Thursday, February 23, 2017

BOOM. Shape-shifters.

Transformation
via Jason Devaun on Flickr
I presume that if you are reading this, you are doing so with a body. (If not, warmest greetings to the ghosts and/or bots perusing my blog. Please do not repossess my soul.)

Bodies are interesting—they are the interface through which you experience the world, the physical space we associate with “you.” And they give the illusion of a constant identity where there may be none. You are not reading this with the body you were born in. In fact, if you’re over fourteen, it’s an entirely different one: all your cells have been replaced at least once. You are different than you were as a baby, and different than you will be at age 80. And that goes for both your physical body and your identity. They are inconstant, for better or worse.

But even if you reside in an impermanent, changeable body, it’s still a body you must stay in if you want to continue your existence. The same is not true for shape-shifters. In fiction we meet people who can change their form quickly and unnaturally and yet maintain a consistent (?) identity. We read them as the same character, even though they might have a completely different brain! Bizarre, no?

Here are six of my favorites.

1. Solembum (Inheritance Cycle) | As a werecat, Solembum can take a more humanoid form if he so chooses. This is a pretty unsettling experience! In a way, though, it’s an honest portrayal. Shape-shifting is completely foreign to human experience, and we’d react as such. (Also, werecats can just be creepy.)

2. Wanderer (The Host) | Wanda is a parasite who has possessed various creatures throughout the galaxy. She describes the unique, even weird, experiences each host has provided her with. (Sounds obvious, but being seaweed is different than being human.) But Wanda has a malevolent power, too—she can kill other beings by staying inside them too long.

3. Orma (Seraphina) | Seraphina notices that her uncle is more harsh and bloodthirsty in his native dragon form. Possessing a human body changes Orma—he becomes more emotional by nature of its biological functions. Seraphina actually has a conversation suggesting that dragons are different people in human form. From this perspective, identity is tied to biological form and something is lost by shifting.

4. Tally Youngblood (Uglies) | Each book in this series follows the progression of Tally’s identity as it correlates to her physical form. From an intimidated Ugly to a complicit Pretty to a subversive Special, Tally’s body reflects her place in the world. I like this shape-shifting because it’s more clinical than fantastical and ties in with political and psychological questions. It’s interesting.

5. Artemis Fowl (The Last Guardian) | I was FURIOUS when I first finished TLG because I thought they’d clone Artemis’s body, explain his life story to him, and then tote around a sad Artemis puppet until it died. After a second glance, I realized Artemis’s new body does not represent a new identity because he contains his memories and experiences within his soul. That soul will allow him to be his old self again! (Also, he could be immortal if he wanted?)

6. Iko (The Lunar Chronicles) | Unlike the other folks on this list, Iko is a droid. In fact, she is a personality chip. She’s just as much herself whether she inhabits a spaceship or an escort droid—but Iko makes the choice to keep a permanent body, like her friends. It’s interesting, because Iko envies her friends’ “permanent” bodies because they are human, but we might have something to envy in Iko, too. Iko’s personality chip contains her “soul,” giving her a self more constant than a body could ever be. I’m glad she has that.

via
Six shape-shifters! Maybe not quite so dramatic as Mystique or the Doctor, but still, interesting folks, all. They leave me with questions more than anything else. Souls? Bodies? Change? WHAT IS ALL THIS? And will we ever know?


Who are some of your favorite fictional shape-shifters?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

On Liking Stuff That Nobody Else Does

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I watched Donnie Darko on Friday night and it was great.

This movie is enticingly dark and disturbing. There is a demonic rabbit, who is both soft and terrifying. It entertains obscure literary themes without being too pretentious. There is black humor. There is a very serious (if drunk) discussion of the Smurfs and their origin. And it ends with murder and time travel and tragedy, so, all in all, it was a good way to kick off the weekend.

And I kicked it off by myself because Donnie Darko is not the kind of movie my peeps would enjoy. “Peeps” being shorthand for family or close friends, even though it makes me sound twelve. (Also, we should qualify that this could change. My youngest sister is too young for R-rated films, but I bet she’ll enjoy Donnie’s story when she’s fifteen or so.)

The point is that my peeps are not the peeps who watch eerie psychological thrillers by themselves at night and laugh at the bizarreness of it all.

My peeps are also not the peeps who like Twilight. A few of my peeps disdain my fondness for Bob’s Burgers and Hamilton without cease. And I doubt my peeps would pick up The Female of the Species or Catch-22 just because. We have our differences, my peeps and I.

Those differences are actually very important to me, actually. I cling to them, because it is important to like stuff that nobody else does.

Of course, I do not mean “nobody” literally. Donnie Darko is on some people’s “movies to see before you die” list. Twilight was a huge bestseller and popular enough to get five movies. I am not alone in the world in liking those things.

(I might worry if I was alone in the world in liking something. I’d need a good old coming-of-age type story to get me into the correct bar or mall or wherever that would introduce me to the people like me. There is also Twitter for those of us who are, for the present time, grounded.) 
(Alternatively, I might worry about belonging to a community that identifies itself by its isolation from the things “the rest of the world” likes, and may thus assume it is more threatened and unliked than it actually is. But that is the narrative of their world, and I suppose it is mandatory among teenagers.)
It is good to like things that your friends don’t. It is good to like things that your family doesn’t. Also, if you like things the people you live with don’t, then they won’t try to watch TV with you when you want to be alone. That is my key life advice in this post: always keep at least one movie that you like and nobody else does so no one will watch it with you.

Liking your own stuff gives you a chance to enjoy something unique and fun just for yourself, that doesn’t come attached to any other relationships. And in some sense, tending to your own stuff is what keeps you together as an individual. And that is good, too.

What are some things you like that ‘nobody else’ does?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

2016 End-of-Year Survey

You may have noticed that it is 2017.

I have noticed, too. You may also recall that it was previously 2016, and as is my habit, when a year is done I like to do a survey on what people thought. In the past I have used Google forms, but this year I am using Typeform, mostly because I think it makes me look glamorous. Which I am, if you were wondering.

Since I'm using Typeform for the first time, please note that I was a big girl and did not ask a bunch of unnecessary questions to feel the rush of having you give a star review of everything that takes my fancy.

(However, I reserve the right to bombard you with another survey in a few weeks that will ask you more interesting, more important questions like "How would you rate Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare?" or "How close to the bathroom do you trim your toenails?" And I will use whatever survey options I please.)

All jokes aside, though, it is always supremely helpful when you take a few minutes to give me some feedback. I know I've been less-than-consistent the last few months, but hopefully this will give me some direction so that both you and I enjoy hanging out in this spot. You can reach the 2016 survey by following this link to the place. Also, it is supposed to be embedded below, but since previewing options are limited, who knows what will happen?

Thank you in advance!


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