This component validates and substantiates my choice of theme and readings.

Part I:        Significance of theme

Science and literature have always been intertwined.  All stories are constructed upon a bed of scientific facts to improve their clarity and credibility.  A hundred years ago, a novel containing computers or cell phones or even dry-erase whiteboards would have been considered "science fiction", but could be considered historical fiction today.  So what exactly is science fiction?  What science fiction does is take a step further and introduces scientific facts just beyond our reach in order to improve the story.  Instead of limiting the author to erecting the story upon a preexisting bed of facts, and molding the story to fit the contours already given, the writer can create his own bed of futuristic or atypical facts to match the story.  This backwards method of constructing the reality to match the story gives science fiction writers more freedom to present stories, themes or characters in their purest forms.

Part II:      Selections

Speaker for the Dead in its purest form is about guilt and redemption.  The main character, Ender Wiggin, is responsible for the eradication of a sentient alien race when he was a child.  He directed the human fleets against the alien buggers through computer simulations and, in the end, blew up the bugger home planet.  And he thought he was just playing games.  After realizing this, he quickly composed a novel called the Hive Queen that beautifies this alien race he destroyed, explaining who they really are through his all-too-perfect understanding, and signs as Speaker for the Dead.  This novel takes place three thousand years after the bugger war, and Ender Wiggin is still alive; through the miracle of relativity, starflight has kept him young.  A primitive, but sentient alien race is discovered on a colony planet, and a war is beginning between humans and aliens all over again.  Ender journeys to planet Lusitania to investigate this conflict and prevent humankind from destroying yet another innocent species.

 What better way to emphasize guilt than have a goodhearted child just realize he murdered thousands of innocent creatures.  Science fiction definitely helps Orson Scott Card develop his characters, putting them into situations that shape them into the people they need to be to tell the story properly.

I came across "On the Late Massacre in P..." while looking for science fiction poems and I was awestruck.  This poem is definitely one of the best I have ever read, in any genre.  These are the human insecurities, discrimination and paranoia, explained through science fiction--but these science fictional aliens can easily be replaced by humans.  We have seen examples of discrimination in our past and present, and it is only a matter of time before we see it in our future.

"The Real Future" is a wonderful poem about how we should have no interest in the future.  This is the classic existential outlook, nothing really matters.  Nothing we do is significant, and the only things that will survive through time are things that speak to the concerns of the people.  But the future concerns are alien to us, and we do not understand them, so therefore, we will not be remembered, and we should not hope they remember us.

"Awe" is a simple poem explaining how beauty is more magical than all the mysteries of science.

"Doubts and Demons" proposes  the classical science fiction question, why should we extend into space when we cannot even live at peace with ourselves here on Earth.

"Old Robots are the Worst" and "It" are very similar poems in the themes they present.  If we ever design robots to do all the things we do, walk, talk, see, think, we have to realize that the robots will be just like us.  Even if our design is flawless and perfect.  Not only would they take on our abilities, they will take on our weaknesses.  There will be those robots who malfunction, those who cannot do things as well, those who cannot get a job.  Just like us, they will outdate and eventually, die.  Nothing can be  perfect.

"All We Know of the Nature of God" is a cute little piece that gives the basic message that we know nothing of God.

"Fat Farm" by Orson Scott Card is a hardcore science fiction novel, that uses cloning to enhance the character development of the main character, Mr. Barth.  Mr. Barth is a very rich, very hedonistic man, who loves nothing more than himself.  Often he indulges himself too much and gains an unhealthy amount of weight, so he goes to the "fat farm" and produces a young, thin, physically fit replica of him with all of his personality and memories.  What happens to his older, fatter clone is he is sent to a potato farm and forced to work in the hot sun under the supervision of this short-tempered wrinkly old man.  After two years of this torture, forced to work to exhaustion and beyond, being whipped daily by the old man for things he did or did not do, Barth wishes he had never agreed to clone himself and let his other self indulge himself while discarding his fat self.  two years pass, and finally, he is transferred to another assignment.  On his way out, he sees the new fat version of himself sent to work the potato farm, and is overwhelmed with a contempt.  "Why did you do it!  Why did you let it happen again!" he wanted to scream.  He realizes that his fate is to become the old man and eventually be the one holding the whip and taking his anger out on his fatter, stupider self.  This whole story can be an extended metaphor for just one person, describing the process he  goes through beating himself  up over making a mistake with his life.  The science fiction of cloning helps Orson Scott Card take  the term, "cycle of self-hate and loathing" to its science fictional potential.

Cube is an excellent science fiction movie, despite the poor script/acting.  It is a definite must on all sci-fi lovers' lists.  Six ordinary people (student, ex-con, engineer, social worker, cop, mentally handicapped) are trapped in a maze of interlocking cubes with no apparent way out.  They have no recollection of how they got there or why they were chosen.  They have no food or water and upon further investigation discover some of the rooms are booby trapped with creative devices of destruction.  Ultimately, this movie is the concept of "sticking a bunch of people into a box and seeing who comes out alive" taken to the extreme with science fiction.  Ultimately, this shows how people work together and develop relationships when situations are full of danger, and any one of them could die at any time.

"All We Have Is Now" by the Flaming Lips is basically explaining that we should live every day with no inhibitions, because we will not be part of the future anyway.  Very simple existential theme here, presented with science fiction when an old man from the future comes back and tells you that you are not a part of the future. 

Revised: June 13, 2003 .