November 6th-8th, 2017
The Three Narratives in a Nutshell
Literature of the Future has been by far the most intriguing class that I have experienced throughout my college career. In this time, I have gained more knowledge about Sci-Fi movies/novels than I ever intended. On the same note, I’ve also been granted the opportunity to gain an appreciation for those who have laid the foundation for this subject. Creation/apocalypse, evolution, and alternative-future narratives have opened my eyes by allowing me to see things from different perspectives.
The creation/apocalyptic narrative presents us with a linear timeline that is much easier to comprehend. These particular narratives can be broken in three different spans: creation, expulsion, and an apocalypse (with the hope of new life and opportunity). This linear layout usually encompasses a biological life cycle where we see a rise or emergence, a blooming or some sort, and then an extreme downfall. Marion Johnson states “The creation/apocalypse narrative has ancient roots, and can be seen in texts such as the bible.” Genesis, the first book of the bible, embodies the perfect example of creation and expulsion of this type of narrative. Creationism is exhibited through God’s labor where he created the Earth and its belongings (including Adam and Eve) in 6 days. They are created in his image until they go against his word by committing the sin of eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. Once exiled, the couple has to endure many hardships as punishment. Apocalypse or “Millennialism”, on the other hand, is the belief in an end-time or transformation of the world. Revelation, the final book of the bible, portrays Christ as a hero who will defeat evilness, and lead his followers to a new life. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler is one of our main stories that follow this creation/apocalyptic narrative.
Lauren Olamina is the protagonist who lives in a walled community away from the world’s destruction and corruption. Her neighborhood acts as a utopia in comparison to the outside similarly to the Garden of Eden in Genesis. She goes on to lose her brother, Keith, her father goes missing, and eventually the remainder of her family is killed during a fire. Olamina is then forced out of her “safe haven” where she must sacrifice her life in order to rebirth her own utopia. In comparison to Revelation, Parable undergoes an environmental apocalypse since havoc engulfs the geography, and resources such as food and water are miniscule. As Parable progresses it eventually slips into our second narrative known as evolution.
Evolution can mean many different things, but its most basic meaning involves continuity, plus change where we begin to see in Lauren’s life firsthand. Olamina and her crew are survivors of what used to be and must learn to survive in the “dog-eat-dog” world that surrounds them. She creates her own philosophy, which opposed her father’s Baptist teaching called Earthseed. This becomes her driving force and guide of the new community that she begins to build during her journey. Throughout the novel, Lauren prophesizes about Earthseed’s key principles. God is change being the first, secondly, humans must adapt to the changing world around them for survival; thirdly, change is the greatest constant in life. In so many words, Earthseed basically states “in order to survive, one must become harmonious with change.” This type of statement goes hand in hand with Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory.
Stone Lives by Paul Di Filippo wholeheartedly places us under the evolution narrative. The “dog-eat-dog” or “survival of the fittest” theory is always a primary key in any evolutionary story. Stone, a blind man from a primitive and dysfunctional society, known as the Bungle, is the main character of the story. Filippo shows Stone evolving from the start to the finish of story. We often see a particular character become the “chosen” one in evolutionary narratives, which Stone was after being selected by a cyborg named Alice Citrine. Stone receives a set of artificial eyes that allow him to record the world around him, play it back at his convenience, and upload to a computer system. With his new senses, he’s able to assert dominance throughout the competitive environment that he has been shoved into. The final stage of evolution takes place at the end of the story when the company is attacked by assassins. This attack disabled the electronics in the building, including Stone’s artificial eyes. His old street-smart instincts from the bungle kick in, in order to kill the assassin who was looking for him. Stone is then left blind again without his implants and must succeed the throne of Citrine.
Another story that falls under the evolutionary umbrella is Bears Discover Fire by Terry Bisson. Unlike Stone Lives, Bears provides a setting that is a bit more homelike and warm that is somewhat relatable (being that a country setting brings comfort to many people as opposed to a poor man descending from a cyborg). In this story, bears have now learned to operate and use fire to their advantage. This shows that their existence has developed tremendously, and now they no longer hibernate contrary to what bears are known to do during winter. Historically, fire has always been a symbol of human advancement being that it provides us with both heat and light. Whether we want to admit it or not, the characters in the story had to evolve and adapt to this bizarre and unfamiliar situation. Because humans have evolved so much since the beginning of time; evolution in a sense has made human beings a bit arrogant. The idea that something “subhuman” being able to decently maneuver fire comes as a hard pill for humans to swallow.
Our last narrative of the three is the odd man out, and commonly referred to as alternative-future. This particular narrative can be a real mind-boggler because it pertains to quantum physics and time travel capabilities that the average person lacks basic knowledge of. In comparison to the linear creation-apocalypse narrative and evolutionary narratives, alternative-future narrative may seem out of the ordinary or exotic to most readers, but can provide the reader with new possibilities, insight, and unique perspectives on nature and reality.
Alternative future narratives have a tendency to provide its readers with foresight and decision-making options that may help them pick certain paths and possibilities to get to where they want to be. The story that embodies this narrative is titled Better Be Ready ‘Bout Half Past Eight in which gender fluidity is touched on. This story automatically fits under the alternative brim because Zach is beginning to experience what his life would be like as a woman. He begins to undergo changes that would ultimately alter his gender. Throughout the storyline, Zach expresses that he has finally found his own truth, which is the opposite of how he was born. Not only did Zach face obstacles due to his inner truth, Byron, his best friend did as well as a result of Zach’s big news. Byron then begins to experiment with his own sexual identity. Once Zach transforms into his new self, Byron also deals with a sexual orientation crisis that came along with self-doubt. Towards the end, we see Zach become content with a new lifestyle, while Byron pass less attention to his sexual identity, and shifts his focus on supporting Zach (now Zoe)’s new prescribed identity.
In a sense, both characters fulfill two different realities for the same “obstacle” or crisis. Eventually both Byron and Zach become comfortable with themselves for who they truly are, by picking their own paths of dealing with the truth. The idea of a new found truth shapes the theme for alternative-future narratives, and two separate timelines were created by showing us what the outcome could be in both cases.
Lastly, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells resembles several future narratives that incorporate all three that we’ve learned. It starts out as s time travel story with a loony timeline. The narrator, also known as the Time Traveler, talks about an ambiguous future that could be authentic but comes with a side of doubt. When you actually analyze the story, you realize that because the idea of time travel and quantum physics is a bit exotic, readers are almost forced to trust the Time Traveler’s words. The ambiguity of what the future may bring and the notion of time travel illustrates the alternative-future narratives. The evolution narrative is represented through both the Morlocks and the Elois. “By the year AD 802,701, humanity has evolved into two separate species, whereof the Eloi live a banal life of ease on the surface of the earth, while the Morlocks live underground, tending machinery and providing food, clothing, and inventory for the Eloi.” The excerpt from the story itself gives background to the two different species, and also makes a distinction between classes or status. The Elois were the elite or upper class, while the Morlocks were the working class group. That idea of the Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory seen in both Stone Lives and Parable is also represented in Time Machine by giving us the evolution of new species. The rich turn into poor imbeciles while the poor species turned into subsurface cannibals. As far as the creation-apocalypse narrative is concerned, the notion that end times are coming presented by a direct timeline solidifies this particular narrative.
In the end, all three narratives mesh together in a nutshell. Each story exemplifies the narratives by highlighting qualities that each narrative is known to possess. I’ve gained an appreciation for science fiction as a whole. In the future, I can’t wait to see what else this exotic chapter holds for me.