Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Neuromancer -- Confusion in Integral

Having played a cyberpunk version of the GURPS roleplaying game, as well as a few sessions of Shadowrun back in the 90's, I'm not having as hard a time as I might in following Gibson's Neuromancer. That being said, I'm surprised that anyone who has seen The Matrix movies would have difficulty following the story at the halfway point.

The single most confusing aspect of the novel should be all the new terminology being thrown around, and I think most of it makes sense. There are certainly terms that I don't know, with the heavy use of Japanese throughout the story. But who among us can't figure out what Gibson is referring to when Case is "jacked in"...picture a hole in the back of Neo's head...and while everyone isn't immersed into this matrix, you quickly visualize what's going on. Even the description that Gibson gives in Case's early internal monologue monologue (“bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void”) takes us straight to the matrix as it appears on the screens in the Nebuchadnezzar.

For the most part, Neuromancer is a mystery unfolding around the character of Case. It just happens to be set in the realm of Science Fiction. Any confusion from the circumstances themselves, should be there, I think.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

comments on Kevin’s Blog Post

You make a lot of good points with regard to how DuBois treats race relations in The Comet. I agree that there is a definite segregation in both the beginning and the end of the story. Not just between the Jim and Julia, but between Jim and the world around him.

The bank president, in particular, is shown to be "above" Jim in how he "smiled patronizingly" at Jim in the very beginning of the story. The fact that a bank president would treat anyone not of similar social stature this way isn't the point, though. The point is that Jim feels alone in the world, that he is "Nothing!"

The middle of the story goes a long way to keep him apart, even as the two primary characters work together to get through the horrible time they are forced to endure together. At one point, Jill realizes she's alone with a stranger, and worse, "with a man alien in blood and culture." DuBois doesn't really want us to get too comfortable with the idea of blacks and whites interacting too closely.

The one moment that the two have that feels comfortable is at the end of the tale, when they're looking at each other on top of the Metropolitan Tower. She's has just had the epiphany that they will be the mother and father of the new human race. He feels like a risen Pharaoh, a god among men. She sees herself as this man's mate, and he sees himself holding a scepter.

While I feel like this particular scene is forced and completely melodramatic in so many ways, it was an effort by the author to set things not equal, but to put the black man in a position of dominance.

He then brings Jim's dream crashing down around him with the honking of a car horn and the bursting of a rocket. Suddenly, Julia's father and fiancé are there and we're back to reality. Jim is just a black man who is too close to a white woman for some whites' comfort. The division of the people showing up on the roof feels more to me like hope, than it does anything else. Hope for a future where a black man could be alone with a white woman without calls for a lynching.

And then Jim sees the black woman with the dead baby, and is overjoyed that she's alive. I think this final ending to the story sets everything back "the way it should be" with regards to race. This ending would have made the story more agreeable to a white audience in 1920. Their suspension of disbelief to enjoy the Science Fiction story is brought abruptly back to reality with Jim's "sob of joy."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Victor's Ego

Victor's encounter with his monster on the glacier and the words he says to his creation upon their meeting said a lot about Frankenstein's mindset. I read this paragraph multiple times, first in wondering how Victor could believe for one moment that he posed any threat to the monster he'd created. After all, he'd just finished describing its "superhuman speed" (125) and had made the thing to be larger and stronger than any human, to include himself!
I realized I needed to look beyond the obvious, so I read the passage several times. There was nothing in the text that gave me the answer, so I had to look at this from Victor's perspective...I had to get into his head and think as he would think in this situation. From the outside, it might look like simple bravery, or that his anger at the loss of his brother and family friend to the monster overcame his common sense and good judgement. But I don't think that Shelley was trying to make that the point here at all.
Victor thought of himself as a god...he'd created life. In particular, he'd created THIS life...the life of the monster. In essence, Victor Frankenstein was saying, "I brought you into this world, I can take you out!" He felt empowered as the creator that he could readily destroy what he'd created. His overinflated ego allowed him to believe that he could "trample [his monster] into dust.(125)"
But not only does he think he can destroy his monster, he also expects the creature to fear him. There should be no doubt in his mind that, even should he be able to physically defeat the monster, there's no way he could catch it if it ran away. Victor is no more superhuman than I am, but his ego at having crafted the creature seemingly knows no bounds.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Frankenstein and the Unexpected

Since the focus of most of the blogs from my own group is on what was NOT expected in reading Shelley's Frankenstein, I feel more or less obligated to stay within theme. There were two things along this line that caught my attention in reading Volume I, one a nearly complete omission, and the other an extremely delayed identification.

Let me start with the later.  I found it interesting that Shelley chose to delay giving us the protagonist's name until nearly 40 pages into the story.  Until I read the account of Henry Clerval's arrival in Ingolstadt, I didn't even notice that Shelley hadn't used the name of her title character anywhere in the story.  But once I saw it in print, I realized that I had been assuming the entire time that this was indeed Frankenstein who was telling his own story.  I flipped quickly back through the pages and found a reference to his first name all the way back in Chapter 1, but there was nothing giving us his last name before then.  The story to this point had been all about his character, and his motivations, and while there was certainly a focus on his family, it wasn't done in a way that made it obvious that he was the Frankenstein that the book is named for.

Of course, I knew it was him because I am familiar with the story and have seen many movie and comic book adaptations.  But it makes me wonder, what might the experience have been like for a first time reader in the early 19th Century?

The first thing that struck me, however, was purposefully done by Shelley, and added both mystery and morality in one fell swoop.  She completely glosses over the process that Frankenstein uses to animate his monster.  Victor sets up his scientific and chemical apparatus and the next thing you know, the monster's yellowed eyes open.  With Victor's reluctance to recount his efforts in detail lest the mistake be repeated, he is able to take the moral high ground.  He has learned from his tragic mistake, and so should we.

It's not nice to fool Mother Nature.