Author Archives: Tyler Yuen

Science Fiction – Class Notes 9/25/18

Announcements

People’s Choice Posts winners for the reading responses have been announced. Congratulations to Sheng Nan-Zhang (The Machine Stops and The Star), Pedro Balbuena (The Machine Stops), Justin Bernard (The Star), and Vishal Naraine (Metropolis) for winning.

Not many people have been submitting votes for People’s Choice Posts. Don’t forget to read other people’s blogs and pick your favorite.  If unsure of when assignments are due check the Schedule in OpenLab for the due dates of assignments. A person may vote for themselves as long as it’s within reason.

Attendance has been fluctuating. Please attend class as much as possible.

 

“The Machine Stops” Discussion

Conflicts – different characters display different values putting them at odds

  • Kuno vs Machine
  • Kuno vs Vashti

Theme – What is the story trying to help us understand?

Symbols

  • The Book of the Machine – answer to everything, a guide, provides security and faith
  • The Machine – a home, organizer, protector, caretaker, a god

Settings

  • Vashti’s room – A home, place of comfort, eventual prison due to the Machine stopping
  • Airship – shows Vashti’s experience, provides no ideas to people, out of Machine’s reach causing discomfort among people
  • Surface of the Earth – Out of Machine’s reach, regarded as a dead wasteland that provides no ideas even though Kuno sees life on it
  • Tunnel – last location where everyone is found panicking

 

“The Star” Discussion

Summary

The Star is a bright object that is brought to the people’s attention after impacting Neptune.  It eventually becomes visible from Earth and elicits a variety of reactions from humans from fascination to apathy.  The Star is recognized as getting closer to Earth and nearly wipes out the human race with the survivors working on rebuilding.  Afterwards, Martian astronomers express their surprise on how Earth didn’t suffer as much as they expected.

Reactions when reading

  • Scared – pushed limits of what chaos can be/how it can be interpreted
  • Sadness – humans are trapped in a hopeless situation
  • Shock at the beginning, disappointment at the end

Characters

Ogilvy – stock character. Only mentioned once in the story.

Master Mathematician – character who gets the spotlight only for a brief moment before fading into obscurity

The Star – an entity that essentially has more development than the human characters.  Everything revolves around it.

  • Constantly characterized by its brightness
    • Brighter than the evening star at its brightest
    • Glowed out white and large
    • Clear shining disc
    • Twinkling spot of light
  • Presence evokes different reactions from the people
    • Remarkable but unnoticed by some.  Fails to capture the attention of homeless and weeping people
    • Policeman yawns upon seeing it
    • Most people stand agape at the sight of it
    • Causes panic among many due to being unknown and mysterious
    • People mostly only think of the Star in relation to how it affects them
  • Space – stands out due to its size
    • Vast mass of matter
  • Time – appeared in the early twentieth century.

Comparison to “The Machine Stops”

  • “The Star” has fewer characters to worry about. Those who are introduced are not dynamic characters giving readers no room to emotionally connect with them
  • “The Star” has fewer settings to worry about. Doesn’t particularly focus on a specific area or country in the story.
  • “The Star” is more simplistic and breezes through the coming and going of the Star
  • Both stories have first person narration but “The Star” puts more focus on the outside world rather than inside people’s heads
  • “The Star” doesn’t have a lot of dialogue and is focused more on description

 

Important Knowledge

Father’s of Science Fiction

  • Herbert George “H.G.” Wells (1886-1946) – wrote “War of the Worlds”
  • Jules Verne (1828-1905) – wrote “Journey to the Center of the Earth”
  • Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967) – published a science fiction magazine in 1926 which enabled a much wider audience to become invested in the science fiction genre.  Unlike the other two, he didn’t use the term “scientific romance”

 

Vocabulary and Terms

  • Euphemism (noun) – to sugarcoat, substitute a harsh/blunt expression with something more pleasant
  • Conflict (noun) – a disagreement generally caused by competing set of values
  • Theme (noun) – the main idea, message, or lesson
  • Erratic (adjective) – Irregular, unpredictable
  • Unprecedented (adjective) – Unknown, not preceded, not known before
  • Impalpable (adjective) – Can’t be touched
  • Vast (adjective) – Large, huge
  • Save (preposition) – Except for, other than
  • Scientific Romance (noun) – a precursor term used to categorize the “Science Fiction” genre. Applied in the mid 19th century.
  • Cherry Picking (verb) – A selective form of researching. Act of picking certain things but obscuring others. An example is politicians, who would take an idea and completely miss the bigger picture.
  • Apocalypse Break (noun) – an event that allows new things to happen. An example would be an ambiguous ending which leaves readers to imagine the ending themselves.

 

For Future Notice

When analyzing works, be sure to find textual evidence that helps interpret the elements of fiction (conflicts, theme, symbols, settings)

No new homework or blogs due next Thursday (9/27/18). Just review class notes in case we have a quiz. Remember to review “The Star” and “Metropolis”, which we’ll be discussing in class Thursday.  Also review the ending of “The Star” and consider “What is the story doing at the end?”

In the future we’ll focus on looking into the history of science fiction.

Professor Belli has received a donation of books that consist of writing books and guides. For those who are interested or need them for any purpose, go to the English Department to pick them up.

 

If I missed any notes, please comment below, I’ll make sure to correct the post.

Metropolis – Destined for Failure?

Metropolis is a silent film created by Fritz Lang in 1927.  It takes place in a futuristic city where the rich people known as “The Club of the Sons” enjoy a comfortable lifestyle free from stress.  While they live a carefree life, they mostly disregard the workers, a group of people who are considered lower class and work ten hours a day on a twenty hour schedule.  In a series of events, Metropolis is nearly destroyed due to the poor relations found in this story, the most notable ones being class inequality and person vs machine.

Early on in the film, we can already see what the workers are like.  They march like an organized military squad but what’s even more notable is that they’re all hanging their heads as though they’re depressed and being forced into their jobs (4:56).  It’s almost as if they’re robots themselves. This is a stark difference from The Club of the Sons who are seen smiling, racing together on the track, and dancing at the Eternal Gardens (7:13-8:00).  It’s very similar to an interpretation of Heaven and Hell. Up in Metropolis, people are allowed to enjoy themselves and live peaceful lives while down in the worker’s city, they’re constantly forced to work even if they’re exhausted to the point of fainting.  It’s obviously unfair which fuels the workers hatred for the rich people. The only people who can see they must live in peace together are Freder and Maria, the protagonists of the story. While many think the city is a paradise, it’s also a symbol of scorn to the worker’s according to the Legend of Babel (55:00).  In the end, both classes suffer losses, the workers city is submerged in water while Metropolis is stuck in the dark without the Heart Machine. The story shows that one person’s utopia is another person’s dystopia. Every positive has a negative and people should be more cautious of it as it will make a difference.

The other relationship was person vs. machine.  There was early symbolism in the beginning that showed this when Freder first visited the workers city.  An explosion caused by a workers mistake created a hallucination in Freders mind where workers are being sacrificed to the machine (14:30).  When Machine Maria incites a rebellion, their anger isn’t directed at the upper-class but at the machines they constantly work with (1:43:07).  All of these show that workers are just slaves to the machines. By tirelessly working on ten hours straight and being injured in explosions from the machines, the workers have practically lost their humanity.  Machine Marias appearance only deepened their hatred for technology as the idea of people controlling machines slowly became twisted into the reverse (2:19:26). The difference between worker and machine is barely noticeable as both simply function the way they’re ordered to.  All of this can be blamed on Joh Fredersen but the machines, which have become an object of hatred in the workers eyes, had turned them into the exhausted, broken humans they were in the story.

Like most science fiction stories, this one explores the possibility of an imperfect situation that eventually crumbles due to its flaws.  In this case, it examined what would happen to a seemingly perfect city that concealed all the lower class underneath the ground. Lang wrote Metropolis as a warning to people, all actions have consequences.  Should the management have looked down upon the labor force? No, because that provoked rebellion.  Should the labor force have taken their anger out on the machines? Still no, because that led to both Metropolis and the workers city taking collateral damage.  Now they’re forced to work together again to build both cities back up from destruction. Overall, humanity should be more cautious of their actions as the result may or may not be good.

The Star Blog

The Star by H.G. Wells is a short story similar to The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster in which Earth suffers as a result of a catastrophe.  In the story, a glowing white star has become visible above Earth’s surface which becomes an object of interest to the people on Earth.  Instead, it turns out to me a comet that completely alters Earth’s atmosphere, instantly killing many people with the natural disasters that occur due to the sudden climate.  The things that stuck out to me the most while reading this were the human’s reaction to the star and the martian’s reaction to human’s agony.

Throughout the story, H.G. Wells put a noticeably large amount of detail into humanity’s response to the star.  Some people had no interest in the star and brushed it off. Others showed interest in it but treated it like a constellation instead of something dangerous.  The reaction that stood out the most was the master mathematician. He had a theory, proved it, and said “‘Circumstances beyond my control,’ he said and paused, ‘which will debar me from completing the course I had designed.  It would seem, gentlemen, if I may put the thing clearly and briefly, that-Man has lived in vain.’” (Page 3). Despite his great mind, his accurate prediction of the impending calamity, he immediately gives up and isn’t willing to come up with a solution to ease humanity’s upcoming suffering other than a forewarning.  Afterwards, when the star came to Earth like the mathematician predicted, people panicked and did odd things such as taking a ship out into the ocean even though thunderstorms and tsunamis started stirring up. All of the reactions H.G. Wells wrote down perfectly captures the diverse and imperfect nature of humans.

At the end of the story, there’s one last group of people that had their very own reaction, the Martians astronomers.  They were considered “very different from men” yet we see them saying things like “it is astonishing what a little damage the earth, which it missed so narrowly, has sustained. (Page 7)”.  Their response shows that they acknowledge the suffering of the humans but the way they did sounded very indifferent. Their response is quite insensitive but when you think about it, isn’t that how humans would react if they see or hear something terrible happening to another?  If someone else is going through a rough experience wouldn’t the typical reply be “Oh, that’s too bad.” The martians may be different from humans but their response was precisely how a human would act.

Compared to The Machine Stops, we can see several differences and similarities.  The Machine Stops is post-apocalyptic and humans are all very similar as a result of the Machine taking care of them.  The Star is closer to apocalyptic and humans are capable of showing different reactions to the imminent crisis.  They both show early signs of the nearing end, have someone who is aware of the danger (Kuno and the master mathematician) yet both times, humans are incapable of avoiding their fate.  By comparing both of them, we can see that humans are at fault because of their inability or lack of will to take action.

As science fiction short story, I think this was written because H.G. Wells wanted to create a hypothetical scenario to help humanity open its eyes.  We have our flaws but a lot of the time, we’re not willing to do anything to fix them, even if we do acknowledge them. This story perfectly showed how people would act in times of emergency and if more people could imagine an event like this happening, we could possibly better ourselves as human beings.

Reading Response 1: The Machine Stops

The “Machine Stops” was a little hard to get into as it started in the middle of story but over time, the entire situation unfolded making it more understandable.  Earth was considered uninhabitable, a desolate wasteland almost akin to a desert, and people were forced to live underground with the help of technology called “The Machine.”  As the story goes on there are several signs that the Machine is not some ordinary appliance such as its capabilities, how people treat it, and how it treats the people.

The Machine first appears as a piece of technology with a multitude of capabilities.  It plays music for people, can move people across the room without forcing them to get up, and acts as a communication device for people.  But as the story progresses, it becomes more obvious that it’s not just a tool that makes people’s lives more convenient. It decides where people live, housing them in hexagonal rooms, creates artificial air and lighting for people, several things which aid people in living underground.  It might have seemed like a utopia to the people but it was clear that they were too dependent on this Machine. They practically became incompetent since the Machine took care of their every need. When the Machine began to fail, they didn’t know how to fix it, leading to the death of many.

Even before the re-establishment of religion was implemented into the story, there were indications that people already worshipped the Machine.  When the Book of the Machine was introduced and Vashti was on the airship, she clung to it tightly along with other passengers on board. The next sign was when the airship attendant stated “How we have advanced, thanks to the Machine”and their comment was quickly repeated by Vashti and another fellow passenger.  Even the quiet hum of the Machine was enough to comfort people in times of distress. People don’t treat their computer like a god but in this story, it was evident that the Machine was viewed like one. It wasn’t taken for granted, at least, not until the later half of the story after it started failing which roused complaints from the people.  Although people treated it like a sentient being, in the end it was just a machine, one that failed to function after being overused.

As for the Machine’s interaction with the people, it initially appears to be somewhat of a caretaker to the people but it’s also possible that it wasn’t so amicable.  It constantly catered to people’s needs, such as whipping out a bed for them when needed or raising a platform to pick up a dropped item. When one of the protagonists, Kuno, finds his way to the surface illegally, the Machine deploys a robot called The Mending Apparatus to go find and recapture him.  The Mending Apparatus even kills a woman that attempted to help Kuno. It began to look like the Machine actually cared little for human life and simply wished to keep people under its rule. Other signs are not allowing Kuno to adopt children because he’s athletic and rebellious, qualities which would cause a lot of trouble for the Machine.  People often mistreat machines in real life, so the idea of a machine wanting to keep humanity under its thumb isn’t too far fetched. The real reason it didn’t annihilate humankind is possibly because it knew that it needed someone to fix it, only to realize near the end, the knowledge of repairing technology was lost forever.

On a side note, while I was reading this, the whole concept reminded me of a movie that came out two years ago called 10 Cloverfield Lane, a science fiction psychological horror film.  It involves many of the same ideas that were found in this story, an Earth that’s considered dangerous on the surface, people being forced to live underground, and even an escape to the surface through a ventilation shaft.  The biggest difference is that 10 Cloverfield Lane’s Earth is uninhabitable because (Spoiler Alert) it got invaded by aliens that try to kidnap or kill humans on sight.

Tyler’s Introduction

Hello everyone, my name is Tyler Yuen. I’m an upper sophomore at New York City College of Technology.  I’m majoring in Mechanical Engineering Technology. In my free time, I usually stay at home and play video games, watch anime, or read manga.  I’ve used OpenLab before but only for looking at exam review material and never for blogging. When it comes to homework assignments I mainly use Blackboard.  I joined this class because a friend recommended it to me and now that I have a better understanding of what science fiction includes, I feel like it could be pretty fun topic to discuss with all of you!

As a writer, reader, & thinker, I would say my strengths in literature are being a quick reader and a good knowledge of vocabulary words (which helps me get a good understanding of texts sometimes).  My weaknesses are my short attention span which makes it difficult to read texts that take too long to get to the point and if it’s too wordy, I’m slower at forming opinions during critical thinking. I enjoy reading and critical thinking because, depending on the genre, you can vision an experience you might never see in life.  It’s similar to video games. Some authors create first person point of views because they want the audience to see something as though it were through their own eyes. For writing, I enjoy how it allows people to put their creativity to use. People have deep imaginations and the best way to put them to use is sometimes by writing about what’s on their mind.  If I had to choose something I dislike about the three positions, I would say I hate reading to figure out things like the author’s theme or tone.

I don’t really have a favorite genre of literature so I’d be willing to try almost anything.  I DO however detest bad endings so Tragedies are definitely NOT my favorite. My favorite text is Rick Riordan’s series Heroes of Olympus.  Before entering the course I figured science fiction included space, astronomy, aliens, anything that was similar to Star Trek. I’ve been open to the subject in the past but if it starts following the same pattern, I could get bored of it easily.  I think science fiction connects quite well with my major since mechanical engineers are all about designing machines while science fiction can also include the advancement of technology. I hope we can share more interesting science fiction novels with each other as this semester goes on.