RWA5: “Hyper-Reading” Del Rey and Reviewing SF Keywords

RWA5.1: “Hyper-Reading” Del Rey

This week, rather than engaging solely in “close reading,” as we have for the last several weeks, we will engage in a combination of “close reading” and what the literary critic N. Katharine Hayles refers to as “hyper reading.”  To engage in this “hyper reading,” or what is sometimes called, “distant reading” exercise, please read Lester Del Rey’s “Helen O’Loy” (1938) in the context of its original publication.  The story was published in Astounding Science Fiction and edited by John W. Campbell.  If you’d like to read a bit more about the author, you will find information about Del Rey here.

While you will certainly attend to the elements of fiction and science fiction in the story as you read it, you will also be thinking about these and the story in general in relation to other stories and texts published in the magazine.  To do this, please flip through the issue of the magazine in which the story was published.  Look at the paratextual elements: the cover, the advertisements, the table of contents, the editor’s introduction, and the titles and authors of the other stories included. Then, please read the story, attending not only to the verbal content of the story but also to any illustrations or captions that accompany it.  

Afterward, in your Reading Journal, please write about your experience of reading this story.  Did reading it in the context of its original publication change your understanding of the story?  If so, why?  If not, why not?  How did the inclusion of one or more illustrations relate to your reading of the story?  Did the illustration(s) enhance your understanding of the story or were they more of a distraction?  Did the illustrations function in some other way?  Please explain.  

Finally, of the many different paratextual elements of the magazine (cover, illustrations, advertisements, titles, captions, table of contents, editorial), choose one that most stood out for you.  Why did it interest you?      

For your reference and assistance with this Time Travel Experience:

Wikipedia Timeline of Historic Inventions

Wikipedia: 1938

RWA5.2: Literary Studies and SF Keywords: Please read through the definitions and comments that have been contributed to the SF Keywords post by members of our class and review this list of terms, making sure that you have an understanding of what each one means.  If you have have any questions about any of these terms, please bring these to our next class session.

10 thoughts on “RWA5: “Hyper-Reading” Del Rey and Reviewing SF Keywords

  1. In the story of “Helen O’ Lay” by Lestor Del Reys its about two guys name Dave and Philip who created a robot, but decided to make a beautiful women robot. Dave and the women robot which her name is Helen ended up together and Philip was thier best friend to both of them. Dave acted distanct with Helen because he knew she wasnt a real women. Helen did everything to make him happy and even she wanted to with him even thou, she knew she was a robot. At the end of the story Dave grew old and eventually pass away, and Helen stay the same but she also wanted to pass away with Dave because she Loved him. My experience is that I like this story because I been reading stories and they talk about the future and how in the future there always robots involed, being good or evil and even questioning the way of life and religion. The only inllusitration in these story is of a men hugging a women and Im assuming that Dave and Helen.

  2. What stuck out most to me was the picture of Helen and Phil. The reason being is that it made me believe that Helen was just a normal human. Wow, I was far from that. It convinced me that Helen would be a human in this story and that some peculiar stuff would occur this person. Turns out, Helen was a robot that developed feelings for one of her creators. But after reading the story, the picture meant something else to me. Underneath the exterior was metal and wires, the bones and veins of a robot. Despite having such cold, metallic things within her body, Helen ended up feeling warm and heartfelt feelings. That picture just gave me some insight about what qualifies someone to be considered “human”.

  3. Lester Del Rey’s story “Helen O’Loy” is about Phil, an endocrinologist, and his friend Dave, a mechanic, in their attempts to build a robot with emotions and feelings. After a failed relationship with women and the erratic behavior of giving a robot maid emotions, they succeed in creating a robot that can replicate a woman both physically and emotionally. They end up being too successful, as they are disturbed by a robot that can have its own thoughts and project love and desires like any other human. In the end, they accept her emotions as genuine, and end up falling in love with their perfect woman that is technically not a woman.

    The illustrations that are published alongside the text give an image of the social context that the story takes place in. All of the men are cleanly groomed and dressed in the same neat and clean business wear, even for dirty labor jobs. Most of the advertisements are offerings for learning a profession or trade or for medicine to cure common ailments. Within the story, both Phil and Dave spend their leisure time talking about their profession and indulging in side projects. This suggests a rapidly growing industrious society, and most if not all men are fully employed and spend all of their time in their profession or trade.

    The story also provides some historical insight into how science fiction has changed. Being published in 1938, this story precedes discoveries such as the silicon transistor, modern computers, and artificial intelligence. Even the most advanced machines at the time were still composed of gears, vacuum tubes, and electro-mechanical relays. In addition, many of the credited “originators” of modern psychology have either just finished publishing their life’s work or are beginning research into what would become new schools of psychology, changing the way that people understand the human mind and how people think. Phil and Dave both represent these evolving fields of psychology and mechanics, and combine to create something almost unimaginably fictional at the time: a robot, a collection of gears, motors, and relays made to do menial labor, that could so perfectly mimic a human’s thought process and express love.

  4. What I found very interesting and liked was the way the story started. The reason why I liked the way it started was because it reminded me about some old stories I used to read, they would always have a drawing and a couple of lines from the story to follow it.
    I found it very interesting because after you read the story and go back to look at the picture, you look at the way it is drawn and what it has. You notice that there is not much difference in the way they draw Helen and Phil, both are made to look very much human. The way that she greets him is also very interesting because most robot servants don’t greet you like that, her greeting was human like.

  5. Lester Del Rey’s story “Helen O’Loy,” happens to be about two young men, that are also best friends. One of them being a mechanic, Dave, and the other a medical student, Phil come together and put their skills together to build a robot. Now this robot was really only meant for household work such as cooking and cleaning, but Dave and Phil unknowingly had be more successful than they realized. The robot “Helen O’Loy,” develops feelings and falls for Dave. Dave at first rejects these feelings but ends up growing old with her. Dave later passes away and Helen asks Phil to basically kill her system and bury her next to Dave. One plot twist is that Phil has been secretly in love with Helen.
    I think that having the picture was a great plus for the story. You can only go so far with picturing a story by yourself. Seeing the picture of Helen and what’s suppose to be Dave, really helped me believe that she was real. She looked like an actual woman, not even having any visible robotic limbs or joints. So yeah I’d say the illustrations interest me the most.

  6. Lester Del Rey’s story “Helen O’Loy,” happens to be about two young men, that are also best friends. One of them being a mechanic, Dave, and the other a medical student, Phil come together and put their skills together to build a robot. Now this robot was really only meant for household work such as cooking and cleaning, but Dave and Phil unknowingly had be more successful than they realized. The robot “Helen O’Loy,” develops feelings and falls for Dave. Dave at first rejects these feelings but ends up growing old with her. Dave later passes away and Helen asks Phil to basically kill her system and bury her next to Dave. One plot twist is that Phil has been secretly in love with Helen.
    I think that having the picture was a great plus for the story. You can only go so far with picturing a story by yourself. Seeing the picture of Helen and what’s suppose to be Dave, really helped me believe that she was real. She looked like an actual woman, not even having any visible robotic limbs or joints. So yeah I’d say the illustrations interest me the most.

  7. Lester Del Rey’s Helen O’loy

    -Nineteen o’clock? Are they in Europe somewhere? Is one of the main characters tied to the military somehow?

    -The idea that sensation are the cause of emotion

    -Her/it’s name is Lena

    -Calls it “Homo Mechanensis”

    -They start to improve her more and she develops “the perfect dinner with six wires crossed”, eventually she even threw “a tantrum and swore vigorously” at them

    -Starts showing early symptoms of consciousness and Descartes ideology “doubt everything, for the origin of wisdom is doubt”

    -Deemed Lena dangerous because of the way things were going, they feared that there could be dire consequences. So they take no chances.

    -The result of this is Helen. This result kind of remind me of the old story of the “first woman” known as Lilith in religious texts and in myths.

    -Gave helen a “rubber rite face which was designed for flexibility to express emotions”, she was complete “with tear glands and taste buds” in order to “stimulate every human action from breathing to pulling hair.” Made her look and feel very human. Doesn’t explicitly say it, but earlier and this foreshadow that she will develop emotions because of these newfound sensations.

    -They had carefully prepared thoughts of “consciousness and awareness of life”, I believe this is a cautionary measure for everything that happened with Lena to not repeat itself or even have it worse than before. But, that in itself could have dire consequences.

    -She tells Phil that he’s sort of a godfather to her; but Phil also stated, due to him noticing that she spent most of her time staring at the front door. Leading me to believe she was seeking freedom but stayed with them because she would be judged or misunderstood in a world she did not fully understand or was something keeping her there?. … or maybe she couldn’t stop waiting for Dave… if so, why?

    -Phil started to see something was wrong. As the text progressed, it showed that Helen found a love story on a channel and she eventually tried kissing dave because of it. He gave her a lesson on “her station of life” and “folly of her ways”. Nevertheless she later stated, “I know, Dave, but I still love… You”. Hellen would continuously cry when Dave came home late and even fussed over him and threw herself at him. She really wanted him and you almost felt sympathy, empathy, and even pity at one point.

    Reminded me of…

    1.Invader Zim (2001-2004)
    2.Rick and Morty (2015-)
    3.Humans by AMC (2015-)
    4.Futurama(1999-2013)

    -Phil decided that maybe they should disconnect Helen, but Dave already thought of that. And Helen would wail and say it was murder, this David also agreed that it was murder. This basically leads to a moral dilemma and to two questions; what does it truly mean to exist and can we coexist with other conscious, sentient beings? And if cannot create life, what gives us the right to take it away?

    For Example: Helen, Dave, and phil all have consciousness, yet can they coexist with each other?

    -Helen later asked him if she’s bad for him and explores Martin Heidegger’s philosophy; exploring the idea of being and non-being. Even stating a man wants flesh and blood, not rubber and metal”, but Aren’t we all in fact both machines? Just made of different materials? Even justifying the idea that we humans are just an inferior model?; she eventually persuaded Phil of her position and he gave up.

    -Helen eventually couldn’t believe herself to be a robot. Interesting. Therefore, doesn’t consciousness define what is truly alive?

    -In a poetic twist, Helen was more human than Dave or Phil. The ending was saddening(almost made me tear up). when Dave died, Helen(not “it”) wanted to die with him and cross the last bridge, the bridge to the afterlife. I found this story way more amazing than the other stories we have read, technologically and the way the story was composed, I’ve grown very fond of this story.

    • *
      – This text also uses ideas of Chinese philosophy
      1. Hanfizie – freedom? will you do the same thing you’re doing now if you had it? for you are not free right now.
      2. Lao Tzu(+ Sigmund Freud) – is what you want really what you want? or is you’re external circumstances or environment messing you up? or in truth to a human being, isn’t society fucking you up?

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