Wednesday Words of Wisdom #8 —Gravity

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My reading habits generally alternate between sci-fi and fantasy, with some other things scattered in their occasionally. Right now I’m swinging back to fantasy as I re-listen to Sunshine by Robin McKinley for probably the billionth time. But last week I was on sci-fi, and I started listening to Enders Game with the vague sense that I’d heard the punchline that comes at the end. Turns out I had, and it probably has something to do with the movie version coming out in 2013 even though I haven’t seen it yet.

So I had a kind of weird “omnipotent newcomer” experience with the book that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before. Say what you will about spoilers, but it was a cool experience.

One of the things that struck me the most while listening to this story was the exploration of directional instructions and personal orientation. Some of the coolest scenes were set in the Battle Room, in null gravity.

“From now on, you forget about gravity before you go through the door. The old gravity is gone, erased. Understand me? Whatever your gravity is when you get to the door, remember — the enemy’s gate is down. Your feet are toward the enemy’s gate. Up is toward your own gate. North is that way, south is that way, east is that way, west is — what way? They pointed.”

~ Orson Scott Card

What I love about science fiction is that it bends your mind into a pretzel thinking about something you’ve never really thought about before in a totally new way. Earth is not the center of the universe. Gravity is a matter of perspective, otherwise people would keep falling off Australia into space. This novel calls for both the characters and the reader to reorient their understanding of directions based to their own context rather than on a planet’s gravitational pull.

Every genre has its own way of calling for this reorientation, this suspension of disbelief, though some are more dramatic than others. Sci-fi, fantasy, magical realism — these are a few of my favorite things.

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