Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Humanity through Martian lore: the discovery of the self through the other


Zelazny’s A Rose for Ecclesiastes addresses notions of alterity in an interesting and indirect way. Gallinger, the pompous but linguistically gifted poet that acts as the protagonist of the story, is granted access to the cultural history of the Mars after demonstrating his considerable mastery of their “Lower Tongue.” While immersing himself in translating alien works of history and scripture, he falls for a Martian dancer that he inadvertently impregnates. Unbeknownst to Gallinger, his ensuing challenge to the Martian Matriarchy in the name of his beloved Braxa would fulfill an ancient prophecy that predicts the arrival of a savior from the sky.

On the surface, the story appears to represent a simple, colonial fantasy where the educated white man (who also happens to possess some serious martial arts training) swoops in to save the beautiful, dancing women of another world – a work of “camp” or “pulp,” as noted by a few others. The narrative itself is saturated with constant name-dropping and literary allusion, not to mention the heavily religious undertones suggested by the title. I want to argue, however, that Zelazny’s vision is more complex than what is suggested above. The scholarly (albeit pretentious) referencing, in addition to the lack of overall detail provided about the Martians themselves, appears to unpack notions of humanity more so than illustrate the speculative facets of science fiction.

First, Gallinger’s constant invoking of literary figures and allusions properly reflect his identification as a “second rate poet with a case of hubris.” Furthermore, this narrative style also serves to emphasize Gallinger’s challenge to his father’s faith; instead of becoming a missionary, the prodigious younger Gallinger chose to rebel, seek a liberal arts education, and eventually become a well-respected poet living in Greenwich Village. Ironically, it is his interactions with a dying alien society that reawakens his biblical roots. By invoking Ecclesiastes, he is able to present a positive example of struggle in the face of prophetic hopelessness. However, this does not result in his endorsing of religion or faith: Gallinger makes a point to venerate “vanity”, “pride,” and the “hubris of rationalism.” He preaches, “It is our blasphemy which has made us great, and will sustain us, and which the gods secretly admire in us.”

Several discourses of alterity can be identified within the above analysis. Most overtly, Gallinger’s dissention from religious discourse provides an alternate and more flexible way to interpret historical literature. It also addresses the issue of separating history from scripture, two elements traditionally viewed to be indistinguishable in primitive societies. Gallinger essentially highlights critical thought and western academic discipline as the major catalysts to civil and philosophical development.

The above arguments, however, are complicated by the plot twist revealed at the end of the story. That is, Gallinger’s discovery that his passionate sermon had actually fulfilled the very Martian prophecy he thought he was debunking suggests that faith can play a major role in humanity. Moreover, the paradox Gallinger identifies – that the “great paradox which lies at the heart of all miracles” is that he “[never believed a word of his own gospel]” – emphasizes the irony that he had been only acting on his own individual passions despite becoming the Martian messiah. Of course, the ultimate irony is the Braxa never loved him back.

[NOTE: sorry about how late I posted this – I screwed up and thought the posts were due at midnight and not noon.]

The Materiality of Memory: Is the Brain like a Bookshelf?


After reading “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, I was struck by the materialist thinking contained in descriptions of memory and its manipulation. Quail refers to the two competing memories of his trip to Mars as “memory-tracks”; the implication at Rekal Inc is that objects of memory have physical presence in the brain, and occupy specific spaces in the brain. The technicians at Rekal can’t imbue Quail with memories of an ersatz trip to Mars because there is “no space” in that particular memory-track, implying that memory is a physical structure with finite and thematically organized limits.

But can memory be described in a wholly material sense? Are memories always coherent and neatly organized? Can memories be surgically removed without tampering with other aspects of the mind? It is implied that further tampering with Quail’s memory may cause a psychotic break; the mind, in Dick’s story, isn’t capable of simultaneously remembering two competing versions of an incident. The story asserts itself as being about the future; in other ways, the Terra that Quail inhabits is incredibly technologically advanced. The science of memory, however, still appears to be relatively fallible; this might be because the non-linear and contradictory nature of memories defies easy classification or transformation, even within the essentially boundless universe of science fiction.

The classification of memory to discretely material entity is also emphasized in the movie adaptation, Total Recall; toward the end of the movie, Quail is told that “Man is not defined by his memory, but by his actions.” But if tampering with memory can lead to psychosis, clearly the abstract workings of the brain have more significance than we realize; and perhaps they are significant precisely because they are immaterial and poorly understood, and can thus define us in ways that are unconscious but critical.

Dick’s story seems, in some ways, to be an attempt to materialize the unavoidably abstract concept of memory. In this way, it is a reflection of the larger goals of speculative literature; enabling the reader to imagine the unimaginable, to imagine that the abstract has concrete form. The story, however, demonstrates the limits of Dick’s universe; in an attempt to relate everything to narratives of material and technological progress, the author must sometimes put forward incomplete views of incredibly complex conceptual frameworks. Is an overarching narrative of materiality a critical part of science fiction as a genre? Should science fiction search for alternative paradigms of comprehension and progress? Is that even its job?

Rewriting Earth History on Mars


Several people have identified the relationships between this week’s readings/media and personal memory, highlighted in Total Recall. What struck me was the repetition of themes of ‘civilizational’ and social memory – and the rewriting thereof. In Total Recall and “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” there are major issues of personal memory. Gallinger breaks his account of the salvation of Mars to describe memories of his father from his youth, which are of obvious personal significance. His memories of his father, who encouraged him to become a missionary, interact with what seems his destiny as he realizes himself as the Martian’s Sacred Scoffer. Doug Quaid exists in the quandary between reality and dream state, unable to certify that his memories are his own once the possibility of memory erasure is introduced. There exists an additional layer of historical memory which, through the colonization of mars, is rewritten.

In “A Rose for Ecclesiastes,” we are introduced to a dying civilization, which has transitioned into a state of resignation because of the infertility of its males and the writings of its great historian/poet, Locar. The story itself appears an appropriation of something biblical. A desert people, living in the shadow of former opulence (Gallinger finds “Byzantine brilliance” beyond the antechamber as he begins his historical and linguistic study), its buildings likened to tents with walls decorated with animal skins. They have experienced drought and plague, and are now waiting for their savior in the form of a spiritual dissenter. Even their literature paints their very existence as a kind of disease of the inorganic. The idea of dissent, of critical thought, is what saves them (though, paradoxically, this process of questioning scripture is written into the prophecy to be questioned).

In a way this echoes the development of the United States which, perhaps for Zelazny, is successful because of its rejection of uncritical thought, and its insistence on reasoned dissent against governmental or theological convention. This intervention into the decline of Mars at the hands of blind acceptance is then a kind of revision of Western history as it descended into the dark ages of scientific stagnancy, blind faith, etc. Zelazny is providing us with a revised Jesus, sent ‘down’ from Earth, in the heavens, to Mars for its salvation. Through Gallinger we can rescue ourselves from our own past.

The conflation of time into a kind of past present is furthered as Zelazny describes the Martians as having “science, but little technology,” without providing justification for this failure to leap from one to the other, as if there could exist a type of curiosity which does not then imply manipulation of the natural world by means of knowledge gained. They are a civilization which has “done all things…seen all things…heard and felt all things,” as if valuing experience over development, as if unable to conceptualize the creation of “new experience” until Gallinger brings one to them himself.

The portrait given of Martians resembles an earlier terrestrial time point, which the entry of modern humans as prophets by virtue of their own experienced past. In Total Recall, there is a more direct relationship between the situation of the Martians, who derive from terrestrial humans, and those enslaved populations of recent memory. Here we rewrite our own history by freeing Martians from slavery summarily by eliminating the scarcity of the instrument of their slavery (air/oxygen). Here again we are give an opportunity to rewrite the history of global slavery by liberating the population of this new planet.

I 've been forgetting to remember

I woke up gasping for breath, my pudgy adolescent fingers clawing into the darkness. For weeks after seeing Total Recall I had a recurring dream: I was on the surface of mars and my body was going through the tell-tale signs of rapid pressure change. My eyes bulged from their sockets, chest and lungs simultaneously expanded and collapsed and my brain bursting within skull. The overwhelming message that my 12 year old self gathered from the film is that humans are frail and fragile creatures.

Rewatching Total Recall after reading “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” has reinforced that message although in a far more unsettling way. The stories focus on the malleability of memory and the overwhelming power of our passions. When read in comparison I was left with the feeling that I am at the will of an arbitrary memory and an equally arbitrary ambition – leaving little room for conscience or control.

Even from the onset I found Dick’s short story unsettling. Douglas Quail, our presumed (anti?) hero, is always already lost in reverie only vaguely informed by reality. In the third paragraph we are told that Quail needed a daily rush of nicotine which “woke him up and allowed his dreams, his nocturnal desires and random wishes, to condense into a semblance of rationality” (102). To imagine one’s waking reality as little more than an amalgamation of “nocturnal desires and random wishes” suggests that there is no single, stable shared reality but rather a host separate and occasionally overlapping worlds. This theme is repeated later when McClane, the memory salesmen, convinces Quail that real memories are necessarily incomplete, “You're not accepting second best. The actual memory, with all its vagueness, omissions and ellipses, not to say distortions-that's second best” (106). Dick suggests that our reality is a less fulfilling version of dreams. And yet Dick simultaneously argues that our dreaming state is informed by and a product of very real events. As we discover that Quail’s innermost dreams are actually memories of past events – willfully obscured by all powerful and somewhat incompetent government bureaucracies – we are left to wonder about the persistence of memory, passion and desire and how they overlap. The film, however, leaves little for us to wonder.

The final scene of Total Recall is terrifyingly ambiguous. Throughout the film we are led through a series of “mindfucks” which ultimately leave Quaid as an unreliable narrator. Quaid, it turns out is, is a memory implant in the mind of the ever-duplicitous Hauser. After narrowly avoiding combustion in the Martian atmosphere by terraforming the planet using ancient alien technology Quaid/Hauser stands atop a mountain (how he got there after having just fallen down one is left unexplained) and holding hands with his “athletic” and “slutty” companion Melina. In his last line of the film Quaid/Hauser says, “I just had a terrible thought... what if this is a dream?” Melina quickly responds “Well, then, kiss me quick before you wake up!” as an overwhelming orchestral arrangement builds while the scene fades to white. With a certain literal-minded reading the films’ end – while in some ways is a clichéd Hollywood ending – actually is quite depressing. It is hard to view the previous 90 minutes of shootouts, ridiculous chase scenes and improbable escapes as anything more than the delusional fantasies – or “extrafactual memories” of a man lost in dream. The film suggests that there is no stable reality at all; that memory is little more than a dream purchased after a hard day’s work.

Total Recall, the campaign


After reading 'Polemical Afterword' I was curious as to how exactly the idea of 'total recall' in the film practically related to Governor Schwarzenegger's 'Total Recall' campaign. In other words, was it more than simply a happy accident that the procedure used to remove an elected public official from office before the end of term was called 'the recall mechanism'? Was the campaign capitalizing on the movie's title alone or was it also trying to draw on its themes?

According to a brief summary of the recall campaign, "The main charge against Gray (Davis) was that he had mismanaged the Californian economy, creating a budget deficit of over USD 30 billion and the need for large tax increases." It is possible to draw some parallels to the film: we could cast Davis as Vilos Cohaagen; the mismanagement of the economy that resulted in the deficit as the mismanagement of resources on mars that caused the oxygen deficit; and the need for large taxes as the need for the Cohaagen's method of oppression (his oxygen provisions). However, I concede that this is a bit of a stretch and is probably not what the creators of the total recall campaign intended its audience to get from its name. Does anyone disagree? Or have any other thoughts about why the campaign chose to use this particular slogan?

Undoubtedly though, the campaign was trying to draw on Arnold Schwarzenegger's filmic identities. In 'Polemical Afterword', Freedman talks about his role as the Terminator and points out that, "The visual ratio of steel to flesh in the trilogy must be something like a hundred to one. Even when human beings manage to fight back against the machines, they can do so only through other machines...” and this strikes me as crucial in terms of what the campaign was trying to do. The only way to 'fight' the larger political forces at play in contemporary American politics is through your elected representative. Freedman notes that within the Terminators there is a hierarchy, pointing to one particular female Terminator who, "the Schwarzenegger character admits to be “a more efficient killing machine” than he is." If we translate this hierarchy to the political world, attributes of 'efficiency', special terminator weapons, and abilities, could be equivalent to political assets. Let's look at Schwarzenegger in this hierarchy. On a physiological level first, he would undoubtedly rank higher than any other governor serving. He is an intimidating presence, and though not essential to the political process, appearance undoubtedly plays a role in political discourse. Physical attributes aside, casting Schwarzenegger as a tool for 'fighting back' against the other politicians would be advantageous in a number of other ways. In terms of politics, the GOP golden boy came out of Hollywood, so highlighting his role as an actor, and aligning him with Regan on that level certainly must have helped the campaign. Essentially, I think the campaign’s reliance on Schwarzenegger's fictive alter egos was designed to do a lot more than just remind the public that he was a star.

We Interrupt This Broadcast ...

I was struck by the parallels between A Rose for Ecclesiastes and War of the Worlds, particularly their preoccupation with the challenges and the necessity of communication. A Rose for Ecclesiastes occupies itself with intimate contact – translation of a sacred text, personal communication and relationships. Gallinger finds himself growing in knowledge but not always able to understand the Martian people he interacts with. Some things are un-translateable. War of the Worlds deals with mass communication instead of personal contact. The humans never get the chance to try communicating with their invaders, but there’s more focus on their inability to communicate with each other, with telephone lines cut and static between broadcasts. The terror of losing mass communication really struck a chord with me in light of the current situation in Egypt. Loss of the internet and attacks on reporters greatly heightens public fear because suddenly we’re cut off from the ability to learn the story from its witnesses.

Both Gallinger and Richard Pierson act as reporters in their own stories. Some posts already touched on Gallinger’s use of metaphors, an imperfect effort to communicate things people on Earth cannot quite understand. Pierson has the same descriptive problems with his scientific approach. He can make references to tentacles and snakes but cannot quite convey what he’s seeing. He cannot put horror into words, which seems particularly relevant given the story’s setting during World War II. I thought H.G. Wells made a strong point in the interview posted on Blackboard, that Americans could still “play with terror and conflict” because the war wasn’t too close to home yet. The truth of some stories cannot be told from a distance.

The inability to truly capture a story connects to a defeatist attitude over continuing it. Martians in A Rose for Ecclesiastes and humans in War of the Worlds become complacent with their own demise because it seems they’ve arrived at the end of their stories. The Martians feel that their fate is fixed because someone already finished the story for them. Pierson is losing hope because he fears there will be no one left to read his account. In both cases, though, persistence emerges from seeming futility. Gallinger uses the pessimism of the Book of Ecclesiastes as a source of optimism – the writer thought the people had no chance, but they survived anyway. While the Martians don’t respond to his humanity in the emotional sense, they do accept it in the logical scientific sense in correlation with their own sacred texts – his humanness will allow them to reproduce with him. Such a literal expression of humanity also saves the day in War of the Worlds. Humans lived on because of their own mortality. The death of some allowed for the survival of the rest because it brought on bacteria that the invaders could not handle. Listeners get the same sense of imperfect hope that Martians do in A Rose for Ecclesiastes. We don’t learn exactly how life went on, but we know that it did.

Thus both stories find hope in the ability to prevail, though they’re not entirely hopeful. Gallinger prevails against his own will. His survival can alternately be looked at as a failure to commit suicide. Regardless, humanity persists even when it seems an impossibility. Apparent apocalypses become interruptions instead of extinctions. To me this idea is tied to the section of the radio broadcast I initially found most baffling – the musical interludes. War of the Worlds begins with interrupted interludes, and the breaking news eventually takes over the regularly scheduled musical programming. The question of what is the real interlude - the music or the stories interrupting it - arises. But ultimately, the breaking news is resolved and life can return to normal. On a larger level the radio broadcast was an apocalyptic interruption. The world ended for an hour, but then another program came on and life returned to normal. A Rose for Ecclesiastes brought music more to the forefront with Braxa’s dance, but I also made the connection between Ecclesiastes and the song based on it, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season).” I’m not sure if Zelazny was influenced by the song or not, but it was originally recorded in 1962, a year before his story came out. I think this idea of turning and cycles of life ties in well with both stories. The song concludes on a note reminiscent of the ultimate salvation of the societies in both stories – “I swear it’s not too late.”

I’m sorry that this is a little long – it seems I'm having some of my own representation problems on detailing my responses to the stories. I still feel more comfortable with science fiction in the pop cultural sense, so as an addendum to our discussion last week, I wanted to add this link to show another place I’ve learned about science fiction through cultural references. In other words, everyone should watch Community.

Allusion and Identity in "A Rose for Ecclesiastes"

Forgot to mention: the keywords are the tags. So, allusion, identity, otherness, reference, translation

I'd like to address a topic that both Rhiannon and Alexandra brought up: the referential language in "A Rose for Ecclesiastes". Under the heading of "referential language" I'd like to lump in metaphor, allusion, and non-English words. Each of these has a superficial reason for working within the text, but taken together they reveal a somewhat disconcerting theme about identity and otherness.

The text functions as a sort of hard-boiled sci-fi (as pointed out by Conor), taking on the stylistic trappings of 1940s detective fiction. The two most conspicuous elements of hard-boiled fiction in "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" are heavy use of metaphor (currently distinct from "referential language") the detached narrative voice that at once describes and experiences. These two elements are actually quite closely related, as the heavy use of metaphor aids in establishing a witty, detached narrator. This narrator has time to think even when things are happening all around them, time to reminisce and explain.

My memory was a fogged window, suddenly exposed to fresh air.  Things cleared.  I looked back six years.
This detached narrator, however, seems sometimes too detached. In the moment above (95), the action pauses for half a page while Gallinger narrates a memory. Gallinger's aloofness does not exist only between the text and the reader, but between him and the other characters: Morton says, "I think he's spoken two dozen words to me since I met him" (73). Because he speaks through metaphor when he does speak at all, it is incredibly difficult to pin down Gallinger's identity.

Additionally, he expresses himself through the words of others, even as he is known as a great poet. The story is full of allusions, direct and indirect, to a canon of literature and religious texts. I could try to list all of them, but Alexandra pointed out most of them. (The biggies: Hamlet, the Odyssey/Iliad, the Bible, the Modernist poets, Sartre.) Instead of an attempt to show off his knowledge, these allusions rather emphasize the lack of a distinct voice. Gallinger is a poet, sure, but the only direct view of his poetry yields a disappointing poem (not disappointing because it's particularly bad, but it's not particularly good either). Aside from this single view, Gallinger always defines himself through association.
(If I were particularly playful, and I might just be, I'd say that Gallinger's identity is as fragmented as the narrator of "The Waste Land", with all "these fragments I have shored against my ruins".)

The non-English languages offer a key to the puzzle of identity. Gallinger opens the story, "I was busy translating" (58). Gallinger's function throughout the plot is to translate High Martian lore into English, to translate Martian culture into American (Earth) culture. When he can translate no more, he requests to "copy" (75), and introduces technology to assist him. But this technology merely puts off the task of translation, merely makes it easier to do so at a more convenient time. Gallinger is the translator, never the thing to be translated, even though the story sets him up as such (a great modern poet). In line with this, Gallinger's allusions encompass languages from German to Ancient Greek, from Hindi to Hebrew. The fragmented, refracted voice that defines through association is not unique to one culture, but takes its pick from all the cultures out there. It appropriates at will. It, however, always returns to its foundations: Gallinger, as much as he ties together the Koran and Japanese martial arts, always takes them as alien to his Word, his Bible, his Iliad, his Odyssey.

And here, we have the puzzle in its entirety. The identity, formed through appropriating the Other's, always appropriates but never assimilates. It defines itself through "not-being", and requires an Other to know itself. Gallinger, detached from his surroundings, coalesces fragments of other people's words and languages, and only really exists in translation. It doesn't matter that this story is set on Mars, only that it is somewhere totally alien and acceptably so. Martian culture appears composed of all the non-Western Terran cultures, amalgamated into this huge, yet non-threatening Other that requires saving. In saving it, Gallinger finds his identity (that is actually just another huge allusion; I guess there's nothing new under the sun after all).

Fact or (Science) Fiction?


Key words: fact, fiction, science fiction, suggestion, panic

Deciding fact from fiction can sometimes be quite a challenge. Just ask listeners of the October 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. Due to the new medium of radio which allowed information, news or otherwise, to be instantaneously broadcast into millions of homes, listeners were not sure if they were tuning into CBS’ weekly Sunday night entertainment or to a emergency news broadcast warning the nation of the sudden arrival of Martians in New Jersey. Jackie Orr investigates the nature of the panic caused by the broadcast and the parallel research that was happening at Princeton University connected to radio.

Orr summarizes some of the early 20th century studies on groups, crowds, and panic. As Robert E. Park explains, a group is not a real entity until it is formed by social relationships through shared understanding and occasionally laws. Once the group is formed, the social group becomes a “real entity” and subject to be explained scientifically. Essentially, the process moves the idea of the group from fiction to fact. Once this fabricated group appears, the crowd has the ability to suggest ideas and actions, “collective motivations and movements” (Orr 41). Suggestion can become so powerful, that it’s “mutual infection of thought and feeling, and its intensification of emotional and mental states through the medium of social interaction, are the casual mechanisms that can define a crowd as a homogeneous unit accessible to scientific explanation.” (Orr 41) The dilemma of group suggestion was so troublesome that researchers spent countless hours and dollars trying to discover what made people more likely to take suggestions (or believe fictional radio broadcasts about Martians) and cause group panic. Orr discusses the group and its contradictory nature, comprised of the other and the outsider, but also the most nationalistic sentiments of the race and the group mind.

Just as the group make up seems to be at odds with itself, the genre of science fiction itself brings about a series of contradictions. The very term “science fiction” seems to struggle within itself between the real and the imaginary. Science, a study of rules and laws proven by theories and experiments, continuously striving to find what is true and provable in our world, is paired with fiction, literature that describes imaginary events and people. The genre asks us to believe that something is real and not real, possible and impossible all at once.

Both the stories, “Rose for Ecclesiastes” and “We can Remember it for you wholesale”, contain strong themes surrounding what we believe as fact, how we know it’s true, and what happens when something contradicts this truth. For example, Gallinger discovered both a high and low tongue of the Martian language. Braxa must reconcile the teachings of a god and the disbelief of a prophecy with the arrival of Gallinger. Doug must struggle to accept his own memories as fact or fiction, unclear what has actually happened in his past and what has been placed in his mind by Rekal.

The reading this week brought up themes of fact and fiction that we will most likely be dealing with for the entire semester. To what extent do we believe what we read, especially when these books are presented as fictional texts (unlike the war of the worlds broadcast which was partially presented as truth)? How much suggestion are readers susceptible to when a genre like science fiction is rooted in so much fact?

Science Camp


Keyword: camp, pulp, violence, sexuality, superscholar

I would like to respond to Conor’s post, as he made a point that I myself came upon many times while doing the reading. At many points in the story, the writing just seems… bad. The characters are mere sketches, each one consisting of a job description and one defining feature: there is a botanist who “likes mushrooms,” a commander who has a tragic past, a dancer who is also beautiful, and a M’Cwyie, who is ostensibly both a keeper of mysteries and Gallinger’s ultimate antagonist, yet seems to serve only to agree to whatever Gallinger asks to do at any given point in the story. Finally, the dialogue flips between ridiculous one liners and grandiose lecturing. Some of the pontificating near the end by Gallinger is most egregious, the cringe-worthy, “I’m not a holy man, just a second-rate poet with a bad case of hubris,” (99) especially sounds like a parody of some sort of cheesy hardboiled film noir story. Normally, I would side with Conor in taking the “so bad its good” camp mentality, but in the case of A Rose for Ecclesiastes the ham-handedness just bothered me, and I wonder why.

It occurred to me that it might simply be a matter of my associations with camp. To me, camp is most closely associated with action or horror, the genres which are often most brazen in their appeals to the readers’ base emotions. In these genres, the pulp hero makes his way through the work mostly through brute physicality, often through violence or sexual prowess. Thus, the dialogue or narration becomes completely secondary to this physicality, and we forgive the pulp novel for its shortcomings in these areas. Consider James Bond, who we watch for his ability to dispatch baddies and bed women, and either relish or casually ignore his terrible one-liners. Nobody goes to a Bond movie for the dialogue, but rather the action, so we can ignore the one liners because they are “not what the film is about.” However, Rose’s lack of a clear delineation between these two aspects of the narrative calls attention to these shortcomings by confusing what the reader is meant to enjoy, and what they are meant to casually ignore. Rather than the muscle-bound action hero, Rose has a condescending “superscholar,” one who makes his way through the plot with ridiculous feats of mental ability (such as learning a new language in a manner of a few weeks) rather than strength. However, if the man is as scholarly as his “campy” feats of ability would suggest, then wouldn’t we expect his dialogue and narration to be a little more cerebral? In the adventures of such an idealized aesthete, it seems remiss for his dialogue and narration to remain like that of a cardboard cutout of a scholar. If the dialogue of an action novel or film is forgiven because of the action, then what is Rose’s excuse? Rose even seems to be somewhat self-conscious of this failing, and includes its own instances of violence and sexuality, in Gallinger’s instantaneous courtship of Braxa and his equally effortless defeat of Ontro, as a form of compensation and a hearkening to the more classic expectations of camp.

In that vein, I found We Can Remember it for you Wholesale to be far more palatable than A Rose for Ecclesiastes, despite similar levels of dubious pacing, minimal characterization and blunt dialogue. There are still silly lines of dialogue, such as bluntly explanatory “He knew what I was going to do, but I did it anyhow,” (118) but I did not mind as much. Perhaps I should have, but I feel that Quail never promised himself to be any more than what he delivered.

Interstellar Taxes Shall be Based on the Total Number of Humans and 3/5ths all other Sentient Beings

Keywords: Memory/Reality, Duty/Love, Racial Superiority, Dying World

As of writing this I’ve watched Total Recall, and read “A Rose for Ecclesiastes,” “We Can Remember it for you Wholesale,” and Freedman’s essay on Schwarzenegger in Science Fiction.

The largest theme between them all is the importance of memory, both individual and cultural, and how much memory of either kind effects who we are as individuals. With the Quaid/Houser character in Recall and “Wholesale” memory becomes reality. In fact, even knowing that his current existence is a fabrication, Quaid displays a typical survival instinct at the end of Recall, choosing not to go back to his “real” life in order to preserve the one he is currently living. While one could argue that this advocates “living a lie” the more interesting question revolves around the idea of perception equating to reality.

In “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” the protagonist Gallinger is a genius linguist and poet, who places a huge value on the strength of words and their ability to capture emotions and historical fact. The moment where he finally gains access to the Martian city and their archives of lore going back millennia brings to mind the image of a person deprived of oxygen being allowed to finally breathe again. Rather than the focus on individual memory we have in “Wholesale,” Zelazny focuses on the strength of cultural memory and of the power of prophetic writings. It is only through his understanding of their history that Gallinger eventually saves the Martian people from themselves.

Both works also share an examination of the ramifications of faking love in the name of duty with Quaid’s wife and Gallinger’s Blaxa. Although Blaxa's is a more relatable decision in order to save her species that coldness with which both characters turn "off" their faked emotion is striking. This again brought me back to the idea of memory/reality versus illusion. Quaid knew he was living a lie but because he had memories of it, it was "real." Kind of the idea that you ultimately cannot really fool yourself into believing something that you know to be false, but an outside force can easily shape your perception of yourself.

Also worth mentioning is that in all of these works, and in other Martian fiction I've read, Mars is almost always imagined as a dead and/or dying world. Perhaps it is because it is an angry Red color, or because Mars was the Roman name for their God of war; either way most human imagining of a Martian civilization imagine one long since extinct, or working it's way into the grave. Yet despite almost universally accepted technological inferiority, mankind always has something to teach the Martians, some way to revitalize their civilization, or the bravery to make a choice they were afraid to make. This speaks strongly to the idea that "humanity" as just 1 race among countless imagined others is morally (and in many other ways) superior to the other races of the stars. As Freedman writes, these portrayals suggest that "all problems are soluble through human effort, and human effort of an essentially modest and mundane sort." Martian effort, however, is much less effective.

Human Anxieties, Alien Lands


Themes: anxiety, manipulation of memory/identity, violation of the sanctity of the human body, definition of humanity, future of the human race

There are few moments in Paul Verhoeven’s  Total Recall (1990) that cannot be described as rather “heavy-handed.” Lying on the floor, tiny chests rising and falling rapidly in growing panic, Cohaagen’s dying fish – compared as they are through an immediate cut to the suffocating inhabitants of Mars’ Venus district – are certainly no exception to the rule (01:28:00).

But heavy-handed though it may be, the fish-out-of-water metaphor seems a rather apt way of capturing the source of many of the deep-seated human anxieties explored in the Mars-focused pieces of this week – anxieties raised by the consideration of moving beyond the known ‘boundaries’ of human civilization. Whether it’s apprehension about the violation of the sanctity of the human body, or concern about the instability of the definition of humanity itself, such anxieties are projected onto the landscape of Mars – both as the actual setting of the story/film or as a locale that is highly significant to the narrative – in the works Total Recall, “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” and “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”.

See You at the Party, Richter


ENG 396 Week 2: Mars

On moral hazard, microhistory, censorship, magic, and humor.

Whether it is Richter playing shoot-em-up on Mars, Gallinger nourishing his linguistic genius, Welles delivering the daily news, or Cantril contributing to the propaganda effort, literary moral hazard begs a subtle question: how does one define morality in a literary work? This is not exactly Professor Mitchell’s question in ENG 415, of what “role that moral education should play in literary study.” (1) Rather, Richter mercilessly embraces collateral damage, Quaid instinctively shields himself with a civilian, and Benny responds to the carnage with only a sardonic “welcome to Mars,” each of them possibly implying an anomic moral condition in the social background. Freedman describes the attitude of the modern audience with Walter Benjamin’s telling term, “self-alienation” (p. 545). Is such self-alienation replicated in works like Total Recall? Perhaps the film allows an interpretation as social introspection (as Mars often is), because I found the film magically incapable of suspending my disbelief, a feature shared by its literary progenitor. The problem of detailed moral hazard is also very prominent in the film, whose (meta-)narrative seems to actively encourage Quaid’s systematic employ of violence among innocent people who are effectively duffel meat bags. (Or, nobody is innocent…)

In his microhistorical account of Welles’ broadcast, Orr highlights two real moral hazards: Welles’ failure to predict mass hysteria, and social researchers’ conflicting interests between quantitative analysis and propagandistic application. Surprisingly, the second instance features academic censorship in the names of Princeton and Rockefeller (p. 60)—a delicate topic for Orr’s academic work—but the first instance, about the “contagions of suggestion” (p. 45), suggests a juxtaposition between War of the Worlds’ literary hysteria and real hysteria. Hiding behind this interesting connection is a tangle between the magical beliefs of the highly moved listeners (Orr p. 64–65), the “ ‘magic’ power of symbols and words” (Orr p. 69), and the plausible realism of War of the Worlds.

Cthulhu, Pastafarian Rendition
Figure 1: A tangle of ideas from War of the Worlds.

I hope I’m not the only one who sees a little humor in the panicked reaction to a piece of radio fiction, although there is nothing humorous per se in War. The obvious contrast is with Total Recall, in which Ahnold’s timely one-liners spruce up an otherwise violent and ethically unsophisticated film. “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” works differently by implanting humor into the narrative. Gallinger’s smugness is matched most ironically by M’Cwyie’s patronizing in response to his quick progress (p. 63). As Rhiannon discerned, the role of “otherness” is at once ameliorative and divisive (2), yet Gallinger and M’Cwyie’s common, humorous intent divides at the personal level while bridging the culture gap. Gallinger commits moral hazard through his prophetic status by impregnating Braxa without appreciating the Martian teleology of doom. The sex with Braxa is also a fulcrum for Gallinger’s attitude; up until the act, he emitted smartass and condescension (p. 78–79), while immediately afterward, he uncharacteristically describes his sense of “shame” (p. 83). One may further ask how humor depends on morality.

As reflective narratives, the Martian stories take on censorship in contrasting ways; consider authoritarianism in Total Recall and blasphemy in “A Rose for Ecclesiastes.” There is no moral ambiguity about Cohaagen’s self-serving censorship of the rebel cause, whereas Gallinger the “Sacred Scoffer” advanced blasphemy without denying the moral righteousness of dogma (p. 99). It is another instance of moral hazard, where Gallinger, foreign to the Martian religion and mocking his own species’ Biblical passage (p. 98), betrays the theologically determined morality for his personal belief system.

I do not feign to know how to properly answer, “What is morality in a literary work?” But the above examples of Martian science fiction suggests that literary morality at once reflects and criticizes real moral standards, while also experimenting with morality, even that which leads characters to commit unbelievable moral hazards. Morality, like psychology, is another surface for science fiction to work on.

References: Roger Zelany “A Rose for Eclesiastes,” Philip K. Dick “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” Carl Freedman “Polemical Afterword,” Jackie Orr “The Martian in the Machine,” Total Recall (1990), and War of the Worlds (1938).

Style as means


I’d like to address a subject (maybe an anxiety) that I suspect will recur throughout the semester, given the number of students who raised it during our first session: whether science fiction qualifies as good literature. I found the stories assigned delightful, of course, and entirely successful in what each set out to achieve conceptually; still, there’s no doubt that neither easily (nor the Zelazny, in my opinion, plausibly) clears the bar usually set for “good” prose. Yet in reading them I began to suspect that a number of their questionable narrative or stylistic choices were actually quite useful to their ends—that science fiction, in other words, might be bad on purpose.

Take the hard-boiled prose of “A Rose for Ecclesiastes,” punchy and punch-drunk at once. Zelazny was certainly heedless of the usual proscriptions; for instance, I count seven one-line paragraphs on page 70 alone. Worse, by my lights, is the nearly total absence of description of Mars, Martian architecture and Martians, which requires the reader fill in the gaps between dialogue with his own projections (or, more likely, the readymade tropes of earlier sci-fi, as demonstrated by the original cover above). Arguably, the decision stands as a kind of literary analogue to the imagery first responsible for obsessive belief in Martian life, mentioned by Prof. Montez during our last session: like a first, fuzzy telescopic view of the planet’s surface, there is no more detail available than necessary to arouse speculation.

I’d go further, however, to argue that the weak description is locally justified as a means to the story’s ends. What little representation of the Martian temple there is, for instance, explicitly serves to ground the later imposition of Judaism: “The Matriarch’s quarters were a rather abstract version of what I imagine the tents of the tribes of Israel to have been like. Abstract, I say, because it was all frescoed brick, peaked like a huge tent, with animal-skin representations like blue-gray scars”; abstract, we can say, so that the reader’s own vision of the tents of ancient Israelites may be more easily overlaid (61). As it happens, the notion that one might wish to write at a purposeful remove from a foreign culture is itself offered in the text, by no one in particular: “‘Go, Gallinger. Dip your bucket in the well, and bring us a drink of Mars. Go, learn another world—but remain aloof, rail at it gently like Auden—and hand us its soul in iambics’” (66). (Truly, that line has no speaker—it might as well be Zelazny addressing himself.) Likewise, the reader is encouraged to imaginatively participate in the miscegenation—which, paradoxically, is valued as the preservation, despite its despoiling, of the Martian line—insofar as Zelazny exclusively offers him details compatible with human ideals of feminine beauty. Probably white, come to think of it: “Her shoulder was bare now, and her right breast moved up and down like a moon in the sky, its red nipple appearing momently above a fold and vanishing again” (71, emphasis mine). Even the eyes of the cover’s alien are Oriental at best; their lips too perfect to need lipstick.

So far, so conventional for colonialist sci-fi. While I haven’t room to engage with “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale” extensively, I believe its comparatively heavy-handed plottedness has equal internal justification. If our volume’s editor is correct and one of Dick’s purposes was “to shift focus from outer to inner space,” the choice to reveal new details in the narrative during clinical procedures perfectly executes the maneuver according to the experimentalist logic of sci-fi. Seeking mastery over the subject, a technician examines him in order to share results with his audience, which includes us: “‘Once you’ve surrendered yourself, . . . [w]e’ll attempt to determine your absolute, ultimate fantasy wish’” (121). The technique is science’s, the object fiction’s.

War of the Worlds, Total Recall... Oops, Were You Expecting a Clever Title?


Key themes: Historical sci-fi, radio, class systems, sci-fi fans as an “in-group”, search for truth

War of the Worlds

Transcript of Broadcast:

“Listeners fled, clogged phone lines seeking information, prayed, went into shock, and contemplated suicide rather than die at the Martians’ hands. The crowds that flocked New York City’s streets, said one observer, outdid even the chaotic scene that had accompanied the end of World War I.”

-- Bruce Lenthall, in an excerpt from “Radio’s America: The Great Depression and the Rise of Modern Mass Culture” (

Listening to this recording now, more than 70 years after the original broadcast, it’s difficult to imagine how it fooled so many people. After all, there are disclaimers at the beginning, middle, and end, and, furthermore, several parts of the broadcast contradict the illusion of a live broadcast (such as when Pierson mentions travelling for days). In an attempt to understand, I tried to apply some context.

In 1938, communication in general was much more limited—people couldn’t flip on the news or run a quick Google search to confirm what they were hearing. Also, it seems to me that radio itself can be an ambiguous medium: Listeners can’t use visual cues to gauge the severity of a situation, and there is no quick and easy way to check if a program is being aired on a news vs. an entertainment station, or, in fact, what program is running. The parts of the broadcast modeled after actual public announcements do sound quite authentic—for example, the transcript I’ve linked to above notes that the part of the Secretary of the Interior mirrored the style (including some phrasing) of speeches delivered by FDR, who was known to give radio broadcasts relatively frequently. This would have added to the illusion of authority.

In order to gain some additional perspective, I asked my grandfather (who was nine in 1938, and living in New Jersey) what he remembered about the broadcast. Although the fact that he remembered that particular night at all is a testament to its impact, I was a little disappointed when he admitted that he and his brothers had not been taken in. He did, however, remember people jumping into cars in an attempt to get away, and his own mother running into the room, demanding to know what was going on. When I asked him what he thought it was that fooled so many people, he sort of shrugged, and suggested that people simply didn’t stick around long enough to hear the disclaimers, or to properly absorb the contradictions in the timeline.

The essay that I cited above validates this theory, but adds its own, darker interpretation about the mindset that allowed for such widespread panic. Lenthall writes:

As radio brought an expanding, impersonal public sphere home to Americans, they encountered a world in which even culture and communication might be centralized and standardized. The modern culture that radio represented threatened to overpower individuals, leaving them with little control either in their own lives or in the wider world. As public intellectuals of the day lamented, that culture might be as menacing as Welles’s Martians.

While having this “public sphere” directly projected into our own homes might seem commonplace to us, it does not seem a stretch to think that the attitude of excitement and interest we associate with the rise of radio might have been tempered by a sense of confused powerlessness and even isolation, particularly coming at the heels of years of Depression.

Total Recall

I’m not normally a big fan of action-oriented sci-fi movies (or of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s…. well, I’ll be generous and call it “acting”), but several aspects of this movie caught my interest. First of all, I found the presentation of class systems to be telling. On Earth, although “Doug” seemed to work as a day laborer, he was wealthy enough to have a luxurious flat and to pay for a fancy vacation. On the other hand, the lower classes on Mars seemed barely able to survive. While a large part of this can be attributed to the regime in power on Mars, it also seemed to echo a theme I’ve seen before in science fiction: the idea that off-world colonies will regress, culturally, compared to Earth, much in the way that historical colonies have been seen as immature younger cousins of the “original”.

Speaking of common themes in science fiction, I also noticed some obvious similarities between this movie and other sci-fi movies I’ve seen. I’m not referring to overarching themes that define the genre, but rather to subtle nods. There was the pill that allowed the main character to choose between a dream life in reality (The Matrix). “The Last Resort” bore a definite resemblance to a similar place of ill-repute in Star Wars, complete with the introduction-via-advances-from-the-triple-breasted-prostitute trick (and the Google search I tried to do to confirm that might rank on the top ten awkward internet moments of my life). A quick online search reveals a couple of cameos by well-known science fiction actors. This tendency of science fiction to borrow from and make constant allusions to itself seems to me to create a sort of media sub-culture that I think we saw a bit of in class last week. It both ties lovers of the genre closer to together and, in some instances, risks ostracizing the casual fan—a trade-off that some works seem more willing to accept than others.

Finally (and I apologize so much for the length of this), I was surprised at the twist at the end of the movie. Despite the fact that a major theme throughout the film seemed to be the importance of finding the truth, in the end the “right” choice was not the “true” choice: Quaid chose to remain with his current identity, the created personality, rather than revert to Hauser.

"A Rose for Ecclesiastes": A (Non)Traditional Colonization Romance

In “A Rose for Ecclesiastes,” “civilized” humans discover other life forms on Mars. They study their habits and culture, which causes them to struggle with each other over who can take credit for the discoveries. They judge that culture as primitive and matriarchal (perhaps relatively less civilized than their own culture because it is matriarchal), even though the Martian culture predates that of human civilizations. When Gallinger is finally permitted to form a more intimate connection with the natives, which indicates that he has gained some of their trust, he falls in love with one of them. He slowly discovers that the Martians are a doomed civilization, and that he, the wise white man, is the only one who can save them, by forcing them to start thinking like humans (renounce part of their culture).
Does anyone think this looks familiar?
Pocahontas. Avatar.
Am I saying that Zelazny ripped off the story line? No. “A Rose For Ecclesiastes” was first published in 1963, long before Cameron filmed his legal LSD trip. But this “traditional” colonization fantasy of rescuing a doomed culture is difficult to ignore.
Zelazny’s motives for creating this story line can be analyzed in two extreme ways (or they could fall anywhere between these two interpretations): (1) He simply didn’t realize that the white man saving the doomed matriarchal race with his seed carries strong social/historical connotations. (2) He’s fully aware of the symbolism he’s evoking (and how offensive it can be).
I’m leaning towards the second motive. Gallinger is not a lovable hero; he deserves very little sympathy from his readers, despite his status as a great poet/literary figure of his time. Even after he falls in love and becomes slightly more bearable to the other human characters, he clearly doesn’t become more lovable to Braxa. As Ben points out, Gallinger feels that he saves the Martian race - that he’s rebelling against their foolish religion, forcing them to evolve just as he claims Christians evolved past the pessimistic Book of Ecclesiastes; that he’s bridging the gap between humans and Martians by replacing the impotency of the Martian men - but he’s really fulfilling a prophecy, and the matriarchs lured him into that prophecy with girl bait. So, although Gallinger fulfills a vital need for the Martians, he only does that because the Martians manipulated him into that role. Already, this seems to undermine the colonial fantasy. Zelazny adds to this by casting Gallinger as a hypocrite - after accusing the Martians of falling into the same trap that the Book of Ecclesiastes almost drew humans into. “[W]e [humans] did not lie down, despite plagues, wars, and famines. We did not die,” he tells them (97-98). After he succeeds in converting the Martians and saving them, he attempts to commit suicide. In this way, Zelazny refuses to allow the story to end on a heroic, triumphant note. He also reminds readers that although colonialization might ascribe to lofty aims - revitalizing a culture or helping it evolve to acceptable standards - it comes from the colonizers’ selfish motives.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Otherness in "A Rose for Ecclesiastes"

Key words: foreign, otherness, A Rose for Ecclesiastes

One thing that struck me about A Rose for Ecclesiastes was Zelazny's repeated use of comparisons to Asian cultures to describe Martian language and culture. Does this technique make the Martians seem more human and accessible, placing them in a context closer to home, or does it emphasize the differences between these cultures and the American "norm," making them seem more foreign, more alien, in the comparison? By comparing the Martians to cultures that Americans might find foreign to the point of incomprehensibility, Zelazny provides himself with a venue for exploring our relation to "otherness" (other cultures, other languages, other people), and has the chance to ultimately break down the apparent barriers between these disparate human groups, and present the need for unity between them.

In A Rose for Ecclesiastes, "foreign" and "alien" are almost interchangeable concepts. When Gallinger attends the dance of Locar, for example, he at first describes the instrument used as "faintly resembling a samisen," but then, within a few lines, changes this "faint resemblance" into absolute correspondence, referring to the Martian as "the samisen player" (69). In the work of a few moments, the Martian musician has become a Japanese musician, become equated with an earthly, human, and so more accessible figure. Yet the moment certainly does not erase the foreignness and strangeness of the Martians' music. Zelazny mentions the samisen in italics, by the Japanese name, without any attempt at further description or explanation. How many readers, from that word alone, could picture the instrument? Of those familiar with the samisen, how many could recognize its sound? Zelazny makes Martian culture "more familiar" by putting it into a human concept that many American readers would find almost as incomprehensible, and then relies on the other descriptions in the scene to lead us to believe in the beauty of a thing that we cannot fully understand.

As the Book of Locar reminds Gallinger of the Book of Ecclesiastes, Zelazny suggests that the fundamental ideas behind Martian and Christian culture are more similar than different. As Martian culture also becomes tied to Japanese culture, Zelazny therefore suggests that these differing (and once warring) cultures could also contain fundamental similarities.

Indeed, Zelazny goes beyond arguing that these differing cultures (Christian and Japanese, Earth and Martian) have similarities, to suggest that the two contain elements of equal value, which must be not appropriated but blended in order for each to reach its full potential. When Gallinger writes his poem Braxa, for example, he first writes the poem in High Martian, and then "gropes" to put it in English (74), suggesting that these ideas are most naturally expressed in their own language, in the language of the culture from which they originated, and that Gallinger cannot fully take them out of that context for other audiences without losing some of their meaning. Yet Gallinger is also forced to use the English words "cat," "dog" and "flower" in the poem to describe his own reaction to the dance, as these concepts do not exist in Martian. Gallinger's best version of the poem must combine elements of both his native and this foreign culture, allowing it to transcend normally poetry into the work of a "prophet" (75).

Similarly, when Gallinger fights Ontro, he can only defeat him by combining the Western and the Japanese within himself. In this moment, Zelazny does not simply mention the Japanese fighting skills that Gallinger learnt in Tokyo, but also blends English and Japanese language in this scene to show that these two cultures remain distinct, yet can be combined to create greater power. Although the words are written in latin script, to make the pronunciation parsable to English readers, their meaning is translucent, only partly explained by context. He is 一球, ikkyuu, the Japanese word, the Japanese concept, pure and intranslatable. The tools that Gallinger uses in this passage - his atemiwaza attack, the zen technique tsuki no kokoro - do not exist in Gallinger's native culture, and so he must become one with this foreign other in order to succeed. Both the familiar culture and the foreign are valuable, powerful, and must be combined to literally save the world, in the immediate fight against Ontro, in fulfilling the prophecy, and in allowing the Martian race to live on by interbreeding with humanity.

However, this blending process ultimately feels imperfect. It does not seem an equal blend of the two, but the domination of one culture over the other. "If you permit the doctors of the next expedition to examine you," Gallinger tells the Martians, "perhaps even the men may be helped. But if they cannot, you can mate with the men of the Earth." Yet this ending does not combine the best of both Martian and Earth culture to provide a better future for both races, but implies that the Martians alone will benefit from this alliance, that man (and particularly Gallinger) will become god in their eyes. The Martians must be saved by Earth, but Earth does not seem to need the Martians for anything. Despite the movements towards the suggestion of equality and importance of different cultures, this short story cannot quite free itself of the taint of benevolent colonialism, of the power of the Christian, American man over that exotic, foreign "other."

No New Thing Under the Sun

keywords: the colonizing "superman," prophecy and agency, familiarity and distance, daddy issues

In Roger Zelazny's "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" the main character Gallinger is shuttled between issues of familiarity and distance from his own life and experience. Gallinger blurs the line between human and inhuman as he seems so set apart from his fellow humans. Gallinger embodies the notion of a superhuman colonizer in the vein of characters such as Jake Sally in Avatar who come to embody the adopted culture to such an extent that they are more in touch with it than those who belong to it. He is able to grasp the Martian high language quickly and has no lack for faith in his own abilities. To all appearances this appears a textbook example of racial superiority couched in the language of science fiction and other cultures.

However, Gallinger is a mere catspaw in the hands of forces that both are and are not in his control. His own confidence in his abilities and his reference to being a prophet by the Martian people proves to be preordained; his actions are not of his own choosing. Everything he does is in keeping with the teachings of Locar, in keeping with Ecclesiastes. "There is nothing new under the sun."

First off, Gallinger has a severe issue with his own agency- with taking credit for his actions and elevating himself above others. As seen in his self-congratulating justification for why others react to his hubris poorly, "That's the reason everyone's jealous-- why they hate me. I always come through, and I can come through better than anyone else" (59). That sort of humility really inspires confidence in his ability to be a diplomat to an alien race.

Gallinger's issue with agency is related to his relationship with his father and his religion. The conflict underlying his relationship with his father and his relationship with religions as well as his place in them is based on this sense of familiarity and distance. On witnessing his father's body at the wake Gallinger describes how he "looked at him and did not recognize him" (65). Gallinger's removal from his father- his own family- points to his own issues regarding his position in relation to others. Gallinger is as alien to the rest of the humans as the Martians are to them.

He recalls his father as a "stranger" who "had never been cruel- stern, demanding with contempt for everyone's shortcomings- but never cruel" (65). This sounds oddly similar to how others see Gallinger, albeit with a slightly more jocular bent, nonetheless he tends to inspire a similar reaction of distance from others.

Gallinger keeps quoting the Book of Ecclesiastes without explicitly copping to the fact that he has fallen prey to the sins as well. Namely, Gallinger falls pray to the sin of vanity. "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man... [of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?... The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun]" (67).

What Gallinger likely thinks he's doing.

He believes himself capable of changing a whole society, of saving it from a fatalistic bent. Instead Gallinger tries to convince the Martian into letting these outsiders impregnate the Martian females, displacing the men in the society while making a suggestion towards further investigating the source of their infertility. This is not in keeping with a diplomatic or civil meeting. Gallinger interrupts a major religious ceremony to call the Martians out on their perceived stupidity and refusal to take action of any sort.

Through his actions he says the Martians are taking their own inability to procreate, to actively contribute to society, as a greater sacrifice of their own agency. Gallinger presumes to return this ability to procreate by seizing the agency on his own, yet the Martians knew this would come to be. Gallinger was a cog in a machine of prophecy and preordainment that he refuted and in so doing affirmed. Locar proved to be the better prophet than he as Gallinger comes by no profit from his hubris or his actions to save their race in spite of their inaction.

Gallinger is so broken by his experience with Braxa, at the utter fatalistic inescapable nature of prophecy that he tries to kill himself by the story's end. As he returns to the shuttle he recounts in his narration that he is "leaving the burden of life so many footsteps behind me... I went to my cabin, locked the door, and took forty-four sleeping pills" (100). Gallinger is used just as he tried to use the Martian people when he first arrived to fuel his career and ego.

Versus what he actually is to the Martians.