Final Reflection Essay

There is a call for change, if not revolution, that is more powerful and cacophonous than anything my generations has heard so far. Annihilation mounts in a slow violence against humans. The real issue though is that the violence being committed is not dealt as fairly or indiscriminately as “humans” would suggest. Corporations with personhood and bigoted politicians make broad decisions that somehow keep themselves free from prosecution while destroying the lives of those deemed not worth the time or money. The corrupt ideologies that motive these people in power are actively being dissected in higher education, and what is being recognized is that the world we deal with today is not a result of a flapping butterfly’s wings in some remote corner or an invented universalism hidden somewhere inside every human. Continue reading “Final Reflection Essay”

The Stillness Free From Chaos

While thinking about this final blog post I began to ask myself the progressive thinkING question of what does it matter that we’ve been doing this? There’s a right answer to that question, but what I found to be more interesting was the entire opposite. There is a level where none of this matters and blog posting is something like a “momentary stay against confusion” (a partial quote from Robert Frost about the function of poetry). To extrapolate from the inherently grim idea that nothing matters, I’d like to add that there is an aspect of chaos that works to complicate the whole situation. This is what I’d like to explore in my final blog post. What does it mean that Jemisin’s characters don’t fully subscribe to nihilism in the face of annihilation? How has humanity survived in the Stillness for so long? I believe the answer lies in a consideration of philosophy and whether or not chaos truly is a force in the Stillness. Continue reading “The Stillness Free From Chaos”

Geologic Time Scales and Goosebumps

One of the most impressive qualities that I read the Stillness’ humans to have was their consideration of time and legacy in their decision making. After all, the Sanzed Empire was only able to maintain its power and the oppression of orogenes because it had a referenceable past that was hundreds of years old. This past is uncontestable because  they are able to dominate the Stillness as the victor and therefore the author of their origins. From this position they could squash opposition using their developed power structure. There is a perfection to this oppression despite it being so horrible and offensive to free speech sensibilities as well as the generally held belief that racism is bad. The length of this engineered past that is used to oppression orogenes is what I consider to be the most important aspect of Sanzed’s sustained power. Continue reading “Geologic Time Scales and Goosebumps”

What children learn from colonizing Mars is the same thing we learn from comm organization

A year and a half ago I was a teacher-counselor for a summer camp that SUNY Geneseo hosts for Rochester City School District. That iteration of the camp was themed around Mars colonization and asked students to take up the cause of saving the human race or, at the very least, preserving it. The body that funded the camp required that the children partake in a STEM based curriculum, but I was pleased to find that we were able to work different aspects of social justice and art into the material we taught. Since our course title is getting at social justice in a mostly scientific context, I was reminded of the teachers at this STEM camp that were intent on getting students to understand community as much as they were understanding rudimentary rocket propulsion.

How Jemisin organized comms in the world of the Stillness was something that immediately reminded me of how my students had talked about organizing their Mars colonies. Continue reading “What children learn from colonizing Mars is the same thing we learn from comm organization”

Young orogenes as child soldiers

N. K. Jemisin first introduced us to the horror of the node-maintainers’ existence in The Fifth Season with their presence serving as a representation of institutional oppression and a public dependency on that oppression. Mistreatment of children is always an emotional subject but the rendering of the node-maintainers into coma states and selling their bodies is closer to a Dr. Mengele experiment than it is to being simply upsetting. As an educator, the welfare of children is my business and so I was deeply disturbed by the Fulcrum’s solution to quelling shakes. The existence and perpetuation of the node-maintainer network was something that we looked at in class as a reference to earthquake and tsunami monitoring stations that form nets over seismically active areas. This certainly captured the preventative aspect of the node-maintainers use but separated them from the obvious injustice of making the humanity of a person inert. I’d like to offer a different reading of the node maintainers in the Stillness as conscripts of the Fulcrum and something similar to modern day child soldiers. Continue reading “Young orogenes as child soldiers”

ACEs in the Stillness

The main intersection for our class is between English and the sciences as we take up the familiar cause of creating an integrative experience in education. Geology fits itself into Jemisin’ writing in many ways but serves mostly as a point of conflict although the work of studying the Earth isn’t explicitly the violence being done. The fallout of what the Earth does and the consequences of trying to affect it are things we see very clearly in The Stone Sky as our familiar heroes, Essun and Nassun, move through disaster. We’ve talked a great deal about the world Jemisin’ has built and the people who populate it, but my specific position as an educator has started to lead me towards the roles and actions of children in the the Stillness and how the environment interacts with them outside of the silver threads of magic.

There’s a lot to be said about the raising of children in the Stillness, but what has interested me most is how children develop psychologically. Continue reading “ACEs in the Stillness”

Adjusting thoughts on Jemisin’s humans

I had made a previous post about the alternate biology that Jemisin writes about. At that time I was still unaware of the existence of magic or magical essence as well as poorly stating that I was assuming that the people of Jemisin’s world look and act according to Earth humans. I’d like to re-examine the concept of alternate biology, but feel that it would be a more fruitful to start asking about science and magic’s coexistence.

My previous post made the assumption that orogeny was a gift/curse given to children by an unknown power. This gift/curse is passed down by means of the Fulcrum’s breeding program or accidently when a family line is either not entirely known and so produces a “feral.” I believe that I’ve faltered again in my comments on this power. I’d made the presumption that orogeny was a kind of training of how magic is dealt with though I now understand it to be independent from the magic that Jemisin introduced in The Obelisk Gate. It was interesting to think of it as a school of magic created by the Fulcrum to mask the presence of the real power of magic from the grits though this was not the case. Continue reading “Adjusting thoughts on Jemisin’s humans”

In Response to Civil & Uncivil Disobedience

I write this in response to Michee Jacobs’ post about civil disobedience. I was initially drawn in by the mention of Henry David Thoreau and my own knowledge that his name is likely to follow any literary considerations of civil disobedience. My own work with Thoreau and his subsequent essay, Civil Disobedience, was under the Thoreau-Harding project here at SUNY Geneseo and dealt with the life of the man who wrote Walden as much as it dealt with questions of morality and ethics. Thoreau and his family are really outliers of their decade and were known to hold some very progressive ideas in juxtaposition to the time period. I appreciated Jacobs’ point that civil and uncivil disobedience have a need to coexist though my own understanding was that a choice was always made between the two. Continue reading “In Response to Civil & Uncivil Disobedience”

Geology Fiction

Astronomy, physics and biology dominate the genre of science fiction. N. K. Jemisin has now added geology to the list with the Fifth Season and the other books in the trilogy. In terms of media, science fiction appearing in books is a given since it’s been known to have become popular through print mediums. There’s an interesting thread to be traced about the mediums that we tell stories through. A science fiction drama might play out on the pages of a book, but now we’re just as likely to see other planets and strange creatures through virtual reality goggles. Jemisin was, at some point, inspired enough by the study of rocks to deem it book worthy. This inspiration is the start of the Broken Earth trilogy although careful readers can see that Jemisin has carefully interwoven other subjects and inspirations into her work. I had been reading an interview Jemisin did with The Atlantic and she mentioned video games, that new and exciting medium for story-telling. Continue reading “Geology Fiction”

Jemisin and alternate biology

In the world of the Fifth Season orogenes are about as close to wizards and witches as you can get. Popular culture might also liken them to the earth benders of the Avater: The Last Airbender television series. Although there’s no explanation for where the power to move tons of rock with your mind comes from, there’s a small detail that Jemisin inserted into the world she built. In fact, it was inserted into the base of the neck in the form of a sesspinae. This addition of an alternate biology adds a way of explaining that isn’t complete but comforts a reader. Wizards, warlocks, witches and the like all classify as fantasy which is really only tangential to science fiction. Making the inhabitants of the Stillness in possession of an organ that interprets waves of energy is one of the things that Jemisin does to depart from fantasy. Paired with her desires to keep her science fiction as closely based to real science as possible, I think that having something to move from like the sesspinae is important. The counter to orogenes, Guardians, also can explain their abilities by pointing to the implant they received when they were children. Continue reading “Jemisin and alternate biology”