Presentation on theme: "Science Fiction: The Problem of Knowledge. Epigraph to The Lathe of Heaven (1971) Confucius and you are both dreams, and I who say you are dreams am a."— Presentation transcript:
Science Fiction: The Problem of Knowledge
Epigraph to The Lathe of Heaven (1971) Confucius and you are both dreams, and I who say you are dreams am a dream myself. This is a paradox. Tomorrow a wise man may explain it; that tomorrow will not be for ten thousand generations. —Chuang Tse: II
The Island (2005) Roger Ebert: “the first half is a spare, creepy science fiction parable, and then it shifts into a high- tech action picture.”
The Set Up A seemingly utopian facility in which the survivors of some worldwide plague are housed. There is only one place on earth that is not contaminated – THE ISLAND You only get there by winning the lottery.
The “FALL” into consciousness What is it that allows humans to register that something is not quite right? How do we know that we, in this room, are not cyborgs or clones? How do we really know anything?
The Sphynx (1841) Here is the narrator situation. Escaping the cholera-filled city, he retreats to a county cottage: My thoughts had been long wandering from the volume before me to the gloom and desolation of the neighboring city. Uplifting my eyes from the page, they fell upon the naked face of the hill, and upon an object- upon some living monster of hideous conformation, which very rapidly made its way from the summit to the bottom, disappearing finally in the dense forest below.
Perspective (Poe loves this) Ah,here it is,” he presently exclaimed- “it is reascending the face of the hill, and a very remarkable looking creature I admit it to be. Still, it is by no means so large or so distant as you imagined it,- for the fact is that, as it wriggles its way up this thread, which some spider has wrought along the window-sash, I find it to be about the sixteenth of an inch in its extreme length, and also about the sixteenth of an inch distant from the pupil of my eye.”
The Fantastic Speculative Fiction in the 19 th Century often called into question how and why we come to know or believe as we do. The ambiguous presentation of the seemingly supernatural Shares many literary qualities with Magical Realism
Truly, a world Genre: The Fantastic Author Country Edgar Allen Poe, Nathanial Hawthorne United States Thomasso Landolfi Franz Kafka Italy Czechoslovakia Lu XunChina Nikotai GogolRussia Jorge Luis BorgesArgentina
The idea of infinite texts Jose Luis Borges tale “The Garden of Forking Paths” (1941) Represents post-modern lack of faith in ultimate truths. Anticipates Magical Realism, cyber fiction and especially hypertext fiction.
On page 22 of Liddell Hart’s History of World War I you will read that an attack against the Serre-Montauban line by thirteen British divisions (supported by 1,400 artillery pieces), planned for the 24th of July, 1916, had to be postponed until the morning of the 29th. The torrential rains, Captain Liddell Hart comments, caused this delay, an insignificant one, to be sure.
“Forking Paths” is a “Statement” -- first two pages are missing Testimony of Dr. Yu Tsun, former professor of English at the Hochschule at Tsingtao He is a “cowardly man”... a German spy I did it because I sensed that the Chief somehow feared people of my race—for the innumerable ancestors who merge within me. I wanted to prove to him that a yellow man could save his armies.
The conflict: My human voice was very weak. How might I make it carry to the ear of the Chief?
The Physical Landscape mirrors the theme The afternoon was intimate, infinite. The road descended and forked among the now confused meadows. The damp path zigzagged like those of my childhood.
What will be the fate of this man? Stephen Albert observed me with a smile. He was, as I have said, very tall, sharp-featured, with gray eyes and a gray beard. He told me that he had been a missionary in Tientsin “before aspiring to become a Sinologist.”
Text within a text: “The garden of forking paths.” Written by the illustrious ancestor of the narrator, Ts’ui Pên Albert: “ When he died, his heirs found nothing save chaotic manuscripts.” “An invisible labyrinth of time. To me, a barbarous Englishman, has been entrusted the revelation of this diaphanous mystery.”
A thousand an INFINTITY Nights A book whose last page was identical with the first, a book which had the possibility of continuing indefinitely.... In the work of Ts’ui Pên, all possible outcomes occur; each one is the point of departure for other forkings. Sometimes, the paths of this labyrinth converge: for example, you arrive at this house, but in one of the possible pasts you are my enemy, in another, my friend. If you will resign yourself to my incurable pronunciation, we shall read a few pages.”
As Albert explains the Labyrinth, our narrator feels: From that moment on, I felt about me and within my dark body an invisible, intangible swarming. Not the swarming of the divergent, parallel and finally coalescent armies, but a more inaccessible, more intimate agitation that they in some manner prefigured. Stephen Albert continued:
“Not in all,” he murmured with a smile. “Time forks perpetually toward innumerable futures. In one of them I am your enemy.” Once again I felt the swarming sensation of which I have spoken.... “The future already exists,” I replied, “but I am your friend. Could I see the letter again?” Albert rose. Standing tall, he opened the drawer of the tall desk; for the moment his back was to me. I had readied the revolver. I fired with extreme caution. Albert fell uncomplainingly, immediately. I swear his death was instantaneous—a lightning stroke.
Why has he killed his friend, Albert? To relay information about the name of the town (Albert) where the British have placed their artillery This places into doubt the official story (Liddell Hart)) that the British attack was delayed for three weeks due to rain.
A word about the power of Dreams "Yes. The drugs kept the dreams from building up and getting vivid. It's only certain ones, very intense ones, that are...." He sought a word, "effective.“ -- George Orr in The Lathe of Heaven
A key moment in Lathe He knew. He did see the first dream change reality. He saw the change. He believes me. I am not insane!
Do Haber’s “suggestions” help the world? Orr had looked down at his own pale-gray hands, with their short gray nails. "I suppose that you suggested that there be no more color problems. No question of race.“ The WPC, established in Portland since the end of the Plague Years, had coped with them, and had kept the populace and the Generals calm. This had, Orr now realized when he thought about it, not happened on the first of April a couple of weeks ago, but last year in February— fourteen months ag
The “REAL” history? (revealed to Heather) When I was fifteen the schools closed. There wasn't any Plague, but there were epidemics, one after another, dysentery and hepatitis and then bubonic. But mostly people starved. And then in '93 the war started up in the Near East, but it was different. It was Israel against the Arabs and Egypt. All the big countries got in on it. One of the African states came in on the Arab side, and used nuclear bombs on two cities in Israel, and so we helped them retaliate, and...."
Orr dreams his way out of Armageddon "I was all right," he said at last. "I dreamed about being home. I woke up and I was all right. I was in bed at home. Only it wasn't any home I'd ever had, the other time, the first time..... This isn't real. This world isn't even probable. It was the truth. It was what happened. We are all dead, and we spoiled the world before we died. There is nothing left. Nothing but dreams."
Post-Modern films that problematize reality Memento (2000). Christopher Nolan. Also Interstellar (2014) Dark City (1998). Alex Proyes The Sixth Sense (1999). M. Night Shyamalan The Truman Show (1998). Peter Weir The Matrix (1999). The Wachowski Brothers