Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Constitutes Human?

We have yet another work that begs the question, what is it to be human? In our previous texts we've dealt with this question multiple times, with more confusion than actual conclusions. After all, it is Science Fiction, so how can we say what is and isn't real?
In The House of the Scorpion, Matt is a clone. Tissue was taken from El Patron, a drug lord on the border of the USA and Aztlan (Mexico), and an attempt was made to craft true, intelligent clones of the man. Only one survived...Matt. Even though he's a clone of a powerful man, who demands that the boy be treated with the utmost care, he is more often referred to as a beast or animal than he is a boy. Yet he is more intelligent, skilled, talented, and empathetic than those who see him as less than human.
There are striking parallels to be drawn with Frankenstein's creature, Oankali ooloi genetically manipulated offspring, replicants in Blade Runner, and even the cybernetically modified animals in We3. Shelley's creature seems a brute and a monster because of the actions he takes in having his revenge on Victor, yet he feels emotional anguish at his abondonment that drives him to commit these vile acts. In Adulthood Rites, Akin is the first "human born" male that the Oankali allow to be "made". If not for his near perfect human appearance before his metamorphosis, he would have been unable to convince the human resisters to ever consider the colonization of Mars. His empathy for the humans' plight makes him the most human character in the novel.
The question of what it means to be human has been a central theme in almost every text we've covered this semester. So it should come as no surprise that The House of the Scorpion is no different.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Siri Isn’t Siri Anymore

The first punch came as I tried to walk away from the group of bullies, their stature far exceeding my own in spite of the equality of age. At eight I was much smaller than other boys my age. Other boys who had been genetically modified…perfected, if you will. I felt something like an explosion against the side of my head as the hardened bones of my attacker's fist smashed hard into my ear. I raised my hands to ward off the next blows only to be kicked in the stomach, doubling over in agony as my arms came back down to hold my gut against the pain.

I fell over onto my side as the boys gathered around me and began taking turns hitting and kicking me. I felt my nose crack, warm blood flowing from both nostrils almost immediately upon impact. I felt my teeth rattle against each other as another blow got through my arms to crash fully into my chin. I could taste blood in my mouth. All I could think of at that moment was how horrible it was to be baseline to the point of absurdity. If my parents had simply had me modified, I wouldn't be treated like this. I'd be…normal.

I can still hear the names they called me everyday growing up. Polly. Mongrel. TwenCen toadie. None of these superboys was "normal" in any way, but that wasn't how they saw it. I was an outsider, even though I was made "the way God intended". Fucking parents. Why did they do this to me?

I was on the verge of blacking out…almost hoping I would so they would stop, or just put me out of my misery. Then I heard the sickening thud of a rock against a superboy skull. Like so much kryptonite, Siri was there, bashing in the heads of three of my attackers. My savior had arrived in the person of my best and only friend. But this was no Jesus, turning the other cheek and bringing peace in his hand. This was vigilante justice without conscience. This was brutality like the world had all but forgotten. I brushed myself off and got to my feet as Siri repeatedly kicked one of my attackers that was still squirming on the ground. Three boys down and bleeding and three run off in horror.

I moved to stop Siri and almost ate the rock myself. I can still see the look in his eyes, and it haunts my dreams. Empty. Void of emotion. He was simply doing, without any concept of what or how or why. He was terrifying in that moment. Terrifying and altogether alien. He was no longer Siri to me at that moment. They'd taken half his brain away to stop his seizures, and I felt that I'd lost my friend and he'd lost himself. The good half was gone, and now there was only a zombie walking through the world in his place.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I chose to rewrite this scene from Pag's perspective in order to incorporate a little emotion into it. You don't get a real sense of emotion from anything we read from Siri's perspective, but we know that the others are emotional beings dealing with complex issues throughout the novel. Pag getting beaten at the very start of the narrative is one of the key scenes in which this happens, as the emotionless Siri reacts not because he cares, but because he thinks it's the right thing to care and then do something about it. I wanted to write the scene so that Pag could have a say in what he was feeling, instead of having an emotionless Siri try to tell us.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

From the Diary of Pilar Leal

Oh my god, I couldn't believe my eyes today! A child…a beautiful little boy was brought into own town today! Four traders came in with their long rifles, carrying this little human boy they had acquired from one of the Oankali villages. We didn't ask any questions, as we don't really want to know where he came from. We really just want to know if he's as normal as he looks. They say he can talk, and not just baby talk, either! They say he can speak as well as any adult! But how is that possible? I don't think he's even two years old, yet. He can barely walk and spends most of his time crawling around in the dirt, eating grass and leaves and bugs, the most horrible things. Tate watched over him but doesn't stop him.

He reminds me of my own son, Tino. He's been away for months now…left one day without even saying good-bye. He was our one hope for children of our own…our one hope that we might be able to have human children again, like before the war…before the worms took us and broke our bodies so that we would have to be dependent on them to have babies of our own. I hope we decide to trade for him…and that the others will decide that he should live here, with Mateo and me. It would be so wonderful to have a little one running around again…after…so long. So many years.

There's someone at the door. I shou…

Oh no…the worst possible news. My Tino is dead. The little one says that one of the miscreant traders did it when he was taken by them. He says that the one who did it is dead, but Mateo isn't satisfied with that. The others are culpable, he says, and he's out right now, recruiting friends of ours to go and confront these men. But they have guns! All four of them! And we have no weapons in our village, only tools! Jesus save my Mateo from this madness that has taken him! I miss my son dearly, and I weep to know that he is dead, but taking vengeance in this way will likely leave me a widow as well as a mother who has just lost her last and only son! I have to go after him, try to talk some sense into…

Everything went to hell last night. I heard the gunshots, then the screams, then nothing. I ran to Gabe and Tate's house and saw a large group of people already gathered there. Three of the traders were dead, and the other was having his wounds tended to when I arrived. And there in the midst of it laid my Mateo. I thought for sure he was dead! But the Lord was watching over him, and he survived the gunshot. They had to pull the bullet out of his leg, but Yori says he'll walk again soon and that he'll live. She's less sure about the trader, a man named Damek. I hope he lives. There's been enough death already, and since we can't make more of ourselves, each life becomes more and more precious.

Tate has really bonded with the baby now, so chances are, he'll be staying with the Rinaldis. I'm jealous, but since all the blood was spilled in their house, I guess they have the right to keep him. Maybe I'll get a little girl for myself soon and then we can see about having children running through our streets again…for the first time, I mean…