Old “Alloland” Draft — “Greenhouse Gases” Scene #2

“We are gathered here to make history,” the woman announced, stepping forward. “I don’t need to remind you all what this graduation, and the graduates’ journey, entails, but it is our duty to keep you always mindful of the consequences.

“Being the first people to sail the sea in a thousand years was no small feat, nor was being the first civilization to make contact and establish relations with the endless others out there. But we paid a price for our openness with others, and now we aim to pay our debt and stave off the threat of the March. What will be truly impressive is finding the solution out at sea. Allies willing to defend, hosts willing to take settlers, scientists willing to share technology…” She let the words hang in the air. “The possibilities are limitless, but urgent.” … More Old “Alloland” Draft — “Greenhouse Gases” Scene #2

Old “Alloland” Draft — “Greenhouse Gases” #1

  Long ago, our ancestors used the stars of the night sky to voyage across the vast oceans. But when the stars disappeared, our islands were separated. The peoples of each island have drifted in different directions, each culture developing different technologies, each society using the power of the Sperk plant to grant them different abilities. Once the people of our island, Cambia, united under one queen, our sights turned beyond our shores. We learned how to follow the orcas in their travels across the depths of the vast ocean, and began exploring the innumerable islands of our world. We traded technologies with our strange but friendly neighbors. We shared the secrets of voyaging with everyone we met, hoping to create a better world. But then, we stumbled across the island of Mara, which was eternally locked in an arms race…until they met us. When we told the March of the vast world beyond their small island, their hungry eyes looked past the horizon. Using weapons capable of destroying entire civilizations, the March attacked us and began using our secrets of voyaging in their conquest of the seas. We send these voyagers to you to share our discoveries and establish an alliance for the coming war. We are the people of Cambia, and we come in peace. … More Old “Alloland” Draft — “Greenhouse Gases” #1

Which sex is the default?

This small topic has taken up a surprising amount of my mental energy over the past few months. It all started when I sat in on a history class called “Women in Sickness and in Health,” which focuses on gender perceptions throughout western history. The first day of class covered the topic of a “default sex.”

In humans, science suggests, it is default to be female. Add testosterone to a person and they begin to show male secondary sex characteristics (deeper voices, facial hair, extra muscles, etc.). Add a Y chromosome to an embryo and you get a male. Though the norm is two, females can have any number of X chromosomes (see “trisomy X”) without ever showing any sign of being male. But so long as someone has a Y chromosome, that person is transformed into something different. 

As a biology major, I was well familiar with these facts. But I wasn’t aware that some people interpreted these results as being sexist. The history class asked, “Can’t we also say that being male is a lack of having two X chromosomes? Or a lack of estrogen? Why are women the ones who are ‘missing’ something? Missing a penis, missing testosterone, missing a Y chromosome, always ‘missing,’ always ‘lesser.'” 

As I mention in the last section, this answer is complicated but mostly “no.” But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about “defaults.” Why does equating “female” with “default” mean that they are inferior? In fact, I’m used to the exact opposite: … More Which sex is the default?

Rhetorical Analysis of a Comment, Written in the Style of High School English Timed Write

It’s been a long time since I’ve written in the style of a timed writing from high school English class, and I’m not entirely sure what compelled me to return to this format. Either way, here I am, writing a rhetorical analysis on the one comment I received in all my months of writing for … More Rhetorical Analysis of a Comment, Written in the Style of High School English Timed Write

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (1997)

What I find interesting about my history with Harry Potter is that every time I read the series, it seemed to change. I had different opinions, enjoyed different parts, and noticed different things about it. Perhaps that will always happen with every book I reread, perhaps it will stop happening when I stop growing, or perhaps it’s a quirk of the series itself.

But what did I think of it this time, reading it just before my junior year of college? … More The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (1997)

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Originally published 2/27/2016. Lead image via Wikipedia. 5 STARS You may have heard the phrase “Brave New World” before. It’s from Shakespeare. And a character in Brave New World doesn’t just happen to say it; he actually quotes Shakespeare all the time. This was, once again, a book I was required to read in English class (though … More Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

On Symbolism, Part 4: Digging Deeper

So from that quick class analysis, we learned that… Shakespeare was Christian. Seriously, we did not go any farther on this topic other than to say that the handkerchief symbolized the Garden of Eden. That’s it. Nothing more. No questioning the human subliminal or why it’s the “forbidden fruit” and not the “forbidden meat.” We identified the alleged symbol (since it’s Shakespeare, I give it 50/50 chance of being intentional), and then we moved on to look for the next. … More On Symbolism, Part 4: Digging Deeper

On Symbolism, Part 2: What is a Symbol?

One of the biggest downsides to how symbolism is taught in English class is that it gives students the wrong idea of what symbolism is. By graduation, students are split into two camps: one camp where all symbolism is a myth made up by academics and another camp where the blue-curtain brand of symbolism is sacred.

Symbolism is a real thing, but its name has been so warped by public English classrooms that I’m more tempted to call it something like “associative meaning,” “connotation,” or “object emotion.” But the most basic definition of a symbol is something that has meaning beyond what it is in a literal sense. The key here is that the meaning has to be understood in order to be an effective symbol, even if that understanding is subconscious.

In other words: people don’t need to be taught how to find symbolism. If it’s an effective symbol, then the intended audience should register on some level that the symbol is important. Symbolism analysis, then, should focus on articulating the feelings that one already experiences when coming across a symbol, not digging to find made-up symbols. … More On Symbolism, Part 2: What is a Symbol?

On Symbolism, Part I: What I Learned in English Class

In early middle school, we began annotating for metaphors, imagery, similes, and character development in our books. Once we’d reached the 8th grade, it was time to stop identifying the elements of a story and start identifying symbolism. We began by picking apart The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Did you know that Santiago was a Christ figure? Or that the fish was also a Christ figure? No, you never noticed that? There’s a reason for that: that religious symbolism likely isn’t really there. At best, most of the symbols we analyzed for the next five years were analogous to conspiracy theories. At worst, they were completely imaginary.

I remember complaining to my parents about how much I hated the The Old Man and the Sea, and they were shocked. They’d loved it! They asked me what I didn’t like about it, and I told them simply, “The religious symbolism. It’s too pedantic.”

They looked at me with utter confusion. “I don’t remember any religious symbolism. That doesn’t sound like Hemingway.” … More On Symbolism, Part I: What I Learned in English Class