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Short science fiction stories
Transcript of Short science fiction stories
Fiction to Think With
Without an image of tomorrow, one is trapped by blind history, economics, and politics beyond our control. One is tied up in a web, in a net, with no way to struggle free. O
nly by having clear and vital images of the many alternatives, good and bad, of where one can go, will we have any control over the way we may actually get there in a reality tomorrow will bring all too quickly.
And nothing gives such a profusion and richness of images of our tomorrows – however much they may need to be revised – as science fiction.
Samuel R. Delany, The Necessity of Tomorrows
Darko, Suvin, "Novum":
depicting the world
in new ways, so we can think about it differently
Octavia Butler (1947-2006)
Final stories: new machines
James Tiptree, Jr
The Girl Who Was Plugged In (1973)
Alice Sola Kim
what "novums" have we seen
Science fiction and the real world
The Evening and the
Morning and the Night
The Book of Martha
chance and choice
the nature of humanity
nature and nurture
biology and prejudice
the alien (T'lic)
Where are the boundaries of the human?
How could human nature change in the future?
What shapes the choices we make?
Beautiful White Bodies (2009)
Why do celebrities have so much power?
What is Tiptree's answer?
What about our world?
Who are your "gods"?
Paul's take on technological/ideological machines:
"They've got everybody's minds wired in to think what they show them and want what, they give them and they give them what they're programmed to want—you can't break in or out of it, you can't get hold of it anywhere."
social machines: celebrity
"Three young-bloods, larking along loverly. Dressed like simple street-people but . . . smashing. See their great eyes swivel above their nose-filters, their hands lift shyly, their inhumanly tender lips melt? The crowd moans. Love! This whole boiling megacity, this whole fun future world loves its gods."
"cyberpunk"? Science fiction exploring the darker sides of humanity and technology
What you notice about Tiptree's style?
How does she talk about technology?
What does this imaginary future have in common with our present, and what is different?
there's something odd here ... he eyes the corporate asset hulking on the bed and his hunch-sense prickles.
You see, Remotes don't love. They don't have real sex, the circuits designed that out from the start. So it's been assumed that it's Paul who is diverting himself or something with the pretty little body in Chile. P. Burke can only be doing what comes natural to any ambitious gutter-meat. It hasn't occurred to anyone that they're dealing with the real hairy thing whose shadow is blasting out of every holoshow on earth.
technology and identity
P. Burke: "the ugly of the world"
Delphi: "the darlingest girl child you've EVER seen"
"P. Burke is about as far as you can get from the concept girl." (Why?)
"P. Burke the monster, down in a dungeon, smelling of electrode-paste. A caricature of a woman burning, melting, obsessed with true love."
"You thought this was Cinderella transistorized?"
P.Burke/Delphi and Paul
How does love change Delphi? P. Burke? Paul?
"The nerveless little statue that was her Delphi-body nuzzled him in the night.
Insane hope rises, is fed a couple of nights later when he tells her she called his name in her sleep."
The doors tear open and a monster rises up.
"Paul darling!" croaks the voice of love and the arms of love reach for him.
And he responds.
Wouldn't you, if a gaunt she-golem flab-naked and spouting wires and blood came at you clawing with metal studded paws—
"Get away!" He knocks wires.
It doesn't much matter which wires, P. Burke has so to speak her nervous system hanging out. Imagine somebody jerking a handful of your medulla—
She crashes onto the floor at his feet, flopping and roaring "PAUL-PAUL-PAUL" in rictus.
It's doubtful he recognizes his name or sees her life coming out of her eyes at him. And at the last it doesn't go to him. The eyes find Delphi, fainting by the doorway, and die.
P. Burke is seeing Heaven on the far side of death, too. Heaven is spelled P-a-u-1, but the idea's the same. I will die and be born again in Delphi.
How does this compare to other stories of love and hope we have read?
"Joe is also crying a little; he alone had truly loved P. Burke. P. Burke, now a dead pile on a table, was the greatest cybersystem he has ever known, and he never forgets her."
Is this an accurate depiction of the story?
What about the real world of big corporations?
How and why does P. Burke become Delphi?
How does P. Burke feel about Delphi?
How do you imagine Delphi might feel about P.Burke?
Why is and isn't this a Cinderella story?
How does Tiptree play with expectations of a fairytale rags-to-riches narrative?
Who are the monsters (creatures) we see in the story?
How do they connect to similar characters and beings we have met throughout the course?
The fall after Justine moved back home, the high school girls became beautiful. She saw it herself, from behind the counter of the coffee shop by her old high school. The beauty spread viciously: first to one girl, then two, then four, and now almost twenty.
How does the beauty plague manifest?
What does it do––to girls and to society?
Why do the girls accept it?
What is Pearl's problem with the beauty?
What does Alice Sola Kim's "Beautiful White Bodies" suggest about the role of appearances in society's machinery? How does the story show different characters attempting to challenge the power of "beauty," and to what extent do they succeed?