Friday, April 10, 2009

Week 13: Robinson, Again

Let's begin this week with a brief overview of commentaries on the Mars trilogy and the work of KSR. Then I'll delve into an interesting question on which two commentators disagreed.

> Many of the commentaries (Dynes, Markley, Otto, Burling) took on various facets of the Red/Green debate and its sociopolitical ramifications. Ho hum. I got a lot of plot summary, though this was helpful in sketching out the last two-thirds of the trilogy which I haven't read. And I learned more about Ann and Sax who, as the respective allegories for the Red and Green positions, were the characters most frequently cited in these critiques.

> But these four articles disappointed in several ways:

+ Markley centered his analysis on KSR's "eco-economics" but without really explaining it

+ Otto gives more detail on eco-economics, but he uses Leopold's "land ethic" as a framework for interpreting the Mars trilogy without establishing that Leopold was important for KSR

+ Burling uses Laclau and Mouffe's Hegemony and Social Strategy as an interpretive framework but without establishing that L&M were important for KSR, so that Burling's analysis becomes an appropriation of KSR to argue for his own politics

+ Dynes doesn't really suggest anything new, though he tangentially points out something I think is important—namely KSR's doctoral dissertation which describes Dick's "polyphonic narrative structure," so that we see the influence of PKD in the multiple viewpoint characters employed in the Mars trilogy

+ As a group, these four articles don't really take us much beyond the Red/Green impasse

> Nevertheless, agree with him or not, Markley easily wins the prize for getting off the best one-liner . . .

The trilogy ends on a beach with children eating ice cream . . . The technologies of terraformation offer, ultimately, a vision of small-town life, or such a life experienced in an ecologically pristine equivalent of Santa Barbara: scenic beauty, good restaurants.

What a hoot! And of course, Santa Barabara is just a few counties up the road from KSR's native Orange County, California.

> White easily offered the most helpful and nuanced analysis, taking us beyond Red/Green and (with a nice assist from Greimassian semantic rectangles) offers a nuanced yet clear analysis of . . .

+ the Red/Green/White/Blue metaphors in the Mars trilogy (p. 586)

+ the contrasting worldviews of the initial main characters (p. 590)

+ the contrasts between Boone and Chalmers (p. 598)

+ the functioning of Boone as a mythic questing hero (pp. 589, 594)

Since Jameson is a fan of Greimas, and KSR is a student of Jameson—to the point that KSR even puts semantic rectangles into the text of the Mars trilogy—then White's use of the rectangles provides us legitimate insights into the author's possible thinking

> Franko provides a nice summation of KSR's early pre-Mars work. Here we find that longevity treatments play a much larger role, as people live 500 or even 1000 years but lose their memories every 80 years or so. The plots KSR builds on this are quite interesting. And we also learn that major characters named "Clayborne" turn up in two prior works.

Now let's move onto the "interesting question" which I cited at the outset:

> Leane gives a very nice discussion of science and colonialism, demonstrating how the two discourses have historically gone hand-in-hand. The term "scientific discovery" itself implies an act of colonization. Having studied the rhetoric of science last semester, Leane's analysis opens for me a new perspective as her citations introduce me to the literature on "successor science."

Thus Leane sees KSR and his Mars trilogy as exploring the possibilities for a "successor science" that avoids the old link between science and colonialism

> But Michaels asks how the Mars trilogy can be viewed as postcolonial in its sensibilities when the Martians are themselves colonists. It's like, he says, the American colonists of yore claiming to be natives. He suggests the Martians' moral argument instantiates a lamentable claim that "the difference between someone who is here (Mars) and someone who is there (Earth) can do the trick" (p. 660).

Thoughts, anyone?

No comments: