Friday, May 1, 2009

final post

Summing it all up is a difficult task especially given the range of topias traversed within such a short amount time. I could go about such a task in the standard categorical way (looking at the difference in god / sexes/ community power structure/ etc.) but that would not benefit me as I've already for the most part done just that.
I guess I could start off by saying I feel like I've emerged from a Sci-Fi nightmare as even when the going got good in stories such as Herland with woman ruling and men submitting there was still a treacherous side to be had. And this double sided good/bad dichotomy is found in the best and the not so great of them. I've realized now that the scariest part of a bad dream isn't what's going on, but what isn't going on. I say this in such a manner so as to allude to the lack evident in the different stories: such as the lack of race...the lack of diversity...the lack of a "happily ever after" that wasn't contingent on it being set off from something truly negative: for instance woman domination - set off from abusive patriarchal practices or interracial coupling - set off from the violent intolerance of it and so on.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I thoroughly dislike sci fi literature for the fact that it explores possibilities within the same paradigm it is attempting to escape: and this last statement is perhaps the biggest take away - there is not escape as long as two things function within the same system...

There's something to Mark Ward's statement about time orientation and utopia - Because as I see it - those writing with the same ideological grounding - as in those from the western/occident -are functioning under the same notion of time and as Walter Ong and Eric hAvelock state in there respective texts - a group's relationship with time necessarily impacts and thus influences their traditions, actions, governing bodies etc...What I'm trying to say here is that sci fi as we've been exposed to never departs from the Western time orientation and as such never creates a space in which true potentialities can take effect and as such they leave us only as:
this or that
white or black
right or wrong
even in their necessary complication of them. In the end, irregardless of the nature of the topia something is:
still black
still white
still wrong
still right
and as such cannot be envisioned as some type of great construction.

To put it simply sci fi amounts to a shirt - turned inside out
A belief system turned inside out
the shirt is still a shirt
except all the seams that make it work are visible.
A belief system is still a belief system except all the things that make it work are made visible
then is the greatest contribution sci fi offers me
And that...I appreciate.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Connecting Red Mars to Art

When I think on Robinson's work as a whole it reads on a very different level than what I typically think of as sci fi because it explores lines of thought very much in tune with philosophy and art.

Within Robinson's work we confront a notion that has been explored extensively by the artist duo Arakawa + Gins. This in the notion of "reversible destiny"
Essentially, it is a type of philisophy that the duo worked out that speaks to enabling humans to live eternally ... by refusing to die. In working toward non-death humans are required to establish architecture...places of that accomodates them and in fact encourage life by constantly reminding one that they are alive.

I cant help but see the parallel in arkady's "socio-architectural theories"(pg 339) and again in the types of architecture that abound on Mars in general. It echos in the actualized architecture of Arakawa + Gins' park "reversible destiny" based in Japan

One step past this is an additional connection articulated in Arakawa + Gins' manifesto - in the form of an introduction to their book "Architectural Body"
In which they go about stating the following:

Without doubt, the human race has hideously acquiesced in regard to its own abysmal fate. Underlying all cultures, in East and West alike, is this assumption or attitudinal stance: we--each and every one of us--must die, no doubt about it, for all those who lived before us died. So unquestionably mortal are we that we have even come to call ourselves mortals, for God's sake. Everyone everywhere wants to insist on this. A bunch of defeatists all. Nobody wants to be caught not getting the "real" straight, for not accurately registering what comes to pass puts one at odds with society. How could what so evidently stares one in the face not be, after all, what it rings true as? (A/G Architectural body Intro)

Architecture must be made to fit the body as a second, third, fourth, and, when necessary, ninth (and counting) skin. We believe that people closely and complexly allied with their architectural surrounds can succeed in outliving their (seemingly inevitable) death sentences! (A/G Architectural body Intro)

It must never be forgotten that we don't know what we are in the first place. (A/G Architectural body Intro)

Although the human condition is a crisis condition if ever there was one, few individuals and societies act with the dispatch a state of emergency requires. The fact that the human condition is a crisis condition gets routinely covered up, with culture invariably functioning to obscure how dire the condition is and to float it as bearable(A/G Architectural body Intro)

All intellectual pursuits thus far, in East and West alike, have been largely stopgap measures, so much fiddling while Rome burns, that is, while people line up one after another to die. (A/G Architectural body Intro)

Consider this: An organism-person allied with, in close correspondence with, surroundings that guide skillful coordination of bodily actions ought to be able to escape so-called human destiny, the as-if-ordained downhill course of things. Not only will houses and towns that architecturally guide and sustain an organism-person help her to compose, execute, and coordinate actions more skillfully than was ever before thought to be possible, they will also automatically enlist her in a thoroughgoing architectural questioning of the purpose of the species. An architecturally guided and sustained organism-person should then be able to reverse that destiny known to have been the lot of billions of other members of her species; when it becomes possible for an organism-person simply to go on indefinitely, a reversible destiny shall have been achieved. (A/G Architectural body Intro)

Architecture is the greatest tool available to our species, both for figuring itself out and for constructing itself differently. (A/G Architectural body Intro)

And the body, a complex organism that is always in the process of reading surroundings, needs to be defined together with that within which it moves; peering at it from the other way around, the surroundings need to be defined together with the bodies moving within them (A/G Architectural body Intro)

Theoretical constructs as to the nature of person can be assessed in a thoroughgoing manner through -- and, in the end, only through -- architectural construction.(A/G Architectural body Intro)

The way in which these key phrases parallel the ideas that are quilted into Robinson's novel is rather compelling. For does he not explore in extensive detail the very acts that A/G call for? Indeed!
Terrafoam, Sax's arctic asteroid, the DNA manipulation, moholes, Olympus Mons, The offspring of Hiroko's clan, the paul bunyon tale,Frank's Neitzche quote about the individual (pg 456)and so on.
In closing, I think it important to look to works aside from lit theory in understanding a text for texts are ineed dynamic things that are heavily influenced and influentual in different areas. Though this is known at our level of study I still think we must remember...that there is music, dance, art, photography, and subcultures waiting for inclusion in our analysis beyond the obvious: such as punk - for cyberpunk lit.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cultural Seed plot

Roy Wagner in his text "The Invention of Culture " states that culture is invented "whenever and wherever some 'alien' or 'foreign' set of conventions is brought into relation with one's own"(10). This notion applied to Red Mars makes for quite a compelling read in that there are multiple cultures being invented simultaneously. There is the culure that forms between the members of the first hundred who are in themselves representative of there respective governments and with it their national traditions. There is the culture that slowly emerges between earth and mars via the overseeing committee (UNOMA)in contact with the first hundred based on observation and regulation of activites. There is the culture that emerges between the members of the first hundred and the planet. And the culture that comes about as the occupation spreads.
So what to do make of it??
Well, one way to look at the cultural invention of Red Mars is to look at it through the eco-economics lens that Robert Markely refers to in his article. And though this may seem inappropriate it really isn't at all...Because while Markley seems taken with the notion of eco-economics in terms of the bio-system interactions that have taken place in the novel, it can be argued that this same notion can appropriately be applied to the culture invention/clash/collision taking place along side the biosystem evolution. For indeed the culture invention/clash/collision is made up of complex relationships that result in making apparent the "interlocking systems that create and sustain tenuous seemingly miraculaous conditions that allow life to flourish"(775). It is these relationships - the more intimate ones to be exact, that keep the momentum of the novel moving. It is so because within each relationship one finds a small scale cultural invention in that those who are bound up in intimate relationships function initially in different cultural paradigms thus in coming together sexually, religiously, politically, amicably they serve to create/invent a new way of being. And this can be readily seen in the Maya/Frank/John love/hate triangle; the nadia/arcady romance; the Michel Duval/Hiroko/areophany affair; and ann and "her" mars to name a few. Each of those mentioned relationships create a "social" and gives to Mars a foreign culture. And while this giving is taking place Mars continues to provide them with the backdrop of opportunity placing the relationships and the culture that amounts from them in a dynamic coupling with the planet.

All this talk of cultural invention (which is by its nature divisive) though is rather ironic given the "trans" lable under which the colonization of Mars occuring. That is not to say that there aren't subversive characters such as Arcady, Ann, Sax who in their own ways are working against the division that one can't help but be confronted with within the framework of culture; however, Robinson makes explicit that transcendance of cultural boundaries cannot be escaped. And this is pointed to implicitly by Willima White in his article that discusses Greimas' semantic rectangle. For cant we argue that robinson utilizes this tool to emphasize just how bound humans are to binary systems?

This last question brings me to my final point.

Wagner in his novel makes it explicit that culture is a convention that we ourselves have created. Following this line of thought then..culture is "made up" or created by us. As such (I'm tying this notion to Robinson now)no matter how far we travel we cannot escape the boundaries of our own making.