Author: Tiffany

Final Blog Audit

 

How did knowing you’d have to write a Review on the blog change the way you read our books? How did it change the way you prepared for class?

I usually read books pretty closely, but I think for this class I definitely annotated them more because I’d read things that I knew I wanted to write about in my reviews later. It also helped to see you (the professor) with the book thoroughly marked up so that I didn’t feel like a crazy person with stickies hanging out of my book! I also came to class with very specific ideas and topics that stuck out to me about the book but again, that’s probably due to me annotating inside of them so much.

 

How did writing in this format affect your writing process and writing style? I’m really interested to hear how writing in a blog format was different from writing you’ve done in other classes, whether English classes with more traditional papers, other courses with online writing (blog, discussion board, etc.) or otherwise. Did the possibility of a wider audience – your classmates, or anyone who stumbled upon our blog – change the way you wrote?

It definitely changed the way I wrote, because I think I felt like I had to back up my arguments even more than usual and be more assertive when making claims on whether or not I liked a book. As far as the formatting of writing blog posts instead of papers, I loved it! It’s a lot more casual and not as stressful. I also felt more comfortable writing my opinion on books, because everyone else’s interpretations were so varied.

 

How often did you read the Reviews posted by your classmates? Did you gravitate towards reading particular writers?

I think in the beginning I read the first few brave souls who posted first on the blog just so I could see how they were formatting their posts and how casual we should be with the blog. Then later on, I started writing and posting my blogs first, and then seeing if anyone else agreed with me and if they didn’t, what their takes on the books were. I didn’t read all of the blog posts simply because of time, but I read a couple each week, just to get an idea of how everyone else in the class was feeling about the book. I did gravitate towards reading some students’ reviews who always seemed to have similar opinions to mine and there were a couple that I’d always check out because their writing voice was really fun to read.

 

Did knowing that you had to post on the blog affect the way you read (and watched) stuff unrelated to the course readings?

I took another class this semester that was really heavy & close-reading about the American Gothic Short Story  and I think the combination of that and this class caused me to also annotate books that I read just for fun; it’s really weird! I feel like I have to underline certain things because I’ll want to come back to them but I don’t know why I would come back to them lol.

 

I’d be excited to hear you reflect on whether and/or how your experience with and attitude towards the blog changed over the course of the semester. Did it live up to its promise? Was the blog element of the course better or worse than you hoped or feared?

I was really intimidated by the aspect of blogging, especially when you mentioned that other students in the class might comment on them. I’ve taken classes before where the commenting portion really got out of hand as far as disagreeing about certain topics, so that made me a little anxious. But I think that everyone’s been really cordial and respectful of each other’s opinions. At least online. It turned out a lot better than I thought it would and it helped me realize how I felt about books that I might have been on the fence about if I hadn’t actually sat down and written a review on them.

 

Finally, if you’d like, reflect upon the possibility that the work you’ve posted on the blog is now available for anyone to read, even now that the course is over. Do you think this blog could be a useful resource for future readers curious about the topic?

With the exception of one, I’m really proud of the reviews that I’ve written and I’d love for them and the other reviews on the blog to help someone else trying to learn more about cli-fi. This blog would definitely be useful to people interested and curious about it. Especially if they’re unsure about just jumping in. I think the blog provides a lot of insight on cli-fi and on climate change in general and I think it’d be a great starting point for people interested in it.

 

Hope everybody has a great summer!

Hurricane Fever Review

Overall, I thought Tobias Buckell’s Hurricane Fever was an okay read. The plot wasn’t extremely complex and was a bit predictable, which isn’t always a bad thing, depending on your mood and what you’re looking for in a book. I didn’t mind guessing what happened next, because it propelled me further throughout the book (i.e. helped me finish it faster). Some of the writing was a bit choppy. Sometimes characters would have whole paragraphs of dialogue without being properly introduced, and other times we’re left to infer what’s going on, when a simple line of exposition could’ve helped connect the dots. Another semi-small part of the book that tripped me up were the mechanics of sailing, since I’m not in any way familiar with it, but luckily that wasn’t the focus. And yes, some parts were cheesy and cliche, but most action novels are, so…

The genetic terrorism, and the racial motive to the plague was an interesting twist. It was like Beauchamp’s twisted version of a racial cleansing, though I’m still confused as to how it only targets people of color, or people with even the slightest amount of melanin. Zee died from it, but it’s repeatedly said that he could pass for white? I read Buckell’s acknowledgements where he said he purposefully left that part out so no crazies would get any funny ideas, but I’m still curious as to how something like this would even succeed.

Roo as a main character still feels like a bit of an enigma to me. And I think it’s because he’s missing some interiority. I get that he’s fueled by vengeance for Delroy, but I feel like his pain is never really addressed? He just jumps in headlong and goes on this kill-or-be-killed mission (and makes SUPER big mistakes) all in the name of his nephew. It’s a valiant effort, but the vengeance arc gets tiring after a while, especially since I think adding some of his feelings would’ve made the reader even more sympathetic for him. Buckell does an excellent job describing the physical pain Delroy is in, but I found that the emotional part was severely lacking about Delroy’s death, about the racial angle of the genetic terrorism, and also about the microaggressions he repeatedly faces from (white) people assuming that he’s the help at all those fancy functions.

One thing that really amazed me were Roo’s resources. I know he was in the CIG, but it’s never really discussed how much he was paid for being a part of it (or maybe I missed that part?). He promises Jacinta heavy metal (did he ever come through on that? If not, God help him). And he also promises Elvin (RIP) three years worth of income and shows him all the gold he has, which he says was a gift. I know there was a book before this one, but I’m still wondering where in the world he’s getting all these resources and money from.

Would love to see this as a movie on the SyFy channel.

Windup Girl Review

This book was a lot to handle. There were so many jaw dropping parts and descriptions. Emiko’s rape was absolutely gruesome and the scene where the workers are cutting up the megadont and everyone else is just trying to work around it was unfathomable. We’re thrown into the story in media res and I had a really hard time getting through the beginning chapters and just trying to figure out what in the world was going on in the story, especially with the different language being used and not really being prepped on this world.

That being said, I really enjoyed the different points of view. Sometimes it was a little awkward trying to re-situate myself, but I understand how doing this gave the book much more complex view of the world they’re in. I don’t think that the story could’ve been told from just one point of view, it had to be told from multiple to get a full picture of what was going on.

I also couldn’t figure out which character I hated/loved the most. I like knowing where my loyalties lie within a book and this one showed the pleasant and unpleasant sides to every character, which was different and I think I liked that aspect of the book.

Audit

I really like the blogging aspect of this course. I think it gives students the chance to say how they feel in a more casual way. Even though it’s public and can be a little intimidating, I still prefer this to writing actual papers for each book. I think that this is a much more interactive way to see what everyone else is thinking about the books we’ve read and see what alternate themes people picked up on while reading. I’ve never done blogging that is as extensive as this for a class, where we review each book we’ve read; it’s usually a lot less posting. But I like posting the reviews for each book because it gives me a chance to sort out how I feel about it before coming to class.

I think I’d prefer if we had mandatory reviews about the books we’re reading, and anything else we post or comment on could be extra credit. I’m not always searching the web for climate fiction news and when I did look, there wasn’t much that I could find that I thought was interesting and I didn’t want to post something just to fill a quota. I don’t think that that aspect of blogging is for everyone. People don’t always feel comfortable commenting on someone else’s post and like I mentioned, finding an article can be difficult. Hopefully I can find some interesting articles to post before the semester is over!

A Beautiful Warning for Climate Change

I really enjoyed reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior. Yes, it was really dense and I think some parts of it could’ve been shortened, but I really liked the critiques on society’s inaction and denial of climate change throughout the book. I also enjoyed the different stories woven in throughout it such as Dellarobia’s infidelity, her feeling trapped in her life, and the overarching theme of the monarch butterflies serving as a warning for climate change.

I think Dellarobia’s infidelity springs from her feeling trapped in her life. Everyday is the same: pinching pennies, changing diapers, lying down next to a husband you’re not in love with, and maybe never were to begin with. Who wouldn’t be miserable? There were several instances in the beginning of the book (and mostly in the beginning, since in the latter she discovers she has more agency than she realized) where Kingsolver explains Della’s feelings of wanting to get out of her life. Dellarobia also had to make a lot of compromises, like going to church when she had little desire to do so. It feels like for the most part, until she actually becomes involved in helping with the butterflies, Della feels that the only way she can escape her life is through cheating, or thinking about cheating. I’m not sure if that’s a fair assessment, because it’s a lot more complex than that, but it’s not until the very end when she sees how happy Ovid is with his wife Juliet that she drops her dreams of being with him and realizes that there are other ways to escape her life than by getting emotionally attached to another man.

I think another component that aids in her feeling trapped is Cub. Even though she bosses him around for a good portion of the book, there are still a lot of gender roles at play. Like when she’s talking to Dovey and saying that Cub wouldn’t want her working because it would be a negative reflection on Cub as her husband and as a man (190). Her having a job really shouldn’t affect Cub’s manhood, but it does, so she feels trapped into continuing on as a stay-at-home mother until Dovey convinces her otherwise. It’s not until she actually obtains a job and is progressing through it that her family starts to respect her, even Hester. And of course, the possibility of splitting up their family, one that she seems to question at times, is another thing that keeps her from leaving in the beginning. It’s obvious that she loves her kids, but love doesn’t always stop you from asking huge ‘what if’ questions about your life.

Then there’s money and the lack of it. When Dellarobia is talking to Ovid about the failing educational system in her town, and the about the irrelevance of college for kids from her town, it’s really disheartening, and I think one of the most important parts of the book. It seemed like upward mobility in the town was severely limited if you weren’t an athlete in school, whom Della notes as having the town in their hands (223). She says to Ovid, “Doctor of all the sciences, Harvard and everything… there’s not room at the top for everybody. Most of us have to walk around in our sleep, accepting our underprivileged condition” (225). The acceptance of this stunts anyone’s agency and it obviously stunts Dellarobia’s until the end when she realizes that it’s not too late for her to go to college and do something else with her life.

And finally, climate change. The book centers around the town’s complacency with some serious warning signs. Of course the butterflies that everyone wants to regard as miracle are abnormal. Then there’s the constant raining and flooding, which throws off their wool production. Still, the people of her town are in active denial and it’s most easily seen through Cub and through Dellarobia as well. Cub dismisses it in a biblical sense, saying that only God can control the climate. Ovid and Della’s conversation steers more in the direction of her just ignoring the signs. She says to him, “They say it’s just just cycles… that it goes through this every so often” (281). The inaction and denial from the people of the town comes from them claiming that there’s no visual evidence. As of yet, these peoples haven’t been tragically affected by climate change, besides the raining, which they choose to see as ‘just a cycle’. Because of this denial, it makes it all too easy for people to say that climate change doesn’t exist. You hear about it on the radio, see it on the news, but if it’s not actively affecting your daily commute to work or school, then it’s easy to act like it’s not that bad. We all do it. The butterflies that are at the crux of the story serve as a warning that something is coming and that things are changing. But throughout the book, there is still denial, because the butterflies are just so beautiful to look at.

In that vein, I think I’m more inclined to agree with George Marshall’s article for the New York Times, “Climate Fiction Will Reinforce Existing Views”. I think that cli-fi can enlighten people in a lot of different ways about climate change as long as it’s not, as Marshall puts it, “and overblown apocalyptic story” that in essence, distances the reader. Kingsolver’s book isn’t over the top and is entirely plausible, making it relatable to a wider audience.

 

  1. Kingsolver, Barbara. Flight Behavior: A Novel. New York: Harper, 2012. Print.
  2. Smith, PD. “Before The Flood.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 16 Jan. 2004. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.

A Little Bit of Everything

In Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, there were a lot of heavy subjects tackled. But some of the main themes I kept picking up on were the struggle for power, the need for community in spite of the chaos, mass complacency, gender (bending and roles), and of course climate change. The diversity in the novel is another aspect that I absolutely loved. Finally, something realistic and not white-washed to infinity and beyond.

The biggest form of climate change present in the story is the increase in temperature in California, certainly a catalyst for the multiple fires that occurred throughout it, man-made or otherwise. In a speech titled, “Devil Girl From Mars”: Why I Write Science Fiction”, Butler stresses that global warming should get more attention than it does, so she purposefully added in the increasing weather and the drought in California to show how much of a problem global warming is. You can also see climate change present in the prices for food. In “A Conversation with Octavia Butler” located at the end of the book, she notes that, “as the climate changes, some of the foods we’re used to won’t grow as well in the places we’re used to growing them” (337). Agriculture and farming is mentioned several times throughout the book as Lauren attempts to learn more about “living off of the land”. They also shop in different stores throughout California, looking for the best prices in food and other necessities.

The loss of innocence throughout the novel was also really heartbreaking to read. Thinking about thirteen year olds learning how to handle a gun terrifies me. It seems like these kids really don’t get a chance to enjoy their childhood, especially Lauren, who seems to want to rush past her adolescence. Tied in with the loss of innocence is the coming of age of several characters throughout the book. Lauren, of course, Keith, and also Harry all go through major transformations. My favorite parts throughout the book are when Lauren begins to ruminate over Earthseed and try to figure it out, because it tied directly into her becoming more confident in herself as a leader. Keith’s transformation, to me, was the scariest, because it felt like a boulder rolling down hill that would only end up crashing, which he did. Harry’s attitude shifted from distrusting Lauren and despising change to respecting her and co-signing her new religion.

Another major theme was power: the struggle for it, the exertion of it, and the lack of it. The exertion of power was most obviously seen through the multiple mentions of rape, the setting of fires by the “pyromaniacs”, stealing, and acquiring weapons. It all fits into an exchange of power within their world, where everyone is clamoring for some form of it, whether they’re exerting themselves over someone else through attempting to abuse or rape them, or setting fires on rich neighborhoods, or scavenging through someone’s burned remains. It reminds me of survival of the fittest, or the phrase ‘kill or be killed’ or even ‘fight or flight’. Lauren feeling that she has to dress as a man is also involved in the power exchange. The constant fear of her or the women around her being raped shows the harmful power dynamics between men and women, and the perceived vulnerability of women. Butler successfully shows the daily power struggles that occur throughout the novel as her characters try to survive and try to come out on top in their world.

The need for community is another important element shown throughout the novel. Butler sets it up in the beginning with Lauren’s development of ‘Earthseed’, a new way of living and a new religion that Lauren felt her community could operate more efficiently under. It becomes even more pressing for Lauren to go out and try her new method of living when her current walled-in neighborhood dissolves. The dissipation happens in a couple of different ways. The first way was her father beating Keith. After he beats him, she notes the unforgiving looks on Keith and Cory’s faces towards her father: “It was the end of something precious in the family” (115). Definitely one of the most heartbreaking lines I’ve ever read. Then, Keith runs away with a key to community, her father disappears, and the community is set on fire by the “pyromaniacs”. All of which, little by little, knock everyone out of their complacency of just living day to day and thinking that they’re safe within their walls. Or, as Lauren narrates, “We came home and wrapped our community wall around us and huddled in our illusions of security” (133). Lauren recognizes early on that things can’t stay the way they are,  something big is going to happen, and that the community needs to prepare for it. And she was right. Later in the novel, after her childhood (but did she even have one?) neighborhood burns down, Lauren begins to form her own community. It becomes a rather large one that feels unsettling to me, and they do lose a member of it, but they become a sort of haphazard family, with many of the single members pairing up as couples.

Speaking of couples… I’m really, really, REALLY creeped out by Lauren’s relationship with Bankole — a guy almost forty years her senior. I know she’s way more mature than a typical eighteen year old and hey, Bankole’s definitely not getting any younger, and it’s really slim pickens as far as mates go. And I know that their circumstances are totally different, and that people in their time get married and have kids at a much earlier age. But it’s still creepy. Not going to lie.

There are so many other themes to talk about within this story like grief, race, sex and sexuality, literacy, “new world” slavery, the value of life, and Lauren’s hyper-empathy, which, in Butler’s speech, she insists is an affliction, not a superpower (I really wanted it to be a superpower!). All of these are central to the story, but I think the themes I mentioned above are ones that stood out to me the most. Still, the novel as a whole tackled a lot of issues that would inevitably come up in a world such as this and leaves the reader wondering what we would do if we were in Lauren’s shoes. Kill or be killed? Fight or flight?

 

  1. Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower. A Four Walls Eight Windows 1st ed. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993. Print.
  2. Butler, Octavia. “”Devil Girl From Mars”: Why I Write Science Fiction.” MIT Communications Forum. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.

Short, Sweet, and Scary

Oreskes and Conway’s book The Collapse of Western Civilization offers a harrowing view of the progression of Earth’s climate over 300 years. For the most part its explanations of the cause of the ‘Great Collapse’ are clear cut and concise — something that’s not easy to achieve when talking about climate change. The different phrases like carbon-combustion complex, positivism, and market fundamentalism summed up nicely how much of a monopoly businesses who thrive off of fossil fuel production have on making any real progress on positive climate change efforts. I’ve been waiting to see that whole process explained in an easy-to-follow manner and I think this book did it most effectively starting from the fossil fuels industries, going into manufacturers relying on that energy, and then to financial  and advertising institutions that promoted the products made from fossil fuels (37).

One theme that stuck out to me throughout the book was relocation. It’s very terrifying to think about how unprepared a lot of places around the world are to relocate people whose places of living  are inhabitable and what would happen if they couldn’t relocate them all. Like the book mentioned, “mass migration of undernourished and dehydrated individuals, coupled with explosive increases in insect population led to widespread outbreaks of cholera, dengue fever, yellow fever…” (25) and the quote “as food shortages and disease outbreaks spread and sea level rose, governments found themselves without the infrastructure and organizational ability to quarantine and relocate people” (51) both illustrate the terrible impact of not being able to relocate people and the subsequent consequences. It’s really scary to think about this actually happening all over the world and I think it effectively knocks a lot of people of the complacency of thinking things like that could never happen to them (or at least it did for me).

This book was a really great critique on some of modern society’s feelings towards climate change, especially when it talked about active and passive denial. There are those who believe in climate change and are trying to do something about it, then there are those who just outright don’t believe in it, and then there are those who kind of believe in it but don’t thinks it’s as bad as people make it out to be. I think I fall into the passive denial group, though I do think that more should be done about climate change. I just don’t see how the average person can really make a HUGE difference because it seems like it’s all up to the big fossil fuel companies and their rich supporters who don’t want to lose money. So, my biggest question is: what can a regular person do in the meantime?

A slight critique on the book would be some of its more subjective predictions of the future. Such as Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy being the most enduring piece of science fiction literature. Though they say in the interview his trilogy was a great influence to their work, it still seems weird that that’s the only fictional work mentioned. I think I would’ve preferred them making up a book and titling it something ironic, similar to the ‘Sea Level Rise Denial Bill’’s name. Another (super nitpicky, I’ll admit) critique would be why only Australia and Africa are wiped out population wise. I’m no scientist by any means and maybe I missed some major scientific/geographical explanation as to why, but they seemed like two random continents to choose to wipe out their population. It says, “survivors in northern inland regions of Europe, Asia, and North America, as well as inland and high-altitude regions of South America, were able to begin to regroup and rebuild” (33). Seems weird that there were no survivors in inland Africa or Australia. There are high altitudes in both regions, although I’m not 100% sure as to whether or not they are or will be inhabitable.

I think this book explains the possible future very persuasively, especially with the carbon-combustion complex mentioned and the themes of relocation, or governments’ inability to achieve it, throughout the book. Its effectiveness comes from the clear, layman’s terms used, not some complicated scientific terms that you’d have to google. It was also a very quick read, which is always a plus, especially when you’re dealing with topics on climate change.

Earth Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Humans

One of the most chilling aspects of this story was how much nature kept moving on without human interaction. It’s easy for humans to think of the world as being a better place with us here. Even through industrialization, harming the climate and the ozone layer, etc., everyone still falls into the trap of thinking that we’re somehow making the world a better place and wondering what Earth would do without us. But I think that Stewart’s book critiques that belief by showing how Mother Nature still goes on without ‘human control’. Eventually, humans to begin to populate more of Earth again, but I liked seeing Ish’s observations on the state of nature without as many humans around to interrupt it.

At first their new society, or tribe, seemed to be doomed from the start to me because there weren’t that many people and because Ish was so wrapped up in restoring humanity to what it once was, (back to good old ‘murica) when he should’ve been focused on what it was then and there. I mean really, over two decades of steady water and no one wonders where the heck it was all coming from?? However, I liked the tribe’s attempt to rebound from that by creating a well, and then going off in search of other survivors, and later democratically voting to kill Charlie to preserve themselves, similar to the way Ish noted that the rats were killing each other to preserve themselves.

Ish’s determination to maintain and pass on the knowledge and the supposed ‘intelligence’ of the old world was something that struck me as reasonable. But as a contemporary reader, I found it particularly frustrating that he only saw the women and girls of his tribe as breeders and homekeepers, incapable of positions of leadership within the tribe. At times, he even seemed to contradict himself on this topic, noting that his wife Em was: “greater than he, but he also knew that she would not be of help in planning toward the future”. My biggest question as a contemporary reader was, ‘Why?’. Of course, he eventually picks his own son to be the next prodigy, as Joey seems to be the only one interested in Ish’s love of knowledge and books, but I wonder what would’ve happened had Ish asked any of the women or girls in his tribe if they were interested.

Overall, it was an okay book. The regression back into the bow and coin-arrow state seemed natural enough, I guess? Who knows where society will go from there.

Is This The Future??

I’m on the fence about H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine.

The pace of the beginning chapters was slow and hard to trudge through for me. Then there was the Time Traveller’s off-putting view of the future world: extremely patronizing and contemptuous, undoubtedly due to his high expectations of human intelligence in the year 802,701. He compares their intellectual level to that of a five year old child, notes their frailty, and asserts his belief that he could “fling the whole dozen of them about like ninepins”. He also seems unreasonably astounded that one of the Eloi asked him if he came from the thunderstorm. He appeared out of nowhere. Where else should they have guessed?

That being said, I think that one of its most interesting parts was when the Time Traveller discovers the Morlocks’ existence. It shatters his belief of the new world’s complacency and weakness. He sees that humans are essentially at war with themselves, devouring their other half and eventually killing themselves, as shown by the end of the book, where there is no human life remaining. Only huge crabs and something that appears to flop around in the waveless ocean remains, along with a “red eastern sky, the northward blackness… [and] the thin air that hurt one’s lungs”.

The splitting up of humans into the Eloi and the Morlocks was also an interesting component. It definitely reminded me of Darwinism and survival of the fittest. However, it does seem like the Time Traveller is a catalyst in destroying this future world. The destruction was already taking place before he got there, as evident by the dead Eloi body he finds upon his first venture into the underworld. But I think with him attempting to bring his ideas, his customs, and his self-determination to “better” this world, he inevitably messes things up for the Eloi and tips the delicate balance between the Eloi and the Morlocks into the latter’s favor.

The lack of diversity was a component that struck me as odd, but maybe it’s just because I can’t wrap my head around all humans and deviations of humanity being white in the year 802,701. I should also note that this is set in London, and I don’t know the racial or ethnic demographics of London in 1895. However, it’s a bit outlandish and unrealistic (yes, even in science fiction) that H.G. Wells chose to aesthetically obliterate human beings with darker skin tones in his futuristic society. It would be easy for someone to write it off as Wells being a product of his time, but as a person of color, and because of Wells’s constant emphasis on both the Eloi and Morlocks’ whiteness, it’s not so easy for me.

I understand its significance in being one of the earliest science fiction works, but I feel that there are a lot more science fiction novellas/novels out there written with much more finesse, complexity, and racial and ethnic inclusivity than this one. So, I’m at an impasse. I like the idea of humans literally being split into two separate entities and the theory of it being due to the “social difference between the Capitalist and the Labourer”. But the haughty tone of the Time Traveller’s narrative towards this futuristic society, and the lack of (aesthetic) diversity, is what’s keeping me from fully liking the book.