Talking Heads the Same as Stone Gods

In The Stone Gods (2007) by Jeanette Winterson society is doomed to destroy itself no matter how many chances it is given and how advanced its technologies become.  Humanity exists within a vicious cyclical universe of new beginnings and inevitable endings as humans hop from planet to planet leaving a trail of death behind them, unaware of what they’re doing and unable to break the cycle that dictates their very existence.  Winterson seems to be saying that society is doomed to destroy itself because it forgets the lessons of the past and continually makes the same mistakes.  

The people from Orbus had superior technology that allowed them to put the Red Planet on life support, but they also used their technology to destroy life by sending the asteroid to the Blue Planet.  Destroy life in order to make their own lives more comfortable, unwilling to start again lower on the food chain.  However, it’s not only the technologically advanced that destroy themselves and the earth that sustains them.  The Easter Island people destroyed their island because they were obsessed with creating stone gods.  Just as other segments of society are obsessed with technology and their pursuit of consumerism leads to the death of the planet they inhabit.  Humanities obsession with items they don’t need for their survival continues to result in the death of the planet and inconsequence humanity.

Only when the end of life was inevitable and the people came to the realization of their societies mortality did they try and change.  Too late they pulled down the stone gods; too late they searched for a new planet to pollute, only to follow the same pattern of self-destruction.  Humanity tries to say that its history is not a suicide not, but the signal they find clearly represents that humanity follows the same pattern, new planet new chance only to end with a dead planet followed by another new planet.  How many do over’s should one species be given before the universe deletes it from the structure?


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and here we go again

In “Dawn” (1987) by Octavia Butler the Oankali claim that humanities hierarchy is what led to their downfall, a problem they themselves claim not to have.  Even though the ooloi or the “its” seem to clearly rank above all others.  The Oankali plan to return humanity to earth, but not without a trade based on DNA.  As Lilith would believe, the Oankali are not going to preserve humanity but destroy it within a generation.

The way they are attempting to prepare humans for survival is based on a hierarchy.  Lilith has been given superior abilities and knowledge of the Oankali and it is her job to prepare the other humans for preparation.  Not only is their suspicion over her being an alien or a traitor, but the males don’t exactly appreciate being ordered around by a female either.  All of them experienced the war and must realize that they are the last of humanity, but they still cling to how things were not what they must be.  They look down on Joseph because of his size and race, not to mention the fact that he chooses to mate with Lilith.  Lilith’s strength and position among them even brings them to question whether she is really a female.

The Oankali treat humans like animals born in captivity that they are trying to re-assimilate into their normal habitat.  The room they keep the humans in is just a glorified cage and even Lilith feels like a pet, having to ask to be let out.  In this captive/jailer relationship there is a clear pecking order.  The Oankali can recognize the problem in others but not in themselves, they feel as though they know what is best for humanity, but they do not truly understand it.  Unable to anticipate human reactions or understand how poorly humans react to isolation results in unnecessary deaths because they believe themselves superior and refuse to listen to Lilith.  Nikanj seems to represent the Oankali’s hope for changing their understanding of humanity because it was introduced to Lilith as a child and they sort of grew up together.  Of all the Oankali it is Nikanj who actually makes an effort to listen to what Lilith has to say, even if it doesn’t plan on doing as she advices it is still willing to hear her out.

Neither race can escape hierarchy no matter what they claim.  The Oankali are repopulating earth, but who’s to say that the same won’t just happen again.  Can humanity accept reliance on aliens or would they rather choose to kill themselves off then produce abominations.

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Who Needs Gender

In “The Female Man” (1975) by Joanna Russ there exists an alternate future earth known as Whileaway, which can be compared to the futuristic society of Mattapoisett in “Woman on the Edge of Time” (1976) by Marge Piercy.  Both worlds offer an alternate future for the inhabitants of earth, but Whileway is the more dramatic of the two, though in both there seems to be a lurking darkness.  A darkness that exists within the society of Whileway itself, while in Mattapoisett there is only the war and the other version of the future that lend to the unease that is felt in such a seemingly perfect society.

The inhabitants of Whileway as a whole seem to be unhappier.  The only time they have to themselves when they are not working is the first five years of their child’s life and old age.  While in Mattapoisett jobs are more cyclical and if you are gifted at art ect. that is what you do.  You become an adult around twelve and then you get to explore what you want to do, without ever really having to decide on one thing.  Adulthood comes later in Whileway and with it comes a dissatisfaction that is not present in Mattapoisett.  Both societies allow their children to go out into the world in search of where they belong, but in Whileway your job becomes what you live for.

Mattapoisett is the more understanding society, there you can go crazy and people think that it’s a good thing, crimes can be forgiven.  But in Whileway there is the sense that criminals and crazies are put down, this can be inferred from section X (55).  When people have problems with each other in Mattapoisett they sit down with the community and try in work them out, in Whileway you duel or murder someone you cannot get along with.  The most basic difference between the two is that Whileway has only females, but considering that in Mattapoiset both males and females are mothers it is not that much of a difference considering they serve the same functions.  In either case it is a glimpse into a society where gender no longer matters and there are no male female factions.  Without ever really answering the question of whether one gender is better than two.   Mattapoisett seems to win because it is a society with more equality even though there are still males and females.

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Blame the Gorilla Man

“What I Didn’t See” by Karen Fowler (2002) asks questions about our own society and how it interacts with other societies and species.  In the jungle, as in life, it is survival of the fittest and in this story the narrator is the last one standing.  She was the one who couldn’t kill the gorilla because of how human he appeared and wouldn’t kill him to free the females because the females didn’t appear to want to leave him.  Of the party she was the one most willing to live and let live.  She didn’t feel the need to massacre gorillas to assert her dominance and try to place the blame for Beverly’s disappearance. The narrator judges things without truly understanding them.  She hears about the native’s cannibalism and after that she doesn’t even try to get to know them.  In the later years of her life the narrator learned how gorillas really live and says that “the thinking still seems to be harems, but with the females slipping off from time to time to be with whomever they wish.  This way of life is very similar to the lifestyle of Beverly.

Beverley had multiple relationships and unlike the narrator she was also friendly with the natives.  With none her relationship stable but rather on again off again.   She disappears in the night and it’s unclear exactly who she was with.  Are the men blaming gorillas for their own inability to hold onto their women? 

Merion says that Beverly will “take her cue from you,” referring to the narrator, this could imply that Beverly saw the narrator go into the jungle alone and she did the same or it could just be a man in denial.  It seems Beverly may have said that Merion’s first wife cheated on him and this could explain why he is so worked up and territorial about Beverly.  At the same time the men believe that the gorillas only take women that are menstruating and Beverly says that this won’t be a problem.  An interesting statement that could be construed in several ways, either it simply is the wrong time of the month or she is pregnant.  She also mentions “kiddies.”

If Beverly is pregnant it becomes a question of who does the child belong to and which man will she decide to stick with.  It seems more likely she ran off with Burunga considering how the natives were talking about it and wanted to leave.  Though the narrator does not associate with the natives she does do what Burunga told Beverly they would have to do in order to see the gorillas. Beverly tells the narrator to she is lucky to have such a husband and to stay with him.  This is the last thing that Beverly ever says and it leads me to believe that she chose to stay with the man she thought was the best.

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Hive Mentality, Not So Much Reality

“The Evening and the Morning and the Night” (1987) by Octavia Butler Beatrice and Lynn are Christ like figures, sacrificing their own lives and personal desires for the group, because what is good for the individual is not always good for the group.  Lynn doesn’t want to become like Beatrice, but she knows that she will for the sake of her people.  She is capable of helping them and they give her life purpose, a reason to continue living.  Forced into a role by the situation she accepts her responsibility as a care taker of her people.   

Alan says “I won’t be a puppet. I won’t be controlled…by a goddamn smell,” but is that really all there is to it?  Or does the idea of being beneath a woman’s control disturb him.  He was still raised in a male dominated world, a world he has allowed to influence his views of himself.  Choosing to give up his own right to choose whether he will have children or not, because society is telling him that DGD’s are bad and he believes that it’s true.  Society tells him he is a monster, compares them to dogs, and people like him agree and yet they cannot crush the animal instinct to reproduce.  They are still seeking life for themselves and their offspring.  What is all their work to better the future and the present for if they never have any children to five a future?  Science/man created their disease, why then can it not be cured?

Among the DGD’s it is the women who are capable of wielding power over the others.  While in the real world men have controlled women for centuries, a system so ingrained in society that it is hard to believe Alan would ever being willing to accept that among the DGD it is the select women born of two parents that have the ability of controlling their people especially when he tells Lynn to go “play queen bee in a retreat full of workers. I’ve never had any ambition to be a drone.”  It is almost as though he has had his feelings hurt that she might have another reason for living other than himself.  He is a typical male declaring that they will be married like it was all his idea and there is no room for argument.  Throughout history human and animal males have been the territorial ones, but in the story we see the women as being the territorial ones.  They can’t even stand to be around each other and Lynn wants to attack Beatrice, hates her.

These queen bees can only control/protect their drones from themselves as long as they are in the hive. Without Beatrice’s presence as a guiding force in their lives the patients would be tearing themselves and others to pieces.  Mass chaos would result if the queen were to leave the hive.  Eventually, they would end up dying without the guiding hand of the queen.  Their inability to remain stable on their own sets them apart from other humans.

By tinkering with life (God’s area of expertise) and finding a cure for cancer humanity created a greater evil. A disease that not only turns the individual against themselves, but against those around them as well, a cancer no longer contained within the body at a cellular level. But as a much larger problem involving the carriers destroying themselves and others, a societal cancer.  A cancer that could be viewed as a metaphor for racism and mans desire to tinker with life itself, resulting in further problems.

The DGD’s make great contributions to society because of their ability to focus, but it is this same ability that results in them being considered subhuman.  By shutting out the world and focusing solely on their work they become like machines, machines that have about forty years in them before they self-destruct.  Humanity is always deciding that things that were fine for you twenty years ago are bad for you now.  Cancer, famine all the things that attempt to destroy mankind are meant to the thin the population to a sustainable level.  Mankind’s inability to accept their own mortality is killing the planet they rely on.




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Crazy Sane

In “Woman on the Edge of Time” by Marge Piercy the sanity of the main character, Connie, comes into question.  A clear cut answer, as to whether she is crazy or not is hard to formulate because according to the thought of her own time she is considered crazy, but she is also controlled by the men in her life.  She is not allowed to defend her actions, because she has had problems in the past they immediately assume the worst about her.  Connie has had so many problems that she considered herself to be ill at one point.  Based on her own reality and the things she is capable of imaging I would say that Mattapoisett is a real place in the future.  It may fulfill her dream of a time in which she could continue to dream and better herself, but it is nothing like the reality of her own situation and the future that society has taught her to believe in.  Age, gender and questions of sanity have limited Connie in her own time.

Connie was so depressed over the loss of her blind friend that she fell into a depression and lashed out at her child.  Her guilt over the incident made her willing to be admitted, but the second time she is trying to help her niece.  The men in their lives are causing all their pain.  The society that Dolly and Connie live in is dominated by men and the control they have over the women in their lives.  Manipulating situations to benefit themselves and not the women they should be taking care of.  Connie is viewed as less than human and because she has had issues in the past anything she says is discontented.  While in the future she is considered someone who is gifted and mistreated by her own time.

The future that Connie expects is nothing like Mattapoisett itself and it is this fact that I think is most telling.  It would seem more plausible as a hallucination if it were more like the robotic future she had imagined it would be, and not an agrarian society reminiscent of an earlier time when humanity worked and lived on the earth.  A future in which no one dominates over another gender and having momentary mental issues is considered normal and people are not considered second class citizens once they have recovered.  It is a time in which Connie could be accepted and start a new life, a life she desperately wants in her own time, but she is unable to overcome the barriers and stigmas that society has against her.  A place where being female would not leave her susceptible to male dominion, a point showcased in the fact that she does not even recognize Luciente as a female.

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Cultures Death in the Acquisition of Wives

In “Wives” (1979) by Lisa Tuttle the culture of an all female race is lost when human men are introduced into their society as conquerors, causing them to forget their own culture as their sole purpose in life becomes pleasing the male invaders and anticipating their needs.  A process that results in the gradual loss of memories, memories of who and what they were before men entered their lives, forcing them to hide their true appearance to mimic the appearance of a human female in order to survive.  The men view them as interchangeable and as long as they have a wife waiting for them when they return home they do not care or even notice if it is the same wife.  Yet at the same time the Wives are forced to give up their maternal instincts to reproduce because of the men.  When the men are at home the Wives are not allowed to show their true form and are expected to maintain the illusion of humanity, an illusion that has no place for their young.                                                                                                       Their immediate survival depends on their conformation to the ways of their invaders and forgetting their own culture becomes a defense mechanism for survival.  As a collective they have decided not to fight back and any who want to revolt against the men is killed by the society, because one individual rebelling threatens them all.  Submission could be seen as weakness, but it also showcases that they’re not like the male invaders who kill to get their way.  In order to prolong their existence they hide under the guise of humanity, proving themselves adaptable.                                                                                                                                  The arrival of the male invaders results in a world of females capable of parthenogenesis reproduction being forced to conform to an androcentric society.  They become housewives, giving up their more animalistic nature, a nature that is still apparent in their pointed teeth, for a docile existence as playthings and domestic slaves.  By conquering the Wives the humans are creating an anthropocentric community in which they have set themselves up as the superior race.  Exterminating any species in the world that the Wives inhabit that would not conform to the male domination or be of use to them.  The Wives are still alive, but the men will end up killing them, because the Wives are not allowed to reproduce and so they are slowly dying as their culture dies within them.  While they mimic human females they’re not permitted to bear children and so they act as temporary surrogates while the men are waging their war.

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