LITR 4368 Literature of the Future
lecture notes


evolution after break

Science fiction as Literature of Ideas

narrative as knowing

show three narratives of future

scripture, tradition

nature, economics

 

 

 

narrative: evolution "Stone Lives" (handout) and "Bears Discover Fire" (FP 17-28);

 

short reading assignment this week, so catch up and prepare for pre-midterm this week and new readings next week

what future-vision presentations are for.

inevitable limits to what someone my age can know about what people your age are experiencing and seeing of a future I can only glimpse

On the other hand, we have time-limits to respect, so my main advice for future future-vision presentations is to be ready to talk but also to let the presenter finish the presentation

Student-led discussions are often more interesting and entertaining for a number of reasons, but their main danger is that they just spin out into popular-culture without necessarily helping you prepare for what you'll be tested on.

So another possible advice is for students to try to connect what you're seeing in the future-visions to our course texts, terms, objectives--then you're more likely to use what we're discussing on what you write.

Finally about future-vision presentations, pre-midterm doesn't mention them, but welcome to mention what you've seen if you can integrate it into the paragraphs you're writing

On midterm (not pre-midterm), made a note to mention future-visions as possible references

 

 

Back to Parable of the Sower

2. Discuss blending of apocalypse and evolution in Parable of Sower (and later texts like Time Machine).

2a. How are both present? How account for co-presence instead of mutual exclusion? [Culture-Wars model is either one or the other]

[concluding discussion] 2b. Where do apocalypse and evolution diverge? Where do they meet? Can you reconcile seeing the world as both apocalypse and evolution, rather than one excluding the other? If so, how?

 

Answer to #2

Lauren and Parable talk a lot about evolution

change (child going beyond shadow of parent)

but also continuity (children resemble parents)

survival

adaptation

 

So far so good, but pre-midterm and midterm test "narratives of the future," so my final move last class was to grant that

speculative fiction: mostly cultural evolution

possible mutation of hyperempathy as useful development for limiting social aggression

 

 

> creation-apocalypse story / narrative in Scriptural Texts of Creation & Apocalypse + Parable of the Sower

Creation / birth / childhood
(human & divine united)

exile into human history, adulthood

end-times, apocalypse, death

rebirth, immortality?
(human & divine re-united)
Genesis: God as father, humans as innocent children in garden fulfilling needs, human union with God; "tree of life" (immortality) serpent introduces knowledge of sin, sex > exile from garden > labor for sustenance, procreation Revelation: continued sin, decline, lack of faith > fire, death, division of damned and saved
"a sea of glass mingled with fire"
new heaven and new earth, heaven as restoration union b/w human and God, restoration of "tree of life" (immortality)


Parable: "Preacher-Dad" as father, children on brink of sexuality, walled community as garden with trees that sustain life (acorns > acorn bread); Bad people threaten, force learning, enter and destroy garden (fire) > exile > journey, survive (labor?) "Sea of fire," devastation

some die, some survive
ideal community ("Acorn") founded

trees planted from seeds from original garden

 

Answer to 2a: symbols

2a. How are both present? How account for co-presence instead of mutual exclusion? [Culture-Wars model is either one or the other]

Symbols are images from common nature, but symbols mean

We don't have to understand symbols and narratives for them to work on us. They work on our unconscious as well as our conscious. (Writers themselves may not be entirely conscious of all their symbols and narratives are doing.)

Literary studies as making the unconscious conscious, gaining control of language, managing conflict.

learn to distinguish new stories from same old stories, or how old stories recombine to form new ones (evolution)

 

2a. How are both (evolution and apocalypse) present? How account for co-presence instead of mutual exclusion? [Culture-Wars model is either one or the other]

2b. . . .  Can you reconcile seeing the world as both apocalypse and evolution, rather than one excluding the other? If so, how?

 

 

 

 

Discussion Questions: 1. What key terms, symbols, or ways of thinking signal that these stories operate in a world built on evolutionary premises? (Consider terms or ideas like change, adaptation, survival, + plenty of animal characters and symbols.)

Stone p. 179 top paragraph

Serengeti water hole . . . business . . . jungle

179 middle paragraph

Bronx Jungle, a. k. a. the Bungle

179 survive another day in the Bungle.  Survival is his main—his only—concern

 

197 primary interest of business is growth and dominance

197 reverted to a primary struggle, which continues to this day

[social darwinism: fusion of biological and cultural terms]

 

196 beautiful, gaudy, exciting—but basically unfair

196 I may have increased the disparity

rich richer, poor poorer

213 Slithering beast of commerce, it’s a snakepit out there.

 

evolution + creation-apocalypse

181 Parents? What're they?

 

199-200 fire

 

Bears

21 first new species in recent history = newberry

21 warm winters changed hibernation cycle, now remember from year to year

“Bears may have discovered fire centuries ago but forgot it”

22 mother first woman school bus driver in state

 

 

 



2. What picture of humanity do these stories (and evolutionary models) create? What assumptions about the way nature, time, and society are organized, esp. in contrast to creation-apocalypse?

199 your ancestor and mine

 

192 Alice 152 years old

195 June over sixty

 

194 June < German + Vietnamese

 

187 underdwellers

192 higher off the grasping earth

 

 

 

3. Preview high tech / low tech scenarios (29 March, 5 April): Are "Stone Lives" & "Bears" high tech or low tech sf? What different appeals?

high tech

183 eye system, charge-coupled devices

[human as machine, organic > mechanical]

194 subdermal pattern of microchannels

189 mnemotropin—encoding of long-term memories > brain expands

 

Low tech

19 in front of TV, flickering soothes them down [cf. Fire]

20 theory: following I-65 down from forests of Michigan and Canada

 

family: brother, mom, school bus drivers

 

 



4. "Stone Lives" is our most typical science fiction story all semester—How? Discuss formulaic gender, depiction of world, and esp. romance narrative (esp. superhero protagonist tasked with saving a pre- or post-apocalyptic scene while babes swoon and die).

 

 

 

 

 

5. "Bears" is an unusually humorous sf story—how? What makes it amusing? How does its narrative fit the definition of comedy? How may humor or comedy serve science fiction's function of making science familiar or comfortable to non-scientific readers?

Aristotle, Poetics

 

 

18 light coming from 2 bears, holding torches

19 Looks like bears have discovered fire

 

20 minister + real estate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question for evolution presentation:

How do today's stories make the subject more familiar, less threatening?

Literature as entertainment + instruction, science fiction as Literature of Ideas

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: How do people describe the world of business as a biological-evolutionary world?

213 Slithering beast of commerce, it’s a snakepit out there.

 

Discuss “Bears Discover Fire”

Hypothesis: Science fiction can introduce non-scientists to important ideas about nature, technology, the future

Question 1: How does "Bears Discover Fire" exemplify sf as a way to make a topic like evolution "friendly" to average readers?

Question 2: What are the "signs" of evolution in the story?

 

 

“Bears Discover Fire”

 

17 old-fashioned one in family

18 light coming from 2 bears, holding torches

19 Looks like bears have discovered fire

19 in front of TV, flickering soothes them down [cf. Fire]

20 theory: following I-65 down from forests of Michigan and Canada

20 don’t hibernate, make a fire for winter

20 minister + real estate

21 first new species in recent history = newberry

21 warm winters changed hibernation cycle, now remember from year to year

“Bears may have discovered fire centuries ago but forgot it”

22 mother first woman school bus driver in state

22 your mother has escaped

26 rude to whisper

27 only a few bears knew fire, and carried others along [cf. Tire]

 

 

Question 1: How does "Bears Discover Fire" exemplify sf as a way to make a topic like evolution "friendly" to average readers?

17 old-fashioned one in family

19 Looks like bears have discovered fire

(folksy speech + Prometheus myth)

 

 

Question 2: What are the "signs" of evolution?

21 first new species in recent history = newberry

21 warm winters changed hibernation cycle, now remember from year to year

(conditions change, environment changes > species adapt or go extinct)

 


"Stone Lives"

 

preview evolution readings

3 short stories in very different settings

how are they all about evolution? What key terms signal the worldview?

what assumptions about the way the world, nature, time are organized?

what picture of humanity?

compare / contrast apocalyptic narrative

 

 

Evolution in “Stone Lives”

197 civilized world = large-scale bungle

199 re-creation bsed on dead fossil cells

199 your ancestor and mine

 

 

179 Bronx Jungle, a. k. a. the Bungle

179 survive another day in the Bungle.  Survival is his main—his only—concern

197 primary interest of business is growth and dominance

197 reverted to a primary struggle, which continues to this day

[social darwinism: fusion of biological and cultural terms]

 

Technological / economic / political change

184 union of Free Enterprise Zones

186 built in the Oughts, during the boom period following Second Constitutional Convention

196 beautiful, gaudy, exciting—but basically unfair

196 I may have increased the disparity

rich richer, poor poorer

187 underdwellers

188 bungle > multiplex, extravagant, pulsating world

189 terminal = magic window on the world > to almost every other in world

191 flight plan, Mexico City

193 Mexico City, 35 million < relief from Houston and Dallas locations

 

Modern economics must always grow

Human populations or markets must also grow

 

"Social Darwinism"

196 I may have increased the disparity

rich richer, poor poorer

 

 

 

 

apocalypse and evolution?

 

Evolutionary future in “Stone Lives” and “Bears”

 

"Stone Lives"

178 Immigration office—the Bungle

178 Citrine rejuve

178 imprint

179 Bronx FEZ

179 Bronx Jungle, a. k. a. the Bungle

179 deeply memorized

179 survive another day in the Bungle.  Survival is his main—his only—concern

180 a refined woman’s voice

181 subtle component, sense of life

181 return to known dangers of Bungle

181 [Stone blinded]

181 Parents? What’re they?

181 proof of citizenship and access to system

182 a job? A contract?

182 hot central pleasure of having survived

183 another, kinder century

183 eye system, charge-coupled devices

[human as machine, organic > mechanical]

184 mnemonic keywords > several functions

184 union of Free Enterprise Zones

185 cyber-therapist

185 frack—processed krill

186 land that did not even exist a century ago

186 built in the Oughts, during the boom period following Second Constitutional Convention

187 vast age clinging to her

187 underdwellers

187 reading, writing—outmoded skills

188 machines to read to you and transcribe your speech

188 bungle > multiplex, extravagant, pulsating world

188 discovery of history

189 Stone persists

189 terminal = magic window on the world > to almost every other in world

189 each path he follows has a branch every few steps

189 June, Asian eyes aglow

189 mnemotropin—encoding of long-term memories > brain expands

190 the vain and powerful woman sees her life as the dominant theme of the modern era, a radiant thread passing through time, with critical nodes of action strung on it like beads.

191 “Just like Alice.”

191 flight plan, Mexico City

192 Higher off the grasping earth . . . wild and rich and free

192 Alice 152 years old

192 America still states rather than FEZ and ARCadias

192 Free Enterprise Zones

192 carbon chips, near total rejuvenation

192 make a difference. Matter

193 Mexico City, 35 million < relief from Houston and Dallas locations

193 why not step in before collapse? > refugees

194 subdermal pattern of microchannels

194 June < German + Vietnamese

194 Reunification Germany

195 June over sixty

195 lifelike pictures of things that never existed, Stone a living camera

196 Avernus? [Roman entrance to Hell]

196 beautiful, gaudy, exciting—but basically unfair

196 I may have increased the disparity

rich richer, poor poorer

 

197 avoiding assassination

197 primary interest of business is growth and dominance

197 reverted to a primary struggle, which continues to this day

197 civilized world = large-scale bungle

199 re-creation based on dead fossil cells

199 your ancestor and mine

199 bungle instincts take over

200 Alice died instantly

201 June kills self with implant

201 Blood of my blood

 

 

“Bears Discover Fire”

 

17 old-fashioned one in family

18 light coming from 2 bears, holding torches

19 Looks like bears have discovered fire

19 in front of TV, flickering soothes them down [cf. Fire]

20 theory: following I-65 down from forests of Michigan and Canada

20 don’t hibernate, make a fire for winter

20 minister + real estate

21 first new species in recent history = newberry

21 warm winters changed hibernation cycle, now remember from year to year

“Bears may have discovered fire centuries ago but forgot it”

22 mother first woman school bus driver in state

22 your mother has escaped

26 rude to whisper

27 only a few bears knew fire, and carried others along [cf. Tire]

 

 

Assignments for Time Machine

 

Ideally, read Time Machine first, then stories for today, but this way you get the weekend for Time Machine

 

Time Machine as "sf classic"

After classes on Revelation, can’t just call Literature of the Future a science fiction course 

but science fiction indispensable to course concept and objectives

 

book only 100+ pages, a few may not like it, but most will race through it

8. To distinguish distinct temporal dimensions of the future

·        Near future; short-term; day-after-tomorrow (often dramatic or apocalyptic change, such as alien contact)

·        Deep future, long-term (usually evolutionary change involving natural or artificial adaptations to new or changing environments)

·        Various depths of future between, beyond, parallel, or skew

Deep future, as in very deep

 

1.     To identify, describe, and criticize narratives or stories humans tell about the future:

a.      Apocalyptic

b.     Evolutionary

c.      Alternative

 

All 3 of our narratives can be found in Time Machine, but primarily an evolutionary narrative

Apocalyptic: dramatic, sudden, personal

Evolutionary: usually slow, hard to witness, impersonal

 

objective 5. To interpret literature of the future as reflections of the present in which it is written.

The Time Machine ("Life of H. G. Wells," v-viii; "Introduction," ix-xvi;

Wells 1866-1946

background: late 19th century first coming to terms with Darwin's new theoretical framework for biology, life on earth

Darwin's voyage to South America, South Seas 1831-1836

1859: Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection

 

questions or issues that can help understand how engrained evolution is in our minds and lives, even if many reject it for theological reasons

What is "Social Darwinism?"

separation of society into winners and losers (cf. Darwinism: “survival of fittest”)

late 19th century (when Wells was writing)—robber barons, captains of industry, financiers (Carnegie, Mellons) x heavy industrial workers

 

Two species of humans in deep future of Time Machine

Eloi& Morlocks

Descendants of privileged classes & working people