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LT Summer Reading Challenge: An Alien Genre

August 5, 2013 in Fiction, Film, Science Fiction, Summer Reading

The genre of science fiction, although quite popular among many readers, had until recently remained relatively foreign to me. I had nothing against it, but the subject never seemed to grab my attention. However, despite all protests, my fellow bookworms held tenaciously to their predilections for the oddities that science fiction offers. So, under the influence of others and with the excuse of the LT Summer Reading Challenge, I proved amenable to a change; I delved into the depths of the incongruous as I began Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, surrendering to the vast sea of genres before me. Ender’s Game is only one of two science fiction novels that I have ever read, and I am pleased to say that I am effusive in my praise of the novel, as it was extremely entertaining and endlessly thought provoking.

Card’s novel proved to exceed my uninitiated understanding of the genre, as I imagined the stereotypical Sci-Fi narrative centered around aliens and spacecrafts. In fact, I found that the story ignited many ponderings about deep philosophical questions. For example, one of the main themes that Card toys with is the notion that humans are merely parts to a much greater entity. This makes acts like betrayal or manipulation justifiable under the condition that they benefit this greater being or purpose we humans are serving. Under this idea, we, as individuals, become somewhat valueless. At the end of Ender’s Game, Card confirms that this manipulation is inescapable, for even Ender’s sister slightly manipulates Ender at the end of the book. She argues that he must help her save the “buggers,” and that if he doesn’t, he will simply be following the path set for him by someone else. Therefore, although Ender does end up living his life happily and by his own volition, I was left  with the big question: is Ender really free, or is he merely being used as a tool for a different purpose? And if he is in fact being used, is he free as long as he is happy?

It’s no wonder that Card’s story is considered by many to be among the best Sci-Fi novels ever written. He has a way of effortlessly combining action and adventure with an emotional, moving plot and relatable characters. There is also a flawless balance between fiction and reality throughout Ender’s quest to save the world. For example, the games he plays are fictitious simulation exercises, yet there are often realistic components involved that many readers can easily relate to, such as bullying. In this way, Card is careful to prevent readers from forgetting that Ender is not simply the typical Sci-Fi hero with superhuman strength and intelligence, but a little boy with feelings.

Card has opened my eyes to the potential of the science fiction novel, its limits vanishing along with any previous misconceptions I once had. I will be sure to branch out from my usual book choices to explore other inventive worlds. With high hopes and expectations, I move on to my next journey.

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The City as a sci-fi construct; one-room plays as a closet?

June 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

Though it’s not literary on the face, and the genre has yet to make a celebrated entrance into the academy (though U Kansas has a Ph.D. in science fiction and fantasy literature), a genre lens can make even the most inane production take on layered significance.  Take, for example, io9’s review of Sex and the City 2: “When viewed as a rom-com, Sex and the City 2 is terrible and crappy and a horrific inversion of everything the show once was. But when viewed as a science fiction film, SATC2 is subversive, stylish and chilling. as  SATC2 is subversive, stylish and chilling.”

The blogger identifies The City as Carrie’s “deathless necropolis” based on the following information:

1.) The City can control time.
2.) The City can control their personalities.
3.) Nothing exists outside of The City.
4.) The City keeps tabs on Carrie via shoes.

Funny, and reposted frequently, but glancing on a larger point.  I’ve been reading Forbidden Acts: Pioneering Gay and Lesbian Plays of the Twentieth Century this week, and I’ve noticed that every play, from the 1926 production of Bourdet’s The Captive to Crowley’s 1968 Boys in the Band to Hoffman’s 1985 AIDS-themed As Is, takes place in one or two intimate rooms.  This could be a given of the genre — my experience with theater has largely been in the orchestra pit of high school musicals, and I only wandered into the drama section because a man fixing tax returns was blocking the essays — or a function of the stories themselves — they all involve confrontation with a family member, or a constructed family — but I wondered whether they were also evidence of the playwright’s attempt to construct a closet, a stifling environment for the audience. Certainly, in The Captive, where the protagonist cannot even name her “affliction,” this observation is relevant.

For a contemporary overanalysis of “queer space,” see this blog entry entitled Locker rooms: on exterior interiority.

I am now inspired to go back and read old Tennessee Williams plays with a queer-theory lens.

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