Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Smashing the Crystal Ball

I envision my future beyond college as a journey to find that perfect film idea to write and direct. I know I will be doing odd films under the direction of creative directors.  I see identifying a genre as useless and hope that my film will push the boundaries of genre rules. Really, I hope there are no boundaries.
Our world as it exists today has high unemployment, poverty, sex trafficking, war, and terrorism. I think these will exist at some level forever. I do not believe that a utopian society will ever exist. Too many people change when they are given power. I guess it is human nature. However, during my lifetime, I do wish for a land of harmony with peace between nations. A universe where different does not mean wrong, just different.
I can even see me meeting a really crazy person in the future that is not wearing a tin foil hats but is supporting one created from parchment paper. He walks in circles as he preaches on the evils of milk and how milk will cause the apocalypse. Maybe milk Will cause the apocalypse. Who knows what will bring the zombies? In any case, I do believe an apocalypse will be inevitable in the future. I believe this is true because every civilization falls no matter how well planned and disciplined. 

Beyond my life, I believe that the future holds the ability of traveling between dimensions. Initially, humans will be educated by these experiences. I even see other universes begin invading Earth’s dimension. I know it will come, that assault.   I see my descendants will have to hastily search for cover from the barrage of bombs dropping from the sky. They will find refuge in the nearest building, perhaps a library. They may go to the area where they can escape by watching one of my films.  We will have leaders from different planets. Our leaders may be mutants that are ten feet tall with Adonis features; or possibly a talking orangutan; or, maybe even a reptilian bitch. Each of these leaders will have special attributes from their universe that keep the Earth alive. Despite all the negatives, a future still holds promise for some form of life and hopefully a civilized nation.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Douglas Adams, Sci Fi Writer or Fortune Teller

“He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” (Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy)

Douglas Adams is one of my favorite writers. His wit and intelligence transcends this century and brings us into an all too familiar future. Niel Gaiman, another novelist, said that Adams was a genius.
“I haven’t known many geniuses in my life. Some brilliantly smart people, but only a tiny handful would I class as geniuses. I would class Douglas, because he saw things differently, and he was capable of communicating the way he saw things, and once he explained things the way he saw them, it was almost impossible to see them the way you used to see them.”
This introduction of a different view is a way writers move the present into the future. Really, Adams brought the future into the present because of his foresight. Douglas Adams, as a novelist, was a fortune teller. He was adept at technology and even foreshadowed or predicted about technology before it existed with the Galaxy notebook, an i-pad technology. Before his death, he denied that he was a science fiction writer. He did not even like science fiction but was addicted to technology. He looked to technological advances of the time and imagined what the future was supposed to be. However, the innovative predictions of technology as well the lifestyle of the future was just a background to him.  
Despite his prophecies, his novel, Guardian of the Galaxy is truly about relationships. He claimed his priority was as story teller. Attacking social issues is another way that Adams brought the present into the future. Our planet being inundated by Spartan minded aliens was at the forefront of his Galaxy series. In the novel, the aliens come down from another planet to mine Earth for its resources. The destruction of humans was the plan but an alien warned and saved his friend, an earthling. The alien felt that there was something redeemable about the society. Guardian is an in depth study of human nature. The book reveals how the morals of the present transcends not only time but societies that inhabit other planets. Adams even brought up the absurdity of our culture and its praising of celebrities.

Douglas Adams was a true visionary and predicted several things that scientist did not. It seems that the imagination of a writer outdoes that of systematic research. Adams’ search was similar to Arthur Dent as he traveled through the galaxy with Ford Prefect. A search that has been the same throughout time that joins the present to the future, a search for the ‘answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything”.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Aquatic Uncle

In the Aquatic Uncle, the key issue is whether change is good, whether progress is worth it. The characters evolve past those boundaries of tradition into an area of change. The family crosses the border between amphibians and sea creatures, “running beyond the edge.” In order to understand the story, we must understand where the writer obtained his inspiration. Calvino, the author, was originally from Cuba and admired Britain and US. I think that the story as a whole was symbolic of his wanting to go and see the world. His wife was interested in this culture and maybe the story is a reflection about his wife’s reluctance to change. Calvino wanted to break the boundaries that the sea had for Cuba. Therefore, there is distinct symbolism with the elements of land versus sea. The sea is the separation of a society from progress and change.
I was able to connect to the elders in the society who did not want change. When the uncle started talking and bashing their beliefs, it reminded me of my maternal Grandma and Pop Pop Jimmy (paternal grandfather). Pop Pop Jimmy always says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However he uses technology to read books. My grandmother advises constantly, “Do not be hedonistic like those people on the TV.”

Of course, I would make the short story into a film. There is a problem with the characters being fish to amphibian – it would have to be a Claymation or I would have to put them in humanoid form. I would also add more evolution to the main character. The story as it sits gives me only 45 minutes’ worth of running time. I can add 30 – 40 minutes by expanding the character and certain elements of the story. One element that is only touched on is discrimination between water to land people. There is not enough details. I would expand on their friction. Also, the detail in meeting his wife is of interest to me. Finally, I would want to add why they want to leave in the water in the first place. The basics of the story are there, however a film would need to be more specific.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Blurred Lines Expose Creativity

The distinction of defining the lines of genre are not necessary. Genre lines developed as an attempt to distinguish between subtle nuances between fiction and non-fiction. As writing has developed, it has really gotten out of hand. There are so many genres and sub-genres you cannot follow all the rules. I took a class in young adult literature and there were three subgenres within this specific genre depending on language and sexual content.
            The genre lines don't get blurrier than the novel, Clockwork Orange -- a futuristic, horror, dystopia interlaced with socio-political comment. The book and movie are among my all-time favorites because of the intellectual levels provided from each scene set with contrast against white clothes to the etymology of each word the author chose to use. It was a great novel because it did blend many genres. It created an innovative concoction that sparked more than entertainment. It evoked conversation and controversy.
Each narrative is a work of art and as such there is no need to follow the dots or paint within the lines unless it suits the emotion of the work. Each work is either entertaining or
“it sucks” despite the rules that a writer follows. If you follow the lines too closely then there is no individuality. True genius comes when your imagination is allowed to wander. The blend of several different genres is similar to a good chef. He mixes several spices to create a good gumbo but there is one element that is personal - the passion or the love. Otherwise, it's just chicken and sausage.
The Boy and His Dog is also a blend of genres – a science fiction, comedy, drama, thriller film. It is a dry comedy in an alternate universe where Vic survives because of Blood, specifically because of  the dog’s ability for telepathic communication. Although different and distinctive, stretching the boundaries of the narrative, the novel and film lost influence because of the last line: “Well I'd say she certainly had marvelous judgement, Albert, if not particularly good taste." This line has been seen as sexist as Vic chose to kill the woman instead of the dog.

It does not matter what you call it or with what genre it is labeled. It is whether work entertains. Sometime, there is so much effort trying to intellectualize every nuance of a story and when it comes down to it – it either works or it doesn’t. Writing can be an experiment of sorts. However, it is not a mathematical equation that only has one right answer. It seems one thing is common within all these works of art --not totally accepted at the time. They have a cult following which has allowed them to endure past all strict lines. These works are timeless due to their transcendence beyond set boundaries, beyond the delineated genre line.   

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Does Majority Rule?

To say the least, the readings and movie for this week are thought provoking. Butler’s Bloodchild turns gender roles of our culture on its heels as the majoritarian culture is dominated by some kind of mammoth slithering serpent. The short story I Live With You by Carol Elmschwiller creates a surreal world where things happen in a real way. The film Brother from Another Planet gives us a glimpse of a black three toed alien trying to fit into Harlem’s society on Earth. Majoritarian values and perspectives are turned upside down with these three works.
The male bearing children in a matriarchal society in Bloodchild gives us a reversal of the male/female roles as it exists in our society. As humans attempt to escape slavery on Earth, they enter into a different bondage as they are forced to live in Preserves. The human male is chosen by the female and forced to be the host for the embryo of the child. Butler tops this off by creating two species on the planet with the governing majority a slithering body with four pair of legs. The ten foot female serpent creature has the dominant role of seducing the male and cutting open their host to deliver their babies. Nevertheless, the relationship between the Gan and Gatoi seems to be one of love and respect as seen when Gatoi gives Gan a choice to continue to bear her children.
            Creepy and eerie come to mind after reading I Live With You. It is reminiscent of those little people that live in your house that take the errant sock like the Hobbit or house elves in Harry Potter. You know they are there, but cannot make yourself accept it. It is like Nietzsche’s alternate universe within a universe or eternal reoccurrence. The role of the majority is taken on by the ghostlike creature invading her house or is it an alter ego (“just like you”) that wishes to stretch the woman beyond her world into the real world of the living. The absurdity of the succubus creating chaos allows a lonely woman to find friendship. Despite the weird person in the attic, it does not stray far from majority values and perspective of the human condition that demands a social interaction.
            Brother from Another Planet grabbed my interest from its campy spacecraft entry on the screen. Despite the alien nature, the majoritarian culture’s values are dominant as our mute hero attempts to make his place in a society that is totally foreign. The film opens on Ellis Island as the immigrant alien lands on Earth, an “in your face” reference to past immigration. His introduction into society is not much different than those from foreign lands that do not “speak the language”. There are some preconceived notions introduced early on about space and aliens softened with comparisons to alcoholics and video game addicts. The Brother is mute with three toes but he still fits in because he attempts to help people with his innate powers. He may be different but his kindness is evident.  He gets more adversity because of his color than the fact that he has disabilities and is an alien. The message sent is one of discrimination on what the majority sees as the major threat.

              There are times that we as an individual think we are screaming but nothing is heard. The works of this week confirm that there is a vehicle for everyone to voice their opinions.  Whether an individual is an alien from outer space or another country, each has a talent that deserves acceptance before fear.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Artificial Unicorns

The Cyberpunk readings and movies of this module revolve around adventures in an alternate reality. Whether the reality be in the past, the future, an alter ego or the psychology of the mind, a prevalent theme of self-discovery and the human condition is evident in each work.
Tim Powers’ book The Anabus Gate, is one of the first novels to be coined as steampunk. In traditional science fiction way, Powers uses time travel through holes created by magic and even lost love in a battle between good and evil. Doyle, the protagonist, is haunted by the death of his wife, Rebecca. He is deceitfully enticed to travel into the past with a scholarly ruse by an ill millionaire Darrow. Darrow, in reality, is attempting to find eternal life by taking on the persona of a werewolf located in 1800 in England. While in the past, Doyle is kidnapped by a gang of evil itinerants/magicians/followers of the ancient Egyptian gods. He remains truly human with ethics despite his changing identity and changing environment. He becomes the man who he was researching, Ashbless. His adventures lead him to bargain with the ancient Egyptian, declining to give the location of the Anabus gate even though his prize would have been the return of his wife. For the reader, Doyle remains true to himself and does not sacrifice his morals despite evil that tempts him. Magic is also dominant in the novel with a subtle undertone of its connection to science.
            In Ghost In the Shell II, a living cyborg is the protagonist. The alternate reality is in the future when the only thing human about a person is his brain and his memories. Cyborgs are turning away from their programming, slaughtering humans and then killing themselves.
Blade Runner is another movie that questions human worth versus technology in a future world. In this movie, the cops seek out replicants, artificial intelligence in human form, from off world colonies that come to earth. The movie causes its audience to consider technology and artificial intelligence. The viewer can empathize with a man who questions what is truly human after he encounters an android with emotion.

Paprika is an anime in the surrealist style of Dada or Lynch. The disturbing images that revolve around the human soul are displayed on the screen in an attempt to provoke an audience to discover what is beneath the surface of the human psyche.  Paprika is the psychologist’s alter ego as Dr. Chiba delves in the dream state of her patients and solve their problems. In this film, the alternate universe is the dream world, an exploration of the subconscious. Good versus evil is also a theme in this film with the misuse of stolen technology. The DC mini is the device used by Dr. Chiba but it is stolen to invade the dreams of others and allow them to escape into the real world. The dichotomy of science is also at the forefront in the battle of technology created to help humanity that can be turned against them.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

My Left Hand

The readings and film from this week diverge from the science fiction surrounded by over the top, imposing galactic battles. They do not revolve around an apocalypse or being lost in space. They are directed at the human experience in creating and adjusting to a new society with different rules and roles. Nevertheless, Le Guin’s story of Genly Ai is a journey to another planet and is interrupted at times with myths and prophesies adding to the fantasy nature of the novel.
In Left Hand of Darkness, Le Guin’s protagonist travels to outer space to influence other beings to join the Ekumen, a United Nations of sorts. He is on a quest for peace, and the trade that accompanies it. Ai has traveled to the frozen wasteland of Gethen/Winter where the beings are gender neutral hermaphrodites. The Gethenians have both female and male features. They are asexual during “somer” and have the ability to procreate during “kemmer”.  From the introduction, Le Guin points out that no one should be treated differently due to their gender. This note is not surprising considering the feminist movement at the time she wrote the novel. Consequently, the ideas revolving around gender identity is a key theme in the book. Genly Ai, the alien, at times seems a little sexist when stereotyping the Gethenian’s female aspect with terms such as “lack of substance.”  He also has constant inner turmoil trying to identify each Gethenian as a male or female even though he knows they are both. Le Guin has been criticized and has admitted that the Gethenians actually seem more male than female throughout the novel. She even uses he to describe the characters in the book.
In addition, the novel deals with the ability to accept and adapt to these different cultures and species. Le Guin shows elements of similarity between Ai and Estravan. Ai is alone on the planet, trying to adjust and compute the alternate life style. Estraven travels to a self-imposed isolation, knowing there is something outside his small world. They join forces and journey together, even escape danger in Orgereyn. In the country of Karhide, Estravan has many names and many layers as he learns mind speech and speaks with his dead brother. The fantasy in this case is the inward journey as each questions his relevance. We also see the uniting of nations with these two individuals. Brotherly love is evident as Ai mourns the death of Estrevan at the end. There is also subtle evidence of influence of the Cold War on Le Guin with the conflict between with the totalitarianism of Orgoreyn and Karhide.
Like Le Guin’s novel, Truffaut’s Farenheit 451 also deals with a changing culture and a deviation from what is the norm in conventional society.  Books are not only banned but illegal to have in your possession. The government fears the liberated thinking that comes with education. Montag, a fireman charged with the burning of these books, begins to see their importance. Once part of the government, now he becomes the criminal on the run in an underground society. Like Le Guin, the film also deals more with the human aspect of difference.  It is also a story of betrayal due to ignorance as Mongut’s wife turns him into the authorities. Nevertheless, Mongut finds his place with the ostracized book lovers.

Through the characters of Ai and Estravan, two worlds unite as they travel across the glacier. Le Guin emphasizes the yin and yang, the light and dark in our journey to find inner meaning. At the time the novel was written, sexuality was defined in terms of male/female. Further, society was a male dominated world. These strict lines have become grey as bisexuality, homosexuality, transgender and transvestites have become commonplace. Books such as Le Guin’s prompt us to accept these differences, see the individual inside and promote equality on all levels.