Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Spatiality of Power in Westeros and Women


womenofwesteros

“I swear to you, sitting a throne is thousand times harder than winning one.” – Robert Baratheon

As many of you know, I wrote my Masters dissertation on political space in Star Trek. Or in layman’s terms, I analyzed the differences between politics in the stationary space of Deep Space Nine, and the moving space of the Enterprise.

My conclusion was about twenty pages long, so I’ll just boil it down to this: When a space is stationary, the politics (and therefore the economics and social structures) were messy. When a space was moving, it was much cleaner. That’s why Deep Space Nine is rife with war, assassinations, and occupation, and The Next Generation is about a ship going out and fixing problems.

I also wrote a little bit about it on ScienceFiction.com, using Worf as an allegory for the difference, so check that out for a bit more of an in-depth analysis.

I bring it up, though, because while I was at Starfest, I went to a panel entitled “The Women of Westeros”, which was hosted by Ginny from Not Literally. In that panel, I had the very sudden realization that the politics of women who must stay in one place were very different from the women that moved. We as fans also have a lot less sympathy for the stationary women (Sansa, and Cersei being the ones that come very easily to mind) than we do for the women that are moving from place to place (Arya and Daenerys being clear fan-favorites). One doesn’t need to look further than a panel at Dragon Con where “I want Sansa to die” was the main topic of conversation, or pretty much any conversation at a bar about Game of Thrones where the highlight is congratulating each other on liking Arya.

This dichotomy begs all sorts of questions, and it’s hard to know which one to start with. But I think the two big ones are:

  1. Do we like the women who move because they are able to exert more control in their lives than the ones at King’s Landing?
  2. Why the women who work and live in existing political structures are so derided?

I struggled with the first question for a long time, trying to understand the division. I think both characters like Sansa and Arya control their fates as best they can in the spaces they are given. But that is when I realized the truth is a lot more unwieldy than it should be, and the answer for the first question is the also same for the second:

Arya derives power from traditionally male spaces, whereas characters like Sansa become powerful through traditionally female spaces.

In my paper on Star Trek, I note that there is an inherent imperialism in how the Enterprise operates. It moves around. prescribes morals and fixes problems for other people then moves on. It is essentially a traditionally male space if you take colonialism into consideration. Which, if you follow Daenerys white-savior narrative of freeing the slaves, it’s not really hard to draw a similar comparison.

However, the station Deep Space Nine, due to its stationary existence is actually able to be pushed and pulled into many different configurations, each creating spaces and bubble of power that react and change when confronted with another bubble of power.

That’s the world of Sansa,and Cersei. They may live and move in a male-dominated place, but they are able to gain power through feminine space (i.e., being a wife or a mother).

And I wonder if that is why we fans, as a group, despise them.

I do not have the answers. All I can do is ask rhetorical questions and hope to foster enough debate that we can look at these issues critically. For my part, I have loved Sansa Stark from the day her dad was beheaded, and I continue to love her now. Every time she carves out room for her to get a jibe in at Joffrey, or to play games against Cersei is a triumph for me. I also love women in more traditionally male roles, such as Brienne. She is not typical as other women who are put into fighting roles. She does not hate or despise other women for being “weak” and feminine, but knows that she does not have or want those qualities. I love women who are in undefined spaces, such as Osha, whose role is undefinable because she comes from a culture so separate from our own.

But I know that is not the common tenor of the fandom. I know that there is love for the moving women, and dislike for the stationary, and I think we need to start evaluating space and movement when thinkings about the roles of gender.

This may seem like it exists only in fiction, but I guarantee, you will see this narrative of moving women and stationary women in not just in the media, but in real life.

 

 


Like Father, Like Daughter


boom fredThe father figure and I at Tower Bridge in 2010. Ignore the derp face.

It’s sometimes hard to accept that you’re like your parents in any way, especially when you’re me and you’ve spent your whole life trying to prove to everyone that you are not your dad no matter how much it seems that way.

But it always comes…that moment, when you realize that there was something in the way they raised you, or something in the DNA they gave you, that means you have something of theirs inside you. As I think about it, the word of Philip Larken’s ‘This Be the Verse’ inevitably come to mind.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.
(Full Larken Text can be found here)

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In the beginning was the word, and the word was an article I had written about a company named Celestis sending Gene Roddenberry’s ashes on the Sunjammer toward the sun. Part of what was interesting about this was that the company had hoped to make Gene Roddenberry’s scifi-viking coffin an early warning system for electromagnetic pulse (EMP); one of the Earth’s doomsday scenarios. It is entirely possible that, with a Coronal Mass Ejection –which is to say when the sun sort of does a mini explosion– that it will send an electromagnetic pulse which will toast everything we modern humans hold dear in our lives…. like the internet, and television.

This, I’m sad to say, didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Well, not the EMP part. That haunts my dreams. What didn’t make sense to me was that it was impossible for the Sunjammer to transmit a warning about an EMP if an EMP takes it out. Furthermore, we wouldn’t know about an EMP taking it out until the EMP had reached us because the lack of signal would travel at the same rate as the EMP itself did.

Now, for all of you with a modicum of a science background, please stop cringing. I realize now where I was wrong in that thought. At least be glad I used some minor critical thinking skills at all, as opposed to going “Oh, solar sails and EMPs, seems legit.”

In any case, I brought my concerns about the EMP warning system up to my friend, who I shall call Mr. Astrophysicist. He very gently informed me that it’s likely there are solar events that sails can sense before the EMP. Solar events that involve light, to be more exact, and seeing as light travels faster than the EMP, there is a possibility we can have some time to protect ourselves. He gave me a few helpful keywords that aided me in my search on the internet, so props to him for that.

My google search then lead me to something called a Faraday cage. Well, technically, I already knew about a Faraday cage. But, if we’re going to be fair, I thought it was a thing the TV show Fringe made up that allowed you to walk into time bubbles without dying. It turns out that’s not actually true.

faraday cage fringeThe DIY belt-vest apparently is a “Faraday cage”. The rainbow is a time bubble.

So, a Faraday cage looks like… a cage. Well, a mesh cage if we want to get very precise.

The premise of the cage is to block electrical signals of certain wavelengths (depending on how meshed the wiring is) in order to protect the objects inside from outside electrical fields. Unfortunately, while it protects from outside fields, it also protects from the inside. For example, if I were on a cellphone in a Faraday cage and I tried to call you, I wouldn’t be able to because the cage would stop the signal.  Essentially, it’s not an effective proactive strategy for anyone.

Still, it protects devices from what is supposed to be the inevitable EMP from the sun that will thrust us into the show Revolution. As such, when I learned what a Faraday cage was, I came to this brilliant conclusion.

WE NEEDED TO BUILD A CHICKEN WIRE CAGE AROUND THE EARTH.

That way, we can communicate to each other inside the cage, and never worry about the sun killing all of our computers. Awesome. Problem solved.

Now, my friend, Mr. Astrophysicist pulled me back here, and mentioned that if we built a Faraday cage around the Earth, we wouldn’t be able to receive signals from awesome things like the Voyager. “You like Voyager, don’t you?” he asked.

I do. I fucking love every thing we do in space. Fuck yeah, NASA.

So, because I couldn’t save the world with my idea, I scaled it back a bit and decided it could at least be a business; I would make Faraday Cages for home office. Excited by this new business idea, I called my dad up.

And… he was not surprised when I suggested it. Instead he just asked, rather cryptically, “Did you find my website?”

What?

Okay, let’s back up here.

Apparently, in the late 90s, to make fun of doomsdayers, my dad started a “business” which “sold” Faraday cages to people who were afraid of the apocalypse. It was never actually a business, but it was a webpage that pretended to be. Since it was the 90s, I imagine its background was an animated gif, the title of the website was written in rainbow letters, and a midi of “Stairway to Heaven” played when it opened.

“Fred’s Faraday Cages” it would say, and underneath it would be a guest book and a hit counter saying “This many people are fighting the apocalypse”.

fred'sfaradaycages And she’s buying her stairway to heaven…♫

I have since tried to find said website, but whatever host he used (probably geocities or angelfire) is no longer up. Now we will never know if he was lying about it, but I have a distinct feeling that he was not. Half the things I thought my dad was lying about in his life have turned out to be true (let’s not pay attention to the other half, shall we), and when it comes to things like this, it has always been true.

But it was in that moment, when my dad had said that he had the same idea, that I realized that both my father and I share a lot more qualities than I care to admit. Thankfully, I do not have his mustache, or feel the need to tape every episode of Prairie Home Companion.

In any case, we spent the night refining the marketing plan for no reason at all, and we came up with this:

Apocalypse Later Faraday Cages
“Keep your computers, and therefore your children safe in the coming EMP-induced apocalypse”

The tagline may need a little work…