Before this blog I had never attempted blog writing so, naturally I chose this topic based upon the fact that I enjoyed science and writing, so it would be fun to integrate the two and therefore easy. I was wrong. This was a difficult topic to take on as a beginner because in order for me to present my thoughts coherently and fully, I needed to write lengthier blogs, which proved to be very time-consuming and required more skill than I had time to develop. So it is with much regret that I will be putting this blog on hiatus until I get better at blogging efficiently and regularly.
For those of you who followed my blog, this is not the end. I do plan on returning to it, but only after I’ve had time to become more acclimated to writing for a structured blog and meeting deadlines. This might sound petty, being that it is only a blog, but I gave myself a topic that deserves introspection and lengthy analysis in order to do it justice.
While this blog is on hold, I will be tackling a different blog topic, one that explores the history and proper uses of seldom seen punctuation. This may not be as exciting, but it should be interesting being that we live in a world in transition. So much of our communication with others happens in the cyber world, this terrifying place devoid of inflection or body language. Instead we turn to punctuation to solve our miscommunication battles. We have turned to emoticons which, when not used or used incorrectly, have ended friendships, partnerships and marriages. Now I don’t want anybody getting the wrong idea: this blog won’t just be about using unknown punctuation to solve miscommunication errors, but also for leisure. So come check it out when it goes live!
— Deirdre McCormick, Editor
Editor’s Note: Deirdre McCormick is a third year Biology Major with a minor in Creative Writing. She is deeply passionate for both topics and that is evident in much of her writing endeavors. She was also recently published in Lewis University’s own Windows magazine.
I will come back to the Singularity idea soon enough. but not yet. I still want to read up on the subject more and have time for the thought to settle and for my opinions to form.
In my current writing class we were asked to read a piece by Julio Cortazar entitled, “The Night Face Up”. There will be spoilers so please feel free to read this short story first if you have not already.
“The Night Face Up”, is an interesting story that is more of a psychological piece than a science fiction piece, but by the end of the story some traditionally sci-fi elements are explored through a different lens. This story is told from the perspective of what we assume is a man. He gets into a motorcycle accident and phases in and out of a dream world where he’s running though a jungle being chased. The rest of the story then proceeds to switch between this jungle world and a world where the narrator is recovering from the accident in a hospital.
The Singularity concept has come up a few times in conversation this week and it’s an interest topic that I am aware of, but unfortunately do not know as much about it as I’d like. This theory was made popular by Ray Kurzweil who mentions his becoming aware of the Singularity in a book I own called Science Fiction and Philosophy:
“Gradually, I’ve become aware of a transforming event looming in the first half of the twenty-first century. Just as a black hole in space dramatically alters the patterns of matter and energy accelerating toward the event horizon, this impending Singularity in our future is increasingly transforming every institution and aspect of human life, from sexuality to spirituality.”
I don’t think it was ever so clear to me than after reading that just why it was referred to as The Singularity, the point where technological advancements move so quickly and are so all-encompassing that its effect on humanity becomes irreversible and ultimately human consciousness and machines combine to form a super intelligence.
I find it quite intriguing that, as science fiction becomes more and more popular, it seems like good stuff still seems to escape the mainstream. Right now I’m actually watching a show called “Fringe,” which is highly underrated. This show just took a very interesting turn. This could very potentially be a spoiler by proximity so I would suggest you discontinue reading this if you plan on watching “Fringe” at some point.
I think the amount of time that both science and science fiction dedicates to trying to rationalize the future of humanity is extremely intriguing. Naturally, that is arguably the only topic science fiction works to confront, but I mean specifically the characterization of the humanity’s future evolutionary path. It’s also interesting that sci-fi seems to emphasize the evolution of the human species moving towards a logical, vulcanite race that is close to sexless and subsequently very near androgynous, whereas some evolutionary biologists think that quite the opposite will happen.
So I’ve been hearing a lot about The Hunger Games being a ripoff of “The Running Man”, “Battle Royale” and “The Lottery”. Of the works I listed, “The Lottery” is the only I’ve ever read or really had extensive enough contact with to speak about. As sad as it is, I was one of those saps who went to go see the midnight showing of The Hunger Games movie adaptation. It was actually pretty enjoyable and arguably better than the book. But contrasting books to their movie counterparts is a blog best left for Tim and his Storydome.
Seeing as the primary focus of this blog is discussing Sci-Fi in the vein of literature, I’m going to spend this blog contrasting The Hunger Games and “The Lottery”. For those of you who do not know what The Hunger Games is, it is a wildly popular dystopian novel in which children between the ages 12-18 are put into a lottery of sorts. One boy and one girl are selected to have the “honor” (as the Capitol describes it) of being thrown into an arena where their battle to the death is televised event.
I want to start by apologizing to my readers for my absence. I left for Spring break vacation on March 3rd before the sun came up and did not return until late the next Saturday. I had a great time not touched by the pressures of technology, unfortunately that meant no internet, calls, or emails.
One thing I enjoy quite a bit about good science fiction is its exploration of ethics in science. Right now there are a lot of hot button issues focused on ethics in Biological sciences. This is understandable giving that its primary subject matter is life and being that much of the world is still largely composed of morally influenced structures where a respect for life (most dominantly, human life) that begs attention when considering what can be done in the rapidly advancing field of Biology.
This week I’d like to touch on some of the controversy surrounding lab grown organisms that comes up in a book called Ribofunk by Paul Di Filipo. Although Di Filipo does not engage in the most sophisticated of literary prose, but what he does do very well is creatively explore some common issues in bizarre ways. One of the most striking images I can recall was the mentioning of walls literally being made of flesh. They respond to stimuli, and are living, respiring, and self-maintained walls. The function of these walls is simply that they look cool and can change shape on will or demand as opposed to the traditional egg-shell flat painted walls we live with. It’s a fashion statement. The first thing I couldn’t help but consider was how many things could go wrong if those walls. If they got an infection the walls might ooze or stink of bacterial festering and then they might also infect patrons.
The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas, by Ursula K. LeGuin, is a short story set in a dystopian society. The story starts in the midst of the “Festival of Summer” and eventually turns into dark tale that exhibits the high cost of peace, abundance and the luxury of happiness. If you have not read this piece I strongly suggest you do because, first and foremost, it is an excellent, thought-provoking short story. And secondly, I’m simply not compelled to spend a lot time in plot summary. Ursula K. LeGuin is one the few and proud, self-recognized Science Fiction writers and this short story was first published in New Dimensions 3, edited by Robert Silverberg in 1973.
[Note: Plot spoilers are ahead!]
When I read this piece I cannot help but think of this story’s illustrations. This is a society literally built upon the pain and suffering of a single child. This is expressed through the child’s placement as a cornerstone in the basement of a large important building. The child’s suffering is essential for the peaceful existence of the rest of the dystopia.
Science in poetry can be a wonderful and refreshing experience. It’s something I experiment with oftentimes whenever I write poetry, but it’s not an entirely intentional process. It’s just that when I write I pull from a pool of words that float through my mind regularly, and that is diction inevitably influenced by the more interesting subjects that consume my life—those being art and science.
Unfortunately, the use of science in poetry is not an extremely common practice in its explicit form. If you search “science in poetry,” or “scientific poetry,” you’ll find that there are lots of straight rhymed pieces that were designed to help students remember concepts or solicitations for elementary through high school students to write poems about their experiences with science. I certainly have no problem with trying to get younger audiences excited about science or poetic form, but this seems to be the largest demographic interested in scientific poetry. This kind of goes back to the general disdain that many writers seem to have for science. I will divulge that some of that disdain may be due to how tacky some of these attempts are, but there is bad poetry in every form.
I like to think that my work isn’t tacky so I’m going to mention a little about methodology.
“The greater one’s science, the deeper the sense of mystery.” ~Vladimir Nabokov
I think that there is a lot of misconception about the value of science fiction in literature. I touched on this topic last week and I just want to follow up with more concrete evidence rather than just a generalization. When Margaret Atwood is asked what she thinks of her work being science fiction, she often answers with a question or no answer at all. In an article posted last year in October titled “Margret Atwood on Science Fiction” she confronts her mixed feelings about being held within the same category as science fiction:
Are these books “science ﬁction”? I am often asked. Though sometimes I am not asked, but told: I am a silly nit or a snob or a genre traitor for dodging the term because these books are as much “science ﬁction” as Nineteen Eighty-Four is, whatever I might say. But is Nineteen Eighty-Four as much “science ﬁction” as The Martian Chronicles? I might reply. I would answer not, and therein lies the distinction.
Kurt Vonnegut vehemently refused his work being considered science fiction writing.
Technology and science are unavoidable truths that dominate our lives. For many of us, we wake up to the sound of an alarm clock and listen to music in the shower or later in the car as we drive to school or work where we text or compulsively check Facebook (even though we shouldn’t be) and use a laptop to write notes or complete tasks at work. Even now you are using some sort of technology to view this blog on a screen or on a piece of paper you have printed out. All of this has been made possible by science. It should come as no surprise then that science has become a rapidly growing influence in writing today.
I have decided to write a blog about the role science plays in both forms of literature: prose and poetry. This decision was primarily due to the fact that on a personal level it is something that I am very passionate about. I love science, and I have been fascinated by it as far back as I can remember. I also thoroughly enjoy creative writing and since about fourth grade, when I realized that I could put the two together, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with it.
What I never realized until much later in life was the stigma that our society has placed on science fiction. It’s not a genre many literary writers would ever want to be associated with. It used to be an anomaly categorized as low and socially unacceptable as Dungeons and Dragons— something thrown together by geeks for geeks. Today this stigma does — in some ways — still exist, but it isn’t nearly as prominent as it used to be. And frankly, it really can’t afford to be since technology and science shape life in the westernized world.
As I go about writing this blog, my goal is to express that science is inherently filled with logic, theories and mechanisms but it is just as rich in emotions, controversy and history as any other topic in literature. This is because science is an image of nature projected through the lens of human observation. Since the human condition is an unavoidable force filled with the inexplicable, science is by nature bound to be a powerful force in creative writing, whether it is in science fiction or poetry.