Space Opera is really as the name suggests. Traditional opera is typically melodramatic and simplistic in nature while also containing love, betrayal and a hero with a dark, troubled past or conflicting motivations. So Space Opera is that… but in space. While we now associate the term with some of our favourite space shows the term was originally used in an article to describe an example of poor sci-fi writing. Star Wars, Star Trek and numerous other large and successful franchises now fall under its banner and it is doing better than ever. One thing that it does (which I think has fallen out of style a little bit in other genres) is has a very clear ‘Good vs. Bad’ side. Star Wars has the Jedi and the Sith, ‘Starcraft II’ contains Jim Raynor and his rebel forces against the autocratic Diminion and then in the T.V shows (Star Trek etc) they simply have the crew vs. a lot of the world. Ender’s Game took an interesting approach and used this ‘Good vs. Bad’ to its advantage by making it appear black and white, only to have our protagonist realize that it was ultimately not quite so simple.
Race is also used to great effect with space opera often with the ‘good’ side not finding (or at least not caring) with the distinction between species while the baddies are often just a tad on the racist side. (Take a look at the different lineups in the pictures and you’ll see what I mean.) Added to this, most of the moves are politically driven with different planets claiming their own social systems. This almost without fail leads to tension and before you know it everyone is at each others throats getting all mad until they end up doing something stupid like blowing up a planet in an attempt to deal with their problems. (You don’t wanna do that because it means you’re the bad guys – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK-kWRAVmRU)
Fiction of Ideas uses the power of the mind a lot as one of its themes. This is not a genre that I have had much experience in but I think I can understand some of what is appealing about the genre. As technology grows there is a steady urbanization of the world around us. We currently deal with deforestation in large amounts, and it doesn’t give us high hopes for the future. It is common to see nature succumb to the greed that comes with the these advances, and if not directly then it is rare to find it out in the big old vast expanse of space. So not only do we lack nature, but we are also becoming more directly reliant on our creations. (And I would argue that we have already hit a turning point where there is no going any longer in our own lives) It is, I think, a way of regaining our independence from these shackles that we are piece by piece placing upon ourselves. The idea that we do infact have something to offer that is not purely external or material. It is also an answer to all the bigger and bigger guns, I mean – we’ve already reached a point in our lifetime where it’s pretty tough to wage war with any technologically advanced countries because we can already blow each other to kingdom come. The use of these ideas provide a counter to this that cannot be measured by the size of your weapons. Not only that, but someones strength is often measured by their mental strength as a person which often means that the powerful beings are also very intelligent, a potent and deadly combination. If there is one thing that is fun to read about it’s a smart villain.
The future is such an exciting prospect and I look forward to seeing the kind of changes that will come about in my lifetime. What I also find interesting, however – is how the past has shaped the present and how what we are envisioning now will shape the future.
Everyone gets very excited about ‘Back to the Future’s Hoverboard, and I’m not denying that it would be super cool. (I saw Tony Hawk riding one on the Internet and everything on the internet should be trusted.) There are so many things that we see in popular media, so it’s difficult to pinpoint any one thing without doing far more research than I have time for right now (Finals – If I don’t make it, I lived a good life.) but one thing I have noticed appeared a lot in shows were swipeable screens as part of their ideas for the future. Even now with things like Tony Starks swipeable holograms we see people liking the idea of an interactive design that seems slick and editable. At some point down the line, iPhones and other tablet started popping onto the market and I kind of wonder if the early visions of the future lead to these sorts of design and if not directly influenced their aesthetic or functionality then at least made some sort of subliminal effect on our subconscious about what the important products of the future might be. I think this is directly relatable to space, and our future in that direction. I think people see far more possibility in space than they do our own oceans and so we strive to extend our knowledge outwards before we have even truly begun to understand the big ol’ hunk of rock we live on now. I wonder if this has anything to do with all the possibilities that Fiction has brought to us. The idea of space travel, aliens and adventures seems like too good a deal to pass up.
I wonder if when robotics gets good enough, they will be designed in such a way that mirror that of popular literature. I also wonder if the fears that will inevitably arise as technology continues to advance will be bred from the types of dystopian futures that we are often shown. Who knows! But it’ll be pretty cool to look back on.
Cyberpunk gets its name from Cybernetics, which is defined as ‘the science of communications and automatic control systems in both machines and living things’ and thats pretty cool but it is the ‘Punk’ part that really speaks volumes about what this genre is trying to achieve and what it is trying to say. ‘Punk’ is an attitude and philosophy that stands against anti-establishment thinking and stands for the belief that everyone has power to create. Patti Smith said “Punk is another word for freedom” which seems to quite concisely sum up what the genre is really about. It is about having the freedom to what you want and be who you want. Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols) said that punk is to “undermine their pompous authority, reject their moral standards, make anarchy and disorder your trademarks. Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible but don’t let them take you alive.” and this whole genre really takes that to the extreme. It demonizes the governments in these worlds while glorifying these lone individuals who do their best to fight this corrupt system in any way that they can.
The theme of body modification appears a lot, and seems to mirror the punk movement. Individuals marking themselves and separating themselves from others by modifying their body is essentially like the piercings and tattoos that littered the culture, only, these have some sort of function, often illegal, that helps them survive in this world of oppression. I think in some way, that is what the punk style did for a lot of people. It gave them an outlet to express themselves and it saved them from the claustrophobia of oppression. The punk movement has since really died out, the anger slowly seeping and fading away but the same feeling is still in so many people. Teenagers hating the world because they believe that it hates them right back. This need to be heard in such a loud and fast paced world has been translated into media, which is where we find the bare bones of all the different ‘punk’ sub-genres.
Coming of age plays a big role in a lot of fiction. A character is at their most malleable and are forced to answer questions about who they are. The film Boyhood is about a child, Mason, and his journey into young adulthood. What is ultimately satisfying about the story though is that we successfully see him navigate through the his teenage years and come out the other side. We get a satisfaction in knowing that whatever struggles he has been through so far, he not only survived but we hope that he also learned from them. It is ultimately the same with so many of the other fantasy characters we know, just dressed up in a more extraordinary plot. For example, we see two contrasting characters in Anakin and Luke in the Star Wars films. Luke, making a decision to reject the dark side while Anakin embraced it is the cumulation of all their past experiences and determines the kind of person we see them being for the rest of their lives.
Another reason the ‘Coming of Age’ story is so important is that it is relatable. Every person alive will either go through it, or has been through it. They lived the teenage years, they went through the ups and downs of puberty and they watched not only the world change around them but they can look back and thing how foolish they were back when they were fourteen.
I do find that sometimes, characters act react to situations often seem to outweigh their life experience, like Harry Potter, a should be train wreck of a boy screws up the dark lords plans at the age 10 – embarrassing, huh? I think this is part of the magic though, if JK Rowling can make me believe in Hogwarts, I don’t see why she can’t make me believe in a young boy doing extraordinary things. Shows like Game of Thrones are also required to boost their character ages for multiple reasons but a lot of the story has many different Coming of Age stories within it – Arya, Sansa, Joffrey, Jon, Robb, Bran, Daenerys all must grow up quickly and learn hard lessons in order to survive and decisions made based on emotional whim often end in disaster. If their mistakes do not kill them, then they are no longer a child. There is nothing quite as satisfying as the moment we see the characters grow up. They survived it, for better or worse and they are now in control of their own destinies.
What I found most interesting about Anansi boys was the Gods and the way that they are integrated into society so smoothly. They do not meddle in any large way, they simply know who they are and they live their lives accordingly. Fat Charlie, the protagonist, had to be established as the most ordinary and ‘unsure of himself’ male that Gaiman could possibly manage so that when the gods are slowly introduced into his everyday life we began to see how truly different their worlds were by comparison. Two of the big themes within the book seem to be self-confidence and acceptance of who you are and where you belong. The gods all know what their role is and it gives them their power. Without it they lose their identity – like Tiger, who lost his stories to Anansi and faded away. In the same way, Charlie lost that part of him when Spider was separated from him. Spider was mostly ‘god’ at the beginning of the book, Charlie was mostly human. They both had to find that other part of them in order to grow throughout the book. Spider had to learn to deal with the fact that he wasn’t all god, he was half human too. He could love like any other person, and that if used his powers to convince Rosie that she loved him too, ultimately it wouldn’t be real. Charlie, on the other hand had to find the part of him that was a God, the part that knew who and what he was and where he belonged. The concept of people having their place in the world is very common within polytheistic religions – who they are and what kind role they play as a god is never really in any doubt within the myths and stories. They become the patron god of something or rather and that defines who they are and how they act. They never lack a sense of identity. This is what was important for Charlie – he was a god who lacked his place in the world, and without knowledge of who he was it was impossible for him to embrace it. He did not stumble upon his magic by chance while in some life threatening situation and he doesn’t have to learn to control it, it is a core part of him and when he finds it it comes as naturally as if it was never lost.
Are there any prominent symbols in the story?
If so, what are they and how are they used
‘The Aquatic Uncle’ uses the characters as symbols for more modern themes. Themes of prejudice and the differences between generations seem to play an important role. Suggesting that even since the beginning of time the idea of racism and pride in ones upbringing. (This is in the same at All in one point, with the idea that they call those who they believe to have come after, immigrants) The ‘purity’ of Lll’s family making Qfwfq feel embarrassed about himself because he belonged on both land and sea. This seems to echo the ideas of race in modern society and how there is an identity found in who you are and where you are from. To me, it also seems to mirror themes of scientific progression, the idea of the Industrial era as well as scientific discovery in the present day.
What connections did you make with the story you read?
Discuss the elements of the work with which you were able to connect.
I found myself most able to connect with the type of characters that Lll, Qfwfq and the Great Uncle were. The things that worried Qfwfq seem to be things that are prominent in many relationships – and I’m sure most people have someone in their family which they are a little worried about their significant other meeting. (I have a very loud uncle who will consistently do his best to embarrass me) The great uncle seems to represent an older generation that I am familiar with and I draw similarities between myself and my own grandparents, who seem reluctant to touch any sort of technology because they have their own ways, which seem to work well enough for them. Maybe it is a fear of what is new, what they have always known being a greater and safer certainty than the new.
What changes would you make to adapt this story into another medium? What medium would you use? What changes would you make?
I have trouble imagining this story as another medium. I’m not sure if I’m just to accustomed to these sorts of stories being adapted so poorly that I often dread the things that I enjoy being forced into another medium. What I liked about this story were the parallels drawn by using the themes of evolution but I also think that really the themes of the story could easily be modernized with human actors, but in my mind that would steal its charm. I think for me, a stylized traditionally animated piece would fit this best, because I feel like the right art style would compliment that uniqueness of the story.