Stone Eaters and Mythological Creatures

During most of The Fifth Season, I wasn’t sure what to make of the Stone Eaters. In hindsight, it’s clear that Jemisin deliberately wanted to keep me as uncertain as I was in the beginning as the story progressed and I still did not have a satisfying view of what they were and what they were doing. It was only when we read a post by Jemisin where she said “the stone eaters aren’t ‘mythological’” that I finally confronted why I wasn’t sure of how to view them. While I didn’t see the Stone Eaters as mythological, I didn’t know what category to put them in. Now it’s clear to me that I saw them the way Jemisin was hoping, as humans, even if I continued to be wary of their motivations.

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Waste

After being captured by Antinomy, Alabaster learns how the seasons started. He learns that curious orogenes created a hole that reached into the core of the earth, expelling the moon and causing apocalyptic seasons.

Ultimately, one can summarize that digging the hole was waste of time and energy, much like college! This class has made me realize how much of my education is wasted because of stress about money or the one number that defines my ability to succeed in the future, the dreaded GPA. It costs over 20,000 dollars a year to go to a state school if you are a New York state resident. By the time you finish school, you’re well over 80,000 dollars in debt. Most people, in addition to school debt, have to pay rent, car payments, insurance payments etc. Therefore, the debt gets paid off gradually. Since it’s being paid off gradually—and not immediately—your loans are incurring interest.

The best part is that all of this is that your whole future (and ability to pay off this massive debt) depends on your GPA. I’m going to law school. My whole future depends on how I look on paper. They will look at this number, and make a decision that is crucial to my future. It feels like, the worse my grades are, the bigger the hole is. If I keep them up, minimal damage is done, but if I let them slip, I expel the moon and set off deadly seasons in my life.

Ironically, my grades are not always within my control. At UB, my professor admitted to me that he could only give out a certain number of A’s and B’s and C’s. A project that was an A in his eyes had to be demoted to an A- because of the school’s policies on leniency. I have another professor at Geneseo, who is a wonderful person, that doesn’t “believe” in giving 100’s, because there is always “room for improvement”. While I understand the principle, I don’t like how it affects my academic standing. School is a scam that opens doors for the affluent and lucky. If I’m not the human embodiment of perfection, I’m paying dozens of thousands of dollars to be weeded out of success.

Much of what I did at UB and occasionally here is busy work. I can’t afford an education that requires me to tedious do busy work, rather than refining my skills. People who don’t have to worry about bills and expenses can afford to do a little busy work. However, those of us who work to pay our expenses, cannot afford any wasted time. Much of my education–especially at UB–has felt like wasted time and effort. Could it not be argued that they way college is designed perpetuates the wealth gap?  It is deathly expensive, It tests your ability to do excessive amounts of busy work, and then all you have to show for yourself at the end is one defining number. I can count one one hand the classes that have pushed me to succeed, and better myself throughout my college career.

This class actually requires me to analyze my abilities as a writer and to improve. I’ve only had a few classes that have done this. I appreciate it, but at the same time, it makes me mad. I’m mad that the cost of improvement and real education is damage to that dreaded number that defines my future. I’m mad that in order to improve and fix mistakes, I need to take a series of dents to this precious number. Realizing this has made me wonder what the point of being here is, when the classes that make me better, make me look like a failure, and the classes that are no real benefit to me improve my academic standing. It really makes me feel like college is a waste of time and energy at times, like digging the hole that messed the world up.

It’s a dramatic metaphor, but at UB, I didn’t learn anything and no one cared. However, my GPA was law school material. Here, I’m becoming better and growing as a person, but I have a decreased chance of getting into a good school because that number is lower. Perhaps I would be less pessimistic if I didn’t already have so much student debt. This system feels as damaging and pointless as the system of standardized testing that plagues American education. Both limit progress and growth, as did digging the hole that set off the season and set humanity back centuries. The only difference is that I’m digging a financial hole, instead of a physical one.

Back to Profanity

In one of my previous posts, I discussed the profanity found in The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate. In that post, I didn’t talk about “rogga” or “still” as slurs, mostly because the real world parallel to rogga is both obvious and something I don’t feel qualified to talk about. However, I would like to return to profanity by discussing still as a slur.

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Optical Illusions

With some inspiration from Brigid’s post about comparing The Stillness with the Earth that we all call home, I want to expand on another idea related to this, that we have also briefly brought up in class: Jemisin has so beautifully created a world that we have recognized as vastly different from ours, which makes The Fifth Season a stunning example of a wonderfully executed science-fiction novel (hence being awarded The Hugo Award for Best Novel, wow!). However, thanks to the film we watched in class on Friday, which I believe was called The Last Angel of History, I began thinking of the similarities that are also present between The Stillness and our Earth, such as natural disasters, discrimination, loss, emotion, and so on. Despite the dystopian approach that Jemisin takes towards presenting The Stillness and the events that occur within it, which makes unfortunate aspects of this reality seem a million times worse than the unfortunate aspects of our own reality, there are still similarities that may not be clearly recognizable due to the genre of the book.

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A Comparison of Worldviews

While reading the Fifth Season I found it interesting to compare our view of the Earth to that of people of the Stillness.  Unlike the people of the Stillness, who see themselves as victims of the Earth, we see ourselves as it’s master and more recently, its protector.

It seems that in the Stillness, its inhabitants  are constantly defending themselves from the Earth. They build structures for the sole purpose of  defense, hoping to withstand Earth’s mighty blows.They follow stonelore, making sure each town has a wall and each structure has  a “flexible central beam”(Jemisin 171). In our world, architecture cannot just be functional, it must also be aesthetically pleasing. In every age we build structure like the pyramids, the Parthenon and the Taj Mahal to show the future how great they were, not necessarily how “practical” they were. In the Stillness, pragmatism rules.   Continue reading “A Comparison of Worldviews”

The Casual Manner of Sexuality

 Although sexuality has evolved into a subject that has become more comfortable to talk about in modern day society, it is still far from being completely unraveled. Thus, I genuinely appreciate the casual manner sexuality is integrated into the world Jemisin creates. It’s a breath of fresh air to see sexuality so freely and for the most part, uninhibited. Jemisin has a skill of incorporating sexuality into the character’s arcs that expresses their passion without making it overly crude or vulgar. I find in mainstream media, artists have difficulty including a love scene to further the plot versus putting one in for the sake of nudity in the piece.

 

Jemisin can be seen utilizing sexuality throughout the book with the characters like Alabaster in “The Fifth Season.” For instance, in Chapter 16, Alabaster casually mentions his homosexuality to Syenite as he recalls a painful memory with a Guardian. Before coming across this part, I did not realize the easygoing attitude most have towards sexuality in the Stillness. But I also was shocked that I am almost incapable of imagining a world with such unrestricted sexuality – fictional or not. It is strange to imagine a world without such “boundaries” and societal expectations to follow. In addition, I was surprised to learn that Tonkee was transgender, especially since Jemisin easily weaved it in, and did not make it a shattering statement.

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Dirty Computer

I honestly really loved the Dirty Computer video, I even watched it twice. I found myself fist-pumping with her feminist lyrics. I find her views very important, and her activism very powerful, because of her intersectionalism. She is a black, queer woman, and therefore one of the most discriminated against members of American society. The empowerment in her video was clear and powerful. I also thought it was cool how she incorporated some very relevant, current events pieces. One of the girls’ underwear read “I grab back”  in reference to the counter-activism to President Trump’s remarks about “grabbing women by the pussy.” These specific pieces of activism in Monae’s video give even  more power to the work– there is no question as to what she’s advocating for and against.

The Connection Between Rocks and Social Justice

In an attempt to begin to answer the ominous question, “Why should people who care about rocks care about social justice?” and vice versa, “Why should people who care about social justice care about rocks?” I propose that we first examine the exponential increase in natural disasters all over the world. We can see how studying tectonic plate movement and other areas of geology may help us to better “forecast” (rather than “predict,” as Dr. Giorgis from the SUNY Geneseo Geology department explained) at-risk areas for natural disasters. These areas are then marked as less desirable to live, and real estate prices plummet, leaving many people stuck in possibly dangerous residences with no way of leaving; anyone who does not have an upper-class socioeconomic status must sell their old house to be able to afford a new one, and who wants to purchase a house that is prone to the devastating effects of earthquakes? Continue reading “The Connection Between Rocks and Social Justice”

Oppression and Empowerment – Past and Future of “Dirty Computer”

While there is so much to unpack when discussing Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer,” I find it really incredible how much of a different experience it is to solely listen to the track vs. watching the emotion picture as well. The emotion picture gives off a picture of a very oppressive nature throughout the majority of it that those who do not fit into the specific box of what is “norm” in the US experience. Meanwhile, while the specific songs mention the impacts of this oppressive environment, they are all extremely empowering and give off a powerful tone of reclamation. Continue reading “Oppression and Empowerment – Past and Future of “Dirty Computer””

How the World Came to be

Jemisin’s work within “The Fifth Season” is a dedication to the unwritten ideas of countless cultures. Through her world-building, Jemisin is able to repurpose and rewrite existing myths and ideologies into the unique place that is The Stillness. This will be an ongoing series of blog posts that will attempt to bring light to the references and links that Jemisin makes. Continue reading “How the World Came to be”