Some recommendations from Erin B.:
Matthew P. brings up an interesting new angle on the question of defining Science Fiction:
Some good questions from Matt D.:
Thanks to Olivier for alerting us to this incredible article on the crackdown on puns in China media.
And now from Groucho Marx: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”
Finally, related to the assignment due next week, here are a few links that might help. First, a “retelling” of Kurt Vonnegut’s “The Shape of Stories” lesson that we watched during the first class.
Next, to be read with a grain of salt, from Mette Ivie Harrison’s “Writing Advice,” the graphs of various plots. What I find useful in this column is the idea that basic plots can be graphed (the way Vonnegut does it); doing this, whether on paper or just in your head, can help you isolate the crucial features of your chosen masterplot. The graph has low resolution: it’s just interested in the basic arc or trajectory, not the details or specifics. According to this approach, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has the same plot and same plot-shape as the Harry Potter series, though of course the specific ways in which the protagonist suffers, struggles, learns and grows differ a lot.
I’ve brought up Orwell’s idea of Newspeak in several lectures so far, and it will become especially important to our discussion of Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story and, in a different way, Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos and Ted Chiang’s “The Story of Your Life.” For those who would like to see how Orwell explains Newspeak in some detail, I recommend that you read this online reprint of his “Appendix” to Nineteen Eighty Four–in my opinion the best part of the novel (by which I mean most crucial to understanding Orwell’s dystopian society as well as the most thought-provocking).
Calling all Sci-Fi fans: William Gibson, author of Neuromancer and many other works of cyberpunk, will be speaking at an event at Concordia this Thursday, along with Fenwick McKelvey. The event is free; tickets must be reserved online.
A recommendation from Terry:
If the class is enjoying Super Sad True Love Story, I’d like to recommend Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside. Silverberg’s sensibilities, noticeably Jewish-New York, are similar to Shteyngart, and although Silverberg made a mistake by insisting Tiptree had to be a man, he did later make fun of himself for it, and also, he has created some of the best science fiction ever written. Dying Inside is probably his best book, and one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s not a dystopia (it takes place in 1970’s New York), but the main character’s world is falling apart because he is losing his power to read minds. There’s something about the Jewish neurosis in the Shteyngart novel that reminds me of Silverberg’s style.