Ayodele was downstairs in the lab reading an issue of National Geographic.
Like in that old American movie…. I forget the name. When are the aliens ever not evil?
“E.T.?” Rome said.
This moment in Lagoon, after Ayodele, Agu and Anthony enter Adaora’s house, is somewhat ironic, because National Geographic is a magazine based in the US and known for its visual representation of the Global South to a mostly First World audience. The magazine does indeed provide useful information regarding geography, history and world culture to its readers, but it also often depicts the Third World as plagued by issues such as famine or illiteracy, yet capable of modernization. Throughout Lagoon Okorafor highlights Nigeria’s rich culture and history that colonialism attempted to erase. Alongside these aspects of Nigerian culture are references to American films such as Star Wars and E.T. It seems a bit odd to write about these particular movies, because they are only further representations of a colonial past as well as capitalism. Perhaps these are necessary because as a postcolonial nation-state, Nigeria’s original culture and history resurface, but the need for modernization is still prevalent and multimedia and technology are ways to prove that a nation has finally “developed”.
“When the driver hit the brakes, she was ready and the combatants were not. They fell onto seats and onto screaming passengers, creating even more confusion.” Pg. 90
This moment in Speech Sounds represents the complex relationship between all individuals within the text. The etymology of confusion according to the OED, is the Latin confundĕre, which means “to mingle together or mix up”. This definition accurately depicts the broken-down society of Butler’s short story, because though individuals lack the ability to communicate verbally, they are still very much connected as a result of the illness. Each member is brought together through the larger organizing system of sickness and death, and each person’s role within this system can be easily substituted for—which we see at the end when Rye becomes a parent figure to the two children. This organizing system is in some ways similar to Mercerism within Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, in that both offer a way of linking individuals across time and space. Unlike Mercerism, however, individuals are capable of choosing whom to empathize with and when.
” Yes. There’s really only one question that can be answered, Genry, and we already know the answer…..The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable, uncertainity: not knowing what comes next.” (LeGuin 75).
The above passage encapsulates LeGuin’s claim within What is Gender that the Gethenians have no myth of progress. In seminar last week, we discussed the possibility of The Left Hand of Darkness moving away from the heavily “technical” science fictions texts we have seen thus far, into something considered more “literary”. Though using the terms technical and literary only seem to emphasize dualisms such as high/low, LeGuin’s turn away from progress seems very antithetical to the idea of science itself, which is based on the idea of advancing towards an ultimate objective or aim.
The merging of “male” linearity with “female” circularity is also interesting because it truly eliminates gender hierarchies, and though LeGuin acknowledges that as a fiction writer she merely conducts a thought experiment when she writes, “It was a heuristic device, a thought-experiment. Physicists often do thought-experiments. Einstein shoots a light-ray through a moving elevator; Schrodinger puts a cat in a box. There is no elevator, no cat, no box. The experiment is performed, the question is asked, in the mind. Einstein’s elevator, Schrodinger’s cat, my Gethenians, are simply a way of thinking” (LeGuin 163). LeGuin’s thought experiment does makes one wonder whether the only way in which hierarchies can truly be removed is to eliminate our notions of gender completely, which seems most possible within science fiction texts.
I do not say now that we can prevent the fall. But it is not yet too late to shorten the interregnum which will follow. It is possible, gentlemen, to reduce the duration of anarchy to a single millennium, if my group is allowed to act now. We are at a delicate moment in history. The huge, onrushing mass of events must be deflected just a little, – just a little – It cannot be much, but it may be enough to remove twenty-nine thousand years of misery from human history. (19)
Within Asmiov’s Foundation, Seldon can fairly accurately predict future events through his psychohistory, yet fails to find original methods for evading these events. As seen in the above passage, Seldon claims that the fall can indeed be reduced in time and optimistically asserts that much distress will then be avoided. Ironically, his plan of an Encyclopedia Galactica relies on the Empire’s fundamental component of organization—valuing a whole entity over its individual parts. Thus, history is depicted within the text as the influence of past occurrences on future events; there is no way of freeing oneself from the past trends regardless of any quantitative predictions. The definition of psychohistory (which Phoenix Helix also quotes below), is “a branch of mathematics which deals with the reactions of human conglomerates to fixed social and economic stimuli”. The word conglomerates, though defined as “parts that are grouped together to create a whole but remain distinct”, is also problematic because often times grouping individuals together can strip them of their subjectivity. Ultimately, even within a Science fiction text as Foundation, which imagines highly innovative methods for predicting the future, the future is represented as imprisoned within the constraints of the past and unable to offer viable alternatives to the problem of empire.
As ColorlessGreenSheep noted, the National Observer version of the text includes far more dialogue than the book. The characters are changed so that they do not necessarily directly reflect scientific areas, but rather are more representative of the “everyday” man or woman, allowing the discourse to be filled with less scientific terminology and making it more accessible to the general public. The increased dialogue allows for a certain objectivity; though the time traveler is the only one who has experienced the journey, his story becomes verifiable when others actively question each detail. The time traveler’s narrative then becomes each character’s as well because they are able to take on his perspective. This is evident when Wells writes, “We have no doubt of the truth of your story, said the red-haired man to him that traveled through time; but there is much in it that is difficult to understand”. When others believe the time-travelers story, then only can it be viewed as a scientific truth.