Butler & Dick Comparison : Numb & Mechanical

As Rye sits in Obsidian’s car, the mentally crippling emotions of “growing hopelessness, purposelessness” and “jealousy” remind the reader of the enslaved android’s dilemma (99). Rye’s “powerful urge to kill another person” stems not only from her own personal issues, but from the idea that someone could have more ability and access to knowledge and expression (99). Rye nearly snaps when she realizes how she is inferior to Obsidian due to her illiteracy and how easily he may or may not take the ability for granted. The scale of the complaint seems arbitrary, but one more issue is enough to nearly set her over the edge. Her gun has the same killing power of a determined Android like Roy before his father & creator. The text places the smoking gun in the hands of a mentally polarizing character and seems to ask the reader whether or not he or she empathizes with her.  Butler seems to be forcing the reader into deciding whether or not one cares if Rye hurts herself, or someone else, or both.  Separately, Butler establishes a hyper-focalization on Rye and Rye’s thoughts, whereas Dick spreads some of the world-building into the thought-experiments and androids themselves. Not to hammer the nail too much, but an emotionally numb and unpredictable narrator has the qualities of an insensitive android, but reads as more real and possible. So although the decision remains on how one values the needs of a troubled human vs. a programmed android, the reader response effect develops similarly from a close narration of the darkest of emotional lows.

Philip Dick : 2 Agencies, 1 Confused “Android”?

His cephalic pattern taken, he found himself being led off to an equally familiar room; reflexively he began assembling his valuables for transfer. It makes no sense, he said to himself.  Who are these people? If this place has always existed, why didn’t we know about it? And why don’t they know about us? Two parallel police agencies, he said to himself; ours and this one. but never coming in contact–as far as I know–until now. Hard to believe, he thought, that this wouldn’t have happened long ago. If this is a police apparatus here; if it’s what it asserts itself to be (Dick 113)

As Rick Deckard has the inner workings of his head examined, he loses control of his surroundings and is led into the Mission Street Hall of Justice.  The narrator dives into Deckard’s thoughts through free, indirect discourse and calls to mind how nothing and no one makes sense about where he is, who he is with, and why he is just finding out about another police apparatus. Oddly enough, the room he enters is “equally familiar,” but all of its contents are foreign. He mentions how the “new” agency may not have even know about him and the other police agency, but questions even more so if he has been the only one left in the dark. He finds himself groping for questions he cannot know the answers to, which leaves the reader even more estranged to the expository setting. Also, the narrative estrangement is exciting because we can pinpoint how easily a character can snap and lose control of their reality and wonder what will happen next. The passage seems conspiratorial, but also has a near comedic sense of how limited Deckard’s worldview has been if a whole other police agency exists and he is just finding out. He finishes the passage with the conditional statement, “if it’s what it asserts itself to be” to remind one of Deckard’s deceptive and suspicious interpretation of an organization seemingly popping out of nowhere. Moreover, we are not sure if Deckard is just representing the narrative mind of a possible android with a false memory as Officer Crams jokingly says earlier.

Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time : You are a Joke

Greta seduces you into the text with the second person. She tells you what “you don’t know” but exists despite your blissful ignorance (8). You have to catch up to her understanding of the world. She baits you into an interactive experience with repetitive “have you ever” interrogatives; making you an active player in a 2-dimensional verbal construct (8). Her playfulness and deadpan delivery of serious philosophical questions about memory, identity, death, and the supernatural allows you to laugh at your fears and also at yourself.  All that you question and daydream about, especially in a sci-fi context, is real and influencing your life right now. However, Greta glosses over the significance of a supernatural world to normalize the strange and estrange you from her. You cannot be as cool as Greta.

The Man From the Atom : The Interstellar Savage

Once Kirby in The Man from the Atom becomes larger than life on a “strange planet of a strange star” he becomes aware of the relative meaningless of the human footprint on an ever-expanding universe (66). The Professor’s machine stretches his life expectancy by increasing his size, but all around him “men had come and died, races had flourished had fallen” (66). He enters into the unknown like the Time Traveller’s ability to live outside of time and space and bear witness to other societies. Kirby explains how “[i]n ten minutes of [his] life” even the professor has lived away a lifetime. One discovers a sci-fi hero encountering a new civilization as the outsider. Kirby explains, “I find myself a savage, a creature to be treated with pity and contempt in a world too advanced even for his comprehension. Nothing here means anything to me” (66). Not only does his gigantic size make him stick out like a sore thumb, but the relative sentiment of receiving a polarizing reception from foreign civilizations reminds one of the Eloi and Morlocks. Kirby immediately thinks the others will feel sorry for him or consider him a worthless creature. Although the Time Traveller’s appearance does not change, the stark differences between an alien race and a human one conjures complex themes about identity and acceptance between two seemingly different groups. The feeling of becoming the other, the savage, seems to be the hyperbolic reaction of Kirby. Interestinly enough, the Time Traveller recognizes his difference, he considers the Elois and Morlocks to be the savage other. Maybe because the Time Traveller’s reckless abandon desires his time travelling success, he feels superior and successful. However, Kirby’s freak accident feels like a cautionary tale about the limitless variables in an uncontrolled science experiment.

The Time Traveller : The Philosophical Inventor

In the National Observer version, The “Time Traveller” becomes the “Philosophical Inventor.” A once mystical characterization becomes ironically disorienting with a concrete professional identity. The “Philosophical Inventor” is a man of the mechanical sciences with interests in the metaphysical. Nothing about his literary presentation seems off until he claims to be able to time travel. Not to say he is any more suspect than the Time Traveller’s claim to science fiction fame, but the verbal difference adds another layer of disbelief. Yes, the difference in characterization gives the reader the ability to grasp onto his identity a bit more than the presentation of his occupation as time traveler. However, he can clearly be read as a philosophical storyteller, not necessarily the sci-fi hero the narrator leads one to believe. Therefore, thinking of him as a man who invents for a living adds the ability to look at him as a peddler of his philosophical imaginings. Specifically, his entire tale can be easily transplanted outside of a sci-fi narrative and consumed as a philosophical hypothetical scenario. One does not really know if he really time travels, but the heart of his arguments about the devolution and degeneration of a future society remain.