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Connor's Blog for English 3722

Speculative Fiction and the Science Fiction Short Story

My Opinion on The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster

Upon Reading The Machine Stops by Edward Morgan Forster I was struck with the thought that the post-apocalyptic world described in the short story could easily become our own if the human race continues on its current path. Forster creates a world that in many respects is eerily similar to our own, with machines to cater to one’s every need. In the story, civilization has become reliant on technology for everything from talking to friends and family, to going to sleep at night, and to get from place to place.  While the current human race has not devolved to this level of reliance on technology, we have become increasingly dependent on things such as cars, instant messaging, google, and many other things that have appeared in the last few decades in an attempt to make human existence just that much easier.

As for the aspect of religion in the text, I believe Forster uses this as an exaggeration of how dependent people can become on machines, even in his own time. In today’s world people are stepping away from religion and in many instances this is because of technology. Not to say they have become like the members of the civilization in the story, but perhaps there is a link between the recent decline in those who follow a religion and the rise in technological advancements in the past few decades. In the story, the image of civilization worshiping the machine reminded me of how some people of today are glued to their cellphones, constantly checking for notifications and behaving as if putting it down for any length of time would be a blasphemous act. While it was probably less evident for Forster in 1909 when he wrote this story when many technologies were still in their infancy or not even conceived, but humans have a tendency to obsess over the newest advancement or gadget, quickly rejecting the old.

The downfall of the civilization in the story was completely expected for me. It is extremely dangerous to become wholly reliant on technology and to forget the basic aspects of what make us human. To me this story seems to be a warning for our current generation not to become too dependent on technology, because one day in the future it may be our downfall.

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The Life and Work of Leslie F. Stone

 

Born Leslie Frances Rubenstein on June 8th, 1905 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she was the daughter of George S. Rubenstein, a clothing merchant, and his wife Lillian A. Spellman. While there is little known about her early life, it can be deducted from official records that Leslie was of German and Dutch background and was only the second generation of the family to have been born in the United States. She grew up with a sister Dorothy who was several years older than herself. By 1920 the family was living in Norfolk, Virginia in a highly populated Jewish section of the city. It was here at the age of fifteen that Leslie began selling fairy tale stories to newspapers and subsequently studied journalism in school.  In 1927 she married William Silberberg/Silverberg in Philadelphia and together they had two sons. The couple were married until William’s death in 1957.

Due to the fact that the audience for Science Fiction at the time was primarily men, Leslie did not reveal her gender to her audience. Being one of the first women writers of Science Fiction, Stone did not wish to be ignored and thus either write under her married surname or more commonly her alias, Leslie F. Stone. However, to her contemporaries, Stone was always recognized as female.  It is not precisely clear why she assumed the pseudonym of Stone, but it was not necessary for her to alter her first name because at this time Leslie was presumed to be a man’s name. As well, it was not necessary for Stone to change her middle name as it could be altered to the masculine form, Francis.

It was in 1929 that Leslie Silberberg made her debut in Science Fiction magazines with her short fiction stories When the Sun Went Out, Letter of the Twenty-Fourth Century, and Men with Wings. The year 1930 saw the publication of Through the Veil, and Women with Wings. It was during the early 1930s that Leslie’s writing was most popular. Between 1929 and 1931 Stone also published a series titled The Void. In 1931 Stone wrote the short story that we studied in class and her best known work, The Conquest of Gola. Stone continued to publish in the 1930s as her popularity increased, but eventually drifted away from writing, publishing her last story in 1951. In total she published about 20 stories over her writing career. By today’s standards, many of Stone’s stories had strong feminist themes for which Stone was highly criticized.

Stone ceased to write after being told be an editor that women should not write science fiction, but also because she claimed to have run out of ideas. She attempted to publish again in the 1970s but faced the same rejections as a woman writer.  In the 1960s Stone was working at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. She had moved here with her husband and children in the late 1940s. In her later years Stone was an avid gardener and ceramicist, winning prizes for her work. She died on March 21st, 1991. While only spending several decades writing, Stone’s work was highly influential to other women science fiction writers and made a profound impact on the genre.

My Thoughts on “Forever Yours, Anna” by Kate Wilhem

 

Of the many diverse stories we have read for speculative fiction this term, ‘Forever Yours, Anna” by Kate Wilhelm is definitely one of my favourites. I loved the story itself, but also Wilhem’s writing style; her story reads easily but yet is still entirely captivating.

First off, Gordon has the coolest job ever. Personally, I love to look at other people’s penmanship, especially that of people who lived decades ago who seem to have had a much better grasp of what beautiful writing looks like than we do today. Letter writing itself has always appealed to me, and to have a job where all you do is analyze documents and writing styles like Gordon does, would be very enjoyable to me. There is such a mystery about the letters in the story, especially how the name was cut out. This of course makes total sense by the end of the story.

As well, the idea of time travel is also interesting. However, I would be more likely to want to go back in time, rather than forward. The ending of the story was such a surprise to me, I had no idea that Gordon would be caught up with Anna in any way besides being obsessed with finding out who she is. How everything fit together in the end fascinated me, but when it was all told I could see how it all fit. Stories like this one always blow my mind; to look back and see how everything works together amazes me

Aliens on Our Planet: William Tenn’s The Liberation of Earth

 

After reading The Liberation of Earth by William Tenn, it became apparent to me that in some respects, his story is quite accurate. Just like the inhabitants of Earth in the story, if aliens were to land on our planet we would have no way of knowing if they were good or bad. All we could do is take their word for it that what they are saying is true. In the short story, humanity was dubbed naïve by the aliens because we were so easily convinced of one thing or another and so willing to help. As seen in the end, the aliens did not care for the human race and were only caught up in their own fighting.

I don’t think now, or in any future time, humanity would be prepared for aliens to land on the earth. We would have no way to judge if their intentions are genuine or not, just like the future civilization in the novel. To me, this story reiterates the idea that it is never a good idea to trust strangers, whether they are from your own city of from another galaxy. The aliens may have thought they were liberating the earth, but in reality they were doing more harm then good. Earth was only a battlefield for the aliens, never a place with whose people they actually wanted to establish a relationship.

Ultimately though, the human race would not hesitate to get caught up in extraterrestrial affairs if the chance arose. Whether it be to help an alien race fight for some misunderstood cause as seen in the short story, or simply doing what we can to be welcoming and hospitable to these newcomers, the human race would be involved. Perhaps the aliens would be equally as helpful as humanity would be, but there is always the chance that they would be more advanced than the human race and see us as something to exploit to their benefit. Thinking about the possibilities after reading this story, I now hope that there is no such thing as aliens. I would rather they not exist at all than run the risk that they would have bad intentions for our planet.

The Captivating Qualities of Edmund Hamilton’s “The Man Who Evolved”

 

The entire time I read Hamilton’s short story my attention was thoroughly captured. I read with horror the transformations that Pollard underwent, but also with an undying curiosity of how he would transform next.  Similar to how the onlookers in the story felt, I was scared to see what Pollard would become, but yet also extremely interested to have a sneak peak at what the human race would eventually evolve into in millions of years.

I think it is the first transformation of Pollard that really gets the reader interested in what is happening; an old man goes into the machine and after evolving 50 million years comes out looking like the ideal human being. This is enough to grab anyone’s attention and to have many readers wishing for their own way to evolve 50 million years.  I think the initial reaction and prediction of what is to follow this first change is that by evolving further he will become even more attractive and possess even greater intelligence. However, this is definitely not the case and I feel that this backward evolution is what truly shocks the reader out of their previous thoughts and grabs their attention.

The suspense of the entire short story is what helps to make it so captivating. The reader is on the edge of their seat waiting to see the next horrific change that the human race will eventually endure. In a way, the ending itself makes the reader feel almost guilty that at first they wished to see the evolution of mankind with a hope for the future, but after seeing the terrifying results one no longer thinks the experiment was such a great idea after all. Hamilton wrote the story in a way that keeps the readers attention from beginning to end and has the reader constantly reading to find out what the next shocking development will be.

The Image of Life After Humanity in Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains”

 

In the short story “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury, humanity has been instantly wiped from the earth by what could be described as a nuclear war. For a time, the advanced technology of one family’s dwelling is able to go on without them, going through the day’s routine on its own without the interactions of the family. Oblivious to the fact that it no longer serves a purpose, the house continues to function until its destruction.

This raises the question as to how long the man made aspects of the world could function on their own without human use. While it is obvious in this story that this particular house was spared while others were destroyed; what would happen if humanity was wiped out without the destruction as seen in the story? Similar to what took place in the short story, the world’s dams, power plants, and other such machinery would continue to function for a time, but without human intervention they would eventually cease to operate. Thus, the image of even the machine being unable to survive the apocalypse is strikingly accurate.

This particular story, published in 1950, grabbed the attention of readers at the time because of the increased threat of nuclear conflict during the Cold War and memories of the destruction witnesses during WWII. Although set in 2026, closer to our present time, the story would have been a more accurate picture of destruction seen after the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan rather than what we would see today if nuclear war were to happen. Today whole nations would not stand a chance, much less one poor house!

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