The Phasing Out of Story Mediums

“Jordan wore a black T-shirt with a drawing of a marijuana leaf in the center…He stood up straight and stamped a Timberland boot on the floor… ‘You think it’s some Orwellian shit?…Like that War of the Worlds radio broadcast back in the day that caused all that panic?'” (302)

“There’s a ‘witch slapping’ scene in Lagoon. Are there self-proclaimed holy men slapping the so-called witchcraft out of women? Yes. See for yourself at: youtube.com/watch?v=bfeGpcmfMBA.” (306)

When I saw Okorafor’s comment at the end of Lagoon (in which she gives further insight to some elements of the story), I immediately wondered how quickly the link would expire — or, even further, when YouTube itself would no longer exist and the link be wholly unusable. I paired this with a scene in the extra chapter at the end of the novel, which not only gives the story a specific era in terms of fashion (the marijuana leaf shirt and the Timberland boots) but also brings up a question of the inevitability of the phasing out of technology and whether stories will surpass this phasing. The character, Jordan, brings up the radio drama adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of The Worlds, which first premiered in 1938. While radio dramas have mostly gone out of style (largely due to the introduction of television), the tale of The War of the Worlds radio drama lives on. Jordan’s comparison of the “The President of Nigeria Saved by Witches and Warlocks” YouTube video to the infamous radio drama doesn’t seem to be accidental; Okorafor may be toying with the notion that, while the mediums these stories are presented on may eventually phase out, the stories themselves may survive.

Deckard’s Moral Questioning

1:27:45 – Deckard being apprehended by another policeman just after being told to go to The Bradbury.

Police: “This sector is closed to ground traffic. What are you doing here?”
Deckard: “I’m working, what are you doing?”
P: “Arresting you.”
D: “I’m Blade Runner…I’m filed and monitored.”
P: …”Okay, checked and cleared.”

This scene caught me a little off-guard as I was fully expecting something akin to when Deckard is apprehended by Officer Crams in Do Androids Dream in chapter 9. Though in different contexts, this scene in the film could have been a gateway to the moment where Deckard is taken to the parallel San Francisco police department run by androids. While this scene in the novel is more or less available to provide a way to introduce Phil Resch into the story (who is not introduced in the movie), it is also important in the development of Deckard’s moral questioning. The scene in the novel encouraged a lot of questioning and speculation regarding the differences between “humans” and androids (especially pertaining to false memories) and set the tone for much of the moral questioning for the rest of the novel. The film focused this issue of morality more onto Rachael’s character than on Deckard’s, which caused a difference in motivation. With this questioning now focused on a love interest, rather than on himself, Deckard’s character doesn’t undergo this questioning that is so embedded into the novel’s design.

Pris Stratton’s Identity

“I’m Rachael Rosen.”
“Of the Rosen Association?” [John] asked.
…”No…I never heard of them; I don’t know anything about it…My name…is Pris Stratton. That’s my married name; I always use it. I never use any other name but Pris.”

(Dick, 67-8).

Suspicion and doubt is immediately cast onto this scene as we are given little indication of what the truth is regarding Pris’ real identity. There are a few factors at play here regarding the doubt. The more obvious factor is her swift disregard that she had ever used the name Rachael Rosen before, or even knew the implications of using that name. This can only lead us to speculate that she’s hiding something regarding the Rosen Association (particularly as she says, “I don’t know anything about it. More of your chickenhead imagination, I suppose” [68]–using John’s “special” status as a way to divert the conversation away from her) and her association with it. Is she really Rachael Rosen, on the run now that she knows she’s an android? Or is this a different person (android?), and what is she hiding from?

The other factor at play here is John himself, as he takes on the role as narrator in this chapter. While he is perceptive to Pris’ strange nature (not knowing about Buster Friendly, being nonchalant about the empathy box, etc.), he doesn’t immediately question these qualities. He does say that she’s “out of touch” (69) and “may need help” (70), but he otherwise seems unbothered by her strangeness, even offering to teach her how to cook. This can be in part due to his “special” designation, which in turn leaves him to be much by his lonesome and without the example of other human beings to compare Pris to. It seems to be a matter of how much we can trust his perception and insight, as well as what we can gain from his observations in order to come to our own conclusions.

Utilizing Humor Amidst Seriousness

“And there’s another thing about every operation — it wakes up the Zombies a little more, and as its Change Winds die, it leaves them a little more disturbed…that look they give you out of the corner of their eyes as if to say, ‘You again? For Christ’s sake, go away. We’re the dead…Stop torturing us.'” (Lieber 51)

Although Greta is often the voice of humor in this story, it’s in this moment that Bruce–who, throughout the story, is more or less ridiculed for his unfunny nature–takes a moment to offer a moment of humor, despite its dark connotations. He utilizes this in order to give an assumed voice to the Zombies (as he questions whether the Change War is stripping the past too much), and in giving a voice to these beings, brings about another perspective to his argument. The humor he gives to the Zombies’ assumed, metaphorical stance can be seen not only as a way to lift away from the seriousness of his speech, but also as a way to humanize the consequences of the Snake/Spider war. In giving the consequences a human voice and some humor, Bruce only broadens the boundaries of his argument, utilizing humor as a way to broaden the Spiders’ viewpoint and possibly, he hopes, to change some minds about continuation of the war.

The Goal of Knowing

Both Yevgeny’s Zamyatin’s We and G. Peyton Wertenbaker’s “The Man From The Atom” discuss the possibility of an “end” to discovery — that is, an end to the unknown. In We, D-503 is hugely discomforted by I-330’s suggestion that the last revolution was not the last one, and that there is no such thing as a “last” revolution. He finds discomfort in her ideas because he believes that the last revolution, the Two Hundred Years’ War, was the end to all revolutions, and that the end goal was met–the happiness and true, “correct” nature of all persons (at least within OneState). I-330, however, debunks his thought in saying, “But [our ancestors] did one thing wrong: later they began to believe that they were the last number, a number that does not exist in nature” (We, Record 30). While I-330 is keen on believing that there is no end to discovery, particularly believing that OneState is stifling, Kirby in “The Man From The Atom” is excited about Professor Martyn’s invention not only due to its brilliance, but also because it holds promise for an end goal: “Why, don’t you realize, Professor, that this will revolutionize Science? There is nothing, hardly, that will be unknown” (63). He’s excited to risk endangering his life to test the machine due to this conceived notion that with it, nothing will be unknown, and that there will be nothing left in need of discovering. Of course, both characters do find out that things are more complicated than just “knowing all” and “knowing hardly anything” –that the journey to discovery is tricky and dangerous, and overall not what they expected.

What I find interesting is that while both characters have this notion that there is an “end” to discovery, and that all that is unknown will be known, these ideas generally go against the science fiction genre. Without the possibility of discovery, and without an “unknown” to discover, the drive behind science fiction is reduced. There usually needs to be some notion of the unknown to create a story in which discovery is possible.

Rhododendrons: Symbolism or Skepticism?

In both the novel and the installment in The National Observer titled “A.D. 12,203: A Glimpse of the Future”, the Time Traveller specifically points out the existence of rhododendron bushes when he travels to the future. Wells decided not to change the scene in which the Time Traveller first arrives in the future, leaving the immediate observance of the rhododendron bushes in both prints. The Time Traveller’s immediate (and, within the novel, consistent) observance of the rhododendron bushes come off as a little odd, considering they seem to be the only plants that hadn’t evolved or gone extinct in the thousands of years that had not only entirely changed the landscape, but had rendered humans extinct or evolved beyond recognition; in observing the flowers that Weena had given the Time Traveller, merely likened to “white mallows” (The Time Machine 50), the Medical Man says, “The gynoecium’s odd…I certainly don’t know the natural order of these flowers” (73). As such, there comes a question of why the rhododendron bushes had not changed, given that the Time Traveller is unable to identify much else. On the one hand, Wells may be trying his hand at some inkling of familiarity in order to not ward off readers entirely—while not everyone will know what a rhododendron bush is off the top of their heads, the fact that the Time Traveller clearly identifies it may bring some comfort as this strange future is described. On the other hand, Wells’ use of making the Time Traveller’s observance known (that is, not editing out the observance of the flowers between publications) hints at the possibility of some significance outside of merely bringing some familiarity in the new world—that is, the symbolism and meaning behind the rhododendron itself. The rhododendron flower symbolizes caution and danger due to its all-around toxicity (there are multiple flower language guides, but this blog post specifically discusses rhododendrons); considering the popular use of communicating with flowers during the Victorian era, the Time Traveller’s specific observance of the flower may not be a coincidence, and may have only offered further textual insight to those who were familiar with the language of flowers. Interestingly enough, this observation isn’t cause for interruption by the Medical Man in “A.D. 12,203”, but he instead interrupts to discuss how the Time Traveller’s description of the Eloi’s appearance (as being a “beautiful kind of consumptive”) could not possibly be correct, and it is there that the Medical Man discredits the story (500). While the Medical Man’s interruption was not present in the final print of The Time Machine, it still causes the reader some question as to which aspects of science in the Time Traveller’s adventure should be cause for skepticism: the aspects that are questioned, or those which quietly go undiscussed. As is the nature of the novel, this question is furthered due to the lack of interruption by the Medical Man or any other characters–those who do question anything at all at the end of the Time Traveller’s story have been so overloaded with information that any specific questions have been long forgotten.