[ Eejits and Sex Puppets ]


Of everything we’re read this semester, the eejits in House of the Scorpion are strangely similar to the sex puppets from Neuromancer. Because House of the Scorpion is a young adult novel and, as far as I’ve read, does not feature any blatant sex, I feel a little strange comparing it to Neuromancer, which didn’t shy away from sex at all due to its different target audience. Anyway –

For Molly to obtain the money for her technological enhancements in Neuromancer, a “cut out chip” was implanted in her body (pg 142). Similarly, eejits are simply defined as, “People with computer chips in their bodies; also known as zombies” (Cast of Characters). Yet what separates these computer chips placed in sex puppets and eejits are their effects.

Molly didn’t know what was happening to her while men used her body for sex because puppets are not conscious while on the job. Molly describes it as “blank” and “Silver.”  She has us assume that the cut out chip does all the work during sex for her. Likewise, eejits show no indication of knowing what’s happening to them. They must be given instructions verbally to do anything – work, eat, drink, survive. When Matt encounters Rosa in her eejit form for the first time, he states, “The hard bitter lines of her face seemed unconnected with anything going on inside. Rosa gazed straight ahead…It was unclear whether she even saw him” (pg 147). Both descriptions of puppets and eejits delineate a sense of vacancy in the person. The person is present physically, but not emotionally.

Physical soreness the morning after is the only consequence Molly experiences until she begins to remember what’s happening to her through bad dreams due to malfunctions between her new additions and the cut out chip. While this may seem like a difference from eejits, the ability to remember what’s happening during the “vacant, blank” state may be a commonality. Matt says, “”If there was anything left of Rosa, it was locked in an iron box. He imagined her banging on the walls with her fists, but no one came to open the door. He’d read that come patients hear everything people say and need voices to keep their brains alive” (pg 167). In both cases, the conscious mind still exists but isn’t operable. As far as I’ve read, I’m not sure if eejits can be brought back from their zombie-like state. I guess that they may have some memory of what’s happened to them, but the price of surgically removing the implant is expensive.

I should note that Molly’s cut-out chip seems to have an on/off lightswitch-like operation, where as the eejit implant is something that, once inserted, keeps working until removed. In a way, perhaps eejits could be used for sex, since they seem to be used for everything else.

Dear Diary,

 Dear Diary,

Sorry I haven’t been able to write recently, things have been sort of crazy. I’m also sorry I can’t put an exact date on this entry. The guys and I, minus Tilden (more on that later), have been traveling nonstop since we found a ex-Phoenix man called Tino and a kid. Yeah, a real kid! I can’t remember the last time I saw one. He can’t be more than a two years old. We thought he was human at first, but he’s got to be some kind of weird human/worm hybrid thing. He’s got this big, gray tongue that’s definitely not normal, and he can talk. Anyway, Damek hit Tino over the head, and we got the hell out of there with the baby.

That baby’s priceless, so we decided to go upriver to potentially trade him for something useful…like metal, glass, good cloth, or a good time. But the kid would not fucking shut up when we were in the boat. Tilden held him over the water and threatened to dunk him if he didn’t keep quiet, but we had to tell Tilden to knock it off. He was pretty rough with the baby, holding him by his limbs and whatnot. Probably due to the fact that he had a feeling it was different…or maybe it was his ulcer. Well, if the crying and pissed off German in the boat weren’t bad enough, it started raining while we were still rowing.

We had to assemble a temporary camp with what we had with us and what we could find in the forest. We fed the kid and talked about potential trade value. Someone pulled out booze after we’d set up to go with dinner. I watched as the kid went out to wash himself and get something to drink. He’s strange; I never would’ve thought a kid so young to be capable of that. I fell asleep after drinking too much.

awoke when someone tripped over me, and Iriarte yelled that the kid had run off into the forest. I don’t know what drove me to go in after him, in the dark. Maybe it was how valuable he was or maybe he was starting to grow on me in a weird way. But it’s not as if I could see. I was running blind. But I claimed that I found him, then due to some amount of luck, I tripped and swug my arms reflexively around the kid.

While carrying him to the camp, I rubbed his back, mumbling aloud how us guys were totally inept at taking care of kids. We didn’t have any experience. Poor thing crawled next to me to sleep for the rest of the night.

Tilden died the next day. Hacked up blood, collapsed. There’s not a lot we could do. Kaliq and Damek laid him down and tilted his head to the side. Iriarte got some water. I took the kid away from Tilden and all that blood, thinking that a kid shouldn’t be subject to something like that. That’s when he started talking. It was weird. The toddlers I knew weren’t ever able to talk like that. He just didn’t know a few words. This kid could hold an entire conversation and actually could think for himself. He’d suggested that we get some worms to heal Tilden, like before. But I knew better.

That kid though…I just couldn’t get my head around what he…it…was. He started crying when I asked about Tino. I called the Phoenix guy a traitor to the human race, then told the kid he may not be valuable. He said otherwise, but we’ll see.

When I went back to the camp, Tilden was dead. I wasn’t surprised, but the guys and I sure were sad. I shed a few tears while we buried him. Each one of us, Damek, Irirate, Kaliq, and I said a few words about him before we left his body for good.

Didn’t pay much attention to the kid when we got back to the boat. I just wanted to get out of there. Now, we’re still in the middle of the river, but we know where we’re going.


Aliens and Evil?

While trying to get a visual of the Oankali, I found this.

It’s not an ‘official’ movie, just a film project. Anyway:

While trying to read for the most ‘alien’ aspect of Lilith’s environment, I split the definition of alien into two meanings: (1) unlike one’s own, strange, not belonging to one and (2) adverse, hostile, opposed. Based on Lilith’s initial responses to them, the Oankali/Ooloi seem to fit these classifications. 

Upon seeing Jdahya, Lilith relates his faceless, tentacle covered appearance to Medusa, the villain in Greek mythology that turns victims to stone. She also relates his hair to ‘snakes,’ which are biblically viewed as evil. In this scene, she sees this creature as not only strange-looking, but potentially dangerous. Like Medusa’s victims, who lose their lives, Lilith loses what little emotional agency she has in response to seeing Jdahya.

He has to command Lilith to look at him several times. Yet as much as Jdahya assures her that no part of his appearance will harm her, she has to force herself to look at him over and over again. She has to dig her nails into her hands, but even when she gets used to seeing Jdahya, she still falls into the same pattern of panic and revulsion. Is she afraid to look at him/others like him because the tentacles are phallic-like, suggesting some fear of sexual harassment? Is the appearance an archetype of evil?

Looking again the second meaning of alien, what the Oankali want to essentially do is cross breed with the human species. This ‘genetic engineering’ to create new organisms conflicts with what Lilith feels is right for the human race. Therefore, the Oankali’s desires and views are opposed to Lilith’s. The behavior of the ooloi is slightly hostile when it speaks to Lilith. During their first conversation, the narrator notes: “It was smug and treated her condenscendingly. It was also one of the creatures schedule to bring about the destruction of what was left of humanity” (48).

(While reading this, I couldn’t make sense of why she was afraid to look at them. Yet my mental image of Jdahya was of Cousin It, covered in snakes instead of hair. Therefore I had to look up the above video to get a better idea of their appearance, which didn’t really help.)


Mechanical < Natural

          In terms of plot, the last page of the first chapter both summarizes what has already happened and foreshadows what will occur in the rest of the book. We3 have managed to escape from the government and have embarked into nature for the first time. They only have so long to run away before the military catches up to them, yet they have a temporary sense of safety for now. On this page, they continue their journey into a forest, towards home, while helicopters approach overhead.

            Much can be said about the visual design, symbolism, and foreshadowing in this scene . The helicopters seem to move out of the page, towards the reader, while We3 move into the page, away from the reader. The dual movement reinforces the opposite views between We3 and the military forces going after them. We3 are trying to survive, while the government wants to decommission them. This opposite movement also foreshadows the inevitable fighting in the next chapter. If they continue moving towards each other, they will eventually clash.

           Also, the outlines of the trees, leaves, and grass frame the page. It places the reader in the scene, as if the reader could be hiding and watching this page unfold, like an animal in the forest. The picture seems divided where the trees end and the water/sky begin; this division seems to also emphasize the duality between the two forces in the scene. Also, although all the vegetation around the bird is outlined in black, the dead bird is bright red, and almost blood-like. This may also foreshadow more destruction and bloodshed.

          Lastly, note that the birds fly above the helicopters, rather than below them. These birds also contribute to the ‘frame’ of the page. Also note that the largest objects in this scene are all natural: the trees, the sky, and the water. Even if all of the mechanical elements were condensed, they would only contribute a small fraction to the rest of the picture. The birds flying above the helicopters and the size of the natural elements in this scene suggest a superiority of the natural over the mechanical.

Struggling with Neuromancer

          Reading Neuromancer is difficult, but to summarize my frustration, I’ll quote Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski: “…you have no frame of reference here, [Donny.] You’re like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie…”

          This novel requires slow reading and re-reading because I’m trying to construct an exposition in my head from pieces of background information as well as pay attention to the current events of the story. For example, Case’s ‘introduction’ comes after the opening in the bar and after a hint of what happened to him involving his past (“…the damage he’d suffered in that Memphis hotel…he still dreamed of cyberspace…”). It’s like putting letters in alphabetical order on a table, but I’m starting with ‘E.’ The rest of the letters are mixed up on a conveyor belt, and I need to run back and forth between the two places. I’ve read modular sequence stories before and written some too. Perhaps the arrangement of the story says something about the world it’s set in? or the way the main character, Case, thinks? It’s kind of twisted and back-and-forth, and nothing about it is just straightforward.

          At the same time, cognitive estrangement becomes evident. I’m grasping for things that I recognize in this story to keep reading. Certain characteristics of Case, such as his drug addiction (“Brazilian dex”) and suicide (“a final solitaire…arc of his self-destruction”), are evident in society today. His relationship with Linda isn’t quite healthy, but the fact that he has a relationship makes him more relatable as a character. The ‘black clinics of China’ are similar to the medical procedures that are illegal in one country, but legal in another. Altogether, what I can identify in this novel comforts me, but the structure of the novel does not.

Response to “Blame Shifting”

In continuation of AngryMurmurs’ post, “Blame Shifting,” I wanted to apply some of her ideas to Peter Watts, “The Things.” Unlike “Who Goes There?” and the film version, the fault in this story lies with mankind’s unwillingness to adapt and change, (on on an even grander scale, ‘the world’), not specifically just Americans or Norwegians. This seems to respond to John Campbell’s original short story – Watts suggests that opposition to change leads to destruction.

While reading this story, the Thing is far more superior than the movie or original story would have us believe. It’s not just an alien; it was “the very hand by which Creation perfects itself. In response to trying to ‘fix’ and make the form of mankind more efficient, it says, “…the world attacked me. It attacked me.” Sympathizing with the Thing is actually possible while reading this. I actually felt sorry for it, compared to my reaction while watching the film, when I would’ve used a nuclear bomb to get rid of it.

This is just really lovable, after all, right?

Yet in the film/original story, we have no indication that the Thing has emotions beyond a desire to eradicate/takeover mankind. Therefore, it’s easy to blame it for everything that goes wrong. Yet in this story, it has hope, an identity, and feelings. It forms opinions about the beings it inhabits, calling the human being, “empty.” It desires “communion,” which I had to look up due to Watts frequent use of the word. He seems to use it in the context of, “sharing intimate thoughts/feelings, common participation in a mental/emotional experience.” In essence, it just wants communication…or mixing, which John Campbell had been so strongly against in terms of race.

What I found most surprising though, is that the Thing pities mankind at the end of the story. It calls them “things,” saying, “They’ve never known communion, can aspire to nothing but dissolution.” It believes that they cannot communicate with each other, and will only end up terminating themselves because of it – somehow this reflects the ideas behind war and general conflict. It seems to forgive mankind for evil they’ve caused it, saying that they didn’t know any better. The most poignant part is how it says, “I will save them from the inside, or their unimaginable lonliness will never end.” The Thing wants to help mankind, and mankind’s refusal by blowtorching it is the wrong response. Yet the Thing’s method of wanting to save them this doesn’t seem ideal (forced penetration/rape?), but the idea behind it seems plausible enough. But the same thing (hah) could be said for so many other ideas that were never put into practice ideally.

“Stoned Shelley”

            Josh raised a question about Shelley’s association with drugs that I wanted to investigate for my post today:

“Did Shelley have much exposure to drugs/addiction?”

            While it is a fact that Frankenstein was inspired by a “waking nightmare” (pg. 11) people have claimed that the nightmare influenced by opium. Mary Shelley’s husband, Percy, was infamous for his drug use. In Katherine Singer’s article, “Stoned Shelley: Revolutionary Tactics and Women under the Influence,” she writes: “Apparently one day a desperate [Percy] Shelley, banned by Godwin [Mary’s father] from seeing Mary, burst into the house and ran up to Mary offering a bottle of laudanum, and declared, ‘By this you can escape from tyranny.’ Since Mary did marry Percy Shelley, she might have doped up on it once or twice. It was mentioned in class that the group that Mary Shelley hung around were like the hippies of the 1960’s, who were also known for their experimental drug use. So whether it be in the Romantic Era or the 1960’s, drug use has been seen a way to obtain freedom/escape.

           Therefore it seems natural, almost endearing, for Mary to mention that in the novel, Victor ingests a type of opium (laudanum), to help him get to sleep (pg 207). In this instance , the drug only made his reveries worse: “…a thousand objects scared me.” In contrast, Percy Shelley used opium as way to, “forget his grief and to knock himself unconscious, those moments… marked by unbearable pain” (Parker, “Stoned…”). So, he was probably addicted to it.

          Mary Shelley makes no mention of whether Victor is addicted to this particular drug in the novel (he’s addicted to his scientific pursuits in the beginning), but she does write how much he enjoys sleep toward the end of the book. He says, “…during sleep alone could I taste joy. O blessed sleep!…my dreams lulled me even to rapture…in sleep I saw my friends, my wife, and my beloved country;” (pg 226).  Shelly could have been likening sleep to drug use. In real life, freedom through opium use came through its ability to “erase previous pain” – potentially through forgetfulness, memory loss, dreaming, or suicide.

            Perhaps not on a too unrelated side note – while reading this book, I felt that Victor had an obsessive personality; he’s so easily hyperfocused on one project. This project may be creating a new being, escaping from the new being, or trying to destroy the new being. What if Shelley had mentioned that Victor was a drug addict? Would Victor’s downward spiral/irrational behavior be better justified? Is it possible that she was channeling her husband’s drug use through the character of Victor?

Appreciation vs. Ambition

In continuation of the Tuesday’s discussion of binaries, I began to think about Frankenstein’s appreciation for the natural versus his ambition for the unnatural.

He sees his project as an opportunity to both introduce new beings on earth and reverse the effects of death. While the former isn’t so far fetched now (Mules and ligers are not on earth naturally. By the way, they’re not considered new species because they’re sterile…), reversing the effects of death is still “out there” in the scientific community. Too many things happen too quickly to reverse death – on the molecular level, the amino acids which compose proteins instantly change configuration and can’t be forced back. Yet Frankenstein states, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source, many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me…if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might…renew life where death had devoted the body to corruption” (82). Frankenstein is bent upon two relatively unnatural scientific pursuits: creating a new being completely on his own (& not through any kind of parthenogenesis as in “When It Changed”; he doesn’t have eggs anyway) and bringing back the dead.

The concept of imbuing life into the inanimate consumes Frankenstein, and he pursues it passionately. He states, “I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit” (82). To have seemingly lost his natural ability for the senses somehow works in his pursuit of the unnatural. His obsession could be likened that of a drug addict in that he pays attention to nothing else. He claims that, “…my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature” (83). Nature had previously held some interest for him, but he is so infatuated with his project that he also says, “Winter, spring, and summer, passed away during my labours; but I did not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves…so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation” (84). Frankenstein doesn’t even notice the passage of time while he’s working.

Only months after the evening the monster was created, Frankenstein rediscovers his appreciation for nature. Perhaps the long illness through which he suffered could be likened to withrdrawal/rehab if his obsession could paralled to drug addition. He states, “I remember the first time I became capable of of observing outward objects with any kind of pleasure, I perceived that the fallen leaves and disappeared, and the the young buds were shooting forth from the trees that shaded my window…I became as cheerful as before I was attacked by the fatal passion” (90). He regains his innate ability to enjoy what exists without the interference of mankind.