How the Rollercoaster Ride of Jemisin’s Setting, The Stillness, Contributes to the Reader’s Understanding

After interpreting the first book of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemison, I was curious as to how methods of manipulation that we saw with the Guardians could apply to subjugation of race and gender. The next two installations gave us an idea of how far back the oppression of those in the land of the Stillness went. The world had been turned upside down by a season (disastrous event), and our main character Essun and her friends were left to pick up the scraps. On their journey, they encountered the challenge of survival, along with the task of learning from their history.

            The GLOBE Integrative and Applied Learning outcomes states that transformational learning, “develops through such high-impact practices as international experiences, service and community-based learning, intensive research activities, internships, advocacy, learning communities, and capstone courses and projects.” These learning endeavors are crucially important and can be related to the life of our character Tonkee. They are a researcher at Seventh University, which is the authoritative higher learning institution of the Stillness. They spend their life’s work in nature, observing the life of Essun and the movement of the obelisks. Through their research they find truths of an ancient past, and are prepared to join Essun in her quest to calm the land.

            Considering the development of these characters throughout the novels, I am beginning to see the true subject of the story as being at the core of each individual we follow. Essun must grapple with her responsibilities as a powerful person in the land of the Stillness; this land is not for her, and she must work hard to keep her spirit alive amidst a time of great struggle. She attempts many loving connections in her life, and continues to fall into them despite her apparent aversion. Altruistically, the connections she forms end up inspiring her quest to end the seasons. While she is unable to restore the balance of the moon herself, an act of sacrifice inspires her daughter Nassun to complete her task for her. Essun’s spirit is then recycled into the body of a stone eater, and she begins her new life well prepared to advance her notion of peace. Alongside her, an old friend Hoa is there to recite the wonderful stories of the Earth’s past.

            This story shows us that there are more important battles outside of a fight against oppression. To know that they are at an uphill climb from birth gives the orogenes a reason to forgive themselves for their mistakes, and with this knowledge they can move on to continue their strife. Ultimately, it will come down to their peace of mind whether or not the world advances from their actions. Nassun must be convinced by her mother’s sacrifice in order to decide against destroying the world as they know it. Hoa describes how Essun realizes that the fight has become less important than her love for her daughter. He says, “You so wanted to make a better world for Nassun. But more than anything else, you want this last child of yours to live… and so you make a choice. To keep fighting will kill you both. The only way to win, then, is not to fight anymore” (The Stone Sky). Consequently, Nassun is inspired by the sight of her mother turned to stone, smiling at Nassun with tears in her eyes. She is unable to understand how someone was able to carry on with such hope, since her life has been full of death and destruction. She realizes that her mother’s life must have been this way too, and that she carried on nonetheless. This shared struggle gives her faith that her mother understood something that she does not, and she acts in accordance with her mother’s will instead of her own.

            My thinking therefore has shifted much like Nassun’s has. I am no longer looking for something or someone to cling to, but rather find assurance in the fact that others have. All of the people who have valued love of others above all else provide the inspiration that keeps life moving on. Instead of looking for inspiration, we can look for opportunities. There is a quote by the band Yes that I think relates to orogeny and the great change in the Earth that we experience during the trilogy. It reads, “Waiting for the moment when the moment has been waiting all the time. Reaching for the golden heights without a doubt you’re ready for the climb.” This reminds me of the revolution in the Stillness that is inspired by Essun and Alabaster’s use of the obelisks. The whole time that our story is in session, the obelisks float as apparent remnants of a lost time. There is always the opportunity for them to be used to restore the balance of the Earth, and it is only a matter of time until that opportunity is seized. A lost history delays this, but as we see in our story all knowledge is recovered in time.

            Another theme that has affected me since the conclusion of the first book is the idea of an underlying energy. The intricacies of orogeny and other magic are further dealt with by Jemison. We see that an understanding of invisible forces is something that has left the land of the Stillness. Our main characters reinvigorate themselves with their exploration of this, allowing them to channel their energy into great endeavors.

            All in all, I am very impressed by Jemison’s ability to construct a deep and layered realm of the Stillness. This stands out to me in comparison with other works of science-fiction, as the depth of the setting’s frame gives it a sense of realism. This makes it very enjoyable to follow not only our character’s developments, but also the development of the Earth. As a geography student, this is something that felt particularly exciting for me to experience.

Core Essay Engl 111- Ashley Tubbs

Within the “Broken Earth trilogy”, N.K Jemisin weaves a mystical and geologically profound world that, at its core, deals with racialization and bad-faith practices. Returning to the course epigraph, it explains that racialization is, “…to demarcate human beings through differences among humans that are selectively essentialized as absolute and fundamental, in order to distribute positions and powers differentially to human groups” (Heng 27). Keeping the course epigraph in mind, I will explore the continuous and new ways Jemisin outlines racialization and how it occurs within the setting of her trilogy. Jemisin artfully highlights this differentiation between people to create a hierarchy in familiar and atypical ways. The thread that Jemisin continues is the racialization of orogenes. As I explained within my lithosphere essay:

The difference that is racialized in the novel [The Fifth Season] is orogeny, which is ‘The ability to manipulate thermal, kinetic, and related forms of energy to address seismic events’ (Jemisin 462). This means that there are orogenes and there are non-orogenes, often referred to as “stills”.  Orogenes are placed under the “stills” control because they are regarded as dangerous and thus a lot of the prevalent issues in the novel are created (Tubbs 3).

This is a thread that continues through all of the books within this trilogy, and the level to which people are racialized becomes deeper and more profound as the books progress. That is the quintessential truth of this entire trilogy. The deeper I got into the storyline, the more I was able to see racialization and the origins of said racialization against orogenes and others. Orogenes were not the original oppressed people in the stillness, there was a time before orogenes and even then, people were oppressed and racialized. 

Within The Stone Sky, Jemisin eradicates any sense of familiarity I had thus far and begins to depict an ancient civilization, one that is viewed as truly perfect in comparison to the current civilization known as Yumenes.  This ancient civilization, known as Syl Anagist, was the one responsible for creating the mysterious obelisks depicted throughout the three books. Hoa, who I’ve known as a stone eater, explains this ancient civilization and how he was part of it. Hoa describes:

The people of Syl Anagist have mastered the forces of matter and its composition; they have shaped life itself to fit their whims; they have so explored the mysteries of the sky that they’ve grown bored with it and turned their attention back toward the ground beneath their feet. And Syl Anagist lives, oh how it lives, in bustling streets and ceaseless commerce and buildings that your mind would struggle to define as such (Jemisin 3). 

Syl Anagist created the obelisks to create a “plutonic engine”. Hoa, being from this ancient civilization, was part of this plutonic engine’s creation. Hoa explains, “The great machine called the Plutonic Engine is the instrument. We are its tuners. And this is the goal: Geoarcanity. Geoarcanity seeks to establish an energetic cycle of infinite efficiency. If we are successful, the world will never know want or strife again … or so we are told” (Jemisin 97).  This amazing machine and its supposed benefits come at a price within this world, as I’ve seen. The hidden power behind the obelisks and the engine itself is an oppressed people not deemed to be human. It’s pretty easy for this civilization to say all its “people” are treated fairly by defining those it doesn’t like as less-than-human. The people within Syl Anagist stripped of their humanity were called the Niess. In the book, the description of the Niess is:

Niespeople looked different, behaved differently, were different… Conquerors live in dread of the day when they are shown to be, not superior, but simply lucky. So when Niess magic proved more efficient than Sylanagistine, even though the Niess did not use it as a weapon … This was what made them not the same kind of human as everyone else. Eventually: not as human as everyone else. Finally: not human at all (Jemisin 210). 

This is the price for perfection. People stripped from their humanity and later abused all because they didn’t conform with their dictators. This truly is no different to how I saw the orogenes be treated. Orogenes were stripped from their humanity due to myth and bad-faith practices as well. The Niess were different in the sense they didn’t believe energy should be owned, but Syl Anagist manipulated this difference to strip them from their humanity and justify it by saying they weren’t as civilized as the rest of humanity. This is very similar to the myth I read that orogenes are dangerous and can be used, as demonstrated by the node maintainers.

Once again, there is continuity I’ve followed within the trilogy between Yumenes practices and Syl Anagist practices. Both civilizations have racialized and stripped people from their humanity in order to justify the abuse and exploit their power. A major bad-faith practice within Yumenes is utilizing node maintainers to quell micro shakes. From my understanding, Yuemenes didn’t have to force “uncontrollable” orogenes into this role, but it did it anyway because of fearmongering and a lust for control. People all throughout the stillness despise orogenes and believe them to be dangerous. Everyone knows of the node maintainers existence, but no one truly comprehends what happens to a node maintainer. Even the secret of the node maintainers is kept from orogenes and the reader alike, however; orogenes understand becoming one would be a punishment for lack of control. In The Obelisk Gate, Essun, an orogene who has a long history of abuse and pain throughout the trilogy reiterates that, “the most powerful orogenes, the ones who detect magic most easily and perhaps have trouble mastering energy redistribution as a result, are the ones who end up in the nodes” (Jemisin 205).  These node maintainers were a horror that I eventually learned about within the first book. They are orogenes who lack control and instead have their sessapinae severed so they react to every movement of the earth. The description of a node maintainer is elaborated in The Fifth Season. Node maintainers in that book are, “… small and atrophied. Hairless. There are things-tubes and pipes and things, she has no words for them- going into the stick-arms, down the goggle throat, across the narrow crotch” (Jemisin 139). Much like Essun, I also had no words when I read this horrific depiction. The description of the node maintainers showed me the cruelty of Yumenes and how it will stop at nothing to control orogenes. Orogenes could willingly calm the earth, but that is not the reality for orogenes. Much like the orogenes, the Niess people are used in a very similar way in Syl Anagist. Both instances stem from bad-faith practices from the powerful leaders not accepting those that are different. In The Stone Sky, Hoa describes this horrific place known to him as the briar patch. This is where he and I first encounter the Niess people and realize the cruelty of those who have power over him. Hoa describes:

They are still alive, I know at once. Though they sprawl motionless amid the thicket of vines (laying atop the vines, twisted among them, wrapped up in them, speared by them where the vines grow through flesh), it is impossible not to sess the delicate threads of silver darting between this one’s hand, or dancing along the hairs of that one’s back…Keeping them alive keeps them generating more (Jemisin 262).

Much like the orogenes used as node maintainers, the racialized people in Syl Anagist are used horrifically too for the benefit of Syl Anagist. Once again, I am forced to process the cruelty of a fictional empire and I am filled with revulsion from this heinous supremacy.  It is disgusting to me that a nation that supposedly honors all life would treat people in such a way. It saddens me to say I am not surprised the Niess are used in this manner because the treatment of the node maintainers shows me what people are truly capable of in this fictional world. 

Truly, my thinking with regards to myths being used to villainize and dehumanize certain groups of people has deepened as I continued to read the rest of the trilogy. From the lithosphere essay to this one, my thoughts on the use of myths to dehumanize continues to grow stronger, especially with the emergence of the Niess people. There are direct parallels between the Niess and orogenes, and their treatment has been very similar. Both are groups deemed to be different from everyone else, and it resulted in the stripping of their humanity in both cases. Sadly, the biggest similarity shared is the horrific treatment each group has suffered, either at the hands of the node stations or briar patch.  The Niess and orogenes have too many myths surrounding them stemming from bad-faith practices of the powerful, that the myths are believed to be true. Sylanagistines genuinely believe the Niess are uncivilized and untrustworthy. The people of the stillness genuinely believe that orogenes are dangerous and should be kept under strict control. This matters because this isn’t something completely fictional. These examples have real-life prevalence. There was once a time that people believed Africans stolen from Africa were less than human and even enjoyed their life of forced slavery. There was also once a time that Japanese Americans were believed to be untrustworthy, and this belief forced them into internment camps during WWII. If we can recognize racialization and bad-faith practices within fiction, then maybe we can begin to really address and unpack bad-faith practices within the U.S and those that were affected. While treatment of racialized groups, such as African Americans and Japanese Americans have improved, more improvement is needed. Recognition of the U.S’ bad-faith practices are the first step to improvement of society. The U.S’ story is not finished yet, so there is promise of a kinder society. 

Core Essay ENGL 111- Rachel Margalit

As a result of my valuable learning experience in English 111, I have deepened my understanding and progressed my knowledge of Jemisin’s literature throughout the semester. Within The Broken Earth Trilogy, I encountered opportunities for self-growth as I was actively learning about the plot development and character analysis. I would definitely say that my thinking has both improved and developed within this class, as I encompassed difficulties in the beginning of the semester that I was able to overcome towards the end. In other words, I did not have much prior experience with science fiction that is intertwined with fantasy elements, which created some original difficulties in navigating the plot. After having ample opportunity to explore the plot and recurring themes, I can confidently say that I gained expertise in comprehending this difficult form of literature, as well as enhancing my analytical skills on this type of subject matter. 

I noticed great improvement in my writing and analysis since the Lithosphere Essay we completed towards the beginning of the semester. In the Lithosphere Essay, I received multiple forms of feedback which suggested that I slow down, as it can make me vulnerable to plagiarism. Furthermore, my feedback allowed me to consider the ways in which speeding through my thoughts can place me at a disadvantage, as I can miss out on opportunities to successfully connect my thoughts directly to the passage. For example, in the Lithosphere Essay, I wrote how Geraldine Heng is “famous for her literary knowledge on social and cultural encounters between worlds.” Although this statement is accurate, I did not provide a source as to where I received this information from, which very well could be a form of plagiarism— this was a learning experience for me, as I ensured that I correctly accredited and cited my sources. Professor McCoy acknowledged  my progress, as I received positive feedback on the Collaborative Exercise that was published to Im(Possibilities). In that feedback, I was told that the ways in which my group embedded the links and practiced in-text attribution made the essay much easier to follow— moreover, it served as a protection against plagiarism. 

Another example from the Lithosphere Essay that created an opportunity for me to slow down was in regards to the spelling of certain words. I consider myself to be a very strong speller and spell-checker, but due to the complex terminology and themes present within this trilogy, I was caught making several foolish spelling mistakes that I have strived to overcome in my other writing passages for this class. For example, in the Lithosphere Essay, I always spelled the word “fulcrum” with a capital “F”— although that is oftentimes correct, it is essential to consider that it is only occasionally capitalized. This level of inconsistency could make readers feel that they are unable to trust the writer, which can damage the reputation and overall quality of my work. Since this mistake, I have worked tirelessly as a writer to ensure that I am accurately spelling and accredding information that I pull from resources. Overall, I believe that the Lithosphere Essay acted as a stepping stone towards progress I was able to achieve in later writing assignments— I thoroughly appreciated the feedback I received from that paper so that I was able to use it to my advantage and enhance my writing style in future works to come. 

In the Collaborative Exercise, I concluded my research by connecting it back to Jemisin and how her storylines relate to the seismic event my group explored. For example, I wrote how “Jemisin’s trilogy often explores systematic issues of oppression, highlighting ways in which such communities struggle when they are impacted by conflict. For example, the novel notes ‘…what is important is that you know it was not all terrible. There was peace in long stretches, between each crisis. A chance to cool and solidify before the grind resumes.”’ (Fifth Season, online pg 263). Jemisin highlights how these horrible effects cause a rift between society and its environment.” This is an example of how my thinking has developed over time, as when I originally tackled the first book, I did not understand the significance of “cooling” and how it is an essential part of a stone eater’s development. Furthermore, just as Professor McCoy brought to my attention with her feedback, we had no idea at the time that Hoa was providing Essun early context for what was truly happening to her. These examples not only highlight how I was exposed to more information as the books progressed, but it also describes the ways in which my thinking altered, changed, and progressed as I was given snippets of this new information. 

In regards to the characters, their motives and personality traits progressed over time, therefore allowing me to deepen my understanding about the interactions between them, as well as the overall plot in general. This not only allowed me to make further connections across all three books, but it also created an opportunity to connect themes and elaborate them during class discussion. For example, we see how in Chapter 2 of The Stone Sky, Nassun kills her father, Jija. This is essential to the plot, as it showed a continuation from where the Obelisk Gate ended off. The readers were able to experience a monumental plot development for Nassun, which created an opportunity to deepen the relationship between Nassun and Jija, as well as the hidden ulterior motives that were not so obvious in the second book of the trilogy. For example, Jemisin perfectly describes how “Nassun [stood] over the body of her father, if one can call a troubled mass of broken jewels a body. She’s swaying a little, light-headed because the wound in her shoulder— where her father has stabbed her— is bleeding profusely (The Stone Sky, pg 30).” This beautifully descriptive moment highlights the painful reality of what Nassun and her father’s relationship turned into; this is the harsh truth that is only uncovered after beginning the second novel, as readers were left in the dark in regards to their relationship in the first Jemisin book. This scene created a vital learning experience, as I was able to witness firsthand how characters in this novel developed over time. This book created many opportunities to witness the growth and development of characters, which is something I do not always see in the types of literature I choose to read.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to read N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy, as her novels highlight many parallels to real world issues by demonstrating inequality and social hierarchy based on the certain traits that individuals carry. By incorporating multiple themes of power, oppression, and hierarchy into this fictional narrative, readers have the opportunity to gain perspective into the deeper meaning of her writing. Across the trilogy, my knowledge of the characters and the deeper meaning behind their stories have allowed me to expand on my thinking as well as practice basic reading skills such as reading comprehension and cross checking. Readers were exposed to a myriad of overarching themes of discrimination and oppression, and as the narratives continued, they were able to dive deeper into the core of what these forms of discrimination truly entailed. Overall, we gained access into how damaging discrimination and hierarchical status can be to society, which created the ability to connect overarching themes throughout the trilogy to real life concepts. 

Racialization and Power Dynamics  A Structural Analysis of The Fifth Season

The course epigraph is a framework for the thought-provoking and controversial concept of “race,” and is laid out as a strategic, political, and epistemological tool designed to demarcate and distribute power differentially among sects of humanity (Heng, 27). Geraldine Heng’s passage from The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages, serves as a theoretical framework to analyze the racial complexities of the book The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, providing the context for how racialization operates within the narrative, applied through realistic circumstances. Emphasizing how science, myth, and other power dynamics shape the narrative of The Fifth Season, this paper will prioritize the world of orogenes, and how their livelihoods are crafted by preexisting power dynamics.

Heng proposes in The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages, that “race is a structural relationship for the articulation and management of human differences, rather than a substantive content” (Heng, 27). In The Fifth Season, racialization is presented beyond the notion of individual prejudices, or even inherent characteristics. Rather, racialization is a structural relationship designed to manage and disparate differences amongst humans. Orogenes, in particular—individuals in The Fifth Season with the power to manipulate the earth and its resources—become the targets of racialization throughout the narrative; their powers are selected through a process of essentialization from the Fulcrum—a place designed for orogenes to harness their power. Jemisin writes that, “the orogenes of the Fulcrum serve the world,” using the characters Damaya and Schaffa, arguing that “you will have no use name from here forth, because your usefulness lies in what you are, not merely some familial aptitude.” It is further exemplified that the Fulcrum is a place designed for the use of orogeny, where “from birth, an orogene child can stop a shake; even without training, you are orogene,” and that “within a comm or without one, you are orogene.” However, with training, “and with the guidance of other skilled orogenes at the Fulcrum, you can be useful not merely to a single comm, but all the Stillness” (Jemisin, 36). The orogeny is placed within a systemic hierarchy within their absolute and fundamental differences, reflecting the broader social tendency to construct hierarchies based on perceived differences. 

Likewise, myth plays an important role in how racialization is showcased throughout The Fifth Season. In a particular instance, Damaya is ridiculed under the notion that “orogenes don’t feel cold the way others do,” a myth that has plagued the existence of orogenies. As such, it is mentioned that “Damaya might have been faking it [the cold,” and that was what “she’d [Mother] said to Damaya that first day, after she got home from creche and while they were setting her up in the barn” (Jemisin, 33). The narrative of The Fifth Season draws on the power of myth to alter societal perception of orogenes, equally portraying them as saviors to society, along with threats, demarcating them to the periphery of society by imposing mythology upon them. This serves as a mechanism to justify the treatment of orogenes, and is used to perpetuate the inherent belief throughout the story that orogenic abilities are dangers and consequential. The manipulation of myths throughout The Fifth Season permanently alters the societal view of orogenies, establishing a racialized hierarchy that justifies the subjugation of orogenies.

The subjugation of orogenies becomes far more prevalent as science is incorporated into racist ideology, becoming wholly evident in the systematic control and exploitation of orogenies. Drawing back on the Fulcrum, a technologically advanced system of training and manipulation, is used to perpetuate racialized power dynamics. As such, the usage of orogenies in the conquest of suppression and societal stability demonstrates the usage of science to uphold racialized hierarchies—utilizing science as a tool for maintaining and reinforcing racialized structures, particularly at the Fulcrum.

The usage of eclipses throughout The Fifth Season exists as a layer of symbolism to the process of racialization. An eclipse is a naturally recurring event, defined as “an astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object or spacecraft is temporarily obscured, by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer,” which is strategically employed during moments of heightened tension throughout the story (New York Times). Eclipses are linked to the suppression of orogenes, highlighting how celestial events are manipulated by those in power to reinforce the aforementioned societal hierarchy, subjugating orogenies to the periphery. Symbolically, eclipses emphasize the events that occur throughout the story, intentionally orchestrated to perpetuate the racialized structure.

In a real-word context, the structural context of racialization in The Fifth Season allows for reflection on how real-word events parallel the narrative. Jemisin emphasizes the notion of “Blackdar,” which is shared amongst orogenies. “Blackdar” is defined as “the ability to detect whether or not a person is of African ancestry by observing that person,” which is evident in The Fifth Season through the “sess” ability of an orogene—the ability to distinguish other orogenes (Wikipedia). Clearly, there are certain traits shared among oppressed groups that help understand the context of racialization throughout The Fifth Season, allowing the reader to better understand the world of The Broken Earth Trilogy. Jemisin writes:

“If the problem is that ferals are not predictable… well, orogenes have to prove themselves reliable. The Fulcrum has a reputation to maintain; that’s part of this. So’s the training, and the uniform, and the endless rules they must follow, but the breeding is part of it too, or why is she here? It’s somewhat flattering to think that despite her feral status, they actually want something of her infused into their breeding lines. Then she wonders why a part of her is trying to find value in degradation,” (Jemisin, 58).

Indeed, the symbolic language and intertwining of science, notions of race, and power dynamics are immensely prevalent as the story ensues, using these events to resonate with historical and contemporary issues surrounding racialization. Realistically, the world is heavily condemned by racist ideology, and Jemisin uses The Fifth Season to forward a sense of awareness to better understand the conditions of oppressed and marginalized groups by using orogenies as the periphery.

The Fifth Season, though a confusing narrative, employs intricacies in its world-building to better provide a lens in the examination of racialization and the pre-existing structures surrounding it. The interplay between myth, science, and other forms of power dynamics allows the recognition of the parallels between the fictional world of orogenies throughout the story, along with the complexities of real-world society and the racialization that is evident historically and contemporarily. Jemisin’s work throughout The Fifth Season allows the reader to question and challenge the systems that perpetuate treatment in regards to selective differences, and how society ultimately condemns the things they do not understand—rethinking and reshaping our understanding of race and power is essential to understand the narrative, and by employing the course epigraph, the complexities of The Fifth Season become quite distinguishable.

Works Cited

Heng, Geraldine. The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Print. 

Jemisin, N. K. The Fifth Season. Orbit, 2016.

The New York Times. “Science Watch: A Really Big Syzygy.” (March 31, 1981).

Wiktionary. “Blackdar – Wiktionary, the Free Dictionary,” n.d

Final Reflection: In relation to The Trees and Course Epigraphs

My semester’s story as told through Percival Everett’s The Trees and one of our course epigraphs could be a long one. But nonetheless, it’s still a story to tell. There are many ways in which to write a story- this could be in the form of a novel (as Everett has done in the writing of The Trees), poems, or even told through the form of oral tradition as Call and Response had done. Call and Response discussed the importance of oral tradition throughout the editors note. This course had a few quotes that would help us as students further understand the overall theme of this course. There were poems, which I wanted so strongly to connect to because I love poems. However, the course epigraph that stood out to me at the end of the semester states:

Oh, no. No, no, no. There’s too much to learn from examining that tension between the power and the impact of the art and realizing where that art comes from and what the impetus behind that art is. The best way to engage with twisted or otherwise problematic art, in my opinion, is to first off acknowledge that that art has an impact, hurts people, and understand that engaging with it could perpetuate some of the harm that that art is capable of doing, but flag it, warn it, put it off to the side where people can engage with it at their leisure, at their choice or at a point where they’re strong enough or capable of doing so, but then engage with it. There’s a line between respecting the work and honoring the person. You can respect the craft. You don’t have to put that person on a pedestal. Artists are human beings and that means you need to examine them in all their facets. You have to recognize that these are people and that the things that make them sometimes horrible people are sometimes the things that make them good writers or good artists and that’s what you want to engage with.

N.K Jemisin

As I continued to read this epigraph, I realized that this is the one that I resonated with the most, as well as understood it to represent what I have personally learned throughout this course this semester. I’m the type of student who always wants to strive for the best in my own work, but to also ensure that when I raise my hand in class or write an essay such as this that I am representing the works in a good light. Jemisin says “You don’t have to put that person on a pedestal.” And upon reading that, I realized that my previous works, participation and way of thinking always praised the author especially when it was a class about one author in particular. I didn’t want this to be the case anymore. So this year in class I made a conscious effort to look towards both good and bad faith and how the authors faith changed with the time. Dr. McCoy had said at one point in the semester that it’s very possible for the author to have said what they did in good faith, but over the decades what their intentions were and how it’s perceived today are very different.

In the middle of the semester, we as a class read brief synopsis of the varying novels written by Percival Everett that we could read to write our final essay. Our class chose The Tree’s which tells a very intricate and interesting story of two detectives solving murders that appear to be connected in Money, Mississippi. With each crime scene the detective’s approach, there is a body of a black man that seems to resemble Emmett Till but once the scene is closed, the body would disappear. The town seemed convinced it was the ghost of Emmett Till coming back for revenge, but what was puzzling the police that were involved was they weren’t entirely sure how anyone could place a body and remove it without them noticing, this in turn left them to make jokes that perhaps it really was a ghost.

            I didn’t want to make the mistake of misinterpreting the author and his words. I found myself puzzled trying to find the words to properly describe how I felt after reading this book and all I had was, “wow”. The characters as depicted by Everett were so detailed, yet humorous at times. I wanted so badly to feel what the characters were going through, but when I turned the page- the detectives, Jim Davis and Ed Morgan would be cracking a joke and I felt bad for thinking it was funny when the book was made to really keep you thinkING.

I found myself thinkING over the title of the book at various times, I asked myself questions such as why the title The Trees? Why not give it the title Rise? Why wouldn’t Everett want to express the importance of rising together to make change? And I don’t have an answer for that. No matter how hard I searched the internet. I’ll be completely honest with you too, it bothers me that I don’t have an answer, but it’s because I didn’t that I had made interpretations in good faith. I thought that it wasn’t titled ‘Rise’ because to condone an ending in which murders had to occur to feel powerful and rise against the hate wouldn’t be a decision made in good faith by Everett. The few times Everett mentions trees would be ““‘There,” Hind said. She pointed. In the trees. Hanging in the trees were the bodies of Digby and Brady, their legs crazy with blood, their pants drawn around their ankles, their boots stopping the clothing from falling off” (256). This mention of the lynchings at the trees may suggest that Everett wanted to open the eyes to the reader that police can experience violence as well. But nonetheless, Everett was determined to guarantee that you as a reader never forget the names of all those who were lynched.

As I continue to apply the course epigraph, I realized that I’m engaging with this complicated piece of work that handles racism, police brutality, and several other difficult topics, I find myself working with this quote of our course epigraph, “The best way to engage with twisted or otherwise problematic art, in my opinion, is to first off acknowledge that that art has an impact, hurts people, and understand that engaging with it could perpetuate some of the harm that that art is capable of doing”.

Everett made it a point to call out the issues that Mississippi, as well as other areas in the South have had on people, specifically minorities. As I continued reading, I found myself upset. I despised the sheer thought that there are still people out there today that feel as though it’s in their right to hurt others for racist reasons. As I write this essay past it’s due date, I find myself even more upset that there aren’t just killings happening for racist reasons such as the shooting in Buffalo by an 18 year-old white male against the Black community, but also because there is a huge mental health issue in our nation, the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

This piece of work written by Percival Everett is nothing short of a twisted problematic art piece and I, as well as the class recognized it’s huge impact on how we felt during and after reading it. This story although having some pieces of history tied into it, is a nonfictional novel in which you need to feel to understand each and every character. As Jemisin pointed out within his quote, the course epigraph, is “You can respect the craft.” And this is exactly what I did. I respected the craft, I analyzed it as well as Everett and his faith in writing the story, I looked beyond the scope of the book and saw implications of real life scenarios and what I’m writing is my direct reflection of these instances. I never thought that I could take the author off the pedestal and just simply analyze the basics of the author. I have always taken it farther than needed every time I read any piece of work. But I’ve learned that by analyzing work over time, it helps you to become a better person, more attentive as well as studious. All traits that I was striving for at the beginning of this semester.

The Broken Earth Trilogy as a Study of the Social Sciences

The Broken Earth trilogy tells a story rooted in the social sciences, its gripping plotlines and diverse, complex characters sowing the various branches, with observations and statements about systems of power and the imbalance of justice within these systems unfurling like leaves. 

To recap from my first reflective piece, social science is the study of human society and societal relationships and can be broken down into archaeology, anthropology, geography, history, law, politics, psychology, and sociology, to name a few. For N.K. Jemisin, who has a degree in psychology, her works commonly center around a social system in which, as Raffi Khatchadourian describes it after an interview with Jemisin, “the oppressed often possess an enormous capacity for agency—a supernatural ability, even, that their oppressors lack—but they exist in a society that has been engineered to hold them down. Eventually, the world is reordered, often with a cataclysm.

It’s not just the degree that makes this a subject of interest for Jemisin though. As a Black author, Jemisin is also conscious of the long history of the science fiction genre marginalizing minority writers, continuously failing these authors by putting white men at the forefront of who’s recognized within the genre. As one study of Jemisin’s trilogy presented through a masters thesis by Imogen Bagnall points out, “Science fiction and African-American interests were seen as mutually exclusive categories, as the most dominant representatives of the science fiction and fantasy author—and readership were white men. This assumption, however, is baseless, and is merely representative of the ethnocentrism and racial bias prevalent in almost all social and commercial spheres.

I noted in my reflection on The Fifth Season that Jemisin intentionally combats the racism within the genre by presenting a story told through “a slate of people of different colors and motivations who don’t often appear in a field still dominated by white men and their protagonist avatars,” as Vann R. Newkirk II wrote for The Atlantic. Reviewing the characters of the first novel, I focused on the three main girls and women, all described by Jemisin to be “Orogenes,” a race classified by their “ability to manipulate thermal, kinetic, and related forms of energy to address seismic events,” and how these characters document the systematic oppressions against Orogenes because of their abilities. While the Orogenes do not have visually distinct traits and can be from any region, the main characters are all “Midlatter,” which is a multiracial group. Perhaps this should have forewarned me for what we would discover later in the trilogy, which is that these three girls and women are actually the same person, just broken across periods of her life and accordingly narrated with or through the name she identified with during those times.

Crucially, though, the discovery that these three characters are all the same person does not diminish the character diversity in the novel. In fact, the character diversity increases as more individuals are introduced and the storyline threads deeper into Orgogenic history and beyond. 

During the time of the Orogenes, it is explained through stonelore that Orogenes are “born evil—some kind of agents of Father Earth, monsters that barely qualify as human” and that they are the reason why Father Earth seems to hate the human race, constantly waging war against humanity through brutal Seasons, which lorists say originates with the Orogenes separating the Moon from Father Earth, sending his child out of alignment.

By the third book though, it is divulged that before there were Orogenes, there were tuners who also had abilities and were created in the image of the Niess, a race who was tyrannized through war and defamed. Hoa, the immortal character who we discover has been narrating the sections of the novels told through third person, was once a tuner and he recounts that in the early years of his life, “It became easy for scholars to build reputations and careers around the notion that Niess sessapinae were fundamentally different, somehow—more sensitive, more active, less controlled, less civilized—and that this was the source of their magical peculiarity. This was what made them not the same kind of human as everyone else. Eventually: not as human as everyone else. Finally: not human at all.”

Reading through the abuses to both of these minority groups within the trilogy makes readers aware of the notion that “Trauma and oppression work cyclically, as each generation of oppressors infects the next with notions of prejudice and discrimination, and each generation of the oppressed are re-traumatised by the collective memory of the past,” as expressed by Bagnall. This cycle has been described before as a donut, which is depicted below. There are certain needs, built on social foundations, that all people have and, if these are not being met for all, a whirlpool of trauma is created. However, as seen with both The Broken Earth trilogy and the graphic, social institutions are not the only possible source for trauma since an abuse of the climate can also disrupt the “safe and just space for humanity,” meaning that resources have become so exploited that the Earth is endangered. With the trilogy, we see these lacking social foundations and ruptures of the ecological ceilings lead to the Seasons, a time when societies are forced to reset as the homes they built and the societies they formed are demolished by natural disaster. But each and every time, as we see by the end of the first book, society chooses to once again build the same social foundations and continue to overuse the materials the Earth provides. This is why, in the second and third books, Jemisin writes of love so powerful that it can shake the oppressive foundations society tries to rebuild during the most recent Season.

(Above is the donut graphic that Dr. Reitz introduced us to this semester.)

The first powerful love that Jemisin explores, based on the timeline of events in the novel, has lasted centuries, even as Hoa’s memories of his siblings have ebbed and receded in the vast ocean that is time. Since his existence was also built on social inequity, Hoa and his siblings lived in ignorance of the true severity of their situation until a woman named Kelenli was introduced to them and quickly became “something to lose” to Hoa. She also became a source of knowledge, and as the siblings learned about their conditions and where their siblings who had been taken away were sent, they found a collective desire to overthrow the system. In a heart-rending moment in book three, when the tuners resist at the same time the Moon does, resulting in is misalignment with Father Earth, Hoa recalls, “We entwine our presences in a layer of cold coal, which is perhaps fitting as Remwha sends a hiss through all of us like sand grinding amid cracks. It’s an echo of the static emptiness in our network where Tetlewha—and Entiwha, and Arwha, and all the others—once existed.”

Centuries later, we meet Nassun, the daughter of Essun and a crucial character beginning in book two, and witness her grief and fervent attachments as she learns that blood-related family isn’t always the strongest source of love. After her parents have tarnished her perceptions of the loving relationships they could have had with her, Nassun depends on Schaffa, a Guardian. In order to keep this love intact, Nassun essentially destroys the last Fulcrum, a sort of school where Orogenes were kept and forcefully bent to the wills of non-Orogenic people, when she realizes it was what made her mother “something else” and “wrong” in the sense that she couldn’t love Schaffa, who was also her Guardian, like Nassun does. Although Nassun did this to prevent her love for Schaffa from souring, it also marks the end of the Fulcrum’s presence at this point in the timeline.

Now, the main character Essun experiences many different loves. She loves her children, her romantic partners, and has even come to love the people in the comm that she has been a part of throughout much of the Season. The most powerful attestation of love in her life though is actually her death, when she meets her daughter again after years of searching and, even though they have different motives and beliefs on how to end the Season, Essun tries to laugh with pride as she dies, narrated as, “So rusting amazing, your little girl. You are proud to lose to her strength.” It’s these actions that make Nassun consider that “the world took and took” from her mother as well, though “for some reason that she does not think she’ll ever understand…even as you died, you were reaching for the Moon.” No matter her understanding though, Nassun ultimately decides to use her abilities to bring the Moon back into alignment with the Earth as her mother intended, which ends the Season and will predictably alter social foundations.

You might notice, if you had read my first reflection on The Broken Earth trilogy, that I’ve hardly mentioned geology compared to how in-depth I explored it before. This is partly because I think that after Jemisin drew the attention of readers and proved her wealth of knowledge and ethos with the first book, she could play around with the science fiction elements. Of course, these elements are still rooted in real geology, like the concept of the moon being separated from the Earth and causing the Seasons coming from a question at a NASA workshop that Jemisin attended. Mostly, though, it’s because sociology becomes a driving force as the trilogy progresses, as Essun makes more relationships and experiences more love, which invigorates her desire to quake unjust social foundations and assert her power after others have wrongfully suppressed it for far too long.

The Roles of Sociology and Biology as Social Science in The Fifth Season

Social Sciences, which Jemisin explicitly advocates “is science too” because of how often it is ignored, is the scientific study of human society and social relationships. It’s composed of several branches that include archaeology, anthropology, geography, history, law, politics, psychology, and sociology, to name a few. In my experience, many of these branches don’t seem to fit into the typical categories considered when someone brings up the sciences, as the biological, logical, and physical sciences are usually thought of first.

Jemisin uses this to her advantage, creating a story that has social science at its core, allowing her to deep dive into the experiences of minorities who have been marginalized, especially in the field of fantasy writing. This theory about the intentions of the groundbreaking novel are reinforced by Newkirk, who reviews The Fifth Season’s characters as “a slate of people of different colors and motivations who don’t often appear in a field still dominated by white men and their protagonist avatars.

A rupture of the science fiction genre is in the placement of exploited minority characters at the center of the story. Within the novel, there are three main characters with interchangeable perspectives each chapter. All three characters are girls and women who are described by Jemisin, in the appendix, to be a race known as “Orogenes,” which is classified by their “ability to manipulate thermal, kinetic, and related forms of energy to address seismic events.” While the Orogenes do not have visually distinct traits and can be from any region of the Stillness, the continent Jemisin explores in her world, the main characters are “Midlatter,” a multiracial group. The choice to create Orogenes as a race composed of varied peoples is likely influenced by readings Jemisin has studied about “the different sets of people who have been oppressed and the different systemic oppressions that have existed throughout history,” drawing on not only her “own African American experience, but…a lot of other stuff too.” These systemic oppressions are documented through all three narrators, showing the injustices towards Orogenes in different settings and also in a seemingly nonlinear timeline.

The injustice against the Orogenes has a long history. Jemisin describes that there’s “stonelore” that tells the non-orogenes and Guardians, those that train and control Orogenic people, that Orogenes are “born evil—some kind of agents of Father Earth, monsters that barely qualify as human.” Even though there’s no solid proof that Orgoenes truly are born evil, the non-orogenes and Guardians follow the stonelore closely, using it as justification for their severe mistreatment of Orogenes. In this society, Orogenes, as Jemisin outlines, “have no right to say no,” “have no right to get angry, to want justice, to protect what they love,” and are subject to private discipline from Guardians so that the non-orogenes do not see and generate “inappropriate sympathy” for the Orogenes. They are a race that are feared to be weapons of the Earth and are controlled to be mediators for seismic events, paired with an anguishing degree of suffering and even death, just to ease the lives of non-orogenes and Guardians.

However, focusing on just the sociology of the novel doesn’t consider the impact of social science as a whole. Geology is also a critical factor of Jemisin’s novel. Jemisin herself highlights just how important the geological aspect of science fiction is by discussing how “the boundaries of science-fiction and fantasy…are supposed to be about people…It was all supposed to be about the science” and yet “you would see dozens of people nitpicking the hell out of the physics.” In order to keep people from focusing on the physical attributes of science in the novel, Jemisin takes care to represent the science realistically, proving her research as she describes the effects of natural disasters. This tactic can turn the focus away from discussing whether or not the science is a true representation and turns it towards theorizing why these catastrophes happen and how they’re related to the social institutions in the novel. After reading the book, I think Jemisin wanted to show a world in which society exacerbates geological events, placing emphasis on just how dangerous injustice can be by giving it not only individual mental, emotional, and physical dangers, but also universal physical dangers that threaten even the privileged. 

The origin of increased seismic activity is recounted through folklore Jemisin creates, which explains that people “poisoned waters beyond even his ability to cleanse, and killed much of the other life that lived on his surface. They drilled through the crust of his skin, past the blood of his mantle, to get at the sweet marrow of his bones. And at the height of human hubris and might, it was the orogenes who did something that even Earth could not forgive: They destroyed his only child.” It is this vague action that seems to instigate the first Fifth Season, which Jemisin says, in an interview with PBS, is “similar to what we have had in our world, the year without summer, for example, where people have to learn to suddenly survive where they can’t grow food, they don’t see the sun for weeks, months on end.” 

The cause for this catastrophe in The Fifth Season consults two opposing viewpoints in Nur and Burgess’ “Introduction,” which states that “Some researchers deny that earthquakes, and, by analogy, other sudden natural events, may have played a bigger role in shaping history, simply because these sudden occurrences are not manmade” while the norm for “many modern historians, political scientists, and ecologists is to view major disasters in human history as resulting from man’s actions.” By mixing these two perspectives, Jemisin can make a point about how social injustice leads to natural disaster and then how this natural disaster leads to more social injustice, creating a cycle formed by rigid social structures that seem to worsen following catastrophes. 

After this initial cataclysm, it seems like select humans adapted to be able to practice Orogeny to protect society as a whole from the rage of Father Earth. Instead of being celebrated, they are enslaved and continuously injured and molested, seen to build tension until they erupt and bring damage to civilizations.

This concept is introduced in the very beginning of the book, when Jemisin introduces, “And then he reaches forth with all the fine control that the world has brainwashed and backstabbed and brutalized out of him, and all the sensitivity that his masters have bred into him through generations of rape and coercion and highly unnatural selection,” metaphorically holding the Earth in his hands before “he breaks it.”  It’s seen yet again when Essun tears apart the fault line and causes deadly destruction to the town, claiming that “The kind of hate that can make a man murder his own son? It came from everyone around you.” It’s seen yet again when the readers are introduced to node stations where young Orogenes who struggle to control their powers are sedated and used to negate small tremors and fulfill sexual fantasies of perveted people. They meet the dead Orogene boy who had been held captive there, abused until he killed everyone within the station and himself. Once more, it’s seen “five days after Syenite shut down a volcano that she started, which killed a whole city, and eight days after she killed two ships full of people to keep her family’s existence a secret,” which occurs later in the book.

These situations build on the sociological aspects of the novel, of the continued social injustices, and it gives them physical repercussions. By continually pushing the Orogenes beyond their breaking points, we may see the entire world Jemisin fabricates brought to its downfall, caused by the prejudices of the very people who are desperate to save it.

Icing as Metaphor in N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin presents a land called the Stillness, ironically named as it is anything but still. Populated by inhabitants who are always waiting for the next natural disaster, Jemisin follows a second-world apocalypse through the eyes of an oppressed middle-aged woman called Essun as she searches for her daughter. Essun is oppressed for her gift of orogeny, meaning she can manipulate kinetic energy to cause—or disrupt—seismic events. But these gifts come at a cost: in order to draw energy, she creates a controlled field of “ice” that condemns everything it touches to a frozen death. This direct power exchange raises interesting questions about the way power and fear work in tandem, and often without the governing hand of justice or righteousness. I am interested in investigating how fear coerces people into wielding their power without justice or discrimination through the metaphor of “icing.” 

Power exists in many forms. Soft power and hard power are both rampant throughout The Fifth Season, carefully relegated between social classes and human species. Of these, hard power is often showier, something Jemisin plays with through her cinematic writing, such as in the opening chapters of the text. Essun’s narration begins with grief. She is reeling from the death of her son at the hands of his father for his crime of being an orogene and so, buried under a twisted sense of justice and necessity—her daughter is missing—she tries to escape her town. In doing so, she is attacked and retaliates, causing a localized earthquake and icing anyone in her vicinity. This reaction is her own haphazard version of justice, ministered through her power. Her reaction is depicted as a dawning realization as Jemisin writes, “but the attempt on your life has triggered something raw and furious and cold …[T]he kind of hate that can make a man murder his own son? It came from everyone around you.” Through her orogeny, Essun exacts justice by forcing the earth to punish the town around it, collapsing buildings and icing much of the town’s leadership. Essun uses her hard power of orogeny, specifically focusing on icing, in order to react to a wrong. Notably, this only occurs after Essun has been attacked by the people of her village, making her fear for her life. Her original goal of slinking out of the village without disturbing anything vanishes because of fear. 

In Essun’s case, fear caused her to use her power violently, even if she believed it just. The metaphor of icing helps illustrate that while power can exact justice, fear-driven decisions removes nuance from justice. As she ices her town, she does not differentiate between the people who attacked her and the people who helped her get as far as she has. Pulled from the same scene as earlier, Jemisin writes, “You aren’t just inflicting death on your fellow villagers, of course. A bird perched on a nearby fence falls over frozen, too. The grass crisps, the ground grows hard, and the air hisses and howls as moisture and density is snatched from its substance.” There is no selection, no thought process. Birds die in the same breath as would-be murderers and friends. Jemisin’s metaphor of icing demonstrates in a horrifying sequence that when fear, justice, and power intersect, it often creates a corrupt blend of wide-reaching, nondiscriminating, unilateral consequences. 

While Essun’s descent into violent justice is a demonstration of hard power instigated by fear, soft power instigated by fear can be just as damning. The Fulcrum, and to a larger extent, the Stillness, establish that in chilling order. The Fulcrum is the organization that trains people gifted in orogeny, such as Essun in her childhood up through early adulthood. Using a mix of dehumanizing and demoralizing techniques, the Fulcrum raises orogenes to consider themselves second-class citizens and uses its influence—its soft power—to ensure that orogenes remain persecuted and targeted throughout the Stillness. Unsurprisingly, but chillingly, The Fulcrum has done this because it is fearful of these powerful humans who can cause earthquakes and sink cities. It does not want their power threatened, in a way that is familiar to anyone who exists in any reality. The powerful do not want to become the weak. An example that might hit closer to home of soft power being used in fear to protect one’s status and wealth can be found in this United States Geological Survey article. Covering how overlooked downstate New York State’s earthquake risk is, the article spoke about the controversial Indian Point nuclear power plant. Like how the Fulcrum twists information and perception in order to continue to oppress and abuse orogenes to maintain power, the Indian Point nuclear power plant is alleged to have ignored new information about earthquake risk, instead choosing to focus on studies written before the 1980s. Understanding that the Fulcrum uses soft power as ubiquitously as Essun used icing is important for understanding how fear-driven decisions hurt more people, more widely. To that end, even the Fulcrum’s teaching on icing demonstrates how fearful and terrifying it considers that power. Back in Essun’s days at the Fulcrum, this is made clear. From that time, Jemisin writes, “Instructor Marcasite praised her for only icing a two-foot torus around herself while simultaneously stretching her zone of control.” The Fulcrum is obviously frightened of the orogeny side-effect of “icing” and does everything within their power to train its unwieldy, deadly reach out of orogenes. This training would only be possible through the oppression and control they have already exacted over the orogene population through their soft power. 

Between both Essun’s reaction to fear and the reaction of privileged oppressors of the Stillness’s society and the Fulcrum, a common denominator is made clear. When fear is a driving factor, power is used in such a way that true justice is an impossibility. To understand that, one needs to look no further than the concept of icing. In order to access power and commit huge, godlike acts of seismic activity, you must take from the life around you. When that power is driven by fear, the taking becomes an unruly, wild thing that grows in anger, even if, like Essun, that anger and fear is justified. It might be justified, but acting out of fear takes away that critical thinking and leaves only rash, violent decision making. Examining the intersection of fear, justice, and power through the lens of icing in N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season leaves me with only one conclusion: fear-driven so-called “justice” doled out by power, be it hard or soft, only begets more fear. That is the consequence of uncontrolled icing and of the Stillness’s continued persecution of the orogenes.

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”