I know I wasn’t scheduled to blog this week, but I’m posting this to make up for a blog I missed. It occurred to me that I forgot to actually blog for Le Guin; stress and jet lag translated into a 16-hour nap that made me forget I was supposed to write something. Anyway, here’s something regarding Ramirez’s essay that I found interesting.
In my response I will be discussing the optional reading assigned for this week, social text periscope: speculative life. I know that probably that I should’ve blog on Tropic of Orange, or at least the other required readings. But, I enjoyed reading most of the articles which pop out by clicking the link. Having said that, I will be discussing the ideas of Andrea Hairston in her article “Disappearing Natives: Notes for Future SF&F Stories.”
I really enjoyed reading Hairston’s article, as she opened my eyes more on SF and its role in the world we live in. Hairston points out, along with other issues, how the popular SF film narratives are dominated by a hetreosexual white male heroes. She also explains how this issue is only an extension of silencing and oppressing the Other, only this time by using media. Her claim is absolutely true, I have never thought of it before. SF films, especially the blockbuster ones are dominated by white males as protagonists. Hairston mentions the film Source Code, where the protagonist is Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), as an example. I believe that, whoever is responsible for promoting the heterosexual white male to be the standard social norm, is using the SF films, since they are hugely admired nowadays to solidify this notion. Also, to add on Hairston idea, the film Avatar, which was a huge success worldwide, fell to the same thing, since the protagonist Jake Sully (Sam Washington) is a hetreosexual white male. He is “torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.” There are also many examples of SF films where the protagonist are the same as Captain Stevens, and Jake Sully. Hairston is right when she says “ Imagine Gyllenhaal dropping into the body of an old Chinese lesbian. Would that be a blockbuster?” If that is even possible, the next logical question is WHEN? It seems that in terms of SF blockbusters films we are really behind in identifying the other. After the reading the piece, I am optimistic that things will change soon. Especially when Hairston mentions at the end that she and other SF female writers are aiming to “create a bridge to alternate realities with ‘Native’ protagonists.”
Also another good point that Hairston makes is the idea of how technology in most films is portrayed as anti-human. And that most heroes must defeat whatever type of technology in order to succeed. Technology, Hairston claims is viewed as enslaver, and that the protagonist must defeat it, if HE wants to be free. She also refers to Source Code as an example. This idea seems a bit absurd to me, especially the world that we live in now. Technology is involved in every aspect of our life. “To be anti-technology is to be anti-human.” In the end, after reading the article I came up with the conclusion that SF films is way behind SF literature in terms of bridging the gaps.
I suppose the obvious question in regard to Tropic of Orange is: Is it science fiction?
Well, when time and space warp and change, it seems to put the ball pretty squarely in the science fiction court. I think the problem with being willing to recognize that is, simply, a lack of specific mediation within the text that makes this overt.
Let me toss out an example. In the 1951 classic When Worlds Collide, the earth is doooomed by an imminent collision with another celestial body, and only the top brains are aware of the situation. The bulk of the characters within the film and in the audience must have this information relayed to them by these specialists. However, imagine a retelling of this story where there are no capable specialists available. In the case of When Worlds Collide, simply have the collision occur in the year 951, instead, so that the plot follows court astrologers serving the Liao dynasty in northern China who are tracking some interesting portents in the sky and attempting to divine their meaning. The audience, too, is limited to what these astrologers can surmise, so, life just keeps going on until the screen goes black, because in 951, they have no way to abandon the planet, as they do in the 1951 film.
In Tropic of Orange, there is no one (no Neil deGrass Tyson) who is remotely equipped to deal with the problem of the twisting of time and space comes into contact with the phenomenon, and so the event is in no way mediated for participants or for readers.
That said, two more quick points.
Probably the most interesting thing is that the phenomenon does not need to be mediated for so many of the participants, as the perception of the anomaly is not universal. On the one hand, this may call into question whether or not the event itself is a universal one, or whether those witnessing it have some greater capabilities than those that do not. On the other hand, given the use within the text of layers of media used to separate characters from the necessity of interacting with the reality of a community of humanity, the inability to see a physics problem of that magnitude should not be surprising in those who have practiced the art of ignoring problems. Homeless reality television gets top ratings as a spectacle, but not as a means to address the social issue; Gabe is obsessed with escapist tropes, including his attachment to a fictional noir California past, and is only incidentally broken out of this time-warp by his unwilling exposure to technology. The fact that his involvement in technology results in being less connected to the world is an additional problem.
And, of course, when I say that there is no one capable, I refer to the guys in the lab coats, back in When Worlds Collide. Arcangel, it turns out, is capable of dealing with an apocalypse, in his own fashion. He is clearly a specialist, but his exposition of events that might mediate for the audience is a little too specialized to clearly enlighten.