Coursera: Fantasy and Science Fiction (Summer 2012) discussion

Unit VIII: Bradbury > As usual... what to write?

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message 1: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments I'm a bit discouraged about the essays and so I'm having a really hard time this time. I know I've said before that I didn't know what to write, but in the past it's more been that I just couldn't pick a topic. This time I feel more like it won't matter much whatever topic I pick.

Trying to come up with something original just seems to be really impossible at this point.

Maybe I've picked up too much on the fatalistic tone from the readings...

I thought about writing about the male phallic symbol of the rocket and how Mars changed once the advent of females to the planet, but after the comment from last time about how I'm just writing what's obvious... well, I'm afraid that I can't see anything other than the obvious.

Anyone else having this issue?

message 2: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hertzoff (hilandmum) | 18 comments With the assumption, based on the previous essays, that at least one of my reviewers won't 'get' my essay and at least one will praise it, I'm just writing what the book means to me, my impressions of what he's trying to say.

message 3: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Oh, I had that problem all last night - I know exactly where you're coming from. I was so frustrated and annoyed with the whole book and discouraged by last week's results too. Got a story for you :)

My lovely husband dared to stick his head around the door despite the growly muttering and said "If you want to clear your head, pop outside - the clouds have lifted and the stars are out". That's a rare occurence here so I grumblingly went outside.

Just as I turned about to wonder where Mars might be, I saw a shooting star. I've never seen one before.

Went back inside, finished the book, found everything dropped into place for me in one of the last stories. It wasn't an easy essay to pull together - lots of flipping back and forth - and no doubt it'll get shredded, but *I* liked making the discoveries I found and *that* is why I'm doing this course - screw the peer reviews. Prof Rabkin helped me find a new skill. :)

I'm going to polish it up a bit tonight - if you're still stuck I may get brave and post it?

message 4: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments I'm glad your husband's suggestion helped you find an idea!

I was wondering..does anyone know if there were any stories where we actually saw any Martian children? I've looked through and can't find any, but I may have missed something.

message 5: by Seawood (new)

Seawood No, I don't think there were any, exactly - only Martians posing as human children, in the "hallucination" expedition, and the later one where "Tom" can't keep up with the changes. The Martians all seemed terribly old, wise and a bit stupid...

message 6: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Okay I had an's mine. Any comments are appreciated!

In the story titled 'Ylla', you have a husband who lives in the past and a wife who dreams of the future. The husband fears this and literally kills his wife's dream, thus keeping her in the past with him.

When we first see Yll, he is absorbed in the ancient voice of his book and the song of the past. Ylla, his wife, longs for more from him and her life. While dozing, she dreams of an Earthling who gives her the romance and attention she feels is missing from her current existence. She wakes knowing a beautiful song of love which she sings. The dream symbolizes the future where Mars is explored and colonized by Earth. This dream and in particular the song gives her hope of a future where she is loved in the manner she desires.

Ylla's husband's pretends not to believe the dream is anything more than her imagination, but he knows the truth of her dream as a future apart from him. His jealousy causes him to go out to where the Earth rocket will land and kill the two Earthlings from the rocket. Ylla fears her husband's reactions and so she had done nothing to stop him.
Yll's shooting of the Earth men is a literal killing of Ylla's dream. He does not want her to move into the future. He wants her back in the past with him and so by killing the men, he kills any future she may have had with the captain.

Ylla's sadness and desolation show that she knows her dream is dead. The shattered glass is her dream in pieces. The sun goes down on her dream and she can no longer remember the song of the future.

message 7: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Hertzoff (hilandmum) | 18 comments Excellent analysis of that story! I hadn't thought about Ylla when I wrote my essay which compares, in a way, the American settlers of Mars with those who settled the American west, bringing the good and bad of their own culture with them and ignoring any existing civilizations.

message 8: by Seawood (new)

Seawood *I* like it, and I hadn't thought of it that way before! Good point.

I hate to say it but I think at least one reviewer is going to try to shred you for "talking too much about the story" and for not using any quotes to support your point. Don't know how much that'll bother you, though - I've more or less given up trying to please so many different opinions.

Since we're sharing, here's mine. I'm not going to change it, though, no more time today.

"The Silent Towns parallels many parts of the arc of the whole of The Martian Chronicles in a single story, closing with a lingering look at the human fascination with and fear of Mars itself.

Bradbury sets up the scene in the introduction to The Silent Towns: the town of New Marlin is dead, untouched, alone – as we think Mars is in the beginning, the “scorched smell” of the rocket port recalling Rocket Summer. Gripp is alone, searching, like the rocket men in the first missions. He finds the town full of delights and nostalgia, just as the astronauts found in Ylla, The Earth Men and The Third Expedition. After some time, he hears a phone ringing. The call of Mars itself, trying to make contact and failing over and over as Muhe Ca and Tomas Gomez fail to touch in The Night Meeting. Gripp's desire for a woman mirrors our desire to reach Mars; the fascination moves through our communications even today as we watch the Curiosity Rover via the Internet.

In the third contact, Gripp meets Genevieve by telephone – a fleeting, illusory contact with the last of Mars, recalling The Earth Men and The Third Expedition again. They see their beloved families; Gripp imagines “long dark hair shaking in the wind...and her lips like red peppermints.” When he finally meets Genevieve, he is appalled by her reality but persists in making contact, as does Driscoll in The Green Morning, attempting to seed her arid personality with food, a movie, shopping. Unlike Driscoll, however, he is unsuccessful in making her into what he needs, and bolts for home despite the loneliness – as we see the vast majority of human settlers return to a poisoned Earth in The Watchers.

Genevieve (we presume) continues to try to contact Gripp occasionally by phone, without reply. In the end, lonely Mars is always calling The Million-Year Picnic."

Apols for the formatting, I've italicised the titles and quotes in my essay but it hasn't pasted over.

message 9: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Thanks for the comments! If I have time I may try to change that a bit.

I like your take on this and I hope you don't have any 'dick' reviewers. :)

message 10: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments My mess was about my easy way out topic blindness and the forms it takes up :-s

message 11: by Seawood (new)

Seawood That sounds interesting!

Yes, let's hope everyone abides by Wheaton's Law this week...kinda doubt it but you never know. I've had a very quick look at what I've got to mark this week and thankfully it's straight 2s across the board with maybe some 3s once I've had time to look carefully.

message 12: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments I can get behind Wheaton's Law!

message 13: by Maggie (new)

Maggie K you know, I noticed this week that a lot of the essays I had to review were pretty lame. Like they all just winged something. It made me consider that maybe something like this had happened with one of my meaner's frustrating to read through some of these attempts that dont even have any thought put into them!

Maybe some reviewers are just jaded

message 14: by Seawood (new)

Seawood I suspect everyone's a bit knackered - this is a pretty intense course in terms of reading, I guess. There is a thread on the forum complaining "everyone's done Mars = America", so I guess there's quite a lot of that surface-y reading going on (just as everything was Dracula = sex, I guess).

Or maybe, just maybe, there are a small number of very noisy Bradbury fanbois and a larger number of quiet people who don't think he's all he's cracked up to be...

message 15: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments There are fangirls too, ahem... though after reading a certain interview I am less of a fan of him as a person and more as of an author or writer.

message 16: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments I struggle every time it seems to come up with something that isn't in the 'obvious' realm and even when I think it's not obvious I've had people say things like ...duh..that was obvious!

But yeah it is an intense course for reading... we only have two left now though!

message 17: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Xiri wrote: "There are fangirls too, ahem... though after reading a certain interview I am less of a fan of him as a person and more as of an author or writer."

lol. It was meant to be generic, no offence intended. There are just some very vocal people on the forum slavering about Bradbury's "genius" but...not really saying why. Other than "he's poetic". So I'm not really seeing the genius myself.

message 18: by Xiri (last edited Sep 19, 2012 09:30AM) (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Jute wrote: "I struggle every time it seems to come up with something that isn't in the 'obvious' realm and even when I think it's not obvious I've had people say things like ...duh..that was obvious!

But yeah..."

Same here. Le Guin and Doctorow are gonna be the toughest for me, I think.

message 19: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Caroline wrote: "Xiri wrote: "There are fangirls too, ahem... though after reading a certain interview I am less of a fan of him as a person and more as of an author or writer."

lol. It was meant to be generic, no..."

No worries. For me it's the beauty of his language and well... social criticism. Though "The Martian Chronicles" had his views stated "too obviously" for me - it's clear it's earlier than some of his works because of that. The West colonization, for example, and Mars as the West, Martians as the Native Americans, humans as the early settlers...

And so on. Spender is totally the voice of his views, as was the main character of "Usher II" - which was mainly about censorship as well as the acceptance / rejection of science fiction and other such genre stuff vs that of the more realistic or higher brow literature.

message 20: by Seawood (new)

Seawood *nods* I can see that and give him credit for it - he truly has a deft turn of phrase although I think some of the earlier stories in Mars are a bit OTT with it. I have a suspicion I might get on a bit better with some of the later work, at a distance from this course.

Le Guin I'm pleasantly surprised with so far - I'd been absolutely dreading it, having suffered through Earthsea with a poor teacher at 12yo. It's better than I expected by far.

Doctorow I've read before and thoroughly enjoyed but I don't know if I'll be able to write well about it - if you're a bit geeky/been around the net for a while/have an interest in privacy you kinda know and feel the dystopia he's created already. Maybe it's because we have so much CCTV here but I generally presume almost everything I do has the potential to be observed and used in horrible ways...

Anyway, this is getting OT.

message 21: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments My bad :) Should really begin Le Guin, but for some reason totally scatter-minded...

message 22: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Xiri wrote: "My bad :) "

Nah, don't worry. :) I've had to re-read the first chapter of Le Guin already to get the character names straight, shouldn't have started it after a two-mile swim, lol.

message 23: by Maggie (new)

Maggie K I am lkoving the LeGuin a lot better than I thought I would as well!

message 24: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Well, I consider her and Ray some of the best of the authors in the genre, so... :) Love, love her introduction so far. Does she keep the same voice throughout? I sure hope so.

message 25: by Seawood (last edited Sep 20, 2012 11:06AM) (new)

Seawood W00t - 5.5 and some lovely comments - one guy even left me his email address! :)

message 26: by Jute (last edited Sep 20, 2012 11:35AM) (new)

Jute | 113 comments Caroline wrote: "W00t - 5.5 and some lovely comments - one guy even left me his email address! :)"

Yeah!! I am happy for you. I got one great comment and the rest bad. :(

Here's the one that bothers me the most.

student3 → I liked this story and was glad to see you write about it. Unfortunately, your essay seemed as if it was mostly a summary. You related what happened in the story and then concluded with a fairly simple explanation of the symbolism/theme of the tale. I did not find it insightful. Next time, consider whether a reasonable reader could disagree with you--if so, then you have an argument that is novel and will stretch your reader's understanding. If not, you are probably saying something we already know. (1)

message 27: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Another 4, mostly about well... mess that I am. Most of the essay was based on a quote from an interview regarding the composite structure of the book, then blindness - oh well. 4 is really good for me, I guess.

I just wish More To Learn was available...

message 28: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Maybe I'm just being over sensitive about this criticism. I feel like the person who wrote this liked the story and didn't agree with my interpretation and so gave me a 1 because they didn't agree. But maybe I'm being too sensitive.

message 29: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments I am posting comments for my own, maybe it will cheer you up some :)

student1 → "who become embody the wishes themselves" - this to me makes no sense. "Who become the embodiment of the wishes themselves" or "embody the wishes themselves" Other than this, well written, you obviously have a large vocabulary and use it well.
student2 → This was difficult to read with multiple of brackets, quotation marks, hyphens. It drew my attention from what was said.
student3 → You tell an interesting story about the genesis of the book. The final four paragraphs have a lyrical, poetic feel to them. Nice job.
student4 → The form this paper is good. I did not see any major grammatical or spelling errors. The paper was slightly complex and difficult to follow at times. But overall good job.

student1 → Too much of our precious word count used on the excessively long quote, which, along with the preceding text, has no bearing or relevance to your thesis. If you focused more on blindness, and provided some other examples, this would have been a definite 3 from me. As is, I'm afraid I can only give a 2 as I'm left wanting more evidence.
student2 → I found this essay very difficult. There is little about the actual book, most is taken up with the interview of the author.
student3 → You argue well for your main thesis that there is a connecting thread throughout the book, namely blindness. Personally I found it a bit of a stretch to see blindness in some of your examples.
student4 → The content of this paper was obviously well thought out. I liked how you used multiple sources to reinforce your opinion. I did have a little bit of difficulty determining your thesis. I would suggest that you clarify that a bit.

student1 → Good work, with just a little more focus, you would have had a 6

P.S. 6 or even 5 is very unlikely in my case. I'm glad my lowest was 3.5 so far.

message 30: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Aww. If it's any consolation I've had similar comments throughout - I put them down to "you can't please everyone all of the time". I think I got nitpicked this time - I'd italicised the quote as well as the story titles and one of the commenters mentioned that, but in such an obscure way I'm not quite sure what they meant...*facepalm*

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