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Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion relates to many concepts we have already addressed in this course.  Starting with Frankenstein, this novel addresses the concept of what it means to be human.  Similar to the monster’s creation process, Matt is created by science starting from a petri dish, then naturally grown and eventually “harvested” from a cow.  Yet because he is copied DNA and had an unnatural birth, he is considered to be inhuman.  However, the question arises that even though his means to life are unusual, the fact remains that Matt still appears, functions, and feels as a human does.

Matt’s human responses and feelings are fully intact.  Much like in Lilith’s Brood, Matt responds to being captured and enclosed into a small room by shock.  Lilith mentions how every person responded differently to the shock of being locked away and observed.  She stated how some spoke to themselves or those listening, changed themselves by acting differently, got angry, or didn’t speak at all.  Being abused and treated as an animal psychologically damaged Matt into silence for months.  After a victim experiences shock and torture, it is common that one cannot find words to ease their internal suffering, especially as a child.  These two comparatively reveal how the feelings of punishment evoke a self preserving response from the will to survive.

 

I am weakening.  This is the last time I’m going to call him.  I am going to let him see what I’ve become.  Maybe he’ll decide to answer if he sees that the flesh he once experienced, once denied, is finally and definably grotesque and inhuman.  Maybe he’ll tell me how much he regrets everything, that he’s sorry, that he loved me.

They’ve made me as comfortable as possible, thankfully I was in no physical pain.  The gel pad upon which I laid conformed to my gnarled body with it’s twists, spurs, and knots of my skeleton.  Is this me?  The emotional pain is unbareable- it is me.

Yet I can barely recognize myself anymore.  My neck looks disjointed.  It hangs low and cocked to the side in a calcified droop.  My main perspective consists of staring at my knotted, knuckled claw that was once my beautiful, slender, and useful right hand.  I have stony bone bumps covering my arms and shoulders turning my muscles, tendons and ligaments span my body in ribbons and sheets of a second skeleton.

Moving my body only makes my disease work better, faster, and stronger.  Any movement I make becomes petrified into place.  My ligaments, tendons, and muscles turn into bone around my joints. I am stuck in this prison, this horrible, awful body diseased with Golem.  Cyg was right, the real is ugly.   I want him to see me, see my ugliness, see that he was right about bodies now, but not before.  I don’t want him to hate me, he actually meant something to me.

I snapped back from my wallowing.  “Nurse,” I croaked into my shoulder, “I’m ready to make that video call.”

The line hummed through the traveling to where Cyg was sitting on the other side.  Anticipation got the best of me when the video connected, yet I heard nothing.  “Cyg,” I slurred.  “Know you’re there.”

I wasn’t really sure if he was.  I wanted to believe it so badly.  If only I could’ve looked at him, looked up to see him staring back at me in sympathy and sorrow.   Perhaps he was staring at me right now in bewilderment.

“Guess I know why you’re not answ’ring.  I’ll try’nt – try not to take it pers’n’lly.”

Was he there?  Listening?  I had to keep pretending.

“Want t’say, don’t feel bad.  I know y’re just – ‘s’ not your fault, I guess.  You’d pick up if you could.”

I needed him to be there- here, for me.

“Just keep trying t’connect, y’know.  Can’t help m’self…”

This is the only time I can ever talk to him again.  Why won’t he just respond?  It’s eating at me just as badly as this disease.

“Please?  Jus’ talk to my, Cyg…”

I let silence lapse, let the moment set in.  Maybe if I begged a little more.

“Siri, I…just…”

More silence.  He wasn’t there.  If he was, he truly was the empty person I left.  How bone crushing.

“Forget’t.” I said and finally disconnected.  Tears streamed down my face.  That was the last attempt I could ever make to talk to my one real love.

(293-4)

I chose the scene with Chelsea dying for multiple reasons.  Firstly, because what we have from Chelsea are solely remembered accounts from Siri.  We never meet CHelsea as a character in the book, she is already dead and we simply hear about her.  I wanted to resurrect this image of Chelsea.  I wanted to give her more personality than the negative things that Siri recalls of her accusations, desperations, and demonstrations.  However, to keep things realistic, I tried to keep that tone of desperation consistent in her feelings towards Siri.  In the original text, Siri lays out the scene of her call as an observer.  I wanted to give this scene death scene life, and to give Chelsea life.

“Sometimes we could conceive of things and still not see them, although they stood right before us.” (pg. 192)

A general statement that applies to many aspects of human life such as love, an answer to your problems, or your car keys.  However at this point in the novel Blindsight by Peter Watts, Siri is contemplating the after effects of the radiation and total experience of being inside the Rorschach.  This quote directly applies to the different types of hallucinations the crew members conceived as they were exploring inside the ship.  For example, Szpindel claims blindness on a mission yet “experienced an ineffable sense of where to reach” when testing his vision. (pg 191)  He was able to reach for the battery and nearly caught it, which by definition is the concept of the psychological term Blindsight.

This concept of perceiving something unseen is a reoccurring theme outlining the novel’s plot.  Firstly, the discovery of the Rorschach was made by Theseus slamming into invisible objects.  Quickly, they come to be recognized as a blind spot which is moving and tracking the ship.  Here the Rorschach is known to be out there, however the crew doesn’t understand what is in front of them.  Similar to the entire Rorschach being able to remain invisible out in space, the qualities apply within the ship as well.  The “scrambler” that multiple members experience on their missions inside are able to disguise themselves with “dynamic pigment patterns, like a squid or a chameleon.” (pg. 225)  These qualities allowed the crew members to feel its presence and catch glimpses of it, knowing it was there right before them yet they were never able to fully see it.

 

June 24, 4087

Last night I observed Damek and Kaliq argue and wrestle in the mud.  They were arguing once again over Tilden’s death and what we should do with the construct baby.  I’m glad Kaliq  was finally doing the right thing by fighting for this boy’s life.  Although he’s not comfortable with the child, he at least has enough sense not to poison.  Resisters who are more like Damek and Tilden get caught up too easily in their barbaric ways.  They are too willing to waste everything by living in a moment of passion or fear.

I think my next group of men will be more methodical in their work such as Kaliq and Galt are.  These two at least treat the construct child with some dignity.  Kaliq still carries the poor thing like a rag doll but wants it very much alive- for our purpose.  Galt was looking after it for a short time, but something’s changed and now he neglects it completely.  I didn’t want to have to get involved, when he resembles Castillo so much, but now he’s growing on me.  The more alone he becomes is the more drawn I feel to this little thing.  Sometimes it even feels as if I were  watching my own son be treated as a lifeless thing.

We are currently headed northwest towards Hillman.  We should reach it by tomorrow and there we can finally sell off the poor little guy.  He can have a family to take care of him, we can get a woman, and be done with this very bizarre job.

I just wish he didn’t resemble my Castillo…

In Dawn by Octavia Butler, I find the living ship to be the most alien aspect.  In the new world in which Lilith is Awakened to we are slowly given pieces of information about the qualities of the ship from the Oankali, the first being that it’s alive.  Strangely, we are introduced to the ship’s “skin” before we realize it.   Once Lilith Awakes, she has a routine of trying to escape from her cubicle in which she recalls,

She had beaten it, kicked it, clawed it, tried to bite it.  It had been smooth, tough, impenetrable, but slightly giving like the bed and table.  It had felt like plastic, cool beneath her hands. (30)

Only then it is discovered that the plastic in which she was battling, the walls and furniture, are all created from the ship’s flesh.  As soon as Lilith leaves this room, she discovers that the “tree” which housed her cubicle was also bearing fruit in which they eat.  So not only is this vehicle alive, but we discover its abilities to be grown, grow, feed, respond to touch, process / decompose waste, and it is compared to the size of a small planet.  Lilith inquires about the living ship’s intelligence in which Jdahya explains,

It can be.  That part of it is dormant now.  But even so, the ship can be chemically induced to perform more functions than you would have the patience to listen to.  It does a great deal on it’s own without monitoring…The human doctor used to say it loved us.  There is an affinity, but it’s biological- a strong, symbiotic relationship.  We serve the ship’s needs and it serves ours.  It would die without us and we would be planetbound without it.  For us, that would eventually mean death.” (35)

With this description of the Oankali’s living ship, I first assumed that it is artificially intelligent.  But then I realized it was a responsive thing by being able to react positively with chemicals, proper treatment, and homeostasis.  Instantly, it did not feel as foreign to me because I  felt as if this could be humans talking about their relationship to Earth.  Our soil decomposes and eats waste, our trees feed us, and we can create things from it’s “flesh”.  Also, if we aren’t good to the Earth, then it will fail us in return.  Without a planet, the human race would most likely would end, much like the Oankali’s without their ship.  Therefore, I decided that although we cannot grow a planet, we can re-grow ours, which appears to be a major plot theme within the novel.

 

On page 24 of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s We3, the reader is introduced to the “weapon of the future”.  Right away when I saw this futuristic weapon I thought, this is it? What I see when I look at this technology is simply an Xbox 360 controller.  The color, function, shape, and layout of the controller and the weapon is essentially the same.  It is meant to be held in both hands, with a joystick for each thumb, there are front facing horizontal buttons for the first digits, a center button that I assume provides power, and an antenna/wire that provides a signal to its counterpart.  Only one modification remains on the weapon versus the controller and that is the double gamepads and lack of action buttons.  Even the “x” shape on the game pads resembles the flexible “x” of the Xbox 360 logo.

So I began to consider, what does this represent? It seems to speak on how our future lies in the development of our technology. In this technological progression, humans interact less according to the opinions of some.  Those who are considered to play video games are viewed as “killing zombies”, and are considered to not be fully aware of or feeling the extremely violent death in which they are causing and experiencing virtually.  That’s because with a remote control, you are able to kill without being physically present.  Therefore, this video game controller representation may be commenting on the desensitization of war, like video games.  From a distance, with the press of a button, one can wipe out an entire country, much like nuclear warfare.  This distance also makes war less personal.  You can no longer instantly see the damage in which you are causing, the faces of those you kill, and you are avoiding all personal risk and danger in your murdering.  So with this futuristic weapon, humans do not have to fight their own battles anymore, and in the graphic novel this is emphasized with the government’s use of robotic animals for the controller-weapon’s counterpart.

Did anyone else see this connection to video gaming?  Would you argue it’s a social commentary on the desensitization of war?

I find that William Gibson portrays a time-disorienting opening to his cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer.  Part I, Chiba City Blues consists of a jumpy, speed-like nature in which many details are skipped across quickly.  At first, this rapidness appears to directly correlate to the pink octagon shaped pills in which Case is addicted to.  When he pops a pill the details of surroundings  and events dart around, much like the attention span of a person under the influence of speed.  We first learn of his amphetamine addiction in Chapter 1,

In a teashop called the Jarre de The, Case washed down the night’s first pill with a double espresso….The Jarre was walled with mirrors, each panel framed in red neon.  At first, finding himself alone in Chiba, with little money and less hope of finding a cure, he’d gone into a kind of terminal overdrive, hustling fresh capital with a cold intensity that had seemed to belong to someone else…”  (7)

Within three brief paragraphs, the passage starts with Case taking the pill, then skips directly into a somewhat randomly located description of the teashop, and finally launches into an explanation of his beginning history in Chiba City.  While the jumping of time is dizzying for the reader, coincidentally, this is where Case first mentions feeling like someone else, which is a reoccurring confusion for me.   Not only does Case seem to lose track of time but he often appears to lose tabs on his consciousness.  After Case’s brain surgery is performed and he can no longer process the speed pills, I still find that the novel’s sense of time retains the choppy and disorienting quality.

The opening of Part II,  The Shopping Expedition starts with Case still recovering from surgery.  In Chapter 3 we learn that he was not fully and mentally present during his travel from Chiba City to his BAMA home.  His trip is described in retrospect as,

Case woke from a dream of airports, of Molly’s dark leathers moving ahead of him through the concourses of Narita, Schipol, Orly…He watched himself buy a flat plastic flask of Danish vodka at some kiosk, an hour before dawn. (43) … His head ached.  He remembered Amsterdam, another room, in the Old City section of the Centrum, buildings centuries old…Paris was a blurred dream.  ”  (44)

Again, the notion of time is sweeping.  As the reader, I am jumping through time, forced into the state of unawareness that Case is found in.  At times his ability to recover memories makes me feel left in the dust as a follower.  I am dizzy with details and finding myself always a step behind Case, while simultaneously, he is  a step behind his own actions as well as the actions of others (Molly in this instance).   I originally considered his inability to recall the trip as a side-effect of his surgery.  Yet this feeling of rapid and speedy travel is retained and reflected through Case’s time spent in cyberspace,

And in the bloodlit dark behind his eyes, silver phosphenes boiling in from the edge of space, hyponagogic images jerking past like film compiled from random frames.  Symbols, figures, faces, a blurred, fragmented mandala of visual information.” (52)

While in cyberspace, the feeling of unconscious awareness still exists with the description of Case being “behind his eyes” on the “edges of space” as he’s distantly observing the random “images jerking past like film”.   With this I could assume the excuse that he is not able to control the processing rate of information in which he enters into.  But given the other accounts of continual time disorientation, a suspicion crept into my mind in Chapter 6 once we learn that Armitage  had a cured case of Alzheimer’s.  We also learn that he was involved with the Russian creators of Case and called upon Case for an unknown reason.  So does Case have Alzheimer’s, too?   His potential qualities of the disease can be spotted through the consistent time disorientation, cognitive lapses, and his recently discovered past connection to Armitage.  We also know that there is a mental issue in which Case endured.  Could this be the source?  Will the sense of time disorientation end (if this is the cause)?

“Julia, this blog post inspires the question, who is the monster and who is the victim? Yet, I feel that you conclude that Frankenstein is the true monster. Frankenstein and the creature have both harmed each other unto the point of death, but the creature is the only one who feels remorse. Frankenstein may have been telling the story, but he is far more the villain than the hero.” While there is no doubt that he truly is a monster, I feel as if both Frankenstein and the demon are equally to blame for the chaos that ensued. Both characters experienced events that victimized them and caused monstrous actions, which you reveal above.

However, I think it’s fair to argue that Frankenstein’s erratic behaviors of obsessing over death, grave robbing, and sewing together body parts stem from his overwhelming grief over losing his mother. It appears that Frankenstein’s actions reveal his personal search for the meaning of life. When it arrives, death enters the mind, body, and soul to create an irreversible change to the living and the dead who encounter it. This permanent change made to Frankenstein appears to spark his passion to become a creator, to re-create the change that was made to him and his mother. This strongly makes me question, had Frankenstein never met death, would it have ever possessed him to create life?

In Frankenstein, the threat of, “I shall be with you on your wedding night” is made to Victor by his demon.  In other words, the demon plans to kill Elizabeth Lavenza on the night of her long-awaited marriage to Victor.  This idea of murder on the night of matrimony is still a relevant twist in plots of today’s media.  I briefly want to compare the murderous demon of Frankenstein to Rose, the jealous sister in So I Married An Axe Murderer.

Within the film, the sister of the bride, Rose is much like the demon of Frankenstein.  She is deemed unattractive to society, causing her to be neglected, and to go mad with jealousy from her sister’s successful love life.  Eventually she, like the demon, seeks revenge on those close to her.  Rose shares a blood bond with her sister similar to the paternal nature of Frankenstein and his demon.  These familial bonds cannot ever be broken by the laws of nature.  Therefore, the jealous characters seek out to hurt those who cannot easily escape them.

Much like the threat of the demon, the warning on the dvd case playfully reads, “The honeymoon was killer.” Similar in their executions, these two outcasts commit their crimes on the night of the wedding, which is the honeymoon.  Successfully, these two prey on the lovers of those family members in which they seek to emotionally destroy.

Can you think of any other stories that involve murder on the night of matrimony?

In Volume I of Frankenstein, I noticed a reappearing character flaw in Victor.  His utter lack of responsibility continually crops up in all that he does.  His trait of irresponsibility first stood out to me when he begins his education in Ingolstadt.  Victor’s obsessive and successful focus on his studies allows for him to push his family and friends aside.  While such envelopment may understandably occur, I realized his irresponsible behaviors were dangerous once he gives life to the demon.  Instantly finding himself in utter disgust, Victor ran away from the demon instead of perhaps, restoring it to lifelessness or restraining it in some fashion.  His choice to leave is yet another example of his lack of taking responsibility.  Due to his actions, as inaction, the demon is able to escape and face him another day.

This is when a light bulb went off for me.  I realized that all of Victor’s irresponsible choices allow for his continual problems, much like a tragic hero.  Having a protagonist with a detrimental character flaw is a significant trait in a tragic hero, who must carry the seeds of his own downfall.  In the genre of tragedy, there is a trial and investigation that must occur where at the end, the investigator finds himself guilty.  As Victor experimented with nature and science in playing God, it appears that he may become a scapegoat due to the unexpected paradoxes that will occur during the trial he must face, his demon.