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Author Topic: PC345: Makeisha In Time  (Read 5797 times)
RDNinja
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« Reply #40 on: January 19, 2015, 03:53:36 PM »


First, the main character is required to have a particular viewpoint, because it is required to draw attention to the issue the author wants to deal with, even when such a viewpoint doesn't make sense given the character's experiences. Makeisha spent the vast majority of her life living in pre-modern, pre-liberal eras, but manages to not only pick up and maintain, but even to devote her numerous lives to, a modern liberal ethic. When her modern life is experienced only a few weeks at a time, broken up by decades-long lives in other periods and locations, it simply doesn't make sense for her to go through it all with such a modern mindset.


What do you think is the modern liberal ethic that she devotes her multiple lives to? I don't recall a strong message about universal health care or anything that leaned towards an Occupy vibe. One could read into your statement that it's a modern liberal position that black people and women accomplished things before the 1960s. I don't think you made yourself as clear as you thought you did.


I'm referring to the idea that the poor recognition of women and minorities is a problem that should be (or even could be) addressed. I don't think she was likely to pick up such ideas from her 7th-century Viking berserker friends, or the soldiers in her medieval Bavarian army, or her Japanese feudal lord, or while hunting in the Cenazoic wilderness, etc.


So you feel her actions in the past were driven out of a desire to improve the recognition of women and minorities? That she manufactured and manipulated events during all those past lives to please Present Makeisha?

I think it's easier to believe that she went a-viking (etc, etc) because that was a thing that people did. Including women.


From the story:
Quote
A woman unafraid to die can do anything she wants. A woman who can endure starvation and pain and deprivation can be her own boss, set her own agenda. The one thing she cannot do is to make them remember she did it.
 
Makeisha is going to change that.
 
No more suicides, then. Makeisha embraces the jumps again. She is a boulder thrown into the waters of time. In eighth century Norway, she joins a band of Viking women. They are callous but good-humored, and they take her rage in stride, as though she has nothing to explain. They give her a sword taller than she is, but she learns to swing it anyway, and to sing loudly into the wind when one of the slain is buried with her hoard, sword folded on her breast.
 
When she returns to the present, Makeisha has work to do. She will stop mid-sentence, spin on her heel, and head for the books, leaving an astonished coworker, or friend, or her husband calling after her.

So yes, it was explicitly stated that she joined the band of Vikings for the purpose of getting into the history books. No suggestion of Viking-relevant motivations.
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eytanz
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« Reply #41 on: January 19, 2015, 04:01:54 PM »

I don't think that that's the only way to interpret that segment (though I can see why that reading is consistant with the text). I took the fact that she joined the band of Viking women to be just the type of thing she always did, which seems to be go back to history and do something violent. That's her old pattern, she's just returning to it. What her newfound determination affects is not her actions in the past, but what happens when she returns to the present - before, she never really tried to engage with her legacy, now she is determined to do so, and make sure that her actions are remembered.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #42 on: January 19, 2015, 04:20:01 PM »


I don't think that that's the only way to interpret that segment (though I can see why that reading is consistant with the text). I took the fact that she joined the band of Viking women to be just the type of thing she always did, which seems to be go back to history and do something violent. That's her old pattern, she's just returning to it. What her newfound determination affects is not her actions in the past, but what happens when she returns to the present - before, she never really tried to engage with her legacy, now she is determined to do so, and make sure that her actions are remembered.


I'm with Eytanz here. I see it as the character's transition from avoidance and passivity to acceptance and active pursuit. I saw the primary decision to stop running away, to stop being untrue to herself, and to stop living for other people.

I can see how the interpretation of her motivations could be made. However, the interpretation of the text is as a much a reflection of the reader as of the words set before us. I've looked at my ink blot and I'm happy with what I see.



What can you see?
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eytanz
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« Reply #43 on: January 19, 2015, 05:10:02 PM »

What can you see?

The foot positions for the first three steps of an Argentinian Tango, as danced by a pairing of a housecat and a squid. I'm assuming that's what everyone sees.
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jkjones21
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« Reply #44 on: January 19, 2015, 05:19:41 PM »



What can you see?

Alan Moore's nihilism.
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Jason Jones
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Ocicat
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« Reply #45 on: January 19, 2015, 05:34:44 PM »

Alan Moore's nihilism.

You, sir, are today's winner of the internet.
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benjaminjb
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« Reply #46 on: January 19, 2015, 06:34:53 PM »



What can you see?

Alan Moore's nihilism.

"This forum is afraid of me. The accumulated filth of their politics and their didactic fiction will foam up about their waists, and they will look up and shout 'Save us!' And I'll look down and whisper, 'no.'" - commenter Rorschach21
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SpareInch
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« Reply #47 on: January 20, 2015, 09:16:10 AM »

I'm referring to the idea that the poor recognition of women and minorities is a problem that should be (or even could be) addressed. I don't think she was likely to pick up such ideas from her 7th-century Viking berserker friends, or the soldiers in her medieval Bavarian army, or her Japanese feudal lord, or while hunting in the Cenazoic wilderness, etc.

I didn't see that as being the result of any ethical decision in Makeisha's modern life, but rather the result of her putting whole lifetimes into achievements of which she was, rightly or wrongly, proud. And then finding those achievements being credited to other people.

Imagine if you had invented a new sort of car engine that ran on sunshine and lettuce leaves, then six months later you found GM fitting it to all their new models and claiming that Fenrix had invented it. You'd be justified in demanding recognition for what you had done, wouldn't you?

I think Makeisha is in the same situation. She did all the work to create a stable Bavarian state, and some nonexistent bloke gets all the credit.

I don't know about you, but I'd be miffed.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #48 on: January 20, 2015, 10:21:40 AM »


Imagine if you had invented a new sort of car engine that ran on sunshine and lettuce leaves, then six months later you found GM fitting it to all their new models and claiming that Fenrix had invented it. You'd be justified in demanding recognition for what you had done, wouldn't you?


I'm actually now working on one that runs off coffee grounds and despair, because it would get a better LEED certification due to its improved sustainability.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #49 on: January 22, 2015, 11:02:25 AM »

I really loved this story! That's two hits in a row from Varda! Grin

One of the elements that made the story for me was the tension between Makeisha's perception that her present life was her only "real" life and the reality that she couldn't actually live her present-day life in any meaningful way. She can be (and typically is) fully engaged in each of her past lives and live them to the absolute fullest, but because she can't engage her present-day life in the same way she ends up feeling like a shell of a person. Of course, each of her past lives have deep meaning regardless of whether history remembers them properly, but what is more human than her desire to see her footprint in history? Therefore I understand her desire to escape the pattern, but I think the story is purposefully ambiguous about the success of her attempt to find a better future.
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Unblinking
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« Reply #50 on: January 26, 2015, 10:43:41 AM »

Wow, lots of posts in this thread since I was last around.  I think it's really interesting how much of the conversation about this story parallels the kinds of conversations that spurred the need for stories like this.




What can you see?

Alan Moore's nihilism.

Ha!  As an odd and meaningless coincidence, I just read Watchmen for the first time on vacation last week, so is a funny coincidence to see this particular inkblot here just a couple days later.
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kibitzer
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« Reply #51 on: January 26, 2015, 06:19:30 PM »

Ha!  As an odd and meaningless coincidence, I just read Watchmen for the first time on vacation last week, so is a funny coincidence to see this particular inkblot here just a couple days later.

Wow. First time? I'd be real interested to know how you experienced it -- did you enjoy, did it seem ground-breaking, whatever. (Maybe in another thread?) I read it a few years after it came out and I was completely obsessed by it -- blown away. Of course at the time, it WAS ground-breaking.
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #52 on: January 26, 2015, 08:20:57 PM »

Ha!  As an odd and meaningless coincidence, I just read Watchmen for the first time on vacation last week, so is a funny coincidence to see this particular inkblot here just a couple days later.

Wow. First time? I'd be real interested to know how you experienced it -- did you enjoy, did it seem ground-breaking, whatever. (Maybe in another thread?) I read it a few years after it came out and I was completely obsessed by it -- blown away. Of course at the time, it WAS ground-breaking.

Probably should take to another thread--I don't have time now, but I'll try to remember later.
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Tarragon
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« Reply #53 on: January 27, 2015, 09:12:28 AM »

Wow. First time?

Yes, off topic but you asked...

I read Watchmen years before 9/11, my wife read it after. She described it as a very different kind of punch in gut ending from how I remembered it.  Mostly based around how much clearer it was for her how the worlds good will was available and then squandered. 
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Ariadnes-thread
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« Reply #54 on: January 28, 2015, 01:12:13 AM »

The central thesis of this story is something I very deeply agree with (as a student of history who focuses, among other things, on issues of sexism and racism in Ancient Greece), and the premise really had some potential-- the parts about her random jumps, and her isolation in the present because of them, were definitely the strongest part of the story for me (and am I right to see an homage to Octavia Butler's novel Kindred in the particular mechanism of the time travel here? Given that was a novel that also dealt with issues of history and race and gender and history's reverberations into the present, I really liked that connection, although I think that ultimately Butler had a very different, in some ways more pessimistic take on the issue).

I do think, though, that the story had some big flaws in its execution. Makeisha complains at one point that history books are all about great men like George Washington, when there are tons of people just as important who aren't remembered by history. But her most fondly remembered past life is one where she's a powerful queen, which is another "great man" type of figure-- she's not white or a man, but she has much more power than the vast majority of people throughout history. And while studying and rediscovering women and people of color (and of course women of color!) in positions of power in history is great, too much focus on people in positions of power tends to reinforce, rather than contradict, the great man theory of history. It's also important to focus on the common people, the people who had no power and didn't get a chance to have power because they were oppressed for their gender, or their race, or their disability, sexual orientation, etc.

I guess this is me just wanting the story to be a different story than the one that was actually written, but I would've found it much more powerful, and much more effective in getting its point across, if the lives that had been dwelt on in most detail were the ones where she was not a powerful queen, but a more average person who did some awesome things we might not expect a historical woman to do, in terms of things that the modern stereotype thinks of as purely masculine, but also farmed and cooked and wove and took care of children, and still managed to have powerful friendships and/or love affairs with other women, the way Makeisha did in the queen storyline. Because that's what I find most compelling in academic works of history, a focus on trying to unearth the lives of the majority of people, and the things they did both in line with and contrary to our expectations. And at least in women's history (I know less about POC history beyond the actual period I study), that seems to be what the trend is in scholarship in the last decade or two at least-- rather than studying singular, notable women like Joan of Arc or Eleanor of Acquitaine, scholars will study, say, women beer brewers, even though that study is based on much scantier evidence. (Seriously, though, everyone should read Judith Bennet's work on brewsters-- i.e. female brewers-- in Medieval England. And I would love to hear a Podcastle story about medieval brewsters!)

Anyway, part of this is me being a stodgy history student and scoffing at the idea of polygamous lesbian weddings in medieval Germany, when historical accuracy doesn't really seem to be the point per se-- that section of the story had a sort of fairy-tale quality to me, and if I think of it as a fairy tale rather than a plausible history I like it a lot more. (And who knows, history is a long time and the world is a big place, and I would be thrilled if there actually was a polygamous lesbian wedding in medieval Germany that time erased). But I think the focus on the medieval queen story over other past lives really detracted from the story's point; I would've much preferred the focus to be on her life as a Viking raider woman or a poet or something-- someone who did achieve greatness and do things that certain types of modern people scoff at and say women-- and especially black women-- definitely didn't do, even though recent re-examinations of the evidence (in our world; apparently not in the story's world) say that they totally did do these things, and that there were probably more women who were Viking warriors or Renaissance poets for whom the evidence has been entirely erased. I think a focus on that story line would've been more in keeping with the thesis of Kameron Hurley's (awesome!) essay, too.

I know I'm mostly just complaining that this story wasn't written the way I would've written it-- but to me, it had lots of potential and deeply intriguing possibilities, but ultimately many of those potentials were unrealized.
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #55 on: January 28, 2015, 11:17:59 AM »

Interesting points, Ariadnes-thread.  I'm not sure how the story could've worked without major overhauling if it hadn't had some focus on the queen figure.  The reason that one was particularly important was that Makeisha wouldn't have been able to find out in the present how she was represented as Viking # 173 or Beer Brewer #68, there'd be no reality check.  For her to be able to look up information about a past life, it would have to be a famous past life to have any surety about the reference.

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Ariadnes-thread
Palmer
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« Reply #56 on: January 28, 2015, 12:31:43 PM »

That's a really good point, Unblinking; I hadn't thought of that but you're totally right. It could've focused on, say, archaeologists finding Viking-Makeisha's tomb and assuming it was a man because of the weapons, but that would really change the focus of the story-- plus I'm not sure what the logistics would be in terms of her many dead bodies from the past existing in the present; that creates all sorts of different time-travel paradox type questions.

And I really do love the queen storyline if I think of it as more fantasy than history; the details of it just stretch credibility a bit too far if it's supposed to be real history in our world. And maybe I'm making the story's point by saying that. I also took issue with the relative lack of acknowledgement of the huge amount of sexism and racism that did exist in the past. Women and POC did do more things in the past than we give them credit for, but we are kidding ourselves if we deny that sexism and racism ran deep in every historical society-- at least in Europe-- all the way back to antiquity.

(And I've just looked it up and apparently there are some people who argue that the church did perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in the early Middle Ages. Which is fascinating, and I'm definitely going to read up a bit on that debate, and I stand somewhat corrected on the marrying women point).
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #57 on: January 28, 2015, 01:49:03 PM »

I also took issue with the relative lack of acknowledgement of the huge amount of sexism and racism that did exist in the past. Women and POC did do more things in the past than we give them credit for, but we are kidding ourselves if we deny that sexism and racism ran deep in every historical society-- at least in Europe-- all the way back to antiquity.

I didn't feel like the story downplayed that aspect.  It seemed to me more that that aspect is something that's so acknowledged by the general population in this day and age as to not need to be stated explicitly.  That part is to at least a large degree in the history books--sections about segregation, women's suffrage, etc.   I'm not saying that the history books are all accurate, but I don't think that most people have a problem with acknowledging that racism and sexism were big problems in past times.  ("Fear of the other" is encoded into our lizardbrains as a defense mechanism--it's something we have to choose to overcome with higher level thinking in large part by recognizing that those groups of people are not other, they are us)  I don't think that Makeisha focused on this because she heard it in history class too and most people wouldn't dispute her on this point.  Instead she focused on the blind spots,  the things she could spot in the books that were just blatantly wrong, not what people could see in the books themselves.

That's my take on it anyway.
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Ariadnes-thread
Palmer
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« Reply #58 on: January 28, 2015, 02:44:22 PM »

I didn't feel like the story downplayed that aspect.  It seemed to me more that that aspect is something that's so acknowledged by the general population in this day and age as to not need to be stated explicitly.  That part is to at least a large degree in the history books--sections about segregation, women's suffrage, etc.   I'm not saying that the history books are all accurate, but I don't think that most people have a problem with acknowledging that racism and sexism were big problems in past times.  ("Fear of the other" is encoded into our lizardbrains as a defense mechanism--it's something we have to choose to overcome with higher level thinking in large part by recognizing that those groups of people are not other, they are us)  I don't think that Makeisha focused on this because she heard it in history class too and most people wouldn't dispute her on this point.  Instead she focused on the blind spots,  the things she could spot in the books that were just blatantly wrong, not what people could see in the books themselves.

That's my take on it anyway.

Fair enough. That wasn't quite my take on it, but those are all very good points.
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #59 on: January 28, 2015, 03:39:47 PM »

I didn't feel like the story downplayed that aspect.  It seemed to me more that that aspect is something that's so acknowledged by the general population in this day and age as to not need to be stated explicitly.  That part is to at least a large degree in the history books--sections about segregation, women's suffrage, etc.   I'm not saying that the history books are all accurate, but I don't think that most people have a problem with acknowledging that racism and sexism were big problems in past times.  ("Fear of the other" is encoded into our lizardbrains as a defense mechanism--it's something we have to choose to overcome with higher level thinking in large part by recognizing that those groups of people are not other, they are us)  I don't think that Makeisha focused on this because she heard it in history class too and most people wouldn't dispute her on this point.  Instead she focused on the blind spots,  the things she could spot in the books that were just blatantly wrong, not what people could see in the books themselves.

That's my take on it anyway.

Fair enough. That wasn't quite my take on it, but those are all very good points.

By the way, welcome to the forum.  I hope you stick around.  Cheesy
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