Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lecture 8: Feminist Theory, Critical Thinking and Born Digital Fiction, Maxine Armstrong

Rosi Braidotti’s “Cyberfeminism with a Difference”:

Born digital fiction from We Tell Stories:

The 21 Steps, by Charles Cumming, is an adventure novel, based on John Buchan’s, The 39 Steps, which was first published in 1915. The story is told by following red markers across a map of Great Britain and is based on Google Maps. Extra features are provided by green markers which provide background information not directly connected to the story’s plot.
Braidotti’s call that we “need more complexity, multiplicity, simultaneity and we need to rethink gender, class and race in the pursuit of these multiple complex differences” does not figure much in this story. The characters are all familiar to the spy thriller genre that features a predictably male all-action hero.
Apart from the hero, Rick Blackwell, there is his girl, Alexis, ‘a gorgeous Greek girl’, who needs rescuing and so leads him into danger. Her father, Aristotle Vassilopoulos, who is both rich and powerful, runs a shipping company.
Although Alexis turns from being a damsel-in-distress into a femme-fatale she does not hold any power in the story, that remains in her fathers hands. Rick also makes it clear he is not in love with her.
Other female characters are described in overtly sexual terms. On the plane Rick sits next to a ‘mischievous little housewife from Manchester’, whilst the ‘very pretty possibly Eastern European girl’ had been making eyes at the hero. She is later found unconscious, laying naked on a bed.
The minor male characters include a bad guy who wears a pin-stripe suit with a ponytail, the tall, wiry, Greenmantle and the older mentor-figure who starts the game, Mr Jack Kalba. Rick’s mate, Danny, from college, is one of the ‘good ones’, trustworthy and helpful, we don’t get a physical description.

The whole story is narrated by Rick so we get to hear his views and concerns, but not any of the other characters. Although I enjoyed the way you could follow the game across the map, the story was quite predictable, as were the characters. As a story it has no depth, but then it does not try to be anything other than a thriller.

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