Saturday, March 18, 2006


Here it comes again.

It's strange, but I have a predilection for being immersed in bouts of frustration at painfully intermittent periods of my life. Simply put, I'm pent up in frustration and a sense of mental claustrophobia, as if walls were closing in on me. At the same time there's that constriction and senselessness and that feeling of being cut loose, adrift on a wide sea, to borrow the oft-used metaphor.

Right now some worries gnaw at the back of my head. There is, for example, the SRP conundrum. SRC on Friday managed to paint a rather grim, unfriendly atmosphere for us prospective researchers - as if we are inmates being thrust into hard labour with unfriendly and reluctant supervisors to monitor our activities. The first part of SRC was fairly interesting sans the deliberately abstruse project presentations, but the latter half performed admirably in its capacity as a wet blanket. Or perhaps sour grapes. Based, as it were, on less than spectacular performance from preceding batches, whose majorly uninspiring antics galvanized the blase coordinator to lambast we unsuspecting few with a preemptive "scolding", as he put it, of our future misdemeanors, taking out his frustrations on us. I don't fancy mentors that don't want my untrained faculties poking into his research. Much less being watched with eagle-eyes by a cynical, jaded authority.

There is that enduring problem of EE and my inability to decide on what I want or can do. Posthumanism? Political, social, ethical, stylistic considerations? Subbranches of posthumanist literature? Case-studies? Dune? How shall I structure the EE? How shall I talk about the enduring themes of mere fiction? (Note the irony.)

Then there are the holidays. Which are ending. A puerile consideration, perhaps, but irritating nonetheless.


I'm reading Ilium by Dan Simmons, which worries me because nowhere on this good Earth have I yet seen the sequel Olympos. Ilium is a strange book built on strange premises - that of Homer's Iliad being performed by hapless pawns on Mars, of sentient machine-cyborg beings no doubt inspired from Dyson's astrochicken, that for once copy human linguistic patterns and swear liberally, of postliteral humans trapped in an Eloi-like state of society, ignorant of even te most elementary things. Ilium is engaging because of its sheer novelty and complexity, and for now, although I haven't finished, it has already offered several fascinating thinking points.


~autolycus said...

Your EE needs Alastair Reynolds (Revelation Space etc), Peter Hamilton (the Night's Dawn trilogy, but probably his other novels - such as Mindstar Rising), Iain Banks (Use of Weapons among others), Dan Simmons (Hyperion Cantos etc), John Wright (The Golden Age trilogy), Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Charles Stross. Look up the relevant entries in Clute & Nicholls - The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction. That's for post-1980 novels, which you should limit yourself to, on peril of overload.

The Arbiter said...

Many thanks. I shall look into them. I think I'll get Hyperion online.

~autolycus said...

I suggested post-1980 for an important psychological reason. Orwell's dystopic 1984 set a benchmark of sorts for dire imaginings of the human future. The question really on everyone's minds was one with at least three heads: would the humanity of the future be subhuman, or would it be inhuman (as in Huxley's Brave New World) or would it be superhuman (as in Zelazny's This Immortal and Lord of Light)?