distinction? It seems to me that vampires are just zombies with brilliant PR. I can't find a separable trait that makes a vampire not a zombie...except, maybe, that I've never seen a traditional zombie sparkle*. Long story short: Vampires and zombies-do you see them as being different enough to warrant a distinction?

*Ke$ha doesn't count because, while she sometimes looks like a zombie and wharblgarbl's like a zombie and has the stage presence of a corpse, I cannot prove that she eats the flesh of the living.

Air Force Sci Fi

I was watching TV this weekend and this commercial came on of some crazy combat-military action, and then across the screen it said "THIS IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION." I thought this was pretty interesting. The Air Force is using the concept of science fiction seeming incredible and advanced to exemplify their cause. I think it's a pretty cool angle, seeing as the military always seems to be able to be the first to really use new technologies, especially with weapons technologies. And of course it caught my eye because of this class so I thought I would share it. Hope everyone did well on their papers :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

South Park and Quidditch

So this is my second post today, but it is totally necessary. Just finished tonight's episode of South Park and it was based on Inception, which was awesome. I have also noticed many science fiction themes in South Park recently. Last year alone they produced parodies based on Star Trek First Contact and Avatar.
Also, quidditch is coming to campus and I so want to put together a team. Right now I only have 4 people, but if anyone from class wants to play just contact me on the blog and we'll go from there. I'm super cereal about this. If anyone has not seen the CW article, there is going to be a quidditch competition soon on campus. I don't have the exact information on it, but there should be something on the university's creative campus website.

Is it too late to say....

I loved Wind Up Girl but I'm glad it's over. Usually I love books with a different language, but I got really tired of skipping over all the foreign words. I always felt like I was missing something; like some emotion was lost because I couldn't understand what was being said. From reading the other posts I can tell I'm not alone. Still the story overall was great. I loved how all the different stories intersected and how just when you think you know who is the most important character in the story, they are killed or no longer vital.
I think a lot of my frustration with this book comes from not understanding the world. I read that it was based on some of his other short stories. I think if I had read those I would have been more ready for what I was about to read.
We should take a poll in class; how many of us loved the book and how many of us hated it...and who's opinion changed as the book progressed.

Windups and What-nots

I think I would totally be saying the same thing I have read in other posts about this being a confusing book with its numerous subplots and constant use of foreign terminology if I had not listened to this as an audiobook. This was the first book I had decided to try listening to instead of reading since I was sick of trying to find something decent on the radio in my car. The guy who narrated made it easy to gloss over unfamiliar words since he spoke right through them with the intonations that gave emotional context to the story. Also, it was really impressive how he gave each character a different voice. I mean, that is a lot of voices.

Now, unrelated to The Windup Girl, I just read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and I am highly recommending it to all. The premises have 24 "tributes" between the ages of 12 and 18 thrown into a competition vaguely reminiscent of The Running Man, a fight to the death with only one victor. It is the first in a trilogy, and I am so sad that there are five people ahead of me at the library with the second book on hold.

The Windup Girl

I know it has already been said before but the one thing that I liked to most this book was the setting. The fact that it took place in the Far East was very different from all the other science fiction books I have read. When I think of science fiction locations, it usually involves space or a Victorian age steampunk setting. The imagery of the novel was interesting from page one. The fruit that Anderson Lake describes at the market is unbelievable.

The Windup Girl

This is going to be a short post because I basically agree with everyone. First off, I really enjoyed this book. The multiple narrations, and subplots opened up more possibilities. All the characters brought something different to the book, and helped create and understanding of the setting.
Speaking of setting, I'm happy the novel took place in Thailand because most science fiction settings do not focus on this area. They mostly consist of space, the United States, or some other Western location. It was nice to see a story take place somewhere beyond the typical setting.

Puzzling Plots

One of the things I like most about this book is also what I find the most frustrating. It is completely unpredictable. Typically, you can read the first few chapters of a book and get a rough outline of how the rest of the story will go. For example, in Boneshaker, once the tunnel collapses, you can be sure that Briar is going to go in there, rescue her son, and have a few misadventures, possibly involving her father and husband.

However, in the Windup Girl, it's impossible to tell what the story arch is before it's revealed. Bacigalupi weaves his characters and their sub-plots together so well that, just as you think you've figured it out, something else happens. You get introduced to Jaidee and his family. His wife gets kidnapped. He does X, Y, and Z to save her and it all seems fairly important, but then he's killed. The purpose of his whole subplot was to provide motivation for another subplot and to introduce a new character, who turns out to be more important.

This book's intricacies are refreshing. It's been a long time since I've read a book I couldn't figure out in three or four chapters. But it's frustrating, thinking you've finally got it figured out when another subplot rears its head, changing the shape of the whole story.

The Windup Girl

The one thing that really stands out about the Windup Girl, for me, is how complex it is. Even the writing style seems very dense. I can't tell if this is a purposeful style choice to match the setting or just a really frustrating quirk. This is one of the few books I've read where there was a somewhat realistic web of power. There are a lot of factions fiddling around in the setting;s background, well beyond the conflict between the trade and environmental ministries. In the real world, politics isn't a simple two faction, lawful good vs. chaotic evil affair, so, in that respect, I think this is a good book. On the other hand, I feel like the story might be a little too big for its pages. There is a lot going on, and I don't know that I'm retaining half of it.

"Rommel you magnificent bastard..."

After finishing this book, I was impressed by four of the characters that drove the story. Seng, Gibbons, Lake, and Akkarat. These men were, by this definition, magnificent bastards, men who played the odds and made major power plays. The most interesting, I think, is Gibbons. He not only switched sides at some point before the story, because he was bored, he managed to be the one in the end who got everything he wanted, well except a cure for those man-killing super zits. Any one else think differently? While on the subject of bastards, what about Gendo? What did you guys think of him?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My first thought with The Windup Girl

The title of this post will link you to the very first thing I thought of when I started reading The Windup Girl. It is a short documentary called The Dying Fields which I watched with my cultural anthropology class a couple of semesters ago. Sponsored by PBS, the film looks at the plight of cotton farmers in India's cotton belt, which it refers to as "the suicide belt" where apparently there was a suicide reported every 8 hours. Many of the millions of farmers were unable to cope with their debts to money lenders, and ingesting huge amounts of pesticide became a favorable option. Why did they have so many debts? They were, as one woman in the movie puts it, "addicted" to BT cotton, a pest resistant, genetically modified breed of cotton owned and sold by the Monsanto agricultural corporation. The farmers thought they needed THIS cotton to be able to continue to compete. If you're interested, the film does it more justice then I ever could here, so check it out. (Of course, there is the question of correlation/causation here, and some research has suggested that the former is really the case, so take this all with a grain of salt)

Also, in looking up a couple of words from the novel online, Google took me to this blog. Not sure what this really is, if it is at all officially associated with Paolo Bacigalupi, or who came up with the bizarre layout, but it was somewhat helpful for a couple of things I actually was able to find.

Science Fiction Double Feature

So, I don't know if anyone here watches Glee, but next week, they are doing a big "Rocky Horror Picture Show" tribute show for Halloween. Apparently the students at the school in the show are putting on a production of the musical. RHPS definitely fits into the Sci Fi genre, what with its aliens and mad scientist themes. One of the songs is even called "Science Fiction Double Feature." It's also one of the strangest movies I've ever seen. I've only seen it once, and I enjoyed it, although I was completely confused. Any Rocky Horror fans here?
Anyway, I thought it looked interesting, and a nice break from The Windup Girl. The trailer is in the title, if your interested. Glee can be pretty hilarious, so it's probably worth checking out their take on the classic show/movie.

The Windup Girl

There have been many a discussion brimming about this, and it seems everybody is very love/hate. I am not 100% where exactly I stand though. I think I read where one of ya'll said English was not Bacigalupi's main language? which if this is true I'm glad that someone brought it up because it makes a lot more sense. That is the main thing that makes this story hard. One of my favorite books is Memoirs of a Geisha. I love this book but won't lie, there is a lot of Japanese that I sort of skimmed over. I'm trying to do the same thing here, and it is helping.

Also, the use of the word "dung." I mean seriously? How many uses can there really be for dung in this little future we have going on? Spare me.

One point I wanted to bring up, however, (and this is the main purpose of this post) is the use of so many narrators. While I can sort of see the argument of why Bacigalupi did this, I think it adds to the confusion when there are so many plotlines being strung together. It's pretty hard when I'm attempting to understand the entire world that the book is based on as well. (all this calorie and megadont mess). How does everyone else feel about the multiple narrator situation?

Steampunk

Hello All!

As we've been discussing Boneshaker on the blog a lot, I was doing some research online regarding said subject. I found this really interesting video regarding a Steampunk Exhibit in Oxford England.

Thought I would share for all of you enthusiasts ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5i9ZX10iM64

Monday, October 18, 2010

Steampunk Galore!

So I was doing peer advising today, and I had a nice boy come in for some advice. Guess what he was wearing! The steampunk-style goggles! I asked him where he got them, and sure enough he was like "oh I ordered them online, the website was something like steampunk emporium or something". He and I got to talking about it and he was all about some steampunk. His goggles were more plain but he was gushing over some fancy brass ones on the site. I think the site is worth a look (link's the post title), and I especially like the Hazel Barrett outfit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ugggggghhhh

So I've figured out why The Windup Girl is so incredibly painful to read:

1. It's all about business. There is a reason I am not in the business school with all of my friends. I don't understand it, I don't like it. So I'm lost.

2. He never explains the meanings of words that aren't basic English. I didn't know what a megodont was until it actually died. And what the heck is a nightshade? Not to mention all the Thai words that he uses in the middle of sentences, thus completely losing the meaning of the sentence to anyone who doesn't speak Thai.

3. He doesn't describe his characters clearly. The only one that makes sense is the actual windup girl. Other than that, I have no idea who I'm reading about at any given time. I have no idea what the difference between a yellow card and a white shirt is. Or is it a white card and a yellow shirt? Ahhhh I have no clue.

4. 100 pages in (about half as far as I'd like to be) and as far as I can tell the story hasn't started yet. Not to mention all the mistakes in his writing that are distracting my inner grammar Nazi. I do not like his writing style at all.

Please for all that is good will someone tell me that this book gets better?

(No offense to Andy and his reading selection :D)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Spring 2011 texts

For those who are curious, here are the texts for my spring 2011 class, UH 300-009 a.k.a. 21st-Century Fantasy: The Dark Fantastic. The title is a bit misleading, as we'll spend the first third of the semester on some influential precursors before we hit the current stuff.
  • Jeffrey Ford, The Shadow Year (2008)
  • Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book (2008)
  • Joe Hill, Heart-Shaped Box (2007)
  • Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
  • Stephen King, Under the Dome (2009)
  • Kelly Link, Pretty Monsters (2008)
  • Peter Straub, American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to Now (2 vols., 2009)
  • Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger (2009)
I reserve the right to add or subtract texts, of course, but the above is the list I have sent the bookstore. Movies I haven't quite decided on, but they definitely will include The Haunting (dir. Robert Wise, 1963) and might include Pan's Labyrinth (dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2006) or The Orphanage (dir. Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007) or Let the Right One In (dir. Tomas Alfredson, 2008).

I'd like to wedge Terry Pratchett's new Tiffany Aching novel onto the syllabus, too, but I'd hate to do that without the previous three T.A. novels as well ... and there's only so much room. Grumble, gnash, grind.

Please help spread the word to those who might be interested.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Alternate History

So Boneshaker was my first steampunk novel, and I enjoyed the idea of alternate history as a sub genre of science fiction. I guess its just the history major in me. I'm not the biggest fan of the Victorian era, and absolutely don't believe the Civil War could ever last 17 or so years, but it was fun nonetheless. Since I'm still relatively new to science fiction literature, I was wondering if there are any other eras in history that have science fiction literature? Mostly what I read is futuristic, but I'm just curious if there is anything else out there history wise other than the Victorian era.

Dreadnought

So Jordan and I went to Yarnes Ignoble after class Wednesday so I could buy The Windup Girl (which by the way is not my idea of an easy read...8 pages in and I have NO idea what is going on. Back cover is useless as well. I hope it gets better) So we're searching for this book in the scifi section and both of us notice another Cherie Priest book that looked identical to Boneshaker. This one is called Dreadnought. Though we expected it to be a spin off or sequel, it seemed to be unrelated to Boneshaker. Hopefully, when I get free time (meaning when I graduate) I'll be able to read it. What caught my attention was the title. For those of you that are not history geeks, the Dreadnought was, at least in part, to blame for the start of World War I. Dreadnoughts were extreme battle ships that all the great powers were struggling to produce in the years leading up to WWI. Now Dreadnoughts didn't show up until shortly after the Victorian period (which is obviously the central era of the steampunk genre) technically came to a close. Queen Victoria died in 1901 and the first Dreadnaught The Royal Navy's appropriately titled Dreadnaught was launched in 1906. I am still interested to see how these behemoth, modern warships tie into Priest's steampunk novel. If anybody beats me to actually reading it, please let me know how it is.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Steampunk crazy

So I realize I already posted once today, but this was too good not to show you guys. I've gone a little steampunk crazy since we started reading Boneshaker, and I think I'm going to go steampunk for Halloween. I was looking at some online picture galleries to get ideas. The gallery in the title of this post is from Dragon*Con and it's pretty good. I love love love the steampunk Wizard of Oz and X-men crews.
And the video linked at the end of that gallery is amazing. The guy who's dressed as Steampunk Dr. Charles Xavier actually made his wheelchair. It functions and looks awesome. It even dispenses drinks! hahaha This video shows you all that and more :]



How cool is that? I loooove X-men and the fact that people at conventions and stuff are thinking to turn old favorites into steampunk characters? Brilliant. Then I realized that the Brotherhood of Mutants from the old cartoons was kind of steampunkish already.

Airship Pirates

In the spirit of Boneshaker, I felt that it would be appropriate to share a song by a steampunk band I stumbled upon last year. Abney Park makes quite a bit of interesting music, but the embedded video is especially relevant.

Star Wars striking back on the big screen

Hey guys, you might already know this but I thought it was pretty exciting. Lucasfilm is planning to release Star Wars again on the big screen, in 3D! Now, I'm not a huge fan of the 3D craze, but I will definitely go see my favorite saga of all time in theaters again. They're set to begin releases in 2012 with *sigh* The Phantom Menace. (Kind of wish they'd just left that one off, but oh well.)

Here's a link to a video about it.

Twist Ending

For those of you who haven't finished Boneshaker yet, this post contains spoilers!!!

I was totally surprised by the ending of this book. I know last week we discussed how Moon may or may not have had a twist in the plot. I felt this book totally had a twist. I was fully expecting Minnericht to be Levi Blue and for them to come to the realization and there to be a somewhat happy ending. Instead, Angeline kills him. We find out that Briar had killed Levi and that he had stole the money from the banks. This was not the ending I was envisioning at all. It completely hit me from left field.

Did anyone else feel this way?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

John's whirlwind tour around the internet and big ol' blogpost

We've got plenty to go on today! So let the adventure begin!

First (and really only): ZOMBIES!!!

Alright, as some of you may remember, way back at the beginning of the semester we discussed the phenomenon of the sexiness of vampires. This was in direct opposition to the lack of sexiness we see in werewolves (Twilight excluded) and the almost anti-sexiness of zombies. We decided we couldn't even identify with the walking dead, let alone see anything remotely attractive about them, but the Swedish electronica band Naked Ape (signed to the appropriately named Lombotom Records) is trying to change all that. I found these guys a couple of years ago while just messing around online (no, I did not google 'zombie strippers'), and I seriously put the emphasis on TRYING. I mean, I don't think they've been very successful at making zombies any sexier, but you can draw your own conclusions (if you dare!):

****WARNING**** The following music videos are pretty extreme (mainly the second one) and are not meant for the faint-hearted, the weakly-stomached, or those who are NOT okay with blood (especially the second one) or strippers (again, second one). Really, it can be intense, and you've been warned.

Naked Ape - Fashion Freak
Naked Ape - Undo Redo

Also, I have found a most magical and fun new addiction: Minecraft.

Minecraft is a goofy videogame that has both zombies AND digging, so I thought it would fit in perfectly with Boneshaker, and it is made in Sweden and, again, has zombies, so it fits with the first part of my post. I can't say enough about this game except how much fun it is to play. I mean, it looks horrible, its buggy as hell, and its not really science fiction (my bad), but it is still so much fun. Think of legos on steroids: you deconstruct your block filled world only to reconstruct it in your image. Highly recommended (unless you are easily seduced by simple fun, and then this becomes the enemy of productivity). There is even a free version online where you can build and dig to your hearts content.

Steampunk

I have been reading Boneshaker and even though I really enjoy the steampunk genre, I am not really getting into this book. It has all the aspects of a good steampunk novel (zombies, zeppelins, Victoria era setting, machines run by steam) but I just can't seem to get into the story. I don't really understand why Zeke would risk life and limb to try to rewrite the past. I don't think his reasoning for entering Seattle was solid enough to warrant his actions. A steampunk novel that I really recommend is called The Affinity Bridge. It's awesome.

Mother and Son

For those of you who have gotten there[hopefully everyone :-)], what do you think of the ending of this story? Were you surprised by Briar's "revelation" about what happened to Levi or did you see it coming?

I wasn't really too surprised by the ending but I did think it was a bit of a waste of time. Overall I did like the story, it was fast-paced and pretty interesting; but the reasons why Zeke had to enter the city seemed like a bit of a reach. Briar should have just told him what happened to his father from the beginning. I can understand why Briar wouldn't want to tell Zeke what happened to his father when he was a little kid. As a teenager, however, he obviously seems pretty adapt at handling things. And it's not like his father was loved by all. He caused the deaths (and re-animation) of thousands of people and destroyed an entire city for personal gain! I just find it hard to believe that anyone, even Zeke, could fault Briar for killing the guy.

Boo At the Zoo

Okay, so this is something a little different. I've been working at the Birmingham Zoo for about four and a half years now as a seasonal employee - basically, since I've been living in Tuscaloosa, I work summers, Spring Break, and the weekends during October. During these weekends in October, the zoo holds "Boo At the Zoo," and it's always more or less the same thing. This year, though, I noticed for the first time how Sci-Fi-esque the whole event is. One of our main attractions (and definitely the only one that is even remotely scary) is the Alien Reptile Experience or something like that. It's basically the Reptile House turned into a haunted house-type attraction based around this 'plot' that alien/reptile things have landed on Earth and are experimenting on humans in the building. In addition to that, the train ride this year was turned into a sort of Jurassic Park knock-off. There are life-like (though much smaller, of course) dinosaurs set up all along the track and I believe their little story is similar to that of the Speilberg movies, where the dinosaurs were genetically engineered by present-day scientists.
The most in-your-face sci-fi aspect of the event, though, is the presence of tons of people payed to walk around in Star Wars attire. It's pretty funny when you're at work and suddenly a group of storm troopers walks by you, stopping only to take pictures with groups of little kids dressed as Buzz Lightyear and Spiderman. Here are some pictures of the Star Wars characters:






































It's also fun just to see how many of the kids dress up in a sci-fi related costume. There were lots of kids in Star Wars related costumes, as well as tons of other movies and tv shows with sci-fi leanings.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Steampunk

I am not sure what to make of the steampunk genre. It hits a lot of my Do Not Want buttons, and I've never really had to explore why until I started reading Boneshaker. I, personally, hate the Victorian era. It is the second most boring era of history for me, and I wish people would let it rest a while. I also don't really like the aesthetic of the technology. The whole genre feels really regressive in a lot of ways and I just can't get into it.
That being said, Boneshaker manages to largely avoid a lot of my buttons, which is fortunate. I like the main plot enough that I can fudge some of the setting details, and I've been glossing over the tech descriptions because those give me stigmata of the eye.

Boneshaker

I am just trucking on through Boneshaker, but one thing that I have noticed most is a feeling of claustrophobia. Even before they entered the city, I felt trapped in the outskirts and the small world that existed for Zeke and Briar. Then, on the airship, I felt constricted too. But once they got inside the city, I feel smothered. There is constant mention of the smothering mask, and the people exist in the highly sealed, separated air pockets within the city. The entire time, I just feel like I am trapped with no way out. I'm sure Priest has done this on purpose to illustrate how the city feels inside the walls, but it still makes reading a little overwhelming. Does anyone else get this feeling from reading the book?

Auto-automobiles

So...Google has made automated cars. They've been testing them on the streets of California and already driven 1,000 miles without any human interaction and over 140,000 miles with limited human control. Apparently, the technology should be ready for commercial use in about 8 years. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, it would be great for long car trips and I see the technology having less issues on a highway. However, I would be reluctant to trust it in a city. What do you think?

(Title is a link to the NY Times article)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Boneshaker

So I was totally intimidated when I saw how long Boneshaker was. I prayed that it was nothing like some of the more difficult things we've read, such as The Island. And it's not. I've knocked out half of the book in no time. As a history major, I'm completely fascinated with the steam punk sub genre now. I'm hoping to look into it some more. I love how scifi is plugged into a historical setting. These people are walking around with lanterns, but Lucy has a mechanical arm. Awesome. It threw me off guard when I opened the book and the writing was brown. Has anyone seen a novel written in any color but black before this? However the brown seems appropriate for a novel in a Civil War (well extended Civil War in this book) era setting.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Castle

I don't know if any of you watch Castle, but it's one of my favorites. Nathan Fillion (you know, Captain Reynolds from Firefly) is the title character, so that's probably half the reason I watch it. But this week, rather appropriately they are doing an episode on steam punk! They go to a steam punk club, and it all looks rather amazing. The episode is linked.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Did it dazzle you?

So, the greatest thing ever just happened. If you happen to be reading this standing up, I recommend that you sit down. Ok:

ZOMBIESSSSS VS. UNICORNSSSSSS

Oh yes, it's true. While skanking around Holly Black's blog, I discovered that she is the co-editor of an anthology entitled Zombies vs. Unicorns (Black is team unicorn) that could possibly be the best battle ever. I would get the book and start reading if I had the time :(. But I'm sure the book will knock me outta my sorority girl Nike shorts when I do get to read it. (Or maybe just dazzle me.)

Anyway, if any of you do have time, please read and let me know what you think! So far it is getting great reviews! And check out the trailer on Holly's blog. It's pretty awesome. Oh and this is the epically epic cover:

ZVUCover3.png

The Space Oddities Son

I know this is a very last minute post as we will be meeting soon, but I just thought this article was interesting, though only the part about really applies to this class is hard to find (it's on the second page under "The Monkees/ David Bowie Connection"). It's funny how Zowie Bowie changed his name in order to escape his father, yet he ends up making movies about a man in space anyway.

Which got led me to start thinking about other songs that have influenced or been influenced by science fiction. I know Elton John's Rocket Man is based on a story by Ray Bradbury, but I can't think of any other's off the top of my head. Do ya'll know of any? And do you think a song or music can be classified as science fiction?

Robots: friend or foe?

The previous post, "Moon" by Drew, got me thinking: are robots good or bad in contemporary science fiction? Are the technological intelligences we create our helpers and companions, or are they usurpers looking to exist beyond the control of their creators. I mean, we have plenty of examples so far: GERTY, the chimp, the naked brains (to an extent), the room in "Going Deep" and so on. So what do we think? Is science fiction today more of a Matrix/Terminator world where the robots quite literally wage war on humanity? Is it moving towards or away from this? Any thoughts or other current examples?

"Moon"

I just finished watching "Moon" last night and let me say that the movie really surprised me. I honestly thought it wasn't going to be very good because I had never heard of it even though it came out in 2009. It was a great story. I know isolation is a major part of this story. Watching Sam all alone reminded me of "Castaway" with Tom Hanks. The viewer is able to see the toll it takes on someone who is forced into isolation with only a robot or volleyball to talk to. What other movies come to mind when you think of isolation?

A glimpse into another world

D&D. Dungeons and Dragons. The pinnacle of nerdom. There is a stereotypical image one gets when this game is mentioned: A group of socially maladjusted nerds huddled together in someone's parent's basement surrounded by cans of Mountain Dew. But how much of this stereotype reflects reality? According to my experience, not much... though we did begin in the basement of Nott Hall.

Let me start from the beginning. In Freshman year, I was a part of a small group of friends that would watch movies on Friday nights. We would often watch indie films ranging from the abstract to parody. One film we watched towards the end of the year was titled The Gamers. It was a comedy focused on a D&D campaign and the antics of the heroes on the quest. Interestingly enough, both The Gamers and its sequel The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising actually made D&D sound like a lot of fun.

Sophomore year, I joined that group of friends in playing a D&D campaign. The participants were as follows: 1 Computer Science major, 2 Aerospace Engineering majors, 1 Psychology major, and me, a Political Science/History major. It was actually a surprising amount of fun. It provided an opportunity to combine collaborative storytelling with game mechanics such as one might find in a video game. The result was an epic story that we still talk about to this day.

After completing the pre-constructed module, one of the Aerospace Engineering majors decided to create his own campaign setting, the world Iya. He did an incredible job; it is a completely fleshed out fantasy world complete with altered physical laws, intrastate conflict, and warring nation-states. I have played a Bard, a Cleric, a Scout, and a Rogue. Each of which required the creation of a full-fledged character with a backstory that could interact with those of all the other participants.

To make a long story short, our group entered D&D on a lark and discovered an incredibly fun activity for Friday nights.

Kevin SpaceyBot

Totally enjoyed watching Moon. BUT I have to admit (and I know at least Bailey agress) that I would have been entirely too freaked out to watch it on my own. The fact that he was a clone, his lack of communication with the world, and just being alone on a moon with only Kevin SpaceyBot around to keep him entertained...how depressing? So weird. And kind of gross (the whole throwing up blood thing...a little graphic, not to mention picking his tooth out of it. Gag). But amusing nonetheless.

I was entirely too entertained by Kevin SpaceyBot, which is what I've decided his true name is if you haven't already noticed. His little faces...hilarious. Jordan and I found ourselves copying them to each other from across the room. And I am the only one that finds it funny that Kevin SPACEy played a robot in SPACE? Ah...I crack myself up.

I hope everyone's papers are fantastic. If you wanna read mine let me know (I did the preference of being female in "As Women Fight"). I'm not technologically intelligent enough to put it in a blog post. All I can handle is "create new blog" and "publish post". I'm more of an on paper nerd. Now I'm rambling...alas I shall see you all upon the stroke of 3 pm.

Sunshine

After watching Moon I realized that it reminded me a lot of a movie called Sunshine. Sunshine is about a group of astronauts that are trying to reignite the sun after it enters an early death cycle. The two aren't really similar plot-wise, obviously, but they have a lot else in common. Both movies have periods of long silence (which I guess helps the audience get that these people are alone up there), and the soundtracks are similar. The shots of the space outside the characters environment are also common to both. I guess I thought it was weird that two movies with completely opposite names and themes would sync in my head.

Inception fun online

I've been meaning to show you guys these things for a while.
I actually already knew that Inception had an online comic released as a promotional gimmick, which gives a little bit of background on Dom Cobb and his team.
It's the story of one of their previous extraction jobs, the one that ultimate lands them in trouble with COBOL Engineering Company, which is mentioned in the beginning of the movie.

Something I found while I was researching, however, that I though was really nifty, is a user manual for the PASIV device, or the Ladder, the machine which makes Dream-Share technology possible in the story.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Oh, the joys of the internet.

Also, here's my paper.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

FINISHED!

As the title suggests, I am done with my paper. I wound up cutting out the comparisons between "The Island, " "Spar," and "Mongoose." Simply put, I bit off more than I can chew (there's a pun in there some where, dealing with my paper topic). I had forgotten how much I liked doing physics stuff.

Anyway, Here it is. Enjoy

Moon

So this contains spoilers in case anyone's waiting until the very last minute to watch the movie, but there was just something that I found very interesting about Moon that I thought would be interesting to discuss here.
From the minute the movie started and we were introduced to the Kevin Spacey-voiced GERTY, I was SURE that GERTY was going to ultimately be the villain of the piece. It seems to me, that whenever there is a 'character' like GERTY in sci fi works, such as HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey and the chimp in The Island, they end up being quite villainous in some way. So I was quite surprised when GERTY actually helped the 'Sam's. I thought it was really interesting way to take the usual 'robots are bad' technique and flip it. In this case, the humans on Earth seemed much scarier than GERTY, who was only programmed to help Sam and all of his later clones however it could. I just thought it was very clever of Duncan Jones (original story writer and director).

Baxter gives a little insight

So trying my best to plug it out and get this paper out of my head and onto the screen has been harder than I ever thought it would. It might be due to my recent bout of apathy for all things school-related. I promise it will be done on time. I work best at night so I'll finish it later, no doubt.

Anyway, I was perusing the interwebs for things that would help me figure out the math sides of "Formidable Caress" and Inception, and I stumbled onto Analog online magazine (where "Formidable Caress" was originally published).

The link in the title of this post will take you to Stephen Baxter, the author of "Formidable Caress" and many other sci-fi books/stories/etc., giving readers of Analog a little peek into the inspirations and ideas he used when creating Old Earth, the world in which this story and some of his others take place.

As when we picked Andy's brain a bit in class last week, I always like finding out what the author was thinking when they were writing something.

1984 and Little Brother

As I work on the paper that is due tomorrow (ah!) I'm seeing more and more parallels between Doctorow's Little Brother and Orwell's 1984. Some of them are quite obvious- the title Little Brother is in itself a literary allusion to 1984. Other names are parrallel too- Marcus's screen name w1n5t0n is reminiscient of Winston Smith, the main character of Orwell's novel. (This one actually took me quite a while to realize...).

The more I look at these two novels, the harder it becomes for me to not think of Little Brother as a blatant warning that our country is getting scarily close to becoming Airstrip One of Oceania closed tightly in the Party's fist.

Also as I reread Little Brother I find that I am becoming more paranoid. I emtpy out my cookies and cache on the internet whenever I leave a public computer, and sometimes even my computer at home. I've started using cash more often than my debit card. I don't know if this was an intentional side effect, but the book has certainly made me more aware of how easily trackable I am. Marcus's spirit of jamming has gotten into me!! However, I still haven't deduced a way to get into the parking garage without swiping my act card and having my picture taken...