Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Civilization & Superstition

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing -Darth Vader

Hey everyone! Sorry this is so late. A midterm on Tuesday and Ulysses took most of my time for the last few days. I noticed several themes cropping up while I was reading Nova this week. The physicality of the characters, how much of their individuality and personality was tied into their bodies and forms of expression. Another theme I picked up on was the immense distance between objects in space, the vastness of the void and how transportation was the hub on which all people relied on in order for the societies in the Pleiades Federation outer rim planets to function in any form remotely resembling modern society. Delany also forms a commentary on current forms of expression in Katin's proto-novel, an archaic form in the future where the senses can be directly stimulated by an instrument and the wonders of the universe are open to them. Issues of labor and scarcity crop up through the concept of the "ports" which the people use to plug-in to technologies and Illyrion.

Futurama's Holophoner = Sensory Syrinx
What struck me most about Nova was the juxtaposition of the modern and the anachronistic as provided by examples such as Katin's novel and the tarot cards in the story. When Katin describes what a novel is to Mouse he states it is an, "archaic art form superseded by the psychorama" (page 27). He claims that it was capable of "vanished subtleties, both spiritual and artistic, that the more immediate form has not yet equaled" (page 27). Through the use of anachronistic, outdated forms such as the novel Delany calls attention to the barbarous tendencies of societies regardless of the passing of time.

This barbarism is called out most specifically in Lorq's recollection of watching the futuristic "cock-fight" he saw with Ruby and Prince. The lizards used in this practice works as a metaphor for how things fall apart, "the offspring of that race's gods, dwarfed by evolution, were mocked in the pits by drunken miners, as they clawed and screeched and bit" (page 95). The god's of a race may beget the lowest of the low, taken as game by those that follow. Time will lay objects of worship down to objects of sports– displaying the barbarism in society regardless of how far we have advanced.

Another example of continuity in the futuristic society of Nova is the Tarot cards, which now serve as a sort of prediction of the future based on the Jungian symbolism. This is in fact a reversion back to past superstition. Katin may make plas to justify this practice as embodying basic symbols that crop up all throughout human history, but really all he is doing is prescribing a framework that only fits the events in retrospect. Indeed, people who see the future in light of these symbols find the symbols prescriptive because they believe in them: if you think you will meet a stranger who will change your life for the better, you are more likely to be open to that sort of thing or if you think all you have built will fall to ruin you may take any sign of adversity as the coming of this and facilitate your own downfall. In a society where the wonders of far-flung galaxies are within our grasp it seems dubious that such a silly thing as the tarot would carry weight. Irony aside this shows the ebb and flow of culture over time; as time passes something out of vogue falls back in again and we find our understanding of our surroundings cast into doubt by the light of discovery.


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