Avast! Thar be spoilers ahead!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Canticle for Leibowitz

After a nuclear holocaust, the world and humanity attempt to recover. Many people suffer horrible and painful mutations. Culture, technology, science and reading are met with hostility as these are seen as the cause or catalyst of the destruction. A man named Leibowitz attempts to create a secret religious order, charged with the duty of preserving knowledge and books.

This book chronicles the span of 26 generations of the order, from the dark days of knowledge after the war, through a renaissance, and up to the end of human life on Earth. There is an enduring struggle between the monastery, passing governments and the religious head in the Papal state. There is also a struggle between religious and secular ethos, especially when it comes to euthanasia of mutants. One particular story focuses on the struggle of a woman and her infant, both mutated and in horrible pain. She eventually chooses to end their suffering because she believes there can be no good in the suffering of her child who can understand only its pain.

There is a wandering character who lives throughout all these ages, appearing at key moments to key players in history. He seems to be perpetually waiting. The legend of the Wandering Jew is all but forgotten to modernity. It is the legend of a Jewish man, often who has cursed or denied comfort to Jesus, who is fated to endure eternity until the Jesus returns to Earth. The legend is also seen as an allegory of the stateless Jewish population in Europe during the middle ages. However, the identity of the wandering Jew is confused with the Saint Leibowitz, who was himself a late convert to the church.

I avoid religion in fiction because it is painful to read amateur interpretations of religious literature. I am a pathetic snob but I am also an academic and my speciality is modern Jewish thought. But I loved the religious elements of this book. It is charmingly ironic that scientific knowledge is entrusted to a religious society. Actually, I suppose this is not ironic at all but an example of Miller's use of cyclical time events. Despite the hope of the crew on the starship, the tiny ark carrying all terrestrial knowledge, we know they are doomed to repeat history.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

I watched this movie for its outdated b-movie feel. I was not disappointed. I understand that the plot deviates significantly from the original 50's movie and also from the book. The basic plot is ludicrous. I mean, science fiction usually is but these characters lacked logic and the ability to act in their own interest without a support group. Trust becomes a problem for the main characters as the pod people are capable of passing as human.

The pod people to not take over the bodies of their victims but replicate their appearance. This seems silly and cheap to me. The pod people do not have individual identities, they act in concert with a single group mind and goal. Unless they are actually in need of the organic materials (the process is not explained), chasing down and converting each human is an excessive waste.

This movie hinges exclusively on terror, the fear of being replaced is the only thing this movie really has to offer.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Dangers of Piracy

I wrote this short story a while ago for friend aIs a mock-warning about internet piracy. I was motivated by the exagerated use of "piracy" - which used to terrifying, life-threatening and very real. Illegally downloading music should be considered petty theft as it would be if someone shoplifted the CD. Pirates actually kill people, real people.

Meg the Wench
Once upon a time, Meg was a wench aboard the pirate ship Torrrrent. On a soggy May eve, they attacked and boarded PopCap, a cargo ship in Her Majesty's Royal Navy, taking no prisoners but a cache of flash games. Having retired to her chambers, Meg spent a fortnight combating zombies with her arsenal of pea shooters and mushroom.

All was glorious, golden and velvety with the lingering odor of the salty deep until a swarm of Filibustering Bittorrent Insane-nazi-investigators (known colloquially as the FBI) descended upon the ship, riding atop a pod a malicious dolphins. Fearing for her life, and her mp3 collection, Meg placed herself and her laptop into an empty chest used to store gold coins and AOL trial cds, hoping to evade capture long enough to delete all illegal files from her numerous swarthy disc drives. Alas, her RAM was insufficient and she was taken, red handed with her collection of Black-Eyed Peas albums, Hanana Montana episodes, and flash games.

Though she pleaded innocence, ignorance and that she had been corrupted by the fast and loose Napster life-style, the judge had a daughter in the record industry and was hard on piracy. She was keel-hauled and forced to serve out her life as a copy-write underwriter, earning minumum wage, which left her with precious few pieces of eight with which to purchase CDs, DVDs and computer games.

Let this be a lesson to you, you filthy toddling landlubbing maggots: A pirates life is not for ye.