Brothers trapped on the moon

Some thoguhts from John S.:

Moon tells an interesting story about the relationship of two clones. Over the course of the movie, they appear to act more like siblings rather than perfect clone copies of Sam Bell. They have dissimilar personalities, fashion styles, hobbies and conduct. While Clone 1 was happy to befriend Clone 2-just like a brother would welcome the birth of a new family member- the same could not be said for the latter. Clone 2 seemed to dislike and be in a territorial sibling competition with Clone 1. Thus, there are elements of a sibling rivalry in their initial days of their co-existence.  The clones engaged in multiple actions which illustrated the sibling nature of their relationship. They bickered and fought just like brothers over non-issues. Their physical altercation was a harmless brotherly fight rather than an actual fight for survival on the moon. While Clone 1 was trying to wrestle off the exacto knife off of Clone 2, he did not apply a tremendous force despite the fact that he believed- in his paranoid mindset- that Clone 2 was trying to kill him. Neither one wanted to truly harm the other. If they were perfect clone copies, they would not have found themselves in a physical altercation one another in the first place given that one cannot have a disagreement with someone of the same opinion and mindset. If they were strangers, one would most certainly kill the other given the circumstance and the dilemma ahead of them. It is also possible that they both felt that it was impossible to kill someone that looks exactly like them. Another explanation could be that they did not want to truly harm each other because they developed a strong brotherly bond and affection for one another given the fact that they share genetic similarities.

This film was interesting because it demonstrated that artificial genetic reproduction is imperfect. Just like in “Little C,” while clones may have similar genes, their expression may be entirely different. Two clones who look the same will not necessarily act or think the same. Thus, this films illustrated that science still has a long way to go if it wants to create the perfect clone.

From Dan: one of the big differences between Moon and “Little C,” though, is that the clones in Moon share the same early experience and memories (albeit in “implanted form), if not the same bodies. They remember the same pre-moon life with the same wife and child, and they all yearn to return to the earth and to their family.

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Rick and Morty: Infinite Universe Theory

A review from Hailey
 After last week’s class discussion on the Many Worlds theory, I immediately thought of the fairly recent sci-fi series Rick and Morty, a subversive animated show that chronicles the adventures of Rick, an alcoholic scientist, and his grandson, Morty. Like most of the science fiction we’ve studies in class, Rick and Morty examines the correlation between advanced scientific technology and interpersonal relationships. In one episode, Rick and Morty enter the dreams of a math teacher to ensure that Morty gets a passing grade and the family dog achieves sentience.
One episode that most aptly spins the notion of alternate realities practically on its head, “Close Rick Encounters of the Rick Kind,” acknowledges that there are an infinite number of possible realities. As a basic plot summary, most realities have a Rick, and due to their superior intelligence a lot of people are out to get him (them?). As Rick puts it, Wherever you find people with heads up their asses, someone wants a piece of your grandpa, and a lot of versions of me on different timelines had the same problem, so a few thousand versions of me had the ingenious idea of banding together like a herd of cattle or a school of fish or those people who answer questions on Yahoo! Answers…” So, there are an infinite number of universes with infinite versions of impossibly intelligent Ricks, who can not only move between these universes but also create a kind of union, a Rick-topia, run by the Council of Ricks.
  The impossible idea of being able to move between alternate realities is explored in a full extent through animation, which allows for a suspension of disbelief as cartoons as a medium inherently allows for impossibility. This allows for the full development of science-fiction tropes, while maintaining self-awareness and a joking tone that permeates the episodes.
Self-aware and deeply disturbing at times, Rick and Morty pushes infinite universe theory (and a variety of other science fiction staples) to a hilarious extent, and succeeds in doing so through use of animation as a platform.
Here’s the promo for “Close Rick and Encounters”
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On “Divided by Infinity,” and on where are the kids in SF?

Here are some excellent questions from Katerina, first about “Divided by Infinity,” which explores an old favourite of SF–the double-edged sword of immortality, first explored in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. The second part goes back to some of our earlier readings, but offers a great synopsis of larger issues in SF.

Katerina: “Is anyone truly important in a universe like the one described in “Divided By Infinity”? The arguments made in “You Will Never Die” would imply that anyone – and everyone – could be the being awoken by these futuristic aliens. Therefore, can any achievement or individual be considered valuable in such a universe? Is ANYTHING valuable in such a universe? Or does that mean that EVERYTHING/EVERYONE is significant?

Is the immortality depicted in “Divided By Infinity” really immortality? Numerous times throughout the story, Bill states that “it’s not me” about alternate versions of himself. So is the immortality described in “You Will Never Die” really immortality at all? Wouldn’t it require him being conscious of the transfer to truly be the “me” he’s describing continuing on, which does not seem to be what the story is describing?

Is immortality an improvement? We see Bill awaken 10,000 years in the future to a life with no other humans or beings that interact with him, and his best bet is to be eaten alive. He is clearly lonely and seems less happy than he would have been dead. And frankly, it seems that this would be the fate of any individual who lived infinitely long. Was Deirdre right when she said the theories in “You Will Never Die” are a horror show? Could the book be arguing against the value of the afterlife, the soul, or even God? It seems to be, as Bill is “punished” in his immortality and left alone in this ever stranger and stranger world.

What is the meaning behind science fiction characters not having children? I only realized this for the first time while reading “Divided By Infinity”. Bill and Deirdre are said to not have children, Lenny explicitly says he never had children, Mary/Selena in Galapagos never have children, and the entire society featured in Brave New World does not reproduce. It seems that the characters who affect the most change in their stories are child-free. I tried to do a simple Google search to find any relevant articles, but all I found was a transcript of a panel discussion between science fiction authors ( discussing the subject. How would it affect the story to include the protagonists having children? What is the significance of children characters? 

What is the significance of literature in science fiction? Bill is stated to have an interest in reading/learning, and characters across most works we read this semester are similar in this regard (John the Savage, Lenny, Victor/Henry, Mary Hepburn, etc). Are writers simply writing about what they know? Is science fiction meant to be more “intelligent” and complex and therefore, the characters have to be intelligent? Is there a deeper meaning?

What is the significance of suicide in science fiction? Many characters across the works we have studied this semester commit or desire to commit suicide. Bill attempts several times, and Selena/Hisako and John the Savage all commit suicide over the course of their stories. The Monster at the end of Frankenstein even implies that he will. Suicide seems to relate to characters whose lives or societies have drastically changed. Is suicide thus meant to demonstrate how badly people adapt to new situations/societies? Is it meant to show how vulnerable and unexceptional humans are, compared to other more adaptable species? Or does it suggest that we bear greater burdens because we are such an exceptional species?​
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Adapting Galapagos

Some very interesting questions from Caite:

I finished reading Galapagos yesterday, and it left me with some questions that I was hoping you might be able to shed some light on. I did a bit of digging on Google, and found out that Galapagos was adapted into a stage play last year. I couldn’t find any visuals [I’ve found some: click here–Dan], but it included projections, puppetry, and a large acting ensemble. As a theatre student, I’m quite curious as to how they brought Vonnegut’s story to life on stage. The entire run was sold out, so I can assume that the production was a successful one. Why a play and not a movie? Would it be any different?
 I was wondering what you think is the most successful (or the most popular) medium for science fiction. Does the medium even matter? In my experience in theatre, I know of very few works that could be classified within the sci fi genre. Then again, you showed a great example of the stage adaptation of Frankenstein, how the mirroring of the doctor and the monster could be shown through two actors alternating between both roles-a great decision in visualizing a major theme within the novel.
Back to Dan: Fascinating questions, Caite. I want to take this up in lecture tomorrow, so think about it.
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The Future

Thanks to Matthew P. for sending me this link to the CBC’s Bob MacDonald’s Quirks and Quarks episode on “What Does the Future Hold?“–a special episode on listener predictions.

Incidentally, “quark” is a word the physicist Murray Gell-Mann found in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939), surely the novel most like quantum mechanics in terms of difficulty and weirdness.

I hope you’re having fun reading Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” and Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos. On Friday, we’ll begin by talking about Spike Jonze’s Her in relation to Frankenstein and the Pygmalion myth (which you may remember from such movies as My Fair Lady, Weird Science, Pretty Woman, Mighty Aphrodite, Lars and the Real Girl and Ruby Sparks). The Pygmalion plot is itself a version of the Prometheus plot, in which the creator falls in love with his (or, less often, her) creation: in other words, you could see the Pygmalion as “Prometheus meets Narcissus, with Oedipus dropping in as a third wheel.” We’ll talk about that more on Friday.

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The networked self, etc

A film recommendation from Terry, followed by some thoughts from Erin B.

From Terry: Since we will be watching Her in class next Friday, I’d like to recommend another science fiction film with Scarlett Johansson, called Under the Skin. It’s also very interesting (after watching the movie) to read up on how it was covertly filmed.
Following our lecture on Mary Robinette Kowal, Mary Shelley, and especially David Eagleman’s story “Death Switch,” Erin suggests this article. In Erin’s words (for the remainder of this post),
the article deals with death, memorialisation on the internet, identity, and the dark web. Which all happen to be my key interests in personal research, especially that of online memorialisation.
I find this article to be fundamental in its ability to tie together the aspect of police officers using dead children’s identities, online identities and the formation of false selves, online memorialisation, and the hidden realms of the dark web, alongside more. This can easily be associated with the material covered in class dealing with post-humanism and the internet as an extension of self. Which leads me to my next points of interest/ key patterns; the internet as a place of mourning. Since humans are interconnected with the internet in ways which transcend and morph it only makes sense that we start to see death, since death is intertwined with all of life. The internet is ultimately a preservation ground, holding past moments in time, hidden in its abysses of coding. When you delete something it is never really gone, just like a person passing on the internet. Facebook alone holds millions of dead profiles which have been memorialised and preserved. There are even online corporations willing to plan out your online ‘burial’ for you and aide you in your cybernetic passing.
My first encounter with online death was the use of personal websites (mostly geocities hosted – R.I.P.) which were, for the most part, online tributes to a family member or loved one. These are not only fascinating specimens, but especially touching. Here are a few of my favourite, unearthed:
These all serve as basic examples, often there will also be memorials for shootings or plane crashes as well. A primary example being that of the Columbine high school shootings which occurred roughly 10-15 years ago, their second lives expiring. As well, there are memorials held within the realms of video games. Commonly, Second Life offers funerary wreaths or public memorials. Often the people will hold ceremonies as their avatars mourning alongside others.
Here is a fantastic video of a World Of Warcraft funeral (you’ll want the sound turned on as you can hear them crying through their headsets). What we are seeing here is the common human practice of mourning intertwined with cyberspace. This was inevitably bound to happen and I am so excited to be alive to watch it unfold!
I also think that it is important to underline the aspect of feminism in Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, since it is essentially a feminist piece of writing as women were gaining empowerment through technology during the late century. The entire piece underlines the melding of females with technology in order to create powerful eternal creatures. We can see today that there is a strong uprising of young feminists utilizing social media and Tumblr as a means of distribution and awareness.
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On Realism

I’m thrilled to see the discussion about the place (or necessity, or irrelevance) of realism in SciFi. I do, however, want to use it as an opportunity to point out that, like many of the terms we’ve already struggled with in this course–“Nature,” “real,” “reality,” “authentic,” “consciousness”–the term “realism” is a very complex and contested term. I don’t want to wade into that complexity now, but it’s a good chance to bring up the absolute importance of defining our terms when we talk or write about … well… anything.

Just as Raymond Carver’s story asks “What do we talk about when we talk about love?” (insert a plug for both his fiction and for the stage adaptation of that story in the recent film Birdman), we should always ask ourselves “What do we talk about when we talk about Realism?”

Do we mean that the events in the story could happen now, in this world?

Do we mean that the events in the story are possible or not impossible given the laws of our universe, though they are not feasible in today’s world?

Do we mean that the events in the story follow a self-consistent logic, even if it isn’t the logic we recognize as that of our experience?

Do we mean that the story conforms to the style and aesthetics we associate with literary realism (as exemplified by 19th-century fiction by Flaubert, Zola, George Eliot, etc)?

Do we mean that the story engages with philosophical realism?

And so on…. I don’t normally advise Wikipedia as a source, but in this case the entry is nicely set up to demonstrate what I mean: that “realism” means about fifty different things.

Another way to put it: which of the following texts is more “realistic”–and WHY? Brave New World, Super Sad True Love Story, “The Girl Who Was Plugged In?” “Baby, You Were Great!” or Frankenstein? Is the movie The Internship, with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, more or less realistic than Looper, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis–and why? My answer to the second question is “less realistic” because it seems more likely, given the laws of physics and the plausible advances of technology in the next century, that we’ll be able to send bodies back in time for disposal, than the basically impossible scenario in which two washed-up old-style salesmen could possibly achieve the success they do at Google. That, my disbelief is unwilling to be suspended for.

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Humanities, Posthumanism, Extinction, Oh My!

Some recommendations from Erin B.:

I want to recommend a book which deals with a lot of themes we are dissecting in class. The book is called The Possibility Of An Island (La Possibilité d’une île) by Michel Houellebecq. It deals with extinction, posthumous wanderings, and the humanist element towards cloning, as well as counter evolutionary end points where the human is ultimately debunked and resituated. All of this occurs in a somewhat post-apocalyptic landscape and mindset. The main character himself becomes redistributed and is a recyclable number with a given memory that is handed down to him from his predecessors. Anyway, it’s been about three years since I last read it but I constantly find myself unearthing it as it is a rarity.Coincidentally, it is also in the layout of loggings/ journal entries which we also see in Super Sad Love True Story. Dealing with compressed Time.
Also, on the subject of human extinction I thought that I would send you this article, dealing with the relations between the humanities and the social sciences (it is a quick intro and the article itself should be available and hyperlinked). There were definite links  between this and Being Dead by Jim Crace.
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Science Poetry?

Matthew P. brings up an interesting new angle on the question of defining Science Fiction:

After reading some of the blog posts and the comments I finally came down to the last couple lines of Dan’s most recent comment:The aestheticist in me says “no,” but the part of me that despairs of the state of scientific knowledge among non-scientists says “well, why not?” 

I first thought a talk I attended recently by Alison Deming Hawthorne about “the melding of poetry with the informational content of science writing”.  One of the reasons she cares about this is to disperse knowledge and to make people feel for and understand science based issues in the world through poetry rather than through numbers, theories, reports, and news stories which have completely different way and efficacy of impacting people.

It’s a science fiction class not science poetry, but I began to wonder about poetry with science.  Its history? Is there great poetry with science? How much science and how accurate or imaginative? I’m just curious as to where it sits in relation to quantity, quality, and history of SF.  

The question of what is science fiction has kept coming up on the blog, its attributes, value, purpose, place. I’m curious about poetry with science and where it stands in relation to SF.
Dan adds: there is a long tradition of poetry (and drama, and “non-SF” fiction) that engages to various extents with scientific ideas, metaphors, images and practices. One of my most successful papers as an undergrad was on Shakespeare’s Othello as an exploration of empiricism. Milton repeatedly alludes to Galileo’s findings in Paradise Lost, and 18th-century poets in the decades following Newton were fascinated with natural laws, the nature of light, and the promise of perfect knowledge. The Romantics reacted against this to a certain extent, but many of them–notably Coleridge and Percy B. Shelley–were very interested in science too. As the 18th-century writer John Aiken argued, science changes the world, and if literature wants to retain its function of describing and exploring that world, then it ought to keep up with science. C. P. Snow would make the same point in his infamous “Two Cultures” essay in 1959 (see this article for background), and Aldous Huxley in his last publication “Literature and Science” (1963)–itself a reboot of his grandfather Matthew Arnold’s “Literature and Science” (1882), which was a response to Aldous’s other grandfather T. H. Huxley’s “Science and Culture” (1880). Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, poets have continued to mine the sciences for new devices, forms, theories, and materials.
But is any of this SF? Offer your thoughts. In the meantime, see what Kingsley Amis, one of the first critics to take SF seriously, says in his poem “Science Fiction.”

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Is realism important in SciFi?

Some good questions from Matt D.:

As of late, in many circles of sci-fi fandom, there’s been an almost obsessive need for scientific accuracy or realism in sci-fi films. Many going so far as to say they hated Interstellar because of the “gaping flaws” in the science. Astrophysicist Dr. Lawrence Krauss went so far as to say that Nolan’s latest work “was one of the worst movies ever made” because he was unable to see beyond the “bad science”.
I can almost forgive him for saying that. He has spent countless hours studying and analysing the things that Interstellar depicts.
I’ve never felt the need to see authenticity in my science-fiction. I don’t care how far out the “science” is or how many liberties the writers/directors/illustrators take with the subject matter.
For me, sci-fi is about imagination. It’s about dreaming up what can’t be done and finding out ways of getting it done: warp drive, reanimation, travelling to parallel worlds. If we start worrying about whether warp drive is possible as it’s depicted in Star Trek, to the point where we can’t even watch it, what’s the point of watching/reading any science fiction?
Sci-fi is about hope. It’s about dreaming. It’s about looking to the stars or at the robots my son plays with and saying “what if?” Our Universe is so vast and so complex. I think it was Neil DeGrasse Tyson that said we’ve discovered and understand about 5% of the Universe. With human understanding of what’s out there being so limited, why would we not got all out when it comes to sci-fi? Why would we cripple our own enjoyment of a medium that has so much to offer? There’s so much theory; so much speculation. Too much for me not to be enthralled by Interstellar. Or The Matrix. Or Doctor Who.
Because, as long as we can still imagine it, I’m going to watch it. And until I no longer enjoy it, I declare, to all those that dare say Interstellar is bad: “No. No, it is not. Now pass me my light sabre and let’s ride the TARDIS.”
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