While researching sources for our paper, I came to this IAMA from Margaret Atwood on Reddit. For those who use Reddit just go ahead; for others a quick explanation. IAMAs (I am a) are like Q&A sessions where interesting people are asked anything commenters can think of, sometimes even whacky things such as “what kind of coffee you usually drink”, but most of the time they are quite interesting and useful.

This specific interview gives some interesting views that Atwood has on writing, on her books and her characters. So check it out, and good luck with your essays!

Link | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mr. Green Genes

The first glow-in-the-dark cat in the U.S. This is a little dated – from 2008 – so I’d be interested to know what they’re doing with it now. Also the video is really uninformative; there’s a little bit more about it here.


Posted in General Interest | Leave a comment

The Human Body, The Key to Crake’s Pill

What does it mean to be human? Throughout the novel, and in our discussions in class, we have circled around this question. There isn’t an answer, and I don’t intend to answer it, but I do wish to look at the human body. There’s this fascination that both Jimmy and Crake have (VERY different fascinations, but still) with the human body. In Jimmy’s younger years, he was introduced to the pigoon, producing parts for repairing the human body. In Jimmy and Crake’s adolescent years, they witness the entertainment of the day, the destruction and ‘elegance’ of the human body through execution and pornography. I absolutely love the quote that Jimmy gives us on page 85: 


“But the body had its own cultural forms. It had its own art. Executions were its tragedies, pornography was its romance.”


Jimmy is the one who says these lines, but I feel that Crake resonates with this idea to some degree. This is the time they were living in, and being human literally boiled down to one thing for Crake – the human body. Pigoons are bred to create more parts for the human body, and we questioned as to whether pigoons could be considered human because they had human parts. The society that has been created by Atwood focuses heavily in both science and entertainment on the pleasure, “art”, and destruction of the human body. I mean, for God’s sake, there was even an immortality project mentioned at one point. 


For Crake, as evidenced by his plan “The Pill and The Project”, it really did become an issue of the body. Today in class I really tried to think about where Crake could have been coming from. We read this line from Crake on page 293 today:


“If at first you don’t succeed, read the instructions. The proper study of Mankind is Man. You’ve got to work with what’s on the table.”


He focuses in on the human body, in both the Pill and the Project. It’s the key to launching his virus into society – the Pill is a result of Crake’s understanding as to what makes human beings tick. The Project is based on his creating a post-human, the perfect being, the answer. We discussed how he got it wrong, and that the Crakers, while based on humans, have the potential / did become human, although they physically are only humanoid. 


Is Crake’s interpretation of the society he and Jimmy grew up in misguided? Absolutely, the idea that violence through repressed sexual energy is a bit of a stretch. Do I still understand where he’s coming from as far as the BlyssPluss pill is concerned? Yes, I do. People in that society were raised on the “art” of the body, in both their working lives and entertainment. He believed it to be part of the problem, that humans weren’t quite right. Hence the Project. I know Crake is a hard character to really delve into because we only have limited understanding of what’s going on in his head, so I rely on the society he was raised in as well as his similarities to Jimmy. Crake can be lumped into the genocidal maniac category, but I believe there’s something more. His plan was influenced by the society’s revolving around the human body, which, incidentally enough, is heavily involved with the question that runs rampant throughout the book. 


Okay, I’m done, I know that was long, and I’m still forming my opinion on Crake, but that’s where I’ve anchored his outlook on society, and how the human body was the key to his plan, due to its heavy influence in both the world he lives in and his upbringing. Whew. 


– Gabe K

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Character Development & Symbolism

We are giving the opportunity to peer into the background of each character, and their roles throughout the novel, early on while reading. Margaret Atwood, in part through the memories of snowman, does an exceptional job at crafting the narrative.  The horrific past, which lead to the post-apocalyptic world in which snowman now resides, is something he must inevitably face in order for the story to proceed. Due to the nature in which the reader becomes acquainted with each character, there are numerous questions left unanswered. However, it can be argued that each of the three main characters, severed as a representation for particular qualities present within humans.

Snowman, or Jimmy, constantly on the verge of death, now focusses his full being on simply surviving. Major moments in the life of Jimmy and aspects of his personality such as: habitually falling short to the expectations of his father, the abandonment of his mother (and partial betrayal as she took Killer with her), the obvious contrasting personalities of Jimmy and Crake, Jimmy’s apprehensiveness to certain situations, befuddlement/ curiosity to the deleterious experiences (such as the childhood of Oryx), and other moments seem to present Jimmy as the pessimist of the story. Jimmy represents the cynical nature of humans. While Oryx is the optimist. She represents less of the compassionate nature of man but more so the hopeful nature. She us able to overcome her horrific childhood and remain happy, or at least positive about her present and future. Finally, Crake represents logic. While it may be argued Crake has a sociopathic nature and is cold hearted, it may also be determined that he simply is acting for the good of humanity and is somewhat compassionate at heart. However, his logic and sense of purpose may not stem out the most reasonable place.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gregory Stock: To upgrade is human

In this prophetic 2003 talk — just days before Dolly the sheep was stuffed — biotech ethicist Gregory Stock looked forward to new, more meaningful (and controversial) technologies, like customizable babies, whose adoption might drive human evolution.

Video | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Defining the Re-defined Structures of Power

The setting of Oryx and Crake illustrates a reformation of the power structures to both the sub-structures and super-structure. The settlements established by companies known as “compounds” reflect a vertical power structure. Not unlike mining companies in America, these companies built compounds where every aspect of production was contained. Mining companies would often set up a town when working in remote areas. The miners’ pay went to housing from the company, goods purchased from the company, and all other services provided were extensions of the company. The compounds of OrganInc or Helth Wyzer contain all aspects of production within their own walls. They do not strictly contain labor, but also intellectual power from the researchers they hold. Jimmy’s father takes a research position with NooSkins, a subsidiary of Helth Wyzer, and subsequently must move to the Helth Wyzer compound. However, these power structures represent the sub-structure only; technology is what permits the formation of the super-structure.

                On a micro-scale, the monopoly of the mining companies over their mining towns mimic a super-structure because the power system cannot be escaped due to the limitations of being geographically isolated. The question I’m pursuing is what super-structure exists over the world created by these independently-functioning research companies. Despite their autonomy, there exists an essence that singularly defines their independent projects. It seems that an extraordinary amount of power has been ceded by Man to technology. Essentially, they’ve placed a great deal of faith in it- dogmatically, even. What aspects might further define this essence that describes the state of this world, and the projection it is headed in?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Questions of a Blameless Ethic

“‘I don’t buy it,’ said Jimmy.  Where was her rage, how far down was it buried, what did he have to do to dig it up?

‘You don’t buy what?’

‘Your whole fucking story.  All this sweetness and acceptance and crap.’

‘If you don’t want to buy that, Jimmy,’ said Oryx, looking at him tenderly, ‘what is it that you would like to buy instead?'”

This passage, like many others in the novel Oryx and Crake exposes Oryx as a profoundly unique character, in so much as her ethical conceptions and rationalizations are concerned.  I am interested in this passage particularly because it speaks of Oryx’s conceptions of value, of worth, and even self-worth.  Here, we have Jimmy battling with Oryx to receive more tragic details from her ever more traumatic life.  Pressing on, deeper into her story, Oryx leaves him with, in is opinion, next to nothing at every turn.  As I have pointed out before, “She refused to feel what he wanted her to feel,” and in the end of the relaying of her childhood tale, Jimmy is left wondering whether she feels at all.  He cannot possibly imagine how, given the atrocities Oryx was subjected to, she presents herself as “all this sweetness and acceptance.”  For this, Oryx responds, If you cannot buy this, “What is it that you would like to buy instead?”  This is the sentence with power.

Throughout the whole of chapter 6 [Personally, both my favorite and most despised chapter] Jimmy is so strongly concerned with sculpting Oryx into this mold of a decimated and traumatized human.  He wants so desperately for her to fit into his conceived tragic existence he has laboriously constructed for her.  But when Oryx asks that question, what he would want instead, we as readers know the answer.  This, what I have written above is what he wants, and after Oryx’s interjection, it seems so apparently evil to want such a thing.  Yes, she has suffered, but if she has emerged from this hell sweet and accepting, why do we as a society [take the court case for example], want so much to push her under more stigmatizing and tragic labels?  More importantly, when the sum value of our desires does not march in step with that of Oryx’s self-worth, why is it so necessary that we need to buy something else “instead?”

At was at this turn, that Oryx, in questioning Jimmy, questioned me.  I wondered about the way I, myself, the way we, as a people evaluate each other.  How when, as Brad so eloquently put it, the gap between the conception of the object of our desires and the realization of these same desires shrinks, we lose the most important part.  The calculation in between, of whether or not what we desire is truly “right action.”  I believe the ethical system of Oryx combats this phenomenon.

Posted in Reading Response | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment