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Saturday, January 1, 2011

"Day Million" by Frederik Pohl

Availability + Resources:
Summary:
  • A thousand years from now, Dora and Don fall in love... only it's not any kind of love we'd recognize.
Questions for Discussion:
  • How does the author set the story stage--not the scene or the characters--in the first sentence?
  • How do we gain an insight into the narrator as each sentence passes up until the first sentence of the next paragraph? What is his attitude toward the reader? What does that signal to the reader?
  • What do you think about the author breaking the "fictive dream" (see John Gardner quote below)? This was once common in older literature.
  • In what ways does the future differ from today?
  • How have humans from a 1000 years ago?
  • How much do you think humans will change a 1000 years from now?
  • Who is this reader that the narrator keeps addressing? In what ways does he differ from you? So do humans change--at least in habits?
  • What kinds of technology does the following sentence represent:
"On Day Million, Dora swam out of her house, entered a transportation tube, was sucked briskly to the surface in its flow of water and ejected in its plume of spray to an elastic platform in front of her... ah... call it her rehearsal hall.
  • Inferring: What questions do you think the author is exploring?
  • Biology: How have humans changed or evolved in this story? Do you think it plausible (possible discussion of hypothesis of disappearing Y chromosome and its plausibility)?
  • Genetics: What chromosome determines one's gender? Can one be considered female but have (Klinefelter's Syndrome)
  • Scientific ethics: Do you think it's right to determine what a person is or will be moments after conception?
Comment:
  • Excellent fodder for thought, especially in terms of human evolution.
  • Interesting comments on his then present-day 1960s readers--lifestyles often different from today, which is another springboard for discussion in case some readers think humans make no changes.
  • Sexual content (for whom this may concern): While not explicit, the discussion may make some readers uncomfortable.
  • More discursive than Pohl's usual work, but this may actually spark discussion in a creative writing class: Is there a place for expository writing in fiction? The Gardner quote below might toss additional logs on the fire for a lively discussion.
Application:
  • Biology: human evolution, genetics
  • Scientific ethics
  • Creative writing: nonfiction styles in fiction
Quote from John Gardner on the "Fictive Dream":
“In the writing state—the state of inspiration—the fictive dream springs up fully alive: the writer forgets the words he has written on the page and sees, instead, his characters moving around their rooms, hunting through cupboards, glancing irritably through their mail, setting mousetraps, loading pistols. The dream is as alive and compelling as one’s dreams at night, and when the writer writes down on paper what he has imagined, the words, however inadequate, do not distract his mind from the fictive dream but provide him with a fix on it, so that when the dream flags he can reread what he’s written and find the dream starting up again. This and nothing else is the desperately sought and tragically fragile writer’s process: in his imagination, he sees made-up people doing things—sees them clearly—and in the act of wondering what they will do next he sees what they will do next, and all this he writes down in the best, most accurate words he can find, understanding even as he writes that he may have to find better words later, and that a change in the words may mean a sharpening or deepening of the vision, the fictive dream or vision becoming more and more lucid, until reality, by comparison, seems cold, tedious, and dead.”

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