Carving (Y)our (My) Stories

” In love, then, we shall seek understanding.”

  • – N.K. Jemisin, The Obelisk Gate

Oftentimes, when I’m writing, I feel as though I’m carving something out of stone — I’m writing and writing and writing and slowly an idea emerges from the haze of dust and rock, at first realized only in rough outlines, in the hint of a general idea, and slowly, s l o w l y I polish away the hard edges.  I have, truth be told, perfectionist tendencies that come into play when writing (when doing anything, really, god, you should have seen me try to play sports — practice does not make perfect when you expect yourself to be perfect on the first try) and these tendencies are most definitely not unusual, especially when many of us are released from a schooling system that incorporates in us  a certain idea not only of writing (how to write, what qualifies as effective and acceptable writing) but how to work. Even now, in writing this, I feel the perfectionism — which is in turn symptomatic of both my education and my anxiety— rising up inside me, in the constant questioning (Is this good enough? Is this long enough? What will they think of this? Is this comprehensive enough? Is this good? Is it great? Is it the best it can be?) of my own work. In writing I sometimes feel trapped in my anxieties, in my thoughts, so judgemental of my own self, my own art, my own individual stories; I am caught in a spiral constantly folding in on itself as I question and question and question. 
Continue reading “Carving (Y)our (My) Stories”

Ex-Machina or That Which Was Formerly Machine

We were constructed as intentionally and artificially as the fragments you call obelisks. We are fragments of the great machine too . . . By our existence, we glorify the world that made us, like any statue, scepter or other precious object. We do not resent this, for our opinions and experiences have been carefully constructed, too. We do not understand that what Kelenli has come to give us is a sense of peoplehood. We do not understand why we have been forbidden this self-concept before now… but we will (Stone Sky 50).

Artificial intelligence.  Robots.  Cyborgs.  The steadfast fundamentals of sci-fi.  From I, Robot to Ex Machina, from the cybermen of Doctor Who to the cylons of Battlestar Galactica, the idea of living and cognizant technology has captured our imaginations for decades.  It’s a fascination that has developed and grown alongside our exploration and use of technology, one that, in a literary sense, likely has roots in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; we are fascinated, in a sense by creating that which is beyond ourselves, fascinated by the idea of becoming becoming almost as god.  In the concept of artificial intelligence we see the ability to not only push the boundaries of knowledge, but to push the boundaries of self.   Continue reading “Ex-Machina or That Which Was Formerly Machine”

On Beauty and Being Stone

In another course myself and Sabrina Bramwell are taking this semester, we are reading Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, a novel based in exploring contemporary ideals of beauty, academia and self.  It is, in fact, a novel almost as completely opposite from Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy as possible, taking place not in a future other-world involving people who move mountains and eat stone, but instead in a contemporary other-but-still-quite-similar university and focusing upon the lives of two families riddled by ideological differences, affairs, issues of ethnicity, and art.  And yet, both Sabrina and myself have been finding a myriad of connections, especially to do with ideals of beauty, between the works, despite their seemingly enormous differences in genre and content.   Continue reading “On Beauty and Being Stone”

Utopetroleum (and Cow Farts™)

Life is sacred in Syl Anagist — as it should be, for the city burns life as the fuel for its glory.

Syl Anagist at first seems a utopia, projecting image of surface-level perfection: a society built around life, around a pure and clean energy source, a source that, in lasting forever, will allow for unhindered progress of the  empire. Yet, Kelenli’s lessons to the tuners break any illusions of perfection in revealing the oppressive framework upon which the empire’s energy, and thus, the empire’s survival, depends.  Continue reading “Utopetroleum (and Cow Farts™)”

WHAT’S THAT ROCK?

By Abby “Opal” Ritz and Helen “Azurite” Warfle

On the first day of class, Professor McCoy asked us what our favorite rock was. Now that the semester is almost over and we have a more advanced knowledge of geology, we have decided to come back to this and give everyone a description of their rocks and note whether or not they are significant in the Broken Earth trilogy. It is clear that in the beginning of the semester, none of us knew the difference between a rock and a mineral as most people chose minerals, except for those who chose igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks, granite, slate, and shale (good job lads, you rock 😉 ).   Continue reading “WHAT’S THAT ROCK?”

What’s in a Home?

Home.  For me, it lies in a yellow house tucked against the woods, smoke curling out of a chimney and yellow lab lolling lazily (she’s a little chunky) in the front yard.  I can draw up the image in a moment, the high wooden ceilings, the dark, scratched floors covered with sun-bleached rugs, the sun (or lack thereof) pouring through enormous windows; my mother dances through the kitchen, the feral cat that lives in the backyard curls up on a deck chair, my dad’s glasses are found (found as they are often lost to him)  somehow buried under a slightly disheveled copy of the Times on the counter.  Continue reading “What’s in a Home?”

Palimpsest: CLICK HERE to learn more about this weird disease (just kidding it’s just a word I didn’t know, but hey, since you’re here, read this post)

I often say that my main activity as an English major is looking up the meaning of words that I don’t know the meaning of — the other day, in doing writing for another class, I came across such a word:

Palimpsest

Any takers on the meaning of that one? Yeah, I didn’t know it, maybe all of you do (literary theorist Paul Gilroy certainly does, let’s all give a warm round of applause to Mr. Gilroy for his contributions). 

1.  Palimpsest can first refer to writing material (such as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased. Continue reading “Palimpsest: CLICK HERE to learn more about this weird disease (just kidding it’s just a word I didn’t know, but hey, since you’re here, read this post)”

Split Self: Essun’s Identities (And My Own Procrastination)

Brain freeze.  That’s possibly the best way to describe my stress response.  Metaphorically, my brain stumbles, frizzy-haired and wild-eyed, into a classroom, late to a midterm she didn’t realize was happening, and the world — whom I imagine to be a disappointed, McGonagall-esque sort of presence — slides her a multiple choice exam sheet and an exam with only one question: “You must handle [insert stressor here], what is your best response?

A) Fight

B) Flight

C) Freeze

D) None of the above, handle this situation in a way you know you are capable of doing”

And my brain, in all of her primitive and evolutionary wisdom, lights up, because she knows the answer (everyone knows this one, it’s so easy)!  Iiiiiiiiit’s… freeze (because the answer is always C)!

Thus, I freeze.  I freeze like a possum playing dead, like a stone eater aboveground, like a corpse in rigor mortis (not playing dead). I freeze like cream-that-will-soon-be-ice-cream in liquid nitrogen.  Continue reading “Split Self: Essun’s Identities (And My Own Procrastination)”

Slavery Broke the World

In N.K. Jemisin’s work we see an earth twice (if not more times — remember, much of history is unwritten) shattered; once torn apart by the mysterious loss of the moon, once fragmented by Alabaster’s explosive and revolutionary orogeny.  In both cases, the shattering acts as a catalyst, as an end of on era: in the first case as an end to that stability which allows humanity to flourish (perhaps too much?) and a beginning of that chaotic existence which destroys society after society; in the second, the shattering is an end to the oppressive Sanzed regime and the beginning of some (thus far unknown) new world.  We can make geological and environmental connections galore in this world of unreliable, yet controllable, earth, but after stumbling upon a specific quote from Toni Morrison I have been mainly entranced by the myriad of metaphorical connotations this shattering embodies. Continue reading “Slavery Broke the World”