Saturday, April 25, 2015

Week Fourteen: Science Fiction Parody and Satire

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I didn't know that the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was originally a radio broadcast, I always thought they started as books. Douglas Adam's story has become quite the cult classic--I think everyone knew that the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything was the number 42 at my school by the time we were in our sophomore year of high school. That being said, not all of us knew exactly where that came from, although I had an idea.

Like seemingly everything from this semester, I wasn't very exposed to Hitchhiker's Guide. I never saw any of the film adaptations, although I do vaguely remember watching a trailer for the one starring Martin Freeman. Listening to the radio adaptation was pretty entertaining, although there were times that I got lost because I wasn't reading or watching anything.

I think that the humor, however, was best served in this audio format. I'm not big on podcasts or radio shows, although I did listen to the Welcome to Nightvale series for a short period of time. I like that, with this format, you're allowed to visualize what's happening yourself instead of relying on visual cues from film. The humor of the script was also well portrayed.


I really enjoyed Idiocracy, especially as an Advertising Design major. The idea that a dystopian society is run by advertising, commercialism, and straight up stupidity is honestly not that far from a lot of the research and planning I do in class. There's a new method of media planning and buying that has been in the works for the past year known as "programmatic" media, which uses big data mining trends to define individuals based on their online shopping habits. From there, ads can be placed on a mass of sites that the individual is expected to frequent, making the consumerism more accessible than ever and the actual strategy and planning part of advertising slowly irrelevant when up against data mining.

There's always the long-running joke that every company is owned by another larger company, as seen in Idiocracy's "Brawndo" irrigating the crops and buying out the FDA, FCC, and USDA. The popular show Parks and Rec also makes fun of this in their final season which is set in 2017, looking at brands like Chipotle, Exxon, and Verizon merging into one giant company as well. But even here and now, that's happening everywhere. In advertising there are realistically 3 major "Umbrella Companies" that oversee major advertising agencies.

So maybe someday what we see as parody and satire will "devolve" into the dystopian society of Idiocracy. As this class comes to the end, all I can say is so long, and thanks for all the fish.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Week Thirteen: "The Aquatic Uncle" Question Responsese

  1. Are there any prominent symbols in the story? If so, what are they and how are they used?
    1. The Aquatic Uncle uses evolution as a prominent symbol throughout the story, particularly the stark comparison between "terrestrials" and "aquatic" inhabitants. From the narrator's point of view, anything that is wet or damp or fish-like in nature is used in a negative, almost derogatory way. 
  2. What connections did you make with the story you read? Discuss the elements of the work which you were able to connect.
    1. I related the the familial ties that the narrator had with his great uncle N'ba N'ga, having grown up with a large extended Italian-American family myself. The same way N'ba N'ga defends living an aquatic life where there are plenty of worms and crayfish, my own great-aunts and uncles have expressed their insistence that they don't need to be a part of the technological advances that we see today. Trying to get my grandmother on facebook is about as impossible as getting the aquatic uncle to live on land. Unlike the narrator, however, I do not relate to his obvious prejudice and familial self-consciousness/shame. Qwfwq is very embarrassed by his uncle. 
  3. What changes would you make to adapt this story into another medium? What medium would you use? What changes would you make?
    1. I think the story has very strong elements of storytelling and narrative from the perspective of the narrator. If I were to adapt the story into another medium, I would choose a short animated film format. I'm not an animation student myself, but to illustrate the contrast between old and new, I could perhaps use the contrast between the elements of traditional animation for the more "aquatic" world compared to CGI for the terrestrial world. There is a lot of discussion about the evolution of animation and its shift to realistic CGI versus more stylized animation techniques. As far as storytelling changes, I don't know what I would change??

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Week Twelve: Diverse Position Science Fiction

I Live with You

This week, I read the short story "I Live with You" by Carol Emshwiller. The story was, to put it simply, very strangely relatable. To me, it wasn't overtly "science fiction", but the main point of view of this shadow entity that shared the home of the woman was definitely not of this earth. Overall, the story really examined gender, and the way we control our day to day lives. 

In the story, the "You" referred to in the title can be any woman--anybody who spends more time alone or working than they do interacting with others. And then there is the extra occupant of the house, the one who sneaks away and goes unnoticed, taking the woman's favorite clothes and nibbling away at her food. As the story progresses, the entity becomes more aggressive, finding joy in it's control over this woman's life. This idea, I think, follows and criticizes the majoritarian culture of the power role women have in today's society. Even when living "alone", the woman starts losing her own freedoms and decisions. Instead of being proactive and doing something about it, she adds more locks to her own bedroom door in an attempt to protect herself. Because who would believe her, anyway?

At the end of the story, the woman pushes back against the entity and takes her life back, right as the entity is starting to REALLY take over her identity. This part was perhaps my favorite line in the short story:

"You'd not have done that before. You've changed. You'll take back your life. Everybody will make way for you now. You'll have an evil look. You'll frown. People will step off the sidewalk to let you go by."
 When I read that, it made me think of an empowered woman, someone whose in charge and confident. Something which is a rare twist to the societal norms and the entity that had been sharing the house with the woman.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Week Eleven: Cyberpunk and Steam Punk

This week, I read William Gibson's "Johnny Mneumonic", which was both confusing and enjoyable. When I looked up the story for a little more information, I was amused by the fact that there was a film adaptation starring Keanu Reeves. He probably knows he has a knack for playing these "super special", tech-based characters from the Matrix, and likes to stick to it. 

A recurring aspect of the sci-fi genres is they're willingness to dive straight into the immersive worlds the author has already created, without any hand holding. Right off the bat you can tell this world of cyberpunk deals with a very alternative reality. Looking "technical" versus "crude" doesn't bother to explain the difference, but the language behind the two and the tone of the styles is pretty clear without a lot of description. 

And then there's Molly Millions with her reflective glasses, professional assassin status and blades under her fingernails. It was kind of hard to wrap my mind around a character like Millions--while I picture Johnny as a sort of clunky, clumsy character trying to pull off a disguise to save his life, Millions is much more fluid and elusive. She embodies the "Cyberpunk Heroine" to a T, and I loved every minute of it. Not only is she in it for a cut of profits, but the character also agrees to help out for the challenge of being up against another professional assassin. 

In this alternative world, there's a clear difference between the classes and factions. As a reader I imagined the areas they were running around in as very grungy and dirty--the kind of place you'd expect to have a seedy assassin chasing after you. I got more confused at the Killing Floor, although perhaps this was the writer's intention. The description of the dancing and the Killing Floor didn't make sense to me, and as someone who tries visualizing the experiences described I'd say I was just as confused as Johnny was.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and the way it portrayed the future society. It did get dated at times, particularly when Johnny was described as having "hundreds of megabytes" of information stored in his head, versus my travel 500 gigabyte portable harddrive. Still, the concept was really cool and the storytelling kept me interested the whole time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Week Nine: Space Opera

Oh, space operas. I have such conflicting feelings about space operas--for the most part the space opera is exactly what I think about when thinking about "science fiction", and it's not exactly my cup of tea. At the same time...I can't stop. Space opera was such a huge part of pop culture and literature, using the principles of storytelling in the brave new world of the future. 

You can't ignore space operas, although I have been relatively successful in doing so. I haven't seen Star Wars, nor have I watched Star Trek, but I know the general plots of both, and cannot ignore how popular a fandom it has. Galaxy Quest is a hilarious tribute to the genre that I throughly enjoy regardless. There's something about the nostalgia of these tales, being able to examine them from the present-day and see what people in the past thought the future would hold. But the storytelling and narrative in these works transcend time, gripping most audiences with the humanity of it all. 

This week, I started watching Joss Whedon's Firefly TV series. I've been a fan of Joss Whedon for a while now, from Buffy to his latest Agents of Shield show. I'm a fan of the narrative form of television because it really lets the characters develop and grow, which works well with the space opera format. Look at the success and life of Star Trek, or even the BBC's wildly popular, 50-year long Doctor Who.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Week Seven: The Novel of Spiritual Education

For this week's class, I decided to read Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass. I had seen the movie when it came out in theaters, although it was definitely a poor film adaptation in comparison to the source material. I really enjoyed how complex the alternate world was, and the relationship between the individuals and their "daemons". This partner has such an intimate bond with their counterparts, which is a major driving force of the plot, examining the relationship between religion versus science and how far boundaries can be pushed.

The Golden Compass looks at a great deal of themes to help young adults understand and better navigate the "real world" from the eyes of protagonist, Lyra. For example, throughout the book Lyra is literally a "liar", at first using her lying to trick others to her advantage in a negative light. As the story continues, however, we see she uses her sharp wit and lying to her advantage to help others, showing character growth and embedding an important lesson to the reader.

From the different factions--the Oxford Scholars, General Oblation Board, the witches, gypitans, Mrs. Coulter and even the bears-- there is a constant struggle for power and resources. The book prominently looks at the theme of power and how it affects all other parts of one's life. I would say that the spiritual challenges presented in the book were very strongly displayed through Pullman's criticism of religious institutions how much power they hold.  Mrs. Coulter shows the power of the Magisterium's power as one which is corrupt and abusive, and is often paralleled with religious organizations today such as the Roman Catholic Church. The absolute power and insistence of the Magisterium shows the faults and evils of

On the other hand, Pullman shows the benefits of working in moderation, seen in the rulers like the King of Bears and Queen of Witches. This, similar to Lyra's lying, shows the young readers how everything can be used for goodness.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Week Six: An Unexpected Journey

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is another book that I've read more than once, but it's one that I find myself reading there and back again. Strangely, I've never seen or read The Lord of The Rings trilogy, but at this point I'm quite knowledgeable about it's folklore and the rich backstory that Tolkien created for this universe. I've always found it interesting to look at the different interpretations of The Hobbit in particular, and how these interpretations differ.

When people think of the first version of The Hobbit to hit the screen, they usually think about the TV movie from 1977 done by Topcraft, the precursor to Studio Ghibli. But there was actually a short experimental film that came out before that in 1966 by director Gene Dietch, which was a very loose interpretation of the Hobbit with a higher focus on the Arcenstone and a fair share of strange decisions, such as changing Smaug's name to Slagg the dragon.

What keeps people coming back to Tolkien's universe is how in-depth all of the characters and their backgrounds really get. Just examining the lore behind the different races in Middle-Earth lends itself to an in-depth analysis and stories for each. For example, there are three types of hobbits which are already a subset of Middle Earth men. There are the Harfoots which most closely resemble the hobbits described in The Hobbit, are the most numerous of the races and found mainly in the Shire as well as Bree. There are also the Stoors who are more apt to be related to water, boats and swimming, while the Fallohides were more adventurous. It could be argued that the Baggins were from the Harfoot hobbits, but had Fallohide in their lineage from the Took side of the family. This sense of adventure fueled the story for Bilbo Baggins, and drove him to his hero's journey.