söndag 26 december 2010

Kursmoment 4: Rendezvous with Rama

När jag läste Arthur C. Clarkes SF-klassiker Rendezvous with Rama till min kurs blev jag, överraskande nog, helt hooked.

Jag har aldrig trott att jag egentligen gillar SF - förutom 1984, Brave New World, Kallocain, The Host, Hungerspelen, China Miéville ... Jag antar att det är dags att inse att jag visst gillar SF!

Rama, en enorm cylindrisk farkost som färdas genom universum med en hisnande hastighet, dyker upp i vårt solsystem under en kort period.

Ett rymdteam har några korta veckor på sig att upptäcka Rama, som framstår som både både hisnande och klaustrofobisk. Och framförallt helt okänd.

Kombinationen av det spektakulära med Rama - en uråldrig, främmande, artificiell värld - och den allmänmänskliga känslan var lysande. Trots att det egentligen inte händer så mycket i romanen så är den vansinnigt spännande.

Jag bjuder på mitt skrivande från forumet, där jag tar upp miljöer, sociala strukturer och den implicita författaren.


The novel is set in the future for Clarke, as well as for us readers, in the 22nd century. Although it’s written in the 70ies it actually manages to depict a plausible vision of a future, in my opinion.

T, although I find your description of humankind a bit too misanthropic, I absolutely agree with you on the fact that humans don’t seem to have changed that much. The fact that Commander Norton idolizes Captain Cook and draws several parallels to his fate as an explorer also enhances this feeling (e.g., p. 81 and onward).

The novel mostly takes place inside of Rama and we readers are made aware of every small change in the world of Rama.

Rama is described as being very vast. And as an artificial world housed in a great flying object twirling round in space I suppose it is. Inconceivable so. But I’m also struck by the grandness of the universe as the small Endeavour closes in on Rama in the beginning of the book.

Humankind doesn’t seem to have changed much. Spread out on several planets in the galaxy, as well as the moon, human relations still seem to be very much like in our time.

Instead of a United Nation there is the United Planets, trying to get humankind organized and collaborating with each other. The Rama Committee is an interesting example of group dynamics, where persons of great reputation from different planets as well as academic disciplines argue in between.

“’With all due respect to the Ambassador’, said Taylor in his most disrespectful voice.” (96) Often I feel that personal ego and pettiness risk standing in the way of actual efficiency.

The team on Endeavour seem much more harmonious, although they also consist of very different people. Commander Norton’s domestic issues seem relevant today as well, although he has two families instead of one.

Considering gender issues – Clarke places competent female characters along with the male ones in both the Rama Committee as well as in Endeavour’s crew, although the females are in minority.

That Norton’s got two wives is not problematized but that Mercer and Calvert are married to the same women is depicted as something unusual. This says something about the gender structures.

The implied author, for me, is someone who has great knowledge of technology related to both space travels and communication. Devices like air locks and space suits feel plausible to me, as well as the using of space jargon, like EVA (which at least I had to look up).

The novel is built a lot around the communication between people, for instance between the different crew members exploring Rama as well as their communication with the surrounding worlds – the Rama Committee, their families, etc.

The relations between the characters feel quite plausible, as does the greater social structures of the United Planet, the Rama Committee and other interplanetary situations. This hints to some knowledge of both psychology and sociology.

The gender issues I’ve pointed out leads me to think that the implied author is aware of inequalities between genders, but is still to much a child of his time to be able to stand completely outside the established gender order.

(As shown for instance by the passage on page 48 where Norton takes about the combination breasts and weightlessness and the previously discussed differences concerning polygamy.)

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