LITR 4368 Literature of the Future
lecture notes

scenario: utopia / dystopia / ecotopia: K. S. Robinson, “Introduction” to Future Primitive. "Chocco," (FP 189-214); "House of Bones," (FP 85-110)

 

utopia page

instruct / entertain

Robinson article / Chocco / House of Bones

review Utopian features of Chocco: Utopian conventions (socratic dialogue; characters as functions)

 

First Peoples

Neanderthals 1-3% of genes in Euros and Asians; 0% in Africans

 

 

seminar in utopian literature

 

Laura Miller on YA Dystopian fiction

 

Edward O. Wilson, evolutionary psychology  20-1, 82-3

 

 

 

Today's question 3. . . . What metaphors or symbols enable us to imagine a sustainable future?

 

 

Objective 3a. Metaphor and analogy—expressing the unknown in terms of the known—as a creative and learning figure of speech in all literature, but especially science fiction and speculative fiction.

3b. Literature of the Future is somewhat unique in that the "reality" to which it refers does not yet exist, exposing how much all literature is an act of creative expression and interpretation.

 

symbol

 

Onion 9 downloaded graphics for rings + kiss

 

Drapes 139 I pulsed inside her, warm as blood

 

Onion 10 "Superhighway" analogy

 

Onion 15 "Peel a cyberonion"

 

no inside, all layers

 

 

 

 

Onion 21 programmed by nothing more than earth itself

 

metaphor not just ornamental but constitutive of human mentality

 

literature "entertains and educates"

 

Aristotle, Poetics IVa

 

 

 

10 biosphere our extended body

x-old paradigm of world as machine

Ø      world as vast organism

 

11 reject inevitability of machine future

 

 

9 cf. Play, like wrestling of tiger cubs

 

 

192 topic: the Machine People

 

 

 

 

Discussion Questions: 1. What are your experiences reading, studying, or teaching utopian or dystopian fiction in American middle schools and high schools? E.g., Brave New World, Anthem, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Fahrenheit 451, Lord of the Flies, The Giver, The Hunger Games and other Young Adult Dystopias. What are the attractions of these genres or sub-genres? Why does American reading go more toward dystopias than utopias?

 

 

190 irrigation ditch, solar collectors

 

 

Jeet Heer, "The New Utopians"  para. 9

 

 

 

 

1a.What is utopian or potentially dystopian about the "ecotopias" in today's texts or in popular culture? (e.g., "small is beautiful," "voluntary simplicity")

 

Chocco 191 As is the custom of most peoples who have managed to survive on this continent, these women choose our leaders and determine our destiny

 

Chocco 192 procedures proven through many generations

 

Chocco 195 sense of place vastly different

 

Chocco 207 Nowadays we live “in place,” as we say.

 

Chocco 208 decision-making primitive: majority voting x consensus

Bones 95 a way of life that has worked for thousands of years, that will go on working for thousands more

Bones 96 sounds of laughter and shouting and song as work gets going on the new home

Bones 101 didn’t know a single useful thing, but took me to their village, fed me, clothed me, taught me their language [adoption instead of procreation]

 

Bones 107 learning secret language.  The one that only the members of the tribe may know.

2. Art or literature "entertains and educates". Some literature entertains more, some educates more; Where do the two stories fall on this spectrum? (related terms: didactic literature; Literature of Ideas; what terms for pleasure-reading?).

If "Chocco" is more didactic or instructional, what fictional features make it somewhat more entertaining, or relieve the educational edge? What kinds of literary pleasures does "Chocco" offer? (Consider characterization.)

How and why is "House of Bones" more entertaining as fiction than "Chocco?" In what ways may it still succeed as "instructive" or "educational?"

Any questions or comments generally about today's readings?

 

 

Bones internality

Bones individual decision, Chocco group decision (also question 4)

 

 

Bones 103 offers it to me x can’t take his lunch

Bones 104 if he smiles and shares his food then he’s human by me

 

Heer 10 “a study group more than a school.”

 

 

Heer 14 bureaucrats / scientists as heroes

 

Heer 20 easier to terraform Venus than to reach an international climate accord. Even the most splendid utopian imagination has its limits. 

 

 

Heer 23 first, imagine it

 

 

 

3. What are the urgencies and difficulties of discussing overpopulation and climate change? Does science fiction provide a way to discuss? What upsides, downsides to fiction as learning? What metaphors or symbols enable us to imagine a sustainable future?

 

 

Chocco 190 irrigation ditch, solar collectors

207 solar refrigerators, water pumps

 

Chocco 196 burning of fuels, Hot Rods

 

Chocco 197 Great Warming

 

Chocco 197 commandments for survival:

restrain our numbers,

limit our consumption, spiritual is measure and meaning of all things

 

Chocco 199 Die-Off [apocalypse]

Chocco 199 Pre-collapse world allowed its numbers to grow to almost ten billion people—probably at least a thousand times more than Earth has now

 

Chocco 200 carrying capacity

Chocco 200-01 new tribal groupings, on a manageable human scale, that could inhabit the bioregions of the planet in ways adapted for longterm survival

 

Chocco 204 coastal areas—terrible storms and flooding

 

Chocco 206 limits were imposed; no weapons

 

Bones 96 tribe grows too big for existing four houses

 

Bones 99 life expectancy here about 45; robust people, tough life, souls are buoyant

 

 

 

 

 

4. Why is it difficult to write stories that make people care for the environment? What inherent challenges are there to ecological literature or to making people think and care collectively on a grand scale?

Ecology requires collective responsibility for a shared world with no escape. Apocalypse may not save anyone or anything, but it makes for good story-telling.

Most stories require individual heroes, family or tribal dynamics, and simple solutions or escapes in short time-frames; apocalypse or end-times are no problem as long as someone else takes the heat! Human sustainability requires longer time-frames; evolution takes generations.

 

 

evolution is complex; no fact or entity stands alone

ecology as web of relationships (world as organism)

therefore, explanations, qualifications rather than clear, decisive, final actions

 

How is "Chocco" an anti-apocalypse? That is, how do its narrative, time-frame, and values differ from that of Revelation or other apocalyptic texts?

 

 

Chocco 203 did not understand that Gaia manifests herself through species, and so they regarded individuals as of primary importance . . . sad and lonely people

 

 

Chocco 212 No one can escape history

Heer [5] Climate change, so difficult to grapple with because it requires the cooperation of nations across the globe,

Heer 9 Libertarian

 

 

 

 

Urgencies, difficulties of discussing population, climate > sf, lit-future as way to talk?

 

"entertains and educates" spectrum or continuum

Where do these two stories fall on this spectrum?

What are the upsides, downsides of didactic literature vs. a good story?

 

machine as model > organism model

 

10 megacities, x-models for development, > demonstrations of a dysfunctional social order

 

10 biosphere our extended body

x-old paradigm of world as machine

Ø      world as vast organism

 

10 already overshot carrying capacity, yet population will double before it stabilizes

 

Chocco 203 superstitious beliefs in constant growth even though this is unknown in nature

 

10 we are in a race to invent and practice a sustainable mode of life before catastrophes strike us

[or get away]

 

[pleasure]

9 cf. Play, like wrestling of tiger cubs

[study of literature allows margin of error]

 

 

Urgencies, difficulties of discussing population, climate > sf, lit-future as way to talk?

 

How is "Chocco" an anti-apocalypse? That is, how do its narrative, time-frame, and values differ from that of Revelation or other apocalyptic texts?

 

K. S. Robinson, “Introduction” to Future Primitive

 

9 sf, thought experiments, scenarios of the future

 

9 utopian in operating principle—what we do now matters

 

9 cf. Play, like wrestling of tiger cubs

 

9 hopes and fears of writers and readers < urban industrial nations

countless images of urban industrial futures

 

9 Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world—who?

 

9 people as last organic units

 

10 megacities, x-models for development, > demonstrations of a dysfunctional social order

 

10 biosphere our extended body

x-old paradigm of world as machine

Ø  world as vast organism

 

10 already overshot carrying capacity, yet population will double before it stabilizes

 

10 we are in a race to invent and practice a sustainable mode of life before catastrophes strike us

[or get away]

 

11 steady-state economics

 

11 beginning to look different, less “hi tech,” more various

 

11 futures that from the viewpoint of the industrial model look “primitive.”

 

11 sophisticated new technologies combined with habits saved or reinvented from our deep past

 

11 reject inevitability of machine future

Ø  healthiest way to live? Most beautiful?

 

11 wild possibilities

 

 

 

 

 

Ernst Callenbach, "Chocco" in Future Primitive 189-214.

189 989th year

190 season-changing ceremonies

190 irrigation ditch, solar collectors

190 Sun People [cf. Mayans, Egyptians]

190 apprenticeship, knowledge and legends

191 men and women

191 without reliable memories a people cannot find its way into the future

191 As is the custom of most peoples who have managed to survive on this continent, these women choose our leaders and determine our destiny

191 all sat quietly

192 procedures proven through many generations

192 topic: the Machine People

192 training

192 they worked in my family’s gardens or I worked in theirs

192 ruins [under] heavy soil and vegetation

193 probability games

193 no less intelligent than we are

193 cultural disorders and misadaptations that brought their world to its end [apocalypse + evolution]

194 Gaia, the living earth-world

194 clutter

194 [store]

194 no evidence of poetry, perishable materials

195 graves reveal no jewelry

195 sense of place vastly different

195 suspicious or hostile toward one another

195 moved around incessantly; spiritual aim or mere restlessness

196 burning of fuels, Hot Rods

197 [apocalypse] fighting one another over the remaining scraps of food

197 our real ancestors, those who left the ways of the Machine People and prepared this place for us, were protected by the holiness of Chocc

197 drawings the First People had incised on canyon walls

197 Great Warming

197 commandments for survival:

restrain our numbers,

limit our consumption, spiritual is measure and meaning of all things

197-8 thirty generations since the Die-Off; Machine People 10 generations

198 First People lived happy lives without writing, without priests, indeed without agriculture

198 knowledge = power; therefore shared

198 [personalizes Mikal]

199 Die-Off [apocalypse]

199 Pre-collapse world allowed its numbers to grow to almost ten billion people—probably at least a thousand times more than Earth has now

199 [techno-fix] imagined that their machines could save them from anything

199 [apocalypse] The collapse must have happened rapidly, in a generation or even less. . . .  diseases . . . . panics

200 hectic mass migrations and flights

200 [post-apocalypse] survivors live on what find in wreckage

200 machines with memories

200 [cf. Todd on loss of knowledge] groups that made such machines lost the people who knew how to make and run them

200 could not go back but must learn to live in new ways

200 carrying capacity

200-01 new tribal groupings, on a manageable human scale, that could inhabit the bioregions of the planet in ways adapted for longterm survival

201 wheeled transportation system x trained human messenger 100 miles a day

201 Die-Off was a terrible test provided by Gaia for the human species, to determine its fitness for survival [evolution]

201 Mennosino somewhere along the Western Ocean

201 rebels against the Machine People, recognized Gaia

202 marijuana as ceremonial drug, vision-producing mushrooms

202 Machine People patriarchal, owned land, buildings, hired without sharing surpluses

202 children very numerous, little importance

202 work-roles in family groups

202 rich no shame

202 social groupings generated no loyalty

203 did not understand that Gaia manifests herself through species, and so they regarded individuals as of primary importance . . . sad and lonely people

203 solar energy not “profitable” in their scheme of things

203 superstitious beliefs in constant growth even though this is unknown in nature

203 [compare evolution] lack of detailed understanding of transition stages

204 climate change?

204 coastal areas—terrible storms and flooding

204 a little cooler here now

204 [ozone] something the Machine People did to the air

205 they followed what they saw as the imperatives of proper human life: to reproduce copiously, to consume as much as possible, to hoard goods and money, to seek ever new comforts and entertainments to distract themselves from thinking about what lies under the surfaces of life

206 barely human

206 Further changes will come

206 lesson: sometimes human beings would rather die out than change their cultural ways

206 in their last days they began working on devices that would be durable in difficult circumstances

206 All technologies carry hidden messages about social relationships

206 What proved to be useful and socially safe in the long run were much older technologies

206 shaped metal objects, frees labor and energies for contemplation and enjoyment

206 limits were imposed; no weapons

207 Nowadays we live “in place,” as we say.

207 Machine People not locally rooted

207 a few hidden First People

207 communication among small groups of survivors

207 which modes of social grouping promoted mutual support and survival

207 solar refrigerators, water pumps

208 ruled by rich people living at a great distance, in special government cities

208 decision-making primitive: majority voting x consensus

208 huge previously unknown garbage dump, a few written materials

209 not part of our knowledge! Comes from persons unknown. No place in this hearing!

209 contradicted the Memory Keeper code

209 found my anger fading.  In fact eager to hear [humanizes speaker]

209 their lives were filled with violence; weapons that shot small pointed metal cylinders

210 mostly either very dark or very pale, instead of the golden browns of the peoples we know on this continent today

210 trivial sexual contacts, lacked stable family structures, random mating system

210 healthiest children < clan rules

210 intermarriage between neighboring peoples

210 We modern people know that all cultures need enemies to define themselves

211 periodic ritual struggles

211 war: Probably this senseless violence expressed the frustrations of living as the machine People lived, alienated from Gaia and without respite from competitive strife

211 believed the natural world was there only to be exploited, and men also enslaved and sexually exploited the women of other cultures

211 We who live in equality find it hard to believe that male violence was not kept in regular and creative channels

211 hierarchy instead of community

211 if we had been unlucky enough to have been born among them, surely their ways would have seemed sensible to us

212 No one can escape history

 

 

 

 

Robert Silverberg, "House of Bones," in Future Primitive 85-110.

Bones 85 tribal epic [oral lit; communal]

Bones 85 religious language (for insiders only) x everyday language

Bones 86 muscles; pump iron

Bones 86-87 see ghosts everywhere . . . pressing in [animistic world; nature alive, filled with spirits]

Bones 87 another geological epoch

Bones 88 Cro-Magnon men, highly skilled individuals

Bones 88 test, some right of passage maybe, an initiation

Bones 88 how alien they really are.  Not savages, far from it.  But they aren’t even remotely like modern people.

Bones 89 Scavenger Folk x paint or sculpt [co-existence of different species of humanoids]

Bones 89 [cf. Neanderthals & Morlocks]

Bones 89 migration wars long ago

Bones 89 my skills are in electronics, computers, time-shift physics [time-travel support]

Bones 89 Neanderthals . . . left behind in evolutionary sweepstakes

Bones 90 civilized; hunt mammoths

Bones 90 Paleolithic world is divided into a thousand little nations

Bones 90 If they had better teeth they’d be gorgeous

Bones 91 no privacy

Bones 91 the long house that is the residence of Zeus and his family and also serves as the temple and house of parliament [religion, politics, daily life not separated]

Bones 92 want to teach . . .

Bones 93 everyone gives everyone else his own private set of names

Bones 93 world full of angry ghosts, resentful of living

Bones 93 western Russia, maybe Poland—Eastern Europe

Bones 93 immensity of prehistoric age, all of it is alive

Bones 93 30 times as long [cf. Chocco; sustainability]

Bones 95 rainbow [cf. Time Machine, Mozart]

Bones 95 [present becomes future]

Bones 95 a way of life that has worked for thousands of years, that will go on working for thousands more

Bones 95 inject my own futuristic genes into the Ice Age gene pool [change future?]

Bones 96 tribe grows too big for existing four houses

Bones 96 sounds of laughter and shouting and song as work gets going on the new home

Bones 97 real ingenuity of design and construction, weird kind of beauty to it

Bones 97 seminomadic, hunting and gathering

Bones 97 orderly, rhythmic; real community

Bones 98 epic: cf Iliad, Odyssey, Encyclopedia Britannica

Bones 98 actual history of a forgotten world

Bones 99 invent wine, beer, writing

Bones 99 dust 30 feet over village [cf. Chocco]

Bones 99 life expectancy here about 45; robust people, tough life, souls are buoyant

grandmother in IL

Bones 100 abandoned by my own time: 2013

Bones 100 time-trip more traumatic than experiments

Bones 100 rainbow glow of Zeller ring [cf. Time machine, portal]

Bones 100 tribe found me; absolute fluke [cf. Luck, 101]

Bones 101 didn’t know a single useful thing, but took me to their village, fed me, clothed me, taught me their language [adoption instead of procreation]

Bones 101 uptime end

Bones 101 pure dumb luck [cf. Fluke 100]

Bones 102 primordial enemies, smell of fear  > laugh at myself

Bones 103 offers it to me x can’t take his lunch

Bones 104 if he smiles and shares his food then he’s human by me

Bones 105 Marty jumps about three feet in the air

Bones 105 has to be a song by tonight

Bones 106 wanted to see if I was really human?

Bones 106 All the time that I was congratulating them for not being the savages I had expected them to be, they were wondering how much of a savage I was.

Bones 106 tested depth of my humanity

Bones 107 bring good luck if treated well

Bones 107 learning secret language.  The one that only the members of the tribe may know.

 

 

 

 

Jeet Heer, "The New Utopians"

 

1-2 dystopia / utopia interact, one leads to or becomes the other

2 cf. Heaven and Hell

3 satirical responses

[4] In contemporary culture, utopia has all but disappeared from our imaginative map while dystopias proliferate.

6 K S Robinson, "humanist"

7 "Imagine what it might be like if we did things well enough to say to our kids, we did our best, this is about as good as it was when it was handed to us, take care of it and do better.”

8 Mars trilogy

9 Europe has a rich legacy of socialist science fiction

9 the United States has been more comfortable with libertarian science fiction that imagines space colonization as the next frontier for the free market.

10 U.K Le Guin

13 right wing doesn't believe in science > left wing stops believing in capitalism

14 unexpected hero: the bureaucrats of the National Science Foundation.

17 Three Californias trilogy, where every member of the community participates in lengthy political meetings (which, to be sure, is not everyone’s cup of tea, let alone ideal of a perfect society).

18 something for the few, not the many.

19 whether disasters have quite the politically benign effect that Robinson foresees.

20 easier to terraform Venus than to reach an international climate accord

21 suddenly, in the last few years, a new literary genre has emerged that hopes to revive ecological utopianism. Rallying under the banner “solarpunk,”

21 imagine positive futures where plausible technologies give us practical green solutions.

(steampunk) retro-futurism

22 “We’re solarpunks because the only other options are denial or despair.”