Coursera: Fantasy and Science Fiction (Summer 2012) discussion

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Unit X: Doctorow > Little Brother

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message 1: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments How is the reading going?

As a fan of Cyberpunk and somewhat into the stuff that's described here, I must confess I can certainly see differences between this work and older ones, by which I mean mostly Neal Stephenson, Sergei Lukyanenko (one of my first Urban Fantasy reads, must confess) and Philip K. Dick, as unfortunately I have yet to read William Gibson...

The Young Adult features are almost obvious, but there are features of the older lineage, too. It's almost too creepy how the character accepts the totalitarianism as "normal".


message 2: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Loved the reference to the Pirate Party. Must confess, I kinda support it. Piratebay is one of the special places for numerous things... especially if one wants to promote their own free or other non-traditionally valued projects.


message 3: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments 1) The author has done his research - I cannot remark upon any errors, since I'm not knowledgeable enough, but he most certainly had... sometimes he explained "too much", in fact, such as when he tells what GIMP is.

2) Loved the references to thinly-veiled real-life games - all of them mostly due to copyright / trademark restrictions, I believe. Especially "Vampire" one. I also squealed at the Gothic stuff, could not help myself - wannabe in me was rather delighted :)

3) The story resembled me that of Abu Ghraib far, far too much... even more so that I took Introduction to Sociology earlier, and, well, it was alike.

Now only to figure out what to write about :-s


message 4: by Seawood (last edited Sep 25, 2012 02:11AM) (new)

Seawood Xiri wrote: "It's almost too creepy how the character accepts the totalitarianism as "normal"."

This is what I love/hate about quite a bit of YA at the moment - The Hunger Games is the obvious one but also Patrick Ness' Monsters of Men series and Garth Nix's Shade's Children. It is frightening how close these worlds are - Little Brother is close enough to reach out and touch and I think that's what makes it a powerful book.

It's not like the YA sci-fi I grew up with (Nicholas Fisk, in the main) which was so far into the future it was almost unbelieveable. And still is, actually; we're a long way off humanoid AI robots and kids cobbling together their own spaceships from junk. There's also no cold war influence now. My kids aren't growing up in the shadow of The Bomb like I did...but lots of other kinds of bombs: terrorism, civil war, environmental catastrophe, pandemic. Not total destruction but closer to dystopia/police state than ever before.


message 5: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments I've read "Divergent" and "Insurgent" too, very alike, but this book still had far more "adult" topics.

There were certainly things that were not to my liking, but maybe I'm just too old and not used to this kind of literature? Then again, when I was learning to write - kinda - I was following advice on blogs etc that advised pretty much alike, action-orientated plots... and my own characters sometimes are hardly better power balance wise.

Is not it also a part of how this trend of the fiction is somewhat different from the older one, too? Not that there were not such pieces before, Orwell and co are possibly easy to recall.

Also, it had a distinct "post-cyberpunk" feel - whereas cyberpunk tends to focus upon grimness of the technology's consequences, the latter may prove it to be more optimistic.


message 6: by Xiri (last edited Sep 25, 2012 02:53AM) (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Oh, speaking of the genre, "Labyrinth of Reflections" is pretty good, though those who are familiar with Internet may find it horribly unrealistic and too much fantasy like :)

Sergei's excuse of such would be that when he wrote it they had no Internet in Russia back then, just a FIDOnet, which was kinda different.

The author also has somewhat... interesting views sometimes, and is pretty fond of the Soviet Union. At least that's my impression, but then Russian and other block's countries' nationalism all can be messy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labyrint...

Also, while reading "Little Brother" I could not help myself and remember my attempts to take Coursera's courses about Internet history and Cryptography, as well the current one about Securing Digital Democracy - the instructors in the last one even told the story of how they hacked a certain voting machine to play Pacman :) *squee*


message 7: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Oh, this might be interesting - Cory Doctorow at Authors@Google. Reading, discussions of the book... starts at the chapter 12.

Another person just posted this on the forums :)


message 8: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments I also thought if it was just me, or (view spoiler)


message 9: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Okay getting ready to start this one!


message 10: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments I'm about a quarter of the way in...had a pretty hectic day so not much reading time.

I will be really interested to get to the 'Sci-Fi' part, since so far none of this seems to be out of the realm of possibility.


message 11: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Jute wrote: "I'm about a quarter of the way in...had a pretty hectic day so not much reading time.

I will be really interested to get to the 'Sci-Fi' part, since so far none of this seems to be out of the real..."


That's the great part ;) it's a realistic near-future cyberpunk.


message 12: by Emy (new)

Emy (emypt) | 17 comments Xiri wrote: "Oh, speaking of the genre, "Labyrinth of Reflections" is pretty good, though those who are familiar with Internet may find it horribly unrealistic and too much fantasy like :)

Sergei's excuse of s..."


Oooh, I loved Lukyanenko's Watch series, so going to look out for that one now! Having 'done' Russian Studies at university, I rather enjoy reading stuff set in Russia... (makes me nostalgic!)


message 13: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Emy wrote: "Xiri wrote: "Oh, speaking of the genre, "Labyrinth of Reflections" is pretty good, though those who are familiar with Internet may find it horribly unrealistic and too much fantasy like :)

Sergei'..."


I think you may like them then :)


message 14: by Seawood (new)

Seawood How goeth the essays?

I was at an absolute loss until I ran across a quote about The Hunger Games by one of my favourite children's authors, and it finally took off. It's almost certainly going to get panned because my quite-personal essay is bound to fall into the hands of someone who hated the book, and it's very clear that I loved it :) but I've passed, it doesn't matter. The reviewers can say what they like now!

Hope you are all visited by the muse of cyberpunk and fair, attentive reviewers. :)


message 15: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments I most likely "will" be panned, wrote about many faces of rebellion in the book :)


message 16: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Oh, and some fans of the genre may argue that we "already" live in Cyberpunk ;)


message 17: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments This might be a good additional read too - many objected over hacking depiction in the novel.

http://project.cyberpunk.ru/idb/hacke...

They also have a library of reads, but... if you're concerned with copyright, you might avoid them.


message 18: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Well, I've finished it and I have to say I'm really baffled that this is classified as SciFi. I don't get how...

The pepper spray incidents in the book seemed to predict something that happened to one of my friends. He was 'pepper sprayed' in the incident Berkely (November 2011).

I think I may have an idea to write about... I think the symbolism of vampires/hackers is fairly obvious..but it's the last essay so I don't care!


message 19: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Jute wrote: "Well, I've finished it and I have to say I'm really baffled that this is classified as SciFi. I don't get how...

The pepper spray incidents in the book seemed to predict something that happened t..."


Ok, try reading through this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberpunk

Also this:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php...

I hope this helps...


message 20: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments The most obvious hint is, that the text takes place in the future as of the time it was published. Also, all the cyberpunk tropes.

One of my favorite novels of SF was Capek's "Krakatit" - it is considered Speculative fiction nowadays, but it was published here as a part of SF line, you can read about it here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krakatit

It's minimally "fantastic", for the lack of a better word.


message 21: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Xiri wrote: "Jute wrote: "Well, I've finished it and I have to say I'm really baffled that this is classified as SciFi. I don't get how...

The pepper spray incidents in the book seemed to predict something th..."


I understand Cyberpunk, but I've always thought of it as having some more fantastic elements. I've read Gibson, Stephenson and some others... that stuff I'd classify as Cyberpunk. This just didn't seem to have anything that was really 'fantastic'.


message 22: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Near-future is fantastic enough :) Also, the fact that the society "might" be such, but is not yet - extrapolation, thought experiment of what "might" yet be.

Interestingly, certain "Watch" books fall in futuristic fantasy for this same reason exactly apparently (I have not noticed that while reading, must confess) - the books take place in a year or so after they were published ;)


message 23: by Xiri (last edited Sep 30, 2012 06:59PM) (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Actually, I've also noticed that almost all of the fantastic works explored had what I call "mystery skeleton" - in the sense of not just crime, thriller, but also any puzzle. Wonder if it's because mysteries as such were already based on reasonable rational processes, so the fantastic premises were merely to veil them up, or is it due to adventure roots? The genres overlap way too much...


message 24: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Xiri wrote: "Actually, I've also noticed that almost all of the fantastic works explored had what I call "mystery skeleton" - in the sense of not just crime, thriller, but also any puzzle. Wonder if it's becaus..."

Interesting observation!


message 25: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Some people also wrote about the not-so-typical imagery of females and males - I'd love to read those :)


message 26: by Emy (new)

Emy (emypt) | 17 comments I'm thinking about writing about the use of SciFi by authors to talk about whatever is scary to them or of things that are fearful to others and which they disagree with. I'm wondering though if it would be too comparative to other texts. (I nearly did LHoD vs Herland as the last essay, but bottled out of it)

Examples:
Dracula: Fear of foreigners (kinda, maybe) / (or maybe The fun in fear)
Frankenstein: Fear of what science is doing to man / Fear of childbirth
Herland: Fear of not being seen as 'enough' / Fear of strong, self-sufficient women
The Martian Chronicles: Fear of War / The Bomb / What man is doing to the world
Left Hand: Fear of Women / Fear of sexuality / ?Fear of authoritarianism
Little Brother: Fear of the Government / Fear of loss of freedom

Dunno, maybe it's reaching too much. Meh, got all of 24 hours to come up with something!!


message 27: by Seawood (new)

Seawood I think that's great, much deeper than mine. Can you do it justice in 320 words, though? It looks like a big topic. It's almost a pity we don't get to do one last big essay on "what you've learned from this course"...


message 28: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Have you guys watched the videos yet? Rabkin and his Freud, OMG...I can't stop giggling at his interpretation of "blow his downloads"...*rofl*


message 29: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments I haven't watched them. I ended up not doing an essay on this one.

Every time I'm watching the videos and my husband walks in he calls says 'your listening to that crazy professor again'. :)


message 30: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments I have yet to watch them, because of having slept - yeah, my bad :)


message 31: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Xiri wrote: "I have yet to watch them, because of having slept - yeah, my bad :)"

OMG..how dare you get some sleep?!


message 32: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Hehe! Anyway, did he explain the SF part? Because this book clearly was one to me.

I'd also highly suggest for other folks to explore "The other side of the pond" SF works - the two traditions seem to be pretty different to me, many readers here even complain about modern works being less good...


message 33: by Xiri (last edited Oct 02, 2012 11:28PM) (new)

Xiri | 135 comments I'd seriously love to read most of the stuff mentioned in the course lectures and more, but I also had to add in one common fallacy regarding the genres: some complained that the book read as if it was just a thriller, with nothing fantastic - well, "it is" mundane, near-future / near-present world, which just "happens" to have a plot that is mostly thrillers. SF is primarily about setting, not plot. And as some remarked - yes, today life is very alike... but is it the "same"? Or could it "be", if one is looking backwards from when it was published?

Also, a Doctorow's quote is very fitting: "I'm of the opinion that science fiction writers suck at predicting the future. We mostly go around describing the present in futuristic clothes - (such as) Mary Shelley, Bill Gibson, and many others."


message 34: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Personally I think a lot of the commenters on the forum got so hung up on the fact it was published as YA that their bile and snobbery outran their critical thinking. :P

It's worth watching the vids - there's not a *lot* about Little Brother but it wraps the course up beautifully. The cyberpunk one was really interesting to me, I hadn't realised it was such a new genre.


message 35: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Caroline wrote: "Personally I think a lot of the commenters on the forum got so hung up on the fact it was published as YA that their bile and snobbery outran their critical thinking. :P

It's worth watching the vi..."


Yes, it was beautiful, was not it? YA vs adult is a big thing here too, as we are increasingly dependent on translated fiction, and to be frankly, many mass publishers tend to produce crap translations. It's one of reasons beside others that I am trying to read at least English stuff in the original language :-s

I could also talk about mass fiction, genre fiction vs "highbrow" or literature, too...


message 36: by Emy (new)

Emy (emypt) | 17 comments I scrabbled the topic together on fear, but it was quite frankly rushed and pants. I have got notes on a few of my essays which I plan to write up longer on my Blogger later. The blog itself is actually for my history research stuff, but it's mine so I figured I could put up other stuff too if I damn well wanted to!! ;)


message 37: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Emy wrote: "I scrabbled the topic together on fear, but it was quite frankly rushed and pants. I have got notes on a few of my essays which I plan to write up longer on my Blogger later. The blog itself is act..."

What blog, if you don't mind? Could be that my absent-minded brained just skimmed over something :-s

Oh, and believe me when he is saying that writing something that reads simple is difficult - it truly is!


message 38: by Seawood (last edited Oct 03, 2012 07:02AM) (new)

Seawood Urgh. I got a snotty essay to grade - whinging about how terribly excluded they felt because it was YA and since they're an older person they're the enemy blahblahblah. Yuck. This person learned absolutely nothing from the book and it's really hard to comment on the content. :(


message 39: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Caroline wrote: "Urgh. I got a snotty essay to grade - whinging about how terribly excluded they felt because it was YA and since they're an older person they're the enemy blahblahblah. Yuck. This person learned ab..."

I'm sorry :( I have at least one that - to me - was excellent, though, and one that I'd call a dud. Don't remember others, I usually grade pretty quickly, and am certainly too absent-minded now to do them justice, so will wait until later.


message 40: by Seawood (new)

Seawood I usually do them in the evening but my kids are out with their grandparents. :) Straight 4s across the board this week, even the whiny one. I just said in the end that I hoped they'd got more out of the videos, and that I, as an older person, had found it rather hopeful actually. I didn't quite tack a "so there! :P" on the end but I felt like it!


message 41: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Not everyone watches the videos, though :(


message 42: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Seawood wrote: "I usually do them in the evening but my kids are out with their grandparents. :) Straight 4s across the board this week, even the whiny one. I just said in the end that I hoped they'd got more out ..."

haha way to go! For the record..I as a 'much' older person also found it hopeful.


message 43: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Xiri wrote: "Not everyone watches the videos, though :("

I find that crazy... the videos are what makes the courses.


message 44: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Jute wrote: "Xiri wrote: "Not everyone watches the videos, though :("

I find that crazy... the videos are what makes the courses."


Well, not all have the time... not all have read all the assignments, either.


message 45: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Jute wrote: "Xiri wrote: "Not everyone watches the videos, though :("

I find that crazy... the videos are what makes the courses."


Yeah...I'm still a few behind (some Shelley, some HG Wells) but I have tried really hard to watch them all and will catch up with the ones I haven't seen this week. I agree they're a big part of it - that's why I suggested this person really should watch them because a lot became clear for me with this week's set.


message 46: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Xiri wrote: "Jute wrote: "Xiri wrote: "Not everyone watches the videos, though :("

I find that crazy... the videos are what makes the courses."

Well, not all have the time... not all have read all the assignm..."


Yeah this week I've been struggling with a few things... I love the courses, but I'm having a bad bout with my health atm and I am not going to be able to keep up and still do all the other things I love. So I guess I'm going to have to start really prioritizing and maybe not take every course I see. :)


message 47: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Seawood wrote: "Jute wrote: "Xiri wrote: "Not everyone watches the videos, though :("

I find that crazy... the videos are what makes the courses."

Yeah...I'm still a few behind (some Shelley, some HG Wells) but ..."


I have yet to finish "Herland" :">


message 48: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Jute wrote: "Xiri wrote: "Jute wrote: "Xiri wrote: "Not everyone watches the videos, though :("

I find that crazy... the videos are what makes the courses."

Well, not all have the time... not all have read al..."


And that's where auditing and saving material come in ;)


message 49: by Jute (new)

Jute | 113 comments Xiri wrote: "Seawood wrote: "Jute wrote: "Xiri wrote: "Not everyone watches the videos, though :("

I find that crazy... the videos are what makes the courses."

Yeah...I'm still a few behind (some Shelley, som..."


Quite frankly I was rather disappointed in Herland.


message 50: by Xiri (new)

Xiri | 135 comments Ok, this may be off-topic, but if you have coding background, this is hilarious.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/38648591/Ab...

P.S. I am not a "coder" myself, but I did try to study Programming :-s


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