“Akin…”

Dearest Akin,

I am writing you this letter as your mother and protector, but also as the link between the two identities in your being which both unite and alienate you from others. You are special Akin. You are the product of two races of distant origins combining, evolving, growing, and becoming something righteously beautiful. You encompass the hopes, futures, and possibilities of the Oankali race while also assuring humanity’s survival in a universe too vast to support its relevance. You are a bright top spinning toward a glass-smooth destiny of remarkable proportions. Never stop spinning Akin.

You once had a human father Akin. His name was Joseph, Joseph Shing. He was killed by other humans for embracing the differences of the Oankali and human races. You are the product of his death, my labor, and Nikanj’s guilt. Nikanj is your Oankali father. He recognized the razor sharp loss of Joseph in me and sought to heal it by creating you. You, Akin, are a radiant light in deep black nights. You are a vision, too vast to be readily recognizable. You are a whip recoiling around the humanity’s throat, tightening from fear and misconceptions. Loosen your grip Akin and learn from the humans who seem the most distant from you. You are strong, just as I am. Use this strength as a tool for discovery not anger.

Never forget me Akin. There may come a day when humanity’s violent and selfish ways will come between us, but please Akin, please allow yourself to remember the womb, when we shared my body and its nutrients, how we slowly danced toward an elevated, hybridized reality of magnificent proportions. You are a guide Akin. Guide the Oankali and humanity toward infinity. You are a hero simply because you are here, with us—encompassing us. You are loved Akin.

Your mother…Lilith.

The Give and Take in Octavia Butler’s Dawn

Octavia Butler’s Dawn is a novel that, on the surface seems to be commenting on humans’ instinctual drive towards corruption. For example, the group of people Lilith awakens from suspended animation, despite being unfamiliar with their surroundings, is determined to establish a hostile environment wherein its members must choose a faction to support in addition to adapting to their strange new lives. The group’s need to maliciously divide itself instead of creating a social environment free of oppression and politics would suggest Butler is making a comment on humanity’s natural tendencies toward empowering itself as stemming from an ingrained egotistical drive. Jdahya says as much when he tells Lilith, “You are hierarchal…when human intelligence did not even acknowledge it as a problem…That was like ignoring cancer. I think your people did not realize what a dangerous thing they were doing” (39). Jdahya’s statement, on the surface, is telling her that humanity cannot help its nature because of its naturally large ego. However, within this statement lies a deeper comment on humanity, that of humanity’s persistent nature to believe it will always possess the ability to be an agent of its collective future.

The humans Lilith awakens believe they possess the power to be agents of their destiny. They demonstrate this belief through their repeated attempts in the nursery, and the training jungle, to usurp Lilith and the Ooloi. Peter and Curt’s attempts to stage a coup within the group against Lilith and the Ooloi are two examples of their irrational belief in their “capacity…to exert power” (websters.com) in their situation. They cannot see past their false feeling of agency because they still believe they have “mental and emotional freedom” (Butler 227) within their environment. They cannot see that they now share a symbiotic relationship with the Ooloi wherein each requires the other’s consent in matters concerning the prospect of any significant change to either race. For example, the Ooloi need the humans’ consent to begin to imprint (191) on the humans. Likewise, the humans need the Oolois’ consent to be able to journey to Earth because the humans must follow the Oolois’ protocol to achieve the right to re-inhabit their home.

In essence, Butler’s Dawn is showing that there is no agency without consent, and no consent without someone or something having agency. The humans need the Ooloi just as much as the Ooloi need the humans. However, the Ooloi err by not considering humanity’s ingrained belief that it will always be agents of its destiny in their initial plan to re-populate Earth. It is this error that leads to the human uprising which injures two Ooloi. Yet it is also this error that contributes to the Ooloi achieving their goal of hybridizing the human race with the Oankali. If the humans had not revolted against the Ooloi, Nikanj would not have been able to inseminate Lilith because “it” would not have felt the loss of Joseph as being the impetus for creating Lilith’s pregnancy. Likewise, the humans err by thinking they are agents of their destiny on the Ooloi ship because, had they not felt this way, they would not now be eternally dependent on the Ooloi to “unite…human sperm and egg” (245). It is these ironic circumstances that lead me to believe Butler could be commenting on our world’s selfish tendency to think of itself as the center of the universe. It is a tendency that alienates us from each other because it creates billions of tiny and individual worlds of selfish humans merely bouncing off of one another without actually establishing any meaningful connection.

Works Cited

“Agency.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Web. 26 October 2011. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agency> Butler, Octavia E. “Dawn.” Lilith’s Brood. New York, NY: Grand Central, 2007. 1-248. Print.

Analysis of Page 72 of We3

Page 72 of Morrison and Quietely’s graphic novel We3 portrays the moment when characters 1 and 2 kill the hunter and his dog for injuring 3. This sequence of events in We3 is significant on a few levels. On one hand, this scene illustrates the reasoning this team of animal assassins has developed throughout the course of their training. After the hunter shoots 3, 2 and 1 leap into action as a team committed to exacting revenge on the hunter for his violent act against 3. The third of the four panes on this page illustrates 1 and 2’s synchronous timing in avenging 3’s injury in that 2 is depicted as cleanly slicing through the hunter’s dog’s head while 1 is in the midst of a ferocious lunge onto the hunter. This quick reaction by 1 and 2 shows their reasoning skills because they are recognizing a threat to their team and taking the proper precautions to eradicate said threat.

While the scene on page 72 illustrates the ability to reason to be inherent in the team of animal assassins, it also shows the raw animal instinct of the team. This animal instinct is depicted in the fourth of the four panes on the page through the pane being solid blood red. The artist’s choice to make the fourth pane solid blood red after the previous three panes depicted 1 and 2’s act of killing the hunter and his dog signifies the instinctual, almost tunnel vision drive of animals to protect themselves at any cost. The red pane is the blindness animals have insofar as being able to interpret their emotions. 1 and 2 are red with fear that is manifested as an angry, violent act toward the human acting aggressive toward them.

Aside from illustrating a paradox of reasoning and intent behind the way 1 and 2 handles 3’s injury, there is a third way to interpret the action taking place on page 72. Throughout the action on page 72, the hunter’s truck’s lights are always shining on the front of the team and on the backs of the hunter and his dog. The light shining on the team’s front while also shining on the hunter and dog’s backs signifies the path of revenge of technology on humanity for its attempt to alter nature’s parameters. The team must move toward the light of technology to eradicate the threats against them, just as they must use the technology attached to their persons to eradicate the military’s threatening presence. The hunter emerges from the technology that is the truck and attempts to control the technology that is the team We3. The team advances toward the hunter, dog, and truck with the light in their eyes. The hunter’s son, in pane 2, also has the truck’s light in his eyes. Coincidentally, the hunter’s son lives through the ordeal like We3. The truck and its light shining on the team  from behind the hunter represents man’s control over technology because the hunter is in front of technology in a position of leadership, and his technology is shining on the team. He is also between the team and his truck, which represents man’s progress toward technological advancement. We3’s killing of the hunter and his dog while moving toward the technological light prophesizes later events in the narrative of We3. These actions and circumstances foreshadow technology defeating humanity at the story’s end because the only thing left alive at the end of this scene is the technology that is We3 and the technology that is the hunter’s truck. Although 1 and 2 abandon their technological advancements at the end of the story, these same advancements allow 1 and 2 to survive the threat of eradication just as they do in the scene on page 72.

Confronting the Confusion Embedded in Neuromancer

After finishing chapters seven through twelve of Neuromancer, I feel that I have a firm understanding of the narrative. I understand Neuromancer’s plot structure as well as its characters’ relationships and conflicts with each other and themselves. However, it is the intricacies of the narrative that continually trouble me.

Throughout my reading of this text, I began to see a pattern of Gibson casually referencing organizations, slang, or cultural trends as if they do not carry too much weight in the overall plot structure. In other words, Gibson passively introduces societal qualities as if they are just a means of pushing the plot forward when, in actuality, these qualities are extremely significant to the reader understanding future action in the narrative. Often times, these references come in the form of single words within the text such as, “Macau” and “Turing.”

Let’s start with “Macau.” “Macau” is first referenced by Molly on page 82 when she tells Case about her travels with Armitage preceding her tailing Case in Night City, “We were in L.A. He came in and said Pack [sic], we were booked for Macau . When we got there, I played fantan in the Lisboa and he crossed over into Zhongshan. Next day I was playing ghost with you in Night City.” This passage, on the surface, appears to be a passing reference to “Macau” that is meant to inform the reader of Molly’s travels before formally meeting Case. However, after reading further, “Macau” is referenced again, only it is now spelled “Macao,” “Case fastened the virus cassette to the side of the Hosaka with a length of silver tape, remembering Molly’s story of her day in Macao. Armitage had crossed the border into Zhongshan” (126-127).  I became confused after reading this passage. I thought I had overlooked something significant in the text as I searched for the previous reference to “Macao.” I ended up having to Google “neuromancer macao” because Amazon’s “Look Inside This Book” feature only listed the reference on page 127. I ended up tracking the reference down only to discover the first breezy reference to “Macao” was spelled “Macau” on page 82. Now I was thoroughly confused because neither Case’s reference nor Molly’s reference to “Macau/Macao” seemed to have any bearing on the story, yet Gibson seemed to want me to believe that significance existed. After much thought and analysis of these two references, I came to the conclusion that “Macau/Macao” was referenced twice because it brought to light that Armitage bought the virus program in China, but I still have yet to figure out why “Macau/Macao” is spelled two different ways within the text.

After semi-solving my dilemma with “Macau/Macao,” I continued reading on without confusion until the last line of chapter twelve when the word “Turing” is used, “ ‘Turing,’ she said. ‘You are under arrest’ ” (150).  The use of “Turing” here confused me because at first, it seemed like the woman was calling Case “Turing,” like he had another alias, but after deliberation I figured “Turing” had to be referenced in other places within the text. After entering “Turing” into the Amazon’s “Look Inside This Book” feature, I figured out that “Turing” are police casually referenced by Case in reference to the regulation of AI, “The real smart ones are as smart as the Turing heat is willing to let ‘em get…And then there’s the Turing cops, and that’s bad  heat” (91). These reference to “Turing” on page 91 seemed passive to me when I first read them because I did not fully understand the context of what Case’s mission was going to entail. So, by the time I read the “Turing” reference on page 150, I had all but extinguished any thought of the word “Turing” in relation to the story.

As a result of experiencing these two dilemmas, I began to ask myself why Gibson, an extremely proficient and elegant writer, would cause such confusion in his work. Was he trying to mimic, through his saturation of information within the text, the confusion of Case’s world of constant stimulation coupled with multiplexed layers of reality? Or, was he forcing the reader to read his text as close as possible at all times because he saw the future as being a world of instant gratification where the little things are overlooked in favor of continually speeding forward from one byte to the next?

Wading Through the Tides of Tone in W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Comet”

After reading W.E.B. Du Bois’ short story “The Comet,” I was intrigued by the author’s employment of water as the element by which I could gauge emotion/tone at critical points in the narrative. Not only is “The Comet” included in a collection entitled Darkwater, but Du Bois begins “The Comet” by referencing his character Jim as having “stood a moment on the steps of the bank, watching the human river that swirled down Broadway” (253). Du Bois, by beginning the narrative this way, is commenting on Jim’s alienation from society as he is standing on the bank of a river in which the rest of humanity is privileged to wade. This passage also implies humanity’s imminent destruction with Du Bois’ use of the verb “swirled” as the collected action of humanity. The use of “swirled” implies humanity is headed for a collective destiny because objects we observe as swirling are usually moving with a gathered force to a collective end. For humanity to have “swirled down Broadway” is Du Bois’ method of implying that humanity is collectively moving towards, as yet, an unknown fate, of which Jim is not a part.

The next instance of water guiding the narrative occurs when Julia finds Jim “standing beside the black waters.” Jim is at his lowest point in the story at this moment as he thinks he has lost his family and all hope of communication with the world, so the water being black reflects Jim’s feelings of doom for having lost everything he held dear. The water, through being described as “black,” also mirrors the isolation Jim and Julia feel as well. They can identify with the water because it seems just as isolated an entity as they are through its refusal to permit them to see past its blackness and into its depths. Du Bois magnifies Jim’s doomed feelings by continuing to describe the water as having “lapped on in luring deadly rhythm,” and coupling this image with Jim stating/asking, “ ‘The world lies beneath the waters now—may I go?’ ” (267). Du Bois, by describing the water this way, is not only implying Jim’s wish to die, he is implying Jim’s wish to finally join “the human river,” (253) even if it is in death. The water “luring” Jim to “the world…beneath the waters” (267) expresses Jim’s despair in his plight and eagerness to end his pain.

The water begins to impart a tone of promise when Du Bois imparts that, “Below lay the dark shadows of the city and afar was the shining of the sea” (268). Du Bois, with this statement, is beginning to imply that a positive outcome to Jim and Julia’s situation may be a not so distant reality as we had once thought. This statement directs attention toward the future by dismissing the immediate realm of the city for a focus on the beauty of the sea’s horizon. Transcending the doom of the city for the sun reflecting off the sea evokes hope for humanity’s future.

While Du Bois begins to instill hope for humanity’s future by evoking an image of beauty in the sea, he dashes this hope by re-evoking the correlation of humanity to water moving en masse when he describes “the crowd” following Julia’s father and Fred as having “poured up and out of the elevators” (272). This image is reminiscent of the first line of this story wherein humanity is described as being a “river that swirled down Broadway” (253). Again, humanity moves like a body of water, isolating Jim in the process. Julia is whisked back to her own class/race of people and Jim is again alone until he encounters his wife. Although the tone is elevated by Jim reuniting with his wife, a sense of despair is left lingering through the realization that humanity’s views on acceptance of cultural diversity has not improved. White humanity will continue to drown Jim as it moves with the force of a large body of water, engulfing everything in its path.

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