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Category Archives: Literature

Why The Twilight Zone?

As I mentioned yesterday, I am starting a new weekly blog series about the Twilight zone?  Why the Twilight zone?  What about it makes it worth writing about week after week?

First off, this show is one of the most popular Television serials out there. It is certainly the most well known.  The thing about serials is that they give us short stories  that often emphasize a certain point within a certain amount of time.  In the last month, I have covered a lot of shorter stories for this very reason.  so, I have the ability to take access of those multi-varied stories, and consider the technical implications, the concepts presented, and much more.

I was also inspired to take on this because of a chapter in a book called The Truth is Out There: Christian Faith and The Classics of Science fiction.  The author emphasized that The Twilight Zone’s storytelling was influenced by Rod Serling’s understanding of humanity’s sinful nature. And so, this deeper theme encouraged me to look deeper into the subject, and so, here is this new series.  I hope you enjoy it, and are able to dive deeper into science fiction history together.

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Posted by on 2011/08/28 in Literature, Television

 

Escape Pod, “Radio Nowhere”, and the risk of changing history

One of Escape Pod’s latest stories was the short story “Radio Nowhere”  by Douglas Smith.  This short story is a story of a man’s struggles with his lost love, and his attempts at finding her.  Liam is a science graduate student who is still living on campus. He currently works with a team of other students on maintaining and experimenting with a Particle accelerator.  However, he is still grieving the death of an old flame from 15 years ago.  He now relies on Drugs and alcohol to numb his pain alongside his female radio buddy Ziggy. however, a number of singularities make Liam consider if he can use technology to access the past, and save his long-lost love from her future death.

This is a great story, that connects with emotional pain and trauma that others have, as well as how they affect the people around them.  The story is very adult in nature, with large portions of substance abuse, as well as strong language.  I usually have issues with this kind of content, especially if it’s used for no particular reason But these elements bring that darker, imperfect nature to light for our heroes.  It’s helpful in showing how this pain and choices has made them who they are.

And the most important choice made in this book is Liam’s unwillingness to release his old pains and woes.  By holding onto them, they became a defining trait of his character.  He couldn’t imagine not struggling with them, even though he was in pain.  His obsession may have seemed singular and solely his own choice, but as the story confirms, it affected far more than just him.  Ziggy was caught up in it, and attempted to give Liam more drugs and alcohol to taint the pain, to very little effect.

Mix this unwillingness to give up the past with a particle accelerator, and you have a lot of trouble.  Particle accelerators are used to speed up particles, and experiment with them.  The devices are also meant to create singularities, or “black holes”, as we normally know them.  But what do black holes have to do with time travel?  Black holes have immense gravitational fields that are able to affect one’s ability to see, and process time.  The gravitational field would also affect the body’s process of aging.  So, a person can be in the field, and live eons longer than his brethren.  Now, the idea of traveling into the past via a black hole is more far-fetched because the person within the gravitational field does not have the ability to rewind time.

The basis for this idea is in the nature of the black hole, which is still not fully known.  Where does a black hole lead to?  Does it lead into Another universe?  Could it travel outside of our reality, and access it again at a different period in time.   This kind of questions are great to ask, but are really difficult to test.  So, almost all time-travel concepts that are based in black holes are simply “What-ifs”.

Back to our story, The story has two stages in it’s progression:  Before Revelation, and After Revelation. The Revelation is the idea that Liam could theoretically go back in time and save his love, Jackie.  We’ve already talked about how Liam was before the Revelation  After the Revelation, Liam’s obsession is only focused on a singular element; the Particle Accelerator.  It almost rips him away from Ziggy.  But what holds him back?

It is a simple statement made by Ziggy herself.  She mentions that “If (Liam) does this, (He) will lose the last 15 years of memories” as well as the implied friendship between Liam and Ziggy.   In other words, Liam would lose a lot of his life in order to gain one thing (Jackie).  Would the trade be worth it?  One of the key things about time travel is that it changes one’s own timeline.  If you go back and attempt to change something that causes you to desire to go back, then you could potentially cancel out what your goal was.  In other words, your attempt would stop it, and thus cancel the attempt.  Makes sense?

Most of us won’t be able to travel through time.  But most of us do wish we could.  We want a redo button that will change a moment in time that has come to define how we act.  And this is understandable.  But we also need to consider what are the costs of such choices?  What do we lose?  What would we have become if it weren’t for that singular event?  These are simple questions to ask before one even considers going back in time, if they even can.  But it’s also something to consider when asking about your past, and if you desire to change it.

 

 
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Posted by on 2011/08/24 in Literature, Opinion

 

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Short Story Analysis: “Leech Run” by Scott W. Baker

This story was released via the Escape Pod podcast, and is available for both listening and reading.  

The concept of the story is fairly simple: a space pirate wishes to make money by transferring “leeches”, which are human beings with the natural ability to both transfer and absorb energy from any source. This makes the people both very dangerous in space, yet they are very desirable.  Titan is a pirate captain who is transporting this group of leeches to a buyer.  however, one of the leeches escape, and attempts to cause trouble, and the captain isn’t happy.

The story is a normal straightforward action tale.  One of the characters does have a unique ability that makes him unbeatable.  But you could almost predict what was going to happen.

The interesting element of this story is it’s attempting to explore the concept of identity.  How the author does this is leave the origins of leeches unknown?  Are they born into it? Do they develop it?  Is it connected to scientific experiments?  It’s hard to say. But the one thing we can say is that this unique ability causes the world to demonize leeches as a whole.  But is this demonization a fear of the unknown, or is it because of the actions of one psychotic leech who overreached?  it’s hard to say.  But the one thing we can say is that while the abilities of a leech are dangerous, that doesn’t mean that every leech is out to kill you.

This kind of identity is one that we as people often rely on.  Multiple characters make assumptions about another’s identity, and in doing so, they underestimate, or misunderstand a situation.  They suddenly attract trouble, and voila, the plot moves on.  If Titan were to act with more of a logical thought process, he may have discovered the culprit faster, and thus avoided the unnecessary death and violence that would come with it.

Overall, “Leech Run” is a great story by Scott W. Baker, which does a grand exploration of that all-important element of identity.

 
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Posted by on 2011/08/07 in Literature

 

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Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall” and our reaction to the unknown

I have not put a lot of time or effort into reading short stories.  However, they are certainly some of the most influential classical sci-fi pieces out there for the thoughtful reader to engage.  So, I wish to engage these classic stories, especially the ones that jump out at me, or that others have called classics.  In this post, I take one of science fiction’s pioneers classic stories.  This story is “Nightfall” by Isaac Asimov, originally published in 1941

The concept of this story is that there is a world out there that is always lit up by one of 6 suns that are always crossing the planet.  Because of this, the inhabitants on this planet have never known night, or darkness.  They are inherently afraid of darkness. This fear would almost cause the entire species to disintegrate into total chaos.  Our story begins when scientists discover that the 6 suns on this world will set at the same time, and thus putting the entire planet into “Nightfall”.  This classic story has been published many times, and has even been made into an audio drama, as well as a full-length novel.

The original idea of this story explores both the nature of the unknown, as well how others react to it.  There are three influential groups that interact with one another over time.  There are the scientists, the journalist(and main protagonist), and the religious cult.  The scientists are the original ones who discover the event of “Nightfall”.  However, the religious culthad predicted the event beforehand, and was using it to convert as many as was possible.  The journalist acts as the eyes and ears of the audience, who is both skeptical, but curious.  How could this event happen?  What do the leaders plan to do about it, if it’s even real?

Asimov presents everything through his classic perspective; the scientific crowd is correct because of their analytical use of science, while the religious cults and groups are crazy, and misled.  This doesn’t remove from the story’s overall value.  The story explores how mankind explores the unknown.  One can either twist the truth (like the cult), ignore it (like the general populace in the story), or explore it further (like the scientists).

But if we have these so-called “Competing forces”, then how do we test which one is right?  Both are attempting to predict the future, but each has different explanations.  So, how do you test the ideas? Use Occam’s Razor, which simply states “whatever is the simplest conclusion is most likely the truest”.  While this isn’t applicable in all situations, it certainly is a useful tool in comparing objective, physical claims of truth.

In conclusion, Nightfall presents a great exploration of both science’s look at truth, at man’s capability for twisting the Truth, and for how one can react to the unknown.  The best way to access this story is to listen to Episode 100 of Escape Pod, which features this fantastically classic story.

 
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Posted by on 2011/07/28 in Literature

 

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