Butler, Octavia. 1995. “Bloodchild.” In Bloodchild. New York: Tor.
Tarkovsky, A. (1972). Solaris. New York, NY: Janus Films. (Available through NYU Libraries here) (On NYU Stream)
Geek of the Week
- Ridley Scott et al., Alien, Horror, Sci-Fi (Brandywine Productions, 1979). (Available on NYU Stream)
- Pendleton Ward and Mike L. Mayfield, “Hunters Without a Home,” The Midnight Gospel, April 20, 2020. (Available on NYU Stream)
- Joe Bennett and Charles Huettner, Scavengers, Animation, Short, Fantasy, 2016. (Available on NYU Stream)
Theory and Commentary
Dick, Steven J. 2006. Anthropology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Anthropology Today 22(2): 3-7.
Kirksey, S. Eben & Stephan Helmreich. 2010. The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography. Cultural Anthropology 25(4): 545-76.
Le Guin, Ursula K. 1974. The Author of the Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts from the Journal of Therolinguistics. From Fellowship of the Stars, Terry Carr, ed. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Peter Bright, “Microsoft terminates its Tay AI chatbot after she turns into a Nazi,” 24 March 2016, Ars Technica.
Jessica Miley, “Meet Imma,” 23 January 2019, Interesting Engineering.
1. If art is communication, does bad art fail in communication or does it communicate something idiotic?
2. Is it possible that there is extraterrestrial life already on the planet that has not made its existence known to us?
3. What are the differences and the similarities between the use of the human body as a host for alien life in Alien and Bloodchild?
1. What does it mean for humans to be the host of extraterrestrial life?
2) Why is our society so quick to pronounce extraterrestrial life as non-existent, does this denial speak towards our fears of life that we may not be able to control?
3) While I think there is fear linked to machines, and their ability to possibly make humans obsolete one day, what is the direct fear linked with extraterrestrial life?
1. What is the ultimate mission or purpose of human civilization? Is it “We need a mirror,” said by Dr. Snaut in Solaris (1972)?
2. Can extraterritorial life be immaterial so that humans may never find solid evidence of its existence?
3. How can we discover and imagine extraterritorial life without using our formed understanding of (or bias toward) the definition of life?
1. Is it possible that we are the aliens on earth?*
— by this question, I mean doesn’t it feel like (for all intensive purposes) we are aliens on earth? These strange unusually sentient creatures who are slowly destroying most other living organisms on the planet. Besides which, there is no fully proven explanation for how on earth we got to this planet. And the level of conscious thought and sentience that humans have doesn’t seem to exist in other species.
2. If we are, potentially, the only species on existence in the entire universe — what are the implications of that? What are the implications if we aren’t?**
3. Hypothetical: say aliens exist and they come to visit our planet. Maybe they’re not out to get us and they just came to say hi. After the initial shock of the first interaction, what comes next? If the threat of war from their species is minimum and they do not intend to stay and harm us, only to visit, then is there any reason to still be afraid? And, if so, what are we really afraid of?
*An article going into more detail about this very issue
**A little 4 min music video of Carl Sagan talking about the SETI (search for extraterrestrial life) program
1- Le Guin advocates for a more holistic understanding of communication writing; “we must not be slaves for our own axioms”. How have our linguistic limitations kept us from understanding the passive art communications of other species, and how has that shifted?
2- How does the monster in Alien and the Monster in Bloodchild embody anxieties about the female body, sexuality, and the trope of the “cannibalistic mother”?
3- How does the Multispecies Salon, mentioned in the Emergence of Multispecies Ethnographic argue for matriarchal approaches to ethnography?
1. Are there no limitations when it comes to imagining aliens in the science-fiction genre since we don’t have set ideas about extraterrestrial life? Does that mean such works cannot be criticized?
2. We (humans or our ancestors) might not have come from another planet or galaxy, but haven’t we evolved into aliens ourselves?
3. If humans didn’t exist on Earth as we do now, what would be the relationship between aliens that come to this planet and nature?
1. In relation to Marx’s theory on consciousness- How does the concept of predetermined decision making play a role in human vs. nonhuman?
2. What are the socio-political implications of centering ‘human’ in the universe and considering non-human as ‘other’ or subordinate? If we don’t have the proper language or symbols to communicate with other species, How can we determine their consciousness? And why is consciousness a pillar of ‘human’ but not of Xenos?
3. When humans act as hosts for extraterrestrial life- it implies our physicality has little to do with our humanity. Is ‘alien’ just a state of being?
1. Would we ever be able to understand, tame and instrumentalize alien life like they do in “Scavengers”? Or would we be limited to radical and mutual misunderstanding like in Solaris? Is there a more hopeful middleground?
2. How can we shift from Bloodchild/Alien/Zerg’s parasitic understanding of adaptation to a more symbiotic one (like we see in the Midnight Gospel and possibly Solaris)? Is everything about power, survival and domination?
3. What’s with 70’s/80’s SF and underpants? (Kris Kelvin in Solaris, Sting in Dune, Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, Ripley at the end of Alien…)
1. Our observations of everything in the universe are mentioned in Solaris. We can’t challenge psychoanalysis because it is too basic, so does the object of sci-fi ultimately have to go to this unfalsifiable nothingness?
2. Sci-fi deals with this entangled distinction between subject and object, but perhaps it is inevitable that humans are posthuman as we have entered modern society?
3. Perhaps we can adopt a colonialist perspective on the body …… Female bodies have been colonized by male for thousands of years, and in Bloodchild, the intervention of aliens makes this fact appalling.
1. Are there ways in which ideas of aliens are constricted by our own limited and self-reflexive understanding of animation and consciousness?
2. A central argument of Solaris is whether or not science and knowledge are only valid within the bounds of morality. How does this apply to nuclear arms races? In what other ways do we see modern arguments of progress for progress’s sake? Or even, scientific progress for the sake of capital gain, nationalism, fame? What comes to mind for me is Musk’s plan to make a space hotel when we haven’t fully conquered Polio or flooding or famines.
3. What different alien tropes do we see broadly in science fiction? In War of the Worlds, we saw aliens as invaders. In Alien, we saw aliens as a pseudo-contagion. In Solaris, we saw aliens as projections of human consciousness. In Scavengers, we see aliens as a tool/resource. In Bloodchild, we saw aliens as an elevated social class with astounding power over humans. What do all these tropes reveal about what we hold as valuable or frightening?
4. Too much?
(Credit to my brother’s friend Clint DesMarias)
Bloodchild is scary on soo many levels. The idea that we are tied to a insect-like lifeform, and we are on their planet – but we are a feeder system. Gan has been chosen but is it an honor, or a curse or both?? T’Gatoi is their keeper, their friend and their captor. It’s clear that we are not the dominant species – and that is haunting. , Gan considers suicide rather than being a host for a birth. The power of the gun is also haunting, given the world we now live in.