Project Response


Response to Project

I’m really glad to have had an opportunity to explore a subject matter which I find so meaningful and relevant. The matter of reproductive choice is something that is far too often skirted around in science fiction. While countless SF television shows, books, short stories and films depict unexpected and even forced pregnancy (Star Trek, The X-Files), I can’t think of even one where abortion is discussed or ever mentioned by name. The closest SF analog that I can think of is the film Prometheus, in which the heroine has a homicidal alien fetus extracted from her womb… and even in that case, the fetus survives after it’s cut out! I had a lot of fun writing several happy endings for my character’s story. I don’t feel this is particularly unrealistic. Media has brainwashed us to expect tragedy for women who choose abortion. My character’s pregnancy is at an early stage, early enough so that it can be safely terminated with pills looted from an abandoned pharmacy. For that matter, there is a long history of abortion induced with medicinal herbs that long predates modern medicine. Obviously that’s not a good idea when other resources/doctors are available. Herbal abortifacients such as pennyroyal have killed women (even as recently as the 1970s), however I felt that in context, it was more important for my character to survive her encounter with pennyroyal than to illustrate its (very real) risk of poisoning. She gets join the ranks of women who were desperate enough to choose a risky method and fortunate enough to survive unscathed and victorious.

Recommended Reading

1) Terrific piece on the history of pennyroyal as a literary symbol:

Wierzbicki, Kaye. “A Cup of Pennyroyal Tea – The Toast.” The Toast., 27 May 2015. Web. 23 May 2016.

2) The introductory essay to this collection has some brilliant & insightful thoughts about representation of women & women’s bodily autonomy in science fiction:

Sargent, Pamela. Women of Wonder: Science Fiction Stories by Women about Women. New York: Vintage, 1975. Print.

3) Some good commentary on gender roles during an apocalypse:

Thompson, Amy L., and Antonio S. Thompson. –But If a Zombie Apocalypse Did Occur: Essays on Medical, Military, Governmental, Ethical, Economic and Other Implications. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and, 2015. Print.

4) Vaguely upsetting article about how real-life “preppers” and survivalists discuss women, gender roles, and female bodies:

Rahm, Lina. “Special Issue: Early Career Researchers I.” Gender Forum: Who Will Survive? On Bodies and Boundaries after the Apocalypse. Linköping University, Sweden, n.d. Web. 23 May 2016.

5) A video briefly explaining the trope of the Mystical Pregnancy (especially in science fiction) from the ever-controversial Anita Sarkeesian:

Feministfrequency. “#5 The Mystical Pregnancy (Tropes vs. Women).”YouTube. Feminist Frequency, 28 July 2011. Web. 23 May 2016.


When I initially thought of the idea of a God’s Gardeners calendar, I thought it would be a simple task, y’know, putting together the Saints that were already mentioned in the novels, adding a few, and then just putting them altogether in a calendar. And then suddenly it spiraled into this abyss of lunar cycles and lengths of time and the ridiculousness of the human brain.

This project started off as a “simple” calendar of all the GG’s Saints and Feast Days; the only problem was who to list, when to list, and how long said list would be. It somehow morphed into a Craker calendar that would depict how the Crakers saw time, or didn’t see time, after the Flood and after their beloved two-skin friends started going away, with Blackbeard as its creator. I started off thinking they would be similar but then with even more thinking and frustration, I realized that the many nuances of our own Gregorian calendar were creeping into my ideas and simply wouldn’t make sense to the Crakers. Like the idea of adding days to keep up with the sun and moon makes me tired.

I struggled with the nuances of our own everyday lives–seconds, minutes, hours; days, weeks, months; names; reality versus imagination. I sunk myself into the abyss of the weirdness that is our way of living. I realized that our world and the Craker world, although the same world geographically one could argue, are completely and vastly different (and let’s hope it stays that way). I couldn’t force all of our complications onto these unsuspecting Crakers. I had to rid myself of my inclination to follow the norm, that is, our world’s norms, and put myself in the body of a Craker, who are confused at the abstract but completely content with the physical.

The way the Crakers will inevitably create their own society is so reminiscent of us “normal” humans. Take Blackbeard, who was originally just some little kid curious about Toby and wanting to follow her around. Now, /he/ is the storyteller in his world, having been passed it from Toby from Snowman. He was taught how to make ink, how to write, how to use leaves as paper, how to use these leaf pages to make a book, and the cycle continues. Though Crake programmed the Crakers to be perfect and without flaw, not fussing with trivial matters as tumultuous emotions or questioning, what makes the Crakers truly human is the one thing Crake could never have programmed out of them–language.

In reference to my last blog post written, I was, and still am, very adamant on the thought that Crakers should be considered humans. Their curiosity about objects and words they don’t know and their yearning for learning make them human. Crake might’ve wanted to make them post-human, but if he could not program singing out of them, it must be an inherent part of their nature, just as regular speaking is for us humans.

The calendar I made consists of 5 months, each having 3 10-day weeks. I actually found an article talking about a calendar that was found to be 5000 years older than the oldest one we had known so far from Mesopotamia, and it was from Scotland. That calendar also had roughly 3 10 day weeks, so I designed my calendar after that because I see the Crakers as the very base level of a human society, and I don’t mean any offense by that. I chose 5 months because frankly I don’t understand the lunar year in and of itself, but the 29.5 days for a new moon to turn back into a new moon made sense to me.

And the 5 months fits into my assumption that the Crakers would continue to follow a base 10 system as we do now. I know someone here is a math major, but the debate between base 10 and other ones like base 12 are very controversial, but I’m an advocate for our system, especially for the Crakers. I think they would make the most sense of their 10 fingers, and of the already put in place system there is, and I didn’t think it necessary to try and complicate things further.

The Crakers’ celebrations are on the days of the New Moon and the Full Moon, having 10 somewhat feast days, if we want to refer back to the Gardeners. Now for the actual celebrations, I originally wanted to pick a lot of the previous Gardeners’ saints, but I realized that these Crakers aren’t scientists or religious people, aside from Crake and Oryx, so having these random names, like the ones Snowman gave to them, and these random species they never heard of I thought would be a disservice. So the people, or concepts, I chose for the days of celebration are the days of Crake, Oryx, Snowman, Toby, Animals, Plants, the Earth, the Ocean, Peace, and the Soul.

The only mentions of old Gardeners’ saints are for the Ocean, with Schackleton, Crozier, and Oates, and with the Soul, with Julian of Norwich. I chose people close to the Crakers because I don’t think they would be completely okay with the idea of celebrating a person they’ve never seen or heard of before, but having their creators, Crake and Oryx, and the two people who first told them stories, Snowman and Toby, they would happily and willingly celebrate these days. And of course the aspects of nature appeal to them as they are most active with their physical senses and are one with nature.

However, I wanted to add the concepts of Peace and Soul because I feel like even though they were programmed to not deal with that many nuances that someday, maybe even in their near future, the Crakers will progress into more, say, intellectual beings.

I really liked the idea of Blackbeard writing down the calendar, I think someone suggested this to me so thank you, because really he is the next storyteller, after Snowman and Toby pass away.

Suggested Readings

Article I first got my idea of 3 ten-day weeks for a month

What I based my hymn meter on

Essay that I thought put my thoughts about the Crakers and language in a more cohesive way than I ever could

More reading on human language

Book that helped (me at least) make sense of Toby and Blackbeard’s relationship (and as an extension Toby and the Crakers)

Knowledge Production in Children’s Storytelling: Crakers for Kids

Creating this project was as much a reflective process as it was a creative one. In addition to choosing a story-line, we had discussed stylistic choices, such as semantics, plot, who the writer would be (human, craker, or future craker), etc.

Choosing who the author would be is important because depending on who, there will be certain intentions in the writing style and plot. For example, if the writer was a human, they would probably imbue their writing with lessons and bias. This is similar to how Toby and Snowman don’t actually give the Crakers neutral statements or facts; Toby’s spiritual beliefs and Snowman’s familiarity with mythology heavily influence what they say to the Crakers. (I guess this would be inactive knowledge reproduction/influence?) If the writer were a Craker, they would be concerned with the facts, the history, and would explicitly mention any lessons. We agreed to have the author as a Craker, specifically one from the future. Another reason this is interesting is because over time, mythology tends to change and the differences in our stories from the novel will reflect a the affect of time passing, and also what a Craker’s interpretation events would be like.

Next, we chose a medium. We decided to mostly use collage. We assumed that if the Crakers were to create a book, they would glean the materials around them, instead of drawing. Watching my group members construct their stories was very interesting. They used different materials like tissue paper, stickers, and pop-outs. They also drew very cute pictures. Their parts flow smoothly.

For my part, I literally made collages. I found children’s books in my home, and I cut out things that were relevant to my story, or that I thought I could use. I actually cut them from some biblical story books, and Highlight magazines. Even though I had created a story prior, when making collages, the pieces that you can or cannot find can change your story. For example, I originally wanted Zeb to eat a bear, but I didn’t find enough pictures of bears in the first place. But I had enough snakes, so my original idea changed.

This whole process was very interesting to me because of a story can change depending on the resources that are around. You can’t mention too many things, or obscure things if you don’t have simple definitions (in this case, pictures) to explain it.

My part also has different versions of the characters. For example, Rev the Terror has 3-4 different variations of dog breeds. Explaining the idea of species and breeds to Crakers would be a little difficult, so having the variations identified as “Rev”, or more simply, “dog” is a very Craker-like mental process.

To construct my character, I found a few articles on tricksters in mythology and folklore. I decided to create Zeb as a self-preserving (objectivist) kind of trickster. This means he doesn’t get involved unless it benefits him. In my story, he doesn’t get involved with Rev until he is directly provoked.

I also decided to create the trickster/hero as a snake, and the villain as a dog. Dogs have always been seen in a positive light, and snakes seen as dangerous (which is true for certain snakes, but the whole Adam&Eve expulsion doesn’t help).  We are biologically programmed to not get too chummy with reptiles, but going along with the theme of the novels, I think this biology can change. The snake (and the character) don’t have to be labeled as evil; the dog may be (which makes sense with the wolvogs running around).

Can you survive the Waterless Flood? What will you learn as you try?

My concept for this project started out quite simple- an adventure game set during the apocalyptic event central to the MaddAddam trilogy: the Waterless Flood. The survivors we meet during the novels, such as Ren, Toby, Jimmy, and Amanda, survive due to their isolation from the general population. How would an individual who was exposed to the disease, as most would be, fare?

This question lead me straight into my first roadblock- how exactly was the disease spread? We get the gist of its effects from Zeb’s description of his supposed father as “raspberry mousse”, but what happened before that? This question took a bit of creativity to answer, and I went with the typical route of those trying to invent an illness: spontaneous coughing. One problem solved.

From this project’s conception, I had a good idea of who I wanted this character to be. I saw Nadia as a normal college student, a gamer who stumbles upon something bigger than she could imagine. The MaddAddamites were a secretive bunch, and undoubtedly good at hiding their tracks, as we saw through Crake and Zeb’s use of leap-frogging. It seems unlikely that Crake would have been able to round up every member of the shadowy group. I sought to answer the question of what MaddAddam would look like to an outsider, years after the fact. This lead to another problem- what did the MaddAddam homepage look like? I imagined it as a sort of message board, which could very well have been a point of reference for Margaret Atwood when she was writing Oryx and Crake in the early 2000s.

While writing this story, I found myself interested in elements of Atwood’s world that we only saw through the lens of her male characters, namely the adolescent Jimmy and Glenn. What might a young woman think of At Home with Anna K, for instance? This pulled me into the world of lifecasters and the politics surrounding them. I became similarly interested in female gamers and message board lurkers. This left me with a lot of ideas that seemed impossible to synthesize with the light-hearted, if gory, adventure game I was writing. In the end, I didn’t really combine the two. The more curious or sentimental players among us can learn about Nadia’s thoughts on gaming or CamGirls, while those interested in a more straightforward adventure can play the game without touching upon those issues.

I really enjoyed looking at the world of the MaddAddam trilogy from a perspective closer to my own. Doing so revealed revealed some of the gaps that are present in any fictional world, which can never have all of the color and texture of our own. I was less interested in filling those gaps than I was in playing with them and seeing what might fit. My classmates have exposed some of these gaps in fascinating ways, and I’m incredibly excited to play their games!

Overall, I feel so lucky to have been a part of this class. I can’t remember the last time a class has inspired such fruitful work and discussion! I’m so thankful to our wonderful professor and all of my classmates for making this such a special experience. Have a great summer, everyone!

Recommended Reading:

Jennifer Ringley:

Hart, Hugh. “April 14, 1996: JenniCam Starts Lifecasting.” Conde Nast Digital, 14 Apr. 2010. Web. 24 May 2016.
A fascinating look into JenniCam, the website of Jennifer Ringley, then a college student. This article gives great insight into lifecasters and CamGirls, as well as their relationship with their fans and the privacy they are allowed.

Burgin, Victor. “Jenni’s Room: Exhibitionism and Solitude.” Critical Inquiry 27.1 (2000): 77-89. Web.

A more scholarly take on JenniCam, and the psychological implications of lifecasting. A bit Freudian for my tastes, but interesting nonetheless.

Ana Voog:

Kale, Sirin. “In 1998 This Webcam Woman Was the Most Famous Person Online.” Dazed. N.p., 27 Jan. 2016. Web. 24 May 2016.

An insightful interview with Voog herself. Voog views her cam as an art piece, one that explores her sexuality and identity. This perception is interesting, especially as the contemporary view of CamGirls zeroes in on how they are sexualized by the viewer rather than their own sexual agency.
A particularly interesting quote: “One of the mediums of the anacam project is time. It’s been going on for nearly two decades, and I’m the only artist out there doing this. It’s so vast. And it’s still a work in progress. Things will become more clear in ten years.”

Saul, Heather. “Ana Voog: What Happened to One of the First Ever Internet Stars.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 24 May 2016.

An overall look at AnaCam, and what has happened in Voog’s life since. Voog links lifecasting to Instagram, in that both use images to sum up the life of the person who is posting them. The main difference between these platforms is their level of automation- early lifecasts such as AnaCam posted a single image every few minutes of whatever the camera captured, while instagrammers choose what elements of their lives they want to reveal to the public.


Bryce, J. & Rutter, J., 2005. “Gendered Gaming in Gendered Space”, in Raessens, J. & Goldstein, J. (eds) Handbook of Computer Game Studies, MIT Press, pp.301-310
This article brings up the question of visibility in gaming, particularly for women, that is relevant to Nadia’s status as a lurker on the MaddAddam message board. At the time this article was written, 43% of U.S. gamers were women. However, these women occupied a far less visible space in gaming than men did, both in the spaces where they play their games (bedrooms vs. public game spaces) and in the games themselves. This article links that to damaging gender roles within video games and the gaming community.

Nonnecke, Blair, Jenny Preece, and Doreen Andrews. “What Lurkers and Posters Think of Each Other.” IEEE Xplore. 37th Hawaii Internation Conference on System Sciences, 2004. Web. 24 May 2016.

An investigation into Lurkers- who they are, why they lurk, and how they are viewed in the communities they observe. Lurkers are those who read a message board or online community without posting or becoming a member. This is especially interesting in the context of the visibility (or lack thereof) of female gamers, as discussed in the article above.

Agger, Michael. “4chan /b/: A New Academic Study of the Influential Message Board.” Slate Magazine. N.p., 28 June 2011. Web. 24 May 2016.

God, I love this article. Agger analyzes the influence 4chan has had on popular culture with the innocence and fear felt only for the few years in the early 2010’s in which it looked quite possible that 4chan could take over the world. 4chan, in those days, bore a few similarities to MaddAddam in its political and social influence.

Crakers for Kids

Overall, I really enjoyed creating this project.  I think that it was a lot of hard work and was stressful, but that’s what makes it so rewarding to be done.

Having the creative authority to make up storylines and tell the story of the Maddaddam trilogy in the eyes of a children’s folklore story was definitely a challenge.  There are a lot of components that we had to consider.

Do we call them the Crakers at all?
A: In some cases we did, just for introductory purposes, however we just shifted to using “we” and “us” to be inclusive.

How sophisticated should the drawings be?
A: We decided not at all, because if they’re just discovering art and delving into it, since Crake didn’t really make them to enjoy art, we figured their skills wouldn’t be amazing and they’d rely on pictures found.

Would they know what ____ is?
A: If it was anything technological from the 21st century, we assumed they did because they left over Humans and prospective Humakers could’ve taught them.  Also, being to into writing and possible literature, they may have seen it in books.  So we opted to keep things like computers and lightbulbs in.  Although, we did make sure to reference that it was “from chaos” or the pre-flood.

All questions like this.

This project really pushed us to think 1000 years ahead in the eyes of Crakers and potentially Humaker hybrids.  It was both a challenge and a highlight because I think the creative freedom we each got showed in the distinguishability between the four books.  Each book has a certain style that is uniquely ours.

I enjoyed this project because it let us showcase some artistic and creative abilities that we have while simultaneously putting ourselves in the mindset of Crakers and future Humakers.

Suggested Readings:

Baird, Adela; Laugharne, Janet; Maagerø, Eva; Tønnessen, Elise Seip
Children’s Literature in Education, v47 n1 p1-17 Mar 2016

Purpose: The reason I’m suggesting this piece is because it focuses children’s perception to picture books.  I think this journal is relevant because it talks about children making connections between the real world and what they’re reading.

Children’s Literature as an Important Tool for Education of Sustainability and the Environment
Baratz, Lea; Hazeira, Hanna Abu
International Electronic Journal of Environmental Education, v1 n2 p31-36 Jan 2012
Purpose: I chose this second journal because it looks at children’s literature in a new light.  This journal talks about children’s literature as a tool to inform them about other critical topics.  And think this is relevant because thats what our book would be doing, we’d be teaching that the reasons for their practices and informing them of their past.

Creating “Crakers for Kids”

When we were making the stories, our first task was figuring how to distill all of what was to become the lore of the combined Craker and human populations after all of the characters we had grown to know and love had died. We eventually settled on picking 4 characters – Toby, Zeb, Snowman, and Crake. Each group member picked 1 character to write approximately 20 sentence-long pages about.

Although we devised our stories independently, we worked on the actual art together (for the most part). This was so we could create consistency in our visuals – whenever we draw humans, or pigoons, we followed the same style. There was some divergence in our stories (for example, Sarah’s story has no human characters: Zeb’s a snake, and the Rev is a dog), but we didn’t want things to seem like they were all written by one author. Each story is told in our own distinct voice and handwriting (sorry in advance if my handwriting’s difficult to decipher).

We also drew a lot from collaging techniques, mirroring the “gleaning” of the God’s Gardeners, as well as the post-Flood society. Luckily, Christy had a ton of stickers, which helped us add a certain childlike charm to the way we constructed our stories. I had a lot of fun making a two-page collage spread (pp. 29-30), where I used a mix of flattened dried flowers/leaves, tissue paper, and flower stickers to create the God’s Gardeners’ rooftop garden.

I drew my greatest inspiration from Aesop’s fables, because of the instructive nature of Toby’s story. There were some deviations, clearly – I chose to be very explicit with all of my morality, going for an inversion of the essential rule of “show, don’t tell.” Kind of boring, but realistically, it’s what the Crakers (and their perpetual questioning) would prefer. At one point, my story innocently glosses over the deadly fight between the MaddAddams and the remaining Painballers, with a little footnote – if you want to hear more, you can read it elsewhere. That way, I get to placate the prying Crakers, without having to include too much of that difficult-to-explain gore.

We also worked on consistency in terms of Craker lore – for instance, we decided that all characters would move to the “sky” with Oryx and Crake after death, and that Oryx and Crake would exist as humans as well as godlike figures. Since our stories take place a few generations after the events of MaddAddam, we figured some things would become codified as the combined human/Craker culture progressed.

Suggested Readings

Lawrence, Randee Lipson and Dennis Swiftdeer Paige. “What Our Ancestors Knew: Teaching and Learning through Storytelling.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 149 (2016): 63-72.

This paper tracks the shifting in storytelling methods – from indigenous oral tradition (and its role as both instruction and entertainment), to classroom strategy, to fusions with visual art methods and digital storytelling. Since our stories serve as a transcription of the oral tradition started by Snowman and Toby, it’s valuable to look at the roles that storytelling plays.

Pelletier, Janette, and Ruth Beatty. “Children’s Understanding of Aesop’s Fables: Relations to Reading Comprehension and Theory of Mind.” Frontiers in Psychology 6 (2015): 1-9.

A study was conducted where 172 children (between the ages of 4 and 12) had one of Aesop’s fables read to them (the fox and the crow). The paper shows how understanding of the fable and its lesson shifts as children grow older: changing from “the story is about a fox” to “don’t get tricked.” As a writer, it’s important to think about the level of understanding that your students will have – sometimes a lesson will need to be explicitly told if you are reaching a younger audience.

Plus, a nice digital collection of Aesop’s fables from the Library of Congress, each with the moral stated clearly at the end of the story.

Lifecasting and the Male Gaze

We’re all being watched. Whether it’s Google Analytics watching where we choose to spend our time on the Internet, or more malicious forms of spyware scanning for the input of valuable data, it’s always taking place in some way. Even written records can prove to be dangerous and always subject to the gaze of outsiders. Adam One is highly aware of this monitoring, which is reflected in the way in which he chooses to run the God’s Gardeners. For instance, written records are forbidden, and there is only one laptop available, concealed by the Adams and Eves. This is an extension of the fear that every middle schooler has, that someone will read their sincerest innermost thoughts (usually in the form of a diary, or in my day, a blog on Xanga), but with actual real-world ramifications. Besides exposing us to harm, there’s a sense of discomfort associated with exposing our inner lives to the world. Both within the world of Oryx and Crake and our real world, artists utilize that discomfort to evoke feelings in viewers.

This is demonstrated in Oryx and Crake with the lifecaster Anna K., who broadcasts every aspect of her life on the Internet. For Crake and Jimmy this is just part of their illicit titillating Web crawls, but the tasks she performs while streaming are more elaborate than expected: “tweezing her eyebrows, waxing her bikini line, washing her underwear.” These are somewhat mundane tasks, which are almost embarrassing in a way – revealing the things that women must do to make themselves presentable (plucking of body hairs), things that humanize women and reveal how odd these rituals are. This is probably why Jimmy was so entranced with Anna K. – for a teenager, especially, it is novel to get these glimpses into a woman’s life.

Jennifer Ringley was one of the first lifecasters, and likely who Margaret Atwood modeled Anna K. after. Between 1996 and 2003, Ringley streamed her entire life on, starting from her dorm room at Dickinson College to her apartment in Sacramento. Like with Anna K., this included glimpses of nudity and she would keep the webcam on even as she participated in sexual acts. Although Jennifer did not view JenniCam as an art project, it was, like Anna K., an uncensored contrast to the ways in which women are typically presented (sanitized, unblemished, etc.).

Countless other artists have played with the concept of surveillance. For instance, Jill Magid’s “Evidence Locker,” a work of performance art, consisted of her walking around Liverpool in a bright red trench coat. Various police cameras would watch her, and Magid collected around eleven hours of CCTV footage. Magid had to file police requests to retrieve the footage, and which she filled out as if she were writing letters to a lover. Magid’s choices are a little different from Ringley’s and Anna K.’s – the latter two created their own avenues to share their private lives, while Magid chose to highlight how the government peers in at us, without us noticing.

I think it’s a little interesting that many of these artists toying with these concepts are female, because malicious groups on the Internet so frequently target women. In JenniCam’s early days, Ringley received death threats from teenage hackers. However, when I think about it more, I see where these artists are coming from – they’re writing their own narratives, taking over the male gaze and its way of glossing over the unpleasant parts.

That said, it must be exhausting to keep this up. Ringley ended JenniCam after having to deal with the fallout from carrying out an affair, visible to public scrutiny. I’m sure, with time, Anna K.’s operation would be over as well.