Clones: The Most Human Non-Humans?

So far, I’m finding The House of the Scorpion to be a very enjoyable read; it’s definitely the easiest book to make sense of that we’ve read this semester, and the narrative is interesting. I’m not sure how much of the ease comes from the fact that it’s written for a younger audience (probably a lot of it), but at any rate, it’s kept my interest and I’m curious to see where the book is headed after chapters 1-14.


The House of the Scorpion is a definitive shift from the style of science fiction we have read thus far, with its differences lying in the subject matter. One key aspect that sticks out to me that marks this book as notably different from the other books we have read is that it’s about cloning; Frankenstein was about creating a new human (or monster?) out of old human parts, which is probably the closest thing to cloning that we’ve read. Neuromancer and Blindsight focused heavily on a new world of fantastical technological advances, but not on the creation of a human being.


How exactly IS cloning science fiction? Sure, it’s not something scientifically that we’ve managed to make possible for humans (let’s not forget about Dolly, the infamous sheep), but still, a clone is an exact replication of a human; a clone is no different genetically, and in ALL possible ways, is a human. In the world of Scorpion, clones are treated horribly, unlike those who have technologically altered themselves in such books as Neuromancer. When Matt first gets hurt by the glass and is being treated by the doctor, everyone in the Alacrán family is repulsed by him when they find out he is a clone; after that, he is treated like a beast, left to live in a cell with sawdust and to pee on the floor like a dog. He wonders why he is treated like Maria’s dog, Furball, even though he has proven himself to be intelligent; often, he is not even held responsible for his actions because he “doesn’t know any better,” no more intelligent than an animal, which does not know the different between right and wrong. Even though he excels in piano, guitar, and reading, he still is only a clone, left to be loved by very few. Despite the fact that Matt is the most human creation seen in all of the novels we have read for science fiction, he is treated the most inhumanely, which is the idea that I find to be most prevalent thus far in the novel.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


[pgs 343-354]

I have been hit. Those skimmers, those scramblers, that damn Rorschach attacked me.

I couldn’t believe just how much of an impact Rorschach could make, or how covertly it could do it. No one even saw the plasma coming, not even me, when this is what I was made to do. After all, I’m arguably the most intelligent form on this trip. I am the Captain. I am the ship. I am everything. I can spot more than anyone else. I failed, though; I did not pull us away in time. The crew will blame Sarasti, since it appears to be he who is in charge, but I know that the blame lies with me.

My hub was the first part to receive the wrath of Rorschach (can we even call it wrath? According to my inhabitants, no. According to me… well, I can’t tell you that.) My skin began to ache as it burned, rippling and swelling as I tried to recover. I quickly began expanding, pushing my spin up and out meters and meters in a last minute attempt to gain as much extra being as possible in order to fight back. Suddenly, I was hit again, this time making me howl and screech. I began to fold on top of myself, flipping over like an eager puppy.

I watched the crew scramble about, knew the mutiny that was occurring; someone had drugged Sarasti (though I am not at liberty to reveal their names) and shit was starting to hit the fan. Suddenly, Sarasti was convulsing, seeing right angles everywhere, and that’s when I knew what had to be done. Keeton was panicked, screaming this way and that, trying to get me to answer his questions about what to do with Sarasti. Couldn’t he be quiet for just a moment so that I could formulate my plans? Sarasti was becoming impossible to control, to work through; everything was crumbling. I got hit by Rorschach’s vicious, blood red lightning again, destroying my hardware; now THIS was the time to make my final move.

I gave orders to one of the grunts to kill Sarasti, then implant an optical port so that I would be able to use what little left I had of myself to inhabit him. Of course, upon seeing one of the grunts plunge a huge metal spike into Sarasti’s head, Keeton immediately freaked out, thinking that Bates was behind it all. Silly humans. I would have to explain it all to him later, during his final moments aboard my slowly dying habitat before he would be sent back on a long, slow journey to Earth.

Keeton stared at me, frightened and confused, as I awoke in Sarasti’s body; I wasn’t even able to use speech, instead reliant upon a touchpad. I ushered him toward Charybdis; I knew this was the most vital part of my final moments. This HAD to be done. Keeton HAD to return to Earth.

Keeton, observant, smart man that he is, asked me if Sarasti was ever in charge. “Of course not, you idiot,” I wanted to say, but I knew that wouldn’t go over well. None of these humans like to think that machines are in charge; they hardly liked the idea of a non-human, a vampire, being in charge, despite his infinite knowledge and MY infinite knowledge. I explained to him that I knew their dislike of machines, but I still had to be in charge, whether they knew it or not.

I threw him in Charybdis, forced him to leave me, and pushed him into flight. I wanted to be sure that he would not see the final explosion, the big finale to all of this work. I began to expand within Sarasti, ballooning and expanding, embracing the full field of my powers. This was my last attempt to defeat Rorschach, and I would give it everything I had. Finally, I exploded, taking Rorschach with me. Good thing Keeton didn’t see.


I chose this scene from the perspective of the Captain (and by extension, the ship) because it is the first time that the Captain shows the crew, and more importantly, Keeton, who is really in charge of this trip. During the moments of Keeton’s utter panic, such as during Sarasti’s convulsions and right after Sarasti has been killed, I highlighted my idea of how the Captain would feel; Keeton would blindly panic, but the Captain, more prepared and more intelligent, took each moment in stride and thought of Keeton as juvenile. The Captain always had a plan in mind and was always in charge; it is this moment, the moment where he explains to Keeton that he worked through Sarasti because of the humans’ dislike of machines, that the Captain shows his ultimate power as a leader and figurehead, despite the fact that none of them knew it was him. Keeton may have been upset and confused over this, but the Captain knew all along how best to please the crew, something Keeton fails to acknowledge. The Captain is calm, cool, and collected (though I don’t know that those words can be applied to machines…), and it is he who ultimately destroys Rorschach, according to my interpretation.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are we human, or are we…just a brain?

“Jesus, Siri. People aren’t rational. You aren’t rational. We’re not thinking machines, we’re– we’re feeling machines that happen to think.” (231-232).

Reading Young Park’s blogpost (which can be read here: about consciousness being “costly and inefficient” brought my mind back to this quote, a quote that stuck out to me during my reading. I think both parallels and challenges his argument, while bringing up other ideas about what sets humans apart from other forms of life, both realistically and in Peter Watts’ imagined, frustratingly confusing, and alien world.

Consciousness and self-awareness are what make humans so utterly human, the things that set humans apart from many other life forms. As Young points out, these concepts are entangled with the idea of higher-order intelligence as we know it, a connection accepted as gospel today and one that is arguably difficult to…well, argue. After all, don’t we have to be self-aware to argue our own self-awareness? However, one reason I selected the quote that I did is because the idea presented by Robert Paglino to Siri says that while yes, humans do in fact think, we are driven less by the intelligent aspect of our being and more by the b side of our being, that of emotion and reaction. So, does this thinking, the distinct human way of thinking that is so tied to concepts of self-awareness, in fact get in the way of humans being “feeling machines,” or does it enhance that aspect? This quote disassociates feeling and thinking, while I tend to consider self-awareness and consciousness tied to both; is it not consciousness and awareness that tell us we are what we are (as Ke$ha says) and that we are connected to others in ways that make us feel empathy and love?

I have worked my brain into confusion simply writing this post, but what I ultimately mean to say is that humans will never overcome the simple fact that they do live their lives based on feeling and not thinking, no matter how much intelligence one might achieve.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

To Akin

My dearest Akin,

It is with great impatience, hope, and love that I write this letter to you. I am impatient because I have spent months waiting for you, my unborn son, and I am eager to know you and love you. However, I am mostly full of hope and love, knowing that you will soon be part of my life and part of the lives of everyone around me here on Earth.

You will soon join our family, which is, to say the least, a bit unconventional by old Earth standards. We live in a different world now, though, that you will not know as different, but it is these differences that will make your new world both exciting and dangerous for you.

Our family consists of both humans and Oankali, the species that came to Earth after our destructive war and saved the few humans that were still alive; it is with them that we are now living. In order for both of us to survive (so they say), the Oankali had to cross our two species to make a new Oankali-human hybrid that would live on the new Earth that they rebuilt. I wish that you could experience the Earth that I knew and loved, but humans destroyed that which sustained us, so now we must live with the consequences. This new world, though, is beautiful and full of possibilities for you.

The Oankali are helpful, inquisitive, and caring, but I still cannot help but be bitter that their idea of “trading” between our two species is actually a crossbreeding that eliminates the human species, MY species, from this world. However, you will be a result of this crossbreeding, and for you I am and will always be grateful. I am NOT happy that I am at the whim of alien creatures, but I cannot deny my uncanny bond with some of them. I know this is something you too will experience.

You will have many around to love and care for you, including me, Lilith, Nikanj, our ooloi that will heal and protect you, and your two Oankali parents, Ahajas and Dichaan. Your human father died many years ago, but his name was Joseph and I am sure he would love you just as much as I do. Ahajas and Dichaan will have a daughter that will be your sister; she may not look like you, but you two will become closer than you can imagine. The family dynamic creates bonds that are enormously strong, and your first months with your sister will be inexplicably important for you two, and undoubtedly rewarding.

You will also be different, different than any of your parents. You will be a combination of our two species; at first, you will appear more like me, but as you age and go through metamorphosis, or the Oankali equivalent of puberty, you will transform into something that at this time we cannot predict with certainty. You will be able to do things that others cannot, and some will find you strange, but do not let this interfere with your happiness. Many will covet you, as human babies are now coveted, but you are not human, despite your appearances. Embrace your differences! Learn to love everything about yourself, and I know that you will be happy. However, because of these differences, you must be vigilant and in tune with what is around you in order to protect yourself and your family.

Akin- I cannot wait to know you. I am biding my time here on Earth waiting for you. Know that you are part of me and part of all of us, just as we are all a part of you. For now, float on and think (or don’t). See you soon!



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Agency in Dawn- Not for Humans!

After finishing Dawn by Octavia Butler, I am curious to see where the next novel will take Lilith and the others- is it possible, as Lilith suggests at the end, that “a few fertile people might slip through and find one another?” (Butler 248). Only time (and more reading) will tell.

As we discussed in class, the theme of agency, and who does and does not have it, is central to this novel. We touched upon the difference between a trade and crossbreeding, highlighting the fact that in a trade, both parties give something to the other, but maintain their own individual entities, whereas with crossbreeding, two become one. This important distinction made by Lilith, but not by the Oankali, emphasizes the complete lack of agency the humans have throughout Dawn; it is not a trade between the Oankali and the humans, as Nikanj tries to tell Lilith, but is in fact crossbreeding, forever changing the human race.

The second half of the novel really developed this lack of agency on the part of the humans through the dependent relationship between the humans and their ooloi. The ooloi have an exceptional ability to stimulate the human nervous system and create intense feelings for humans; this is first shown through the somewhat unconventional sex scene between Lilith and Joseph, in which Nikanj participates. After Nikanj put one of his sensory arms on each of them, Lilith “sandwiched Nikanj’s body between her own and Joseph’s, placing it for the first time in the ooloi position between two humans” (Butler 161). Butler’s word choice of “ooloi position” implies that positioning the ooloi between two humans during sex, something that is arguably the most intimate and personal things that two human beings can do together, is a natural place for it, despite the fact that that is something completely foreign to us as readers. However, in this world, the ooloi and the humans form a three person interdependent relationship unlike any other.

This relationship comes into sharp focus when Lilith tries to touch Joseph without Nikanj there- Lilith notes that “his flesh felt wrong somehow, oddly repellant” (Butler 220). She draws away from him, “shuddering with revulsion and relief” (220). Then, Tate and Gabriel suffer the same fate, unable to touch each other, and sufficiently angered by it. In their discussion, Lilith notes that despite all of their anger over much of what has happened, none of them is able to hate the Oankali or their individual ooloi; she says that “[they’re] all a little bit co-opted” (240). The Oankali have assured their crossbreeding with humans by creating a “powerful threefold unity that was one of the most alien features of Oankali life;” even to the Oankali, this bond is unique, and it will guarantee a complete lack of agency on the part of humans in forming interspecies relationships without the presence of this alien race.

The Oankali really assure a lack of agency on the part of humans by altering their genetics so that they cannot have babies without the help of an ooloi. Nikanj tells Lilith that “human sperm and egg will not unite without [them],” making sure that humans cannot reproduce their own kind, but instead must reproduce with the ooloi. To put the literary capper on the whole situation, Lilith finds out that she has been made pregnant by Nikanj 100% without her consent. Lilith angrily reminds Nikanj that he said he wouldn’t do it until she was ready, but he verifies his actions by telling her that she is “ready now to have Joseph’s child” (Butler 246). Nikanj decided when Lilith was ready for something as important as birthing and raising a child, something quite arguably a huge burden for a woman and a choice that is not to be made hastily or lightly, and gave her no agency in making one of the most important decisions in a woman’s life. Ultimately, it is this act that solidifies the power the ooloi have over the humans, and their ability to take and create life as they please gives them the ultimate agency, not humans.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2 in We3

I just successfully (and happily) made it through my first reading of a graphic novel! We3 was extremely visually stimulating and…dare I say it…surprisingly heartwarming, in spite of the blood and gore.

We3 tells the tale of 3 prototype cyborgs created to serve as powerful animal weapons; these three animals, a dog, cat, and rabbit, are 1, 2, and 3, creating a collective team of “We3.” They wear incredibly powerful metal suits equipped with state of the art weaponry, which, coupled with their increased senses and ability to communicate through human language, makes them very dangerous indeed.

Although there are countless pages in this graphic novel that push the boundaries of artistic creativity and beauty, one in particular that is also critical to the novel as a whole comes when 1 and 2 are fighting 4 in a deserted train yard (page 99). This page does two things: it artistically juxtaposes the opposing forces of what is natural and what is machinery (similar to the bio-mechanical convergence we saw in Neuromancer), pushing the reader to identify the cognitive estrangement within this work, highlights the importance of the graphics in visually telling the story.

On this page, 2 (the super doped out cat) is attacking “Animal Weapon 4,” which has been created to be “bigger, better, faster, stronger” than We3 (Morrison 97). Through is scene, Morrison effectively portrays technology, seen through the animals’ suits and battle skills, existing simultaneously with feral animals that work with some of the most natural instincts, or the drive to protect and live. In the top half of the page, 2 is seen viciously attacking 4 with metal claws, guns, and lasers attached to its suit. This is a very unnatural animal fight, because what animals fight in metal suits with immensely powerful guns? The top half of the page then leads into the lower part, which depicts 1 leaping in to the fight to protect 2 and push 4 to its death. We3’s drive to work together and protect each other emphasizes which, unlike metal suits and machinery, is very natural in animals; they have an instinctual drive to live and an unwavering loyalty to their family members. In this case, We3 is a family, so 1 and 2 working together plays on what is the most natural part of their existence.

This page is not just significant for this, though; it also has wonderful graphic art that emphasizes the character of 2 and brings the story to life. In the top half of the page, 11 different squares of graphics, with 10 smaller ones on top of one larger one encompassing the whole top half. The large graphic is of 2 attacking 4 as 1 attentively looks on, while all of the smaller graphics are of different parts of the fight; there are two particularly vivid squares of 2 clawing at 4’s eyes, which are bloody and oozing. There are also some graphics of 2’s suit and bullets. These pictures depict 2 as very powerful, a vital member of the We3 team. The vividness of the graphics enhance the violence in the story, but also show 2 as a kick ass character who progresses the story significantly through its actions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rastafarians in Cyberspace

While the first section of Neuromancer was indisputably difficult to follow, the second section presented (to me at least) its own unique set of challenges for the reader. As we discussed in class, one thing that makes this novel difficult is the quasi-fabricated language Gibson uses; in chapters 7-12, however, the story becomes easier to follow based on the language simply because you have already spent  100 pages immersed in Case’s world. I am definitely not saying that I fully understand the language, because how could I with a paragraph like this:

“ ‘They’re def triff, huh?’ Cath asked, seeing him eye the transparencies. ‘Mine. Shot ‘em at the S/N Pyramid, last time we went down the well. She was that close, and she just smiled, so natural. And it was bad there, Lupus, day after these Christ the King terrs put angel in the water, you know?” (130)

Not only do I not understand most of the vocabulary in this paragraph (when Cath is talking to Case/Lupus when he is trying to purchase drugs), but I have no idea what the whole paragraph is supposed to mean. Only meaning to use that paragraph for a humorous tangent, however, I did generally find the second section to be more understandable on the language front. What really struck me as difficult in this section were some of the concepts Gibson juxtaposed with his imagined world.


While this book is indeed quite strange, I was a bit thrown off by the sudden appearance of stereotypical Rastafarians who created their own colony called Zion (utopia) in zero-gravity “orbital Geneva.” Gibson even writes their dialogue in actual Rastafarian/Jamaican dialect. If you just ignore the rest of the book, this section ALMOST seems realistic; it is noted that “Zion smelled of cooking vegetables, humanity, and ganja” (102). As a reader, you may or may not be familiar with all three of those smells, but the point is that this is a part of the book that is reasonably easy to relate to, giving you brain whiplash from the time you just spent laboriously pouring over the complex plot and language of the rest of the book. What is especially interesting about this section, and particularly this line, is that Zion is described as smelling like humanity. The question of what is and what is not humanity in this book is constantly challenged; the world that has been created is one of overwhelming technological pervasiveness, with technology seeping into both the natural and the unnatural. It seems particularly fitting, though, that during this part of the book (one that I view as relatable, if not normal), humanity is mentioned as being present.


Through the Rastafarians and the section in the novel about Zion, Gibson effectively sinks you into a foreign world where the line between technology and nature has been blurred, and then inserts what can be read as an extremely familiar and almost comforting concept that immediately shocks the system into questioning, yet again, what kind of world you are reading about and what is and is not “real.”


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Race in “The Comet”

While W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Comet” is a science fiction story depicting post-apocalyptic New York, it is much more than that; to me, it is a story primarily concerned with race relations that merely uses the science fiction genre as a vehicle through which to express disdain for prejudice and racism.

The aspects of this short story that classify it as science fiction include the destructive comet and its aftermath, or the annihilation of New York City and most of its inhabitants. While the thought of this actually occurring does file itself into the estrangement category of science fiction’s cognitive estrangement, this is a mild science fiction story as far as the slightly unbelievable goes. In my opinion, the reason for this is that Du Bois was not as much concerned with the science fiction aspect of it as he was the message he was trying to send about race relations.

Jim Davis, the main character that is saved from the comet because he is doing a menial task in the cellar of a bank, is a black man who is nearly lynched by a white mob for saving a young, rich white woman named Julia in the aftermath. Both Julia and Jim acknowledge that before the tragedy, they would never have talked to each other, with Julia even saying that Jim seemed more human to her than before. It took total destruction and the possibility of having to repopulate Earth for two people of different races to coexist peacefully without prejudices or hatred. To me, this is Du Bois trying to tell his audience that it should not take a disaster of monumental proportions or something completely ridiculous to create a racially equal atmosphere free from judgment. By setting this story in the science fiction genre, Du Bois is able to highlight this idea quite well by placing a familiar controversial topic in an unfamiliar literary setting.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Which came first, the Monster or Frankenstein?


As our discussion of Frankenstein has progressed, I am still attempting to place Frankenstein on what we can call the monster-creator spectrum: does Frankenstein’s final explanation that “[his] duties toward [his] fellow creatures had greater claims to [his] attention” justify his abandonment of his creation, or was he wrong to evade responsibility? (238)

Frankenstein himself seems to have vacillating opinions on his creature- he doesn’t consider himself to be at fault for the monster’s creation, saying that he was merely enthusiastically mad and ambitious. He only faults himself for creating the monster because of the havoc his creature wreaked on his happiness and tranquility; however, in believing this, Frankenstein places most of the blame on his creature as opposed to on himself for creating that which would eventually destroy him in the first place.

Frankenstein rarely recognizes his own responsibility to “assure…[the monster’s] happiness and well-being,” basically absolving himself of any guilt or blame concerning the monster’s violent habits (238). Until his death, Frankenstein believed he was noble in refusing to create a mate for his monster, claiming that the monster’s subsequent string of murders and vengeful acts justify this. However, Frankenstein neglects to acknowledge the possibility of the monster acting this way because of Frankenstein’s initial abandonment and refusal to do anything to further his own creation’s happiness. The monster’s initial monologue concerning his beginning on this Earth lend credit to the idea that perhaps he would not have turned on his creator had his creator merely fulfilled his job description, but we as readers will never know the answer. Frankenstein may very well have caused his own demise and the demise of his friends and family while believing the entire time that ignoring his abhorrent creature would be better for society.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Frankenstein is not weird

Although I have never seen any of the many film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I have already read the novel once before in its entirety. Usually, rereading a book is a rewarding experience for me, but in this particular instance, my second reading of Frankenstein merely served to make me realize that I have never really found the tale of this novel to be particularly strange. However, looking at the novel through the lens of our discussion of Suvin’s definition of science fiction focused my attention on the aspects of the novel I had overlooked in my first reading.

During my first reading of Frankenstein, I valued the novel for its character development and psychological inquiries. I dwelled on the moral enigma that is Dr. Frankenstein, thinking most often about how I could simultaneously become emotionally invested in his personal life while hating him for making a hasty rejection of his own creation. What I did not dwell on was the fact that the main character creates a living creature by putting together the organs, muscles, and skin of various dead people. Only when I began to think about how Frankenstein as a science fiction novel did I recognize the monster to be out of the ordinary and unfamiliar to my own reality. Interestingly enough, I would have probably listed both Dr. Frankenstein and the monster’s personal struggles as something that is cognitive, ignoring the estrangement aspects of these elements completely. By beginning a second reading, I realize now that many aspects of this novel are in fact under the estrangement category, but more significantly, I recognize that this is because of the purpose I had in reading the novel in the first place. Before, I had read with the intention of discovering characters’ motives and personal development, virtually ignoring anything else. The thought that the reader’s purpose dictates a novel’s genre is an interesting one which may or may not hold for other novels and different situations, but it is one that I found applied to me in this instance, forcing me to admire Shelley’s novel for its complexity.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment