Monday, April 24, 2017

Paper #4/Final Exam: Brave New Worlds




“I notice that capable men are still at a premium in our society; we still need the man who is intelligent enough to think of the proper questions to ask. Perhaps if we could find enough of such, these dislocations you worry about…wouldn’t occur” (“The Evitable Conflict,” 265).

INTRO: We already live in an age of science fiction: an age where we can watch a live video feed from Mars, as well as track asteroids as they sail past Earth. We also live in a world of global warming, virtual reality, artificial technology, and self-driving cars. What’s next? Or perhaps the better question to ask is: how is the future being shaped in the news today? What happened in yesterday’s news feed which will affect how you raise your kids tomorrow?

REPONSE: I want you to find an article on-line, or from a journal, or in a magazine (Best American Magazine Writing 2015, for those who took Comp 1 with me, perhaps) which discusses some important contemporary issue. It can be about anything, as long as it’s current and of national importance. Print this article out and include it with your paper (and be sure to read it carefully!). Then I want you to write a short science fiction story (maybe 3-4 pages double spaced) that takes this article into the “future.” Take the same issues, problems, and concerns and place them in a new setting—a future Earth, or another planet, or among aliens, or robots, or on a starship. If science fiction is a metaphor for our own world, help us see the problems and debates of this issue in a different time and place. Remember, it’s often hard to see why we should care about something in our own time: but if you can fool us into seeing it in a different context, we might finally understand why our 21st century problems matter.

FOR EXAMPLE: The Star Trek episode we watched in class, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” (1969), was released during the Civil Rights Movement, at a time when you couldn’t really discuss race or equal rights on a television show...but you could talk about aliens with the same issues. At the end of this episode, with their planet in flames and their hatred intact, Lt. Uhuru asks, “do you suppose that’s all they ever had, sir?” And Captain Kirk responds, “No...but that’s all they have left.” A fitting epilogue for a country that was tearing itself apart over age-old prejudices when they might have united in brotherhood.

DUE: Thursday, May 4th by 5pm in my box or office





Saturday, April 8, 2017

For Tuesday: Asimov, I Robot: “Escape!” and “Evidence”

 
The robot eye of H.A.L. from 2001: A Space Odyssey
Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: In trying to ascertain whether or not Byerley is a robot or not, Dr. Susan Calvin remarks, “To put it simply—if Byerley follows all the Rules of Robots, he may be a robot, and may simply be a very good man” (221). How might this statement allow Asimov to use Byerley as a metaphor for how a “cleaner, better breed” should act like in society? Where do we see Byerley functioning like this in the story?

Q2: Dr. Susan Calvin remarks in “Escape!” that a robot’s brain “is built by humans and is therefore built according to human values” (177). Why is this a significant statement, and how does it help explain why the Brain acts as he does? Why would Calvin argue that the Brain acted the way a human would act, rather than the way a robot would?

Q3: Byerley refuses to submit to X-ray tests and other investigations which he considers a violation of his personal rights, even if they would immediately expose the lies about his robotic identity. As he tells Quinn, “You have little concern with the rights of the individual citizen. I have great concern. I will not submit to X-ray analysis, because I wish to maintain my Rights on principle” (230). Why might this also be a political statement on Asimov’s part, one that raises concerns about due process in the 1950’s—as well as in our own age?

Q4: In both stories, it initially seems like the robots are breaking the First and the Second Laws of Robotics. However, it later turns out that to truly obey these laws requires a fair amount of deception, secrecy, and creativity. Do you think this is justified? Are these merely the “white lies” necessary to save humanity? Or are these robots taking too many liberties in deciding what is good for us—and what isn’t?


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival Assignment (optional)


Remember, no class on Thursday: instead, you can go to the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival. Here's a link to the schedule for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: http://ecuscissortail.blogspot.com/2017/01/2017-schedule-of-readings.html

You can go to 1 or 2 sessions for extra credit. But for each one you go to, make sure to answer the following 4 questions (just like our blog responses, except you have to do all 4!) in a short paragraph--a few sentences each. As long as you give a thoughtful, honest response, I can excuse 2 absences or 2 missed blog responses--or 4/4 if you do a good job on two. But remember, this is extra credit, so if you just give me hasty, one-sentence responses or try to BS about sessions you didn't attend, I can't give you credit. 

THE QUESTIONS

Q1: Which of the authors interested you the most and why? Why did you respond their poems and/or story and why might you read more from this author?

Q2: Which piece (if any) did you find difficult to follow or understand and why? Is is simply not your kind of material, or was it too vulgar, or depressing, or confusing? 


If you liked all the pieces you heard by each writer, answer this instead: how did each author's reading work together as a whole? Why did these 3 (or 4) writers work well together? Was there any common themes or ideas that seemed to link them together?

Q3: Discuss briefly how the authors presented their material: their reading style, introductions, gestures, and other details that helped you appreciate the stories/poems. In other words, how did the authors help you understand their work through their performance?

Q4: How did the audience react to these authors/works? Did certain works get more response than others--and if so, why? Did people laugh? Were they completely silent. Did people seem to 'get' these writers, or did some leave them scratching their heads? How could you tell? 


Hope to see you at the Festival! 

Friday, March 31, 2017

For Tuesday: Asimov, I, Robot: "Liar" and "Lost Little Robot" + Paper #3 assignment


Two more stories for Tuesday--"Liar" and "Lost Little Robot"--and no questions this time, since I want you to do another in-class writing to get you ready for Paper #3 (pasted below). We only have a few more readings and questions due, so don't fall behind! 

Paper #3: The Robots Are Coming

“Because, if you stop to think about it, the three Rules of Robotics are the essential guiding principles of a good many of the world’s ethical systems...if Byerley follows all the Rules of Robotics, he may be a robot, and may simply be a very good man” (“Evidence”).

The robots are coming! Well, in many ways they’re already here—especially in fiction. Suppose the stories of I, Robot are true in the hypothetical future, and like John Connor in The Terminator, you’ve come back in time to warn the Earth. However, there are many different ways to read these stories, some pessimistic, some optimistic. If you had the opportunity to share this ‘future’ with humanity, and invite other science fiction prophets to the table, which argument would you choose?
Ø  #1: Robots are a “cleaner, better breed” of human beings because they are us. We have essentially created a race of ‘older brothers/sisters’ to guide us safely into the future so we don’t extinguish ourselves in the process.
Ø  #2: Robots are too much like humans to be trusted: they will constantly seek to dominate humans by fudging the Three Laws until human beings are no more than docile pets, and robots the truth heirs of the planet Earth.

SOURCES (at least 5 sources total):
  • PRIMARY SOURCES: You must use at least TWO stories from I, Robot in your conversation (quotes that are discussed in your paper). Additionally, you may use any of the short stories from Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016.
  • SUPPORT: At least TWO recent sources (articles, books, or a reliable website with an author or from a major organization) that AGREE with you. You must quote from these and use them to support your ideas.
  • NAYSAYER: At least ONE recent source (articles, books, or a reliable website with an author or from a major organization) that DISAGREES or shows another side of your argument. You can use Asimov or one of the stories as a naysayer, but you have to use a different story than the two you used above.
Remember that this isn’t just a silly science fiction story; robots are getting more advanced and arguably more aware every day. Many leading scientists, such as Steven Hawking, are genuinely concerned about the power we’ve assigned robots and AI in our daily lives, and some fear we’ve already gone too far to turn back. How has the discussion advanced since Asimov wrote these stories in the 40’s and 50’s? Additionally, why are Asimov’s ideas still relevant today? How does the metaphor of “robot life” help us see the possibilities and dangers of our own advancement? Try to figure out which side he’s on, too...

LENGTH: At least 4-5 pages double spaced
CITATION: Introduce all quotations and cite at the end; include a Works Cited page for every source you use in your paper.
DUE DATE: Thursday, April 13th by 5pm

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

For Thursday: Asimov, I, Robot: “Reason” and “Catch That Rabbit”




Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: In “Reason,” the robot, QT (“Cutie”), develops an elaborate religion based on “the Master,” allowing him to assume full control of the station. According to Donovan and Powell, how does this religion (which seems to contract the First and Second Laws) actually follow the Laws of Robotics? In a way, why did Cutie have to develop this religion in order to do his job properly?

Q2: Forced to argue with Cutie, Powell exclaims, “Who the heck wants to argue with a robot? It’s...it’s...” and Donovan adds, “Mortifying!” (71). In general, how do the men treat and view their robotic counterparts? Why does Asimov emphasize this relationship throughout the stories?

Q3: In each story, we see robots exhibiting behavior which is more and more “human,” even though we’re told that robots can only follow a strict program. In “Catch That Rabbit,” what very human problem causes DV-5 (“Dave”) to malfunction and disobey the Second Order?

Q4: When presented with irrefutable facts about robots and space, Cutie responds: “You, being intelligent, but unreasoning, need an explanation of existence supplied to you, and this the Master did. That he supplied you with these laughable ideas of far-off words and people is, no doubt, for the best. Your minds are probably too coarsely grained for absolute Truth” (75). Though this is a robot talking, why might this be a metaphor for human behavior in our own world? What might this story be really suggesting about how humans think and behave? 

Friday, March 24, 2017

For Tuesday: Asimov, Introduction + First 2 Stories: "Robbie" and "Runaronud"


For Tuesday, be sure to read the Introduction plus first two stories of I, Robot. We'll have an in-class response when you arrive. As you read, consider Susan Calvin's comment in the Introduction that "[Robots] are a cleaner better breed than we are." Since she's clearly being serious, what does she mean by this? What seems to make robots "cleaner" or "more advanced" than their human counterparts in ways besides technology? And why might they be a lot like the parrots in "The Great Silence," our masters rather than our servants or pets?

See you next week! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

For Thursday: Chiang, “The Great Silence” (pp.273-276)


Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Why do you think the parrot narrator repeats the last words of Alex at the end of the story: “You be good. I love you”? While we imagine these were just common words that Alex told to his masters, why does the narrator claim that this is the parrots’ message to humanity? Is there another way to understand them?

Q2: One of the great lines in the story states, “the hush of the night sky is the silence of a graveyard” (273). What does the narrator mean by this, and how does it relate to the title of the story—“the great silence”? What made everything so silent?

Q3: According to this story, how does being a “vocal learner” change how you experience and see the world? If you didn’t speak or use verbal language, what aspects of the world would be less important to you? In other words, what concepts/values would they lack that we (and parrots) take for granted?

Q4: The Arecibo Observatory is a real place (see picture above) built in 1974 in Puerto Rico to, among other things, search for alien life. As the parrot explains, “astronomers used Arecibo to broadcast a message into outer space intended to demonstrate human intelligence. That was humanity’s contact call” (274). How does this relate to the communication of parrots and why might the parrot narrator find this somewhat ironic? 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

For Thursday: Dickinson, “Three Bodies at Mitanni” (pp.234-253)




Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: What is this mission of this crew and why is it so problematic? How have they tried to ensure that their decisions are made in an ethically sound manner? Do you think these safeguards are enough, or is there very mission flawed and unethical?

Q2: What is a “Duong-Watts malignant?” Why does Mitanni society fit this definition? Do the people of Mitanni agree with this—are they consciously “malignant”? Or is malignancy in the eye of the beholder?

Q3: How has the crew changed on their four-hundred year mission? Though they are judging worlds for possible malignancy, are they somewhat malignant themselves? Or does this story suggest that even in isolation, humans will always remain fundamentally human—which is why their mission is safe?


Q4: Like the story, Daydreamer by Proxy, Mitanni society has discovered the secret to gaining the maximum potential from each citizen. Yet they are not slaves, since as Anyahera explains, “The slave still expends caloric and behavioral resources on being conscious; the slave seeks to maximize its own pleasure, not its social utility. A clever state will go one step further and eliminate the cause of these inefficiencies at the root. They will sever thought from awareness” (243). According to this, why is consciousness (or individual human thought) an impediment to the success of a society? Why might it get in the way of the ‘greater good’? 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

For Thursday: Never Let Me Go (film)


If you missed class on Tuesday, we watched the first 2/3 of Never Let Me Go, a science-fiction film that loosely relates to Feed. You are welcome to use Never Let Me Go as a source in your paper, as long as you bring it into your conversation in a specific way (we'll discuss how to do that on Thursday). We'll finish the film on Thursday and do an in-class writing that may help you start writing the paper--which is due on Friday by 5pm! Don't forget!

Here's a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXiRZhDEo8A

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

For Thursday: Finish Feed + Paper #2 assignment posted below

Finish Feed for Thursday if you haven't already; we'll do an in-class writing which may help you with your Paper #2 assignment (posted below), as well as discuss doing research for the paper.

Paper #2: The Future Is Now
Freshman Composition II

Choose ONE of the following conversations to discuss in your paper:

CONVERSATION #1: “Everything I think of when I think of really living, living to the full—all of my ideas are just the opening credits of sitcoms. See what I mean? My idea of life, it’s what happens when they’re rolling the credits...My god. What am I, without the feed? It’s all from the feed credits. My idea of real life” (217).

Discuss some aspect of our life that is ‘programmed’ by social media and/or commercial entertainment. How does it sell us our aesthetics or values? Why does this make it harder and harder for people to make decisions totally uninfluenced by commercial interests? Are any of our ideas “new” or “original,” or are they all variations on the same products and trends beamed across our own feeds? And if so, is this wrong? Does art always influence life in this manner? Or is this a modern invention?

CONVERSATION #2: “The feed is tied in to everything. Your body control, your emotions, your memory. Everything. Sometimes feed errors are fatal. I don’t know. I could lose...I don’t know” (170).

Discuss some technological advancement from the last 10-15 years that we can no longer live without; something that is vital to our psychological well-being and daily existence. Why do you think this became so essential to who we are (and how we are)? What did we do before this existed? What makes it so difficult to switch this off, and what would suffer if, like Violet’s Feed, it began to malfunction? Is there a danger in making technology indispensable to our well-being and happiness? Shouldn’t it be a tool that we can use and if necessary, discard? Or does all technology change who we are as well?

WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR:
·         Conversation: at least 3-4 sources, which can consist of Feed, articles, Ted Talk videos, other stories, films, etc. (but not 4 films—you need a variety). You must use Feed prominently in your discussion and show your familiarity with it.
·         Naysayer: how you can introduce a voice that slightly or completely disagrees with your point of view, and how you can respond to this voice
·         Quotes/Citations: using quotes effectively in your paper to show different aspects of the conversation; be sure to introduce and cite them correctly
·         Length: at least 5-6 pages, double spaced
·         Due: Friday, March 3rd by 5pm (note: we do have class the Thursday before the paper is due, which is why I scheduled it a day later)






Friday, February 17, 2017

For Tuesday: Anderson, Feed, pp. 150-223

Below: Links to the Ted Talks we watched in class: Jason Sosa on "The Coming Era of Transhumanism" and Amber Case, "We Are All Cyborgs Now." The questions for Feed are below...





Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: What happens to Violet at the party that makes her exclaim, “Look at us! You don’t have the feed! You are feed! You’re feed! You’re being eaten!” (202). Though Titus blames this on her disease, what might Violet realize about the reality of their “dream” existence?

Q2: Does Titus’ relationship with Violet make him grow as a person? Is he becoming more and more independent of the Feed? Or is he too entangled with the Feed to ever truly change? Consider the conversation when he tells her, “It feels...it sometimes feels like you’re watching us, instead of being us” (168).

Q3: The Ted Talk we watched last Thursday (see the link above) suggested that technology grows exponentially smaller and faster, becoming more and more part of our lives. At a certain point, have we gone too far to turn back? How might these chapters of Feed suggest that going too far too fast makes it impossible to change direction?

Q4: Violet makes a big existential observation toward the end of our reading: “Everything I think of when I think of really living, living to the full—all my ideas are just the opening credits of sitcom. See what I mean? My idea of life, it’s what happens when they’re rolling the credits” (217). Do all of our ideas of living and identity come from shows and movies and books? Is it possible to ever have a truly original, unique identity? In the end, are we all products of the “Feed” whether we like it or not? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

For Thursday: Anderson, Feed, pp. 73-149 (though feel free to read more if you wish!)


 Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: In one of the “in-between” sections of the book, a voice proclaims, “But we have entered a new age. We are a new people. It is now the age of oneiric culture, the culture of dreams...What we wish for, is ours” (149). What do you think the voice means by “the culture of dreams”? How does this relate to the Feed and the society it has produced? We tend to think of dreams as a positive, healthy thing...is that how this passage should be interpreted?

Q2: How has education changed in the future—and why is “School” trademarked? Why do you think these changes were instituted, and how does Titus feel about them? Why might this also explained why Violet was homeschooled?

Q3: Violet has a theory about the Feed: “It’s like a spiral: They keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone. And gradually, everyone gets so used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple. So the corps make everything even simpler. And it goes on and on” (97). This sounds a little like an older person’s argument: “everything was better in my day!” But is there any truth to Violet’s philosophy? Is that how entertainment and marketing actually works? To make money, do companies have to conspire to make us easier to sell to?

Q4: What kind of events are going on behind the scenes of the Titus-Violet love story? What are the realities of the Age of the Feed? What kind of government do they have? What’s happening to the natural world? And is any of this a direct consequence of the Feed?



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Paper #1 Conferences Next Week

REMEMBER: No class this Thursday--finish Paper #1 instead and turn it in by 5pm. For next week, please attend the conference you signed up for below. Let me know if you need to reschedule and I can find an alternative time for you. Likewise, if you missed class today (Tuesday) please e-mail me with one of the available times.

TUESDAY, FEB. 7
11:00 Christian H
:10 Ryan S
:20 Brenna H
:30 Kara H
:40 Bailey C
:50 Michaela M

12:00 Matthew B
:30 Tiffany T
:40 Tara C
:50 Simirka L

1:00 Micah B
:10 Taylor A
:20 Kristin T
:30 Jacob M
:40 Ben C
:50 Molly R

WEDNESDAY, FEB 8
11:00 (OPEN)
:10 Anna L
:20-:40 (OPEN)
:50 Brooke W

12:00 Harim K
:10-:50 (OPEN)

1:00 Courtney B
:10 Almira G
:20-:50 (OPEN)

THURSDAY, FEB 9
10:10 Johnathan L
:30 Danny C
:40 Emily C
:50 Cameron C

11:00 Grant P
:10 Pramila A
:20 Ace V
:30 Halle W
:40 Megan H
:50 Lisa D

12:00-:20 (OPEN)
:30 Paige Y
:40 Ashley G
:50 Carly H

1:00 Rachel G
:10 Qua'ry T
:20 Matt C
:30 Garret W

Friday, January 27, 2017

MLA Citation Handout (from class)

MLA CITATION IN PAPER #1 (and all subsequent papers)

“Such is the duplicitous nature of daydreams; such is their insidious siren’s call, luring employees toward the perilous shoals of decreased performance ratings. But once you have chosen to host the Daydreamer by Proxy, you will no longer be cursed with such afflictions. Your once-lazy brain will seek its usual refuge during the late hours of the second shift to find that your childhood sweetheart’s once-soft skin has returned to the sandpaper that it truly was, that her once-poetic professions of love have returned to the stutters and lies they truly were.”  

QUOTATION SANDWICH: Introduce Quote + Quote/Citation + Response

As Palmer writes in his story, “Daydreamer By Proxy,” “Such is the duplicitous nature of daydreams; such is their insidious siren’s call, luring employees toward the perilous shoals of decreased performance ratings. But once you have chosen to host the Daydreamer by Proxy, you will no longer be cursed with such afflictions” (103). This passage is important because it shows us how the company links imagination with unproductivity. They would rather remove the essence of our humanity to make you more productive than develop a more organic work schedule for their workers.

OR BLOCK QUOTE FORMAT (for quotes over 4 lines)

In one passage of the story, “Daydreamer By Proxy,” the author writes,
            Such is the duplicitous nature of daydreams; such is their insidious siren’s         call, luring employees toward the perilous shoals of decreased     performance ratings. But once you have chosen to host the Daydreamer by    Proxy, you will no longer be cursed with such afflictions. Your once-lazy             brain will seek its usual refuge during the late hours of the second shift to          find that your childhood sweetheart’s once-soft skin has returned to the   sandpaper that it truly was, that her once-poetic professions of love have     returned to the stutters and lies they truly were” (Palmer 103).
This passage is important because it shows us how the company links imagination with unproductivity. They would rather remove the essence of our humanity to make you more productive than develop a more organic work schedule for their workers.

WORKS CITED PAGE ENTRY

Palmer, Dexter. “Daydreamer By Proxy.” Best American Science Fiction and
            Fantasy 2016. ed. Karen Joy Fowler. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
            2016.

[Author + Title of Work + Book/Journal + Publication Information]




Paper #1: Metaphors of the Future


 “It feels satisfying, somehow, to claim his right to have no political feelings about the technology in his body” (Huang, “By Degrees and Dilatory Time”)

Science fiction juggles two balls in the air: one is the ball called “what if?” and the other is the ball called “metaphor.” The first ball suggests what might happen based on plausible scenarios of the future, especially worse case’ scenarios. The second ball is less concerned with what could happen and instead focuses on what has happened by shifting our perspective. As with the “Pale Blue Dot” photo, when we see the Earth as a dot, it changes how we see our home—and our lives. By setting a story in the near-future, with different technology and developments, we make the world just strange enough to see ourselves distorted, like a fun-house mirror. Yet we eventually recognize ourselves (or our world) in the mirror and understand that this is us, and the predictions have already come true.

Q: For your first paper assignment, I want you to answer the question: which of these ‘futures’ would you be most terrified of growing old in—and having children born into? In other words, which “what if?” scenarios seem the most frightening or problematic? Choose TWO stories from the four we read to help you answer this question. As you do so, be sure to show us (a) why specific aspects of the stories are disturbing, and (b) why these stories are metaphors for ideas/concerns that are already in existence today. In other words, make sure we understand the stories are frightening because they’re not really science fiction, but close to becoming science fact. For this paper, you don’t need secondary sources unless you want to, but you must use two of the stories from class to create your ‘conversation.’

REQUIREMENTS
  • at least 4 pages double spaced
  • Respond to the stories: show us the implications of their ideas and let us know how you understand/interpret them
  • Quote from at least 2 of the stories read in class; don’t merely summarize them or say “like we read in that one story about the cats”—quote and discuss specific examples
  • Cite all stories according to MLA or APA format and include a Works Cited page
  • DUE THURSDAY, FEB. 2nd BY 5pm (no class that day!)
  • E-mail me with questions or concerns, or come to my office hours


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

For Thursday: Huang. “By Degrees and Dilatory Time” (pp.75-86)




Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: In his author’s note, Huang writes that “this story was also very much a reaction against every other story about cancer I saw growing up” (282). What kind of stories do you think he’s referring to, and why is this a different cancer story? What does it suggest is the reality of surviving cancer and coming to terms with a transformed body?

Q2: During his recovery, the narrator “began paying attention to the transhumanist movement...People wanting to modify themselves. People wanting to modify their children. Other people claiming the right to hate and condemn them for it” (82). Though we don’t have ‘transhumanists’ in our society, what might this be a metaphor for in our own society? Why might Huang make this reference in his story, about someone who becomes transhumanist involuntarily?

Q3: For all the science fiction elements, this is also a story of a patient’s relationship with his doctors. From the patient’s point of view, what makes it difficult to be in the hands of various medical specialists? What don’t doctors see/understand about the vulnerable position of their patients?  

Q4: The narrator observes that “the human mind is infinitely adaptable” (84). And yet, we can argue that he never adapts to his eyes or his repaired knees, but simply learns to ignore them. What might this say about the psychological effects of being augmented or becoming a ‘cyborg’? Can removing a single part of a person remove his or her humanity? Is humanity actually skin deep?


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

For Thursday: BASFF, “Rat Catcher’s Yellows” (207)


Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Toward the end of the story, the narrator remarks: “I stare out...at the rows of people in cat masks all tapping away on their separate devices, like a soft rain. All genders, all ages, all sizes, wearing track suites or business-casual white-collar outfits. The masks bob up and down, almost in unison. Unblinking and wide-eyed, governing machines” (217). Why does she call them “machines” in this sentence, and how might this passage relate to our own world? Remember that science fiction is always about metaphors—ways of relating a strange, science fiction world to our own day-to-day experience.

Q2: Video games are typically seen in our society as entertainment (at best) or as time-wasting and morally corruptive (at worst). And yet through the game, Shary is able to tackle problems “that economists have struggled with in the real world. Issues of scarcity and resource allocation, questions of how to make markets more frictionless” (214). How might a video game or VR simulation help people approach old problems from new perspectives? How could a game like Minecraft or World of Warcraft, for example, actually help change the world?

Q3: George Henderson, who organizes the Divine Right of Cats convention, says of Shary, “She’s...she’s amazing. Could a sick person create one of the top one hundred kingdoms in the entire world?...Grace, your wife is...just amazing” (212). Besides winning the game, what makes Shary’s performance so “amazing” in this story? How might this be a commentary on how we measure ability/talent in our society in general? Why would most people—including the narrator—not initially see this ability in Shary?

Q4: Judy, whose husband is another prodigy in the game, tells the narrator, “I have this theory that it’s all one compound organism....The leptospirosis X, the people, the digital cats. Or at least it’s one system” (217). What does she mean by saying it’s all “one system”? How does this tie into the narrator’s own suspicions about the game, and what it seems to be learning from its participants? If this was a true story, would this be exciting information...or somewhat alarming?



Thursday, January 12, 2017

For Tuesday: BASFF, “The Daydreamer by Proxy” (101) & Headshot (122)


Answer TWO of the following in a brief paragraph (a few sentences). As long as you give a thoughtful response based on your reading, you'll get credit for this assignment. What won't get credit is (a) not doing it; (b) turning in a single sentence response; (c) restating the question without giving an actual answer. Remember, these are designed to make you think "inside" the stories and start writing about them...and this will help you on the paper assignments to follow. 

QUESTIONS (respond to any 2): 

Q1: Both stories are “what if?” scenarios that show a world not too far removed from our own. That is, it’s not about aliens and spaceships, but a world that almost resembles our own, if just this or that happened. What makes one or both of these stories disturbing predictions of the future? Why should we be concerned?

Q2: How can you tell that “The Daydreamer by Proxy” is a satire? (remember, a satire pretends to be serious through irony—stating the opposite of what it really intends; the point is to make fun of some person or idea). What, specifically, is the author satirizing in this story? Focus on a specific passage that wants us to see the absurdity of this situation.

Q3: “Headshot” gives us very little context for the story, but instead simply throws us into the conversation between an interviewer (for CNN) and a corporal in the USMC. What does “democracy” mean in this world, and how does it relate to military operations? Why at the end does Corporal Peters say “that’s how it should work. That’s democracy” (126)? Does he believe this—and why?

Q4: Julian Mortimer Smith, who wrote “Headshot,” explained that “we rarely see photographs of dead bodies in newspapers. The images we see of war are often highly anesthetized (made more pleasant, artistic, etc.), sanitized for consumption around the breakfast table. When images of death do appear in newspapers, they provoke strong reactions—outrage, letters to the editor, cancelled subscriptions” (286). How do you think “Headshot” is trying to comment on our relationship to death and the battlefield? In other words, why do you think he wrote this story?


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Welcome to the Course!


Welcome to Freshman Composition II, which I also like to call "Writing in the Outer Limits." This second-semester writing course asks you to enter the most discussed, written about, and watched form of entertainment in the 21st century: science fiction. Not necessarily the spaceships-and-aliens kind (though we will consider that), but also the kind that uses the future, technology, and other worlds to help us examine our own. In the end, we only look to the future to understand who we are or want to be when we get there. And for many people, we’re already there, exploring a brave new world where computers chart the far-reaches of space and even our phones can predict the weather. Through our discussions and writings, I’ll challenge you to consider some of the ‘hot topic’ conversations of our century, and become a better writer and thinker in the process. You’ll also read some pretty interesting books!


Required Texts: (a) Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016; (b) Anderson, Feed; (c) Asimov, I, Robot

See you in class!