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Aug 9, 2016

Glossary of fiction and creative nonfiction terms

Good writers are those who never stop learning. I hope some will benefit from this glossary of creative writing terms, focused on fiction and creative nonfiction.

In addition to my own input, I have relied on the following sources (all phenomenal books):
The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
Narrative Design by Madison Smart Bell
You Can't Make This Stuff Up by Lee Gutkind

Allegory
A narrative whose literal objects, characters, and/or events are systematically symbolic of a group of more abstract concepts on another plane, often philosophical or religious. (See symbolism)

Antagonist
A character in a story who in some way opposes the protagonist, directly or indirectly. Other story elements can play antagonist roles (such as setting or an inner-conflicted character).

Authorial intrusion
When the writer manifests himself/herself in the story in an uninvited, unexpected fashion.

Backstory
Narrative action that has preceded and led up to the present action of the story. It is the raw material from which a story's exposition is made. (See exposition, flashback)

Braiding
A technique in fiction and creative nonfiction where the writer breaks the story or essay into fragments and weaves together multiple strands in a continuous, recurring fashion. This might involve telling a story from multiple points of view or modes (e.g. narrative, thematic, descriptive, analytical). Or more than one plot line can be braided. In nonfiction it might involve the weaving of story elements with information blocks. Usually braiding is more effective when the writer does not make explicit transitions between the parts. Rather, jumps between parts can be indicated through extra space, headings or typographical symbols. (See collage, modular narrative)

Catharsis
The purging of strong emotions generated by a story, usually invoked in a climatic scene. (See climax)

Character
An actor in a fictional narrative, a personage invented by the writer.

Characterization
The method of rendering invented personages in a story.

Climax
The moment when the forces deployed in a story come to a head.

Collage
An artistic technique of assembling a work via  fragments or seemingly unrelated parts without transitions. In fiction and creative nonfiction, collage effects can be made out of juxtaposing vignettes and images, carried forward with little or no exposition.

Compression
Combining or condensing multiple incidents or situations in order to flesh out a story more efficient, more coherent way.

Conflict
The opposition of forces (of character, plot, imagery, theme) in a story, which leads to climax and resolution.

Creative nonfiction
True stories, well told. A genre of writing that blends the styles of essay, journalism, memoir, and narrative, with an implicit promise to the reader that the information presented is factual, true, "not made up."

Denouement
The "wrap up" phase of a narrative final outcomes are explained and loose-ends tied up.

Design
The structural, formal organization of all the elements in a given story.

Dialect
The idiosyncratic manner of speaking, drawing on a variety of factors: religion, class, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, etc.

Dialogue
Conversation occurring among characters in a story, standardly indicated via direct quotation marks, e.g. "Hello, it's me," she said.

Embedded information
The factual content that is usually woven into creative nonfiction scene blocks.

Epigraph
A quotation from some other writer's text, placed at the beginning of your own story. Often used to suggest the story's theme.

Epiphany
The moment in a story when events, images, ideas, or any combination thereof have reached a critical mass and produce for the reader an explosive moment of clarity and shining insight.

Exposition
The relation of whatever background information (backstory) is necessary for the reader to understand the present action of a story.

Falling action
Sequence of events following the climax. The "fallout" or "domino effect" of a plot, as it moves towards resolution.

Facts
True statements that have been confirmed by outside sources (witnesses, historical records, references, etc.). Facts can be verified. Opinions cannot.

Fiction
The genre of writing that tells stories using invented characters and plots. A reader assumes that most if not all of the narrative elements are "made up."

Flashback
A recursion from the present action of the story to a full scene in the narrative's backstory.

Flash fiction
A type of short story, also known as miniature fiction and the "short short," distinguished by its brevity. Definitions vary, but flash fiction generally runs from a couple hundred words up to about 1000 words. Because they are so brief, flash fiction stories tend to be narrative "snapshots": they feature highly condensed plots, focused on one or two carefully observed scenes, or a modular structure that might be more lyrical and thematic than plot driven.

Focalizer
The primary consciousness in the story. The events, situations, and dialogue is all filtered through the focalizer, who commands the story's point of view. Sometimes a writer will shift the focalizer from one character to another, which means the focalizer does not always equate to the narrator or protagonist.

Focus
The mode of selecting and ordering scenes in a story, based on the meaning, theme, or thesis the writer wishes to present. Scenes that don't somehow relate to the focus, no matter how interesting in themselves, may have to be cut during revision.

Frame
The organizing principle that gives shape to a story. In creative nonfiction, it is the overarching narrative, the reader's journey from start to finish. Inside the frame, the writer places scene-blocks, information blocks, and reflective passages. Sometimes fiction uses a frame, too. Here you will find a mix of scenes, summarized, backstory, narrative reflection, and flashbacks -- all working inside the narrative arc of the main story.  The frame gives a stable structure to the whole story. It is usually plot-based but can also be modular or thematic (See also linear narrative and modular narrative.)

Freitag pyramid
Graphic rendition of a story's movement from exposition to rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.

Full-scene
Any episode in a story that is given a full dramatic rendering. A reader will feel immersed in the descriptions, dialogue, and action of a scene, as if watching it unfold on screen.

Half-scene
A partially dramatized scene, with some summary elements included. A hybrid of full scene and summary.

Hook
A way of opening a story or scene with compelling description or action that thrusts the reader into the heat of the action as quickly as possible, without the clutter of exposition. In effect, the writer plunges the reader into the story, which arouses interest and curiosity. The reader needs to keep reading to find out more. (See also In media res.)

Imagery
The use of descriptions to suggest or evoke something beyond what is literally being narrated. Maximizes the use of the five senses, what can be seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelled. Patterns of imagery often relate to themes and characters in a story.

Immersion
A research strategy in which the writer immerses himself or herself in an environment to gain a more intimate and reliable knowledge of setting, history, context, and characters. Immersion means inserting oneself in that environment frequently and for extended periods of time and is a way of learning to see from an outside point of view.

Indirect discourse
Also known as "free indirect discourse" or "indirect speech." A third-person  narrative technique wherein the narrator speaks the thoughts of a character as if they are the narrator's own. It frees the author from having to use direct quotes and attributions such as 'he thought' and 'she thought'. It also establishes an intimacy between an otherwise distant narrator and the character.  In effect, the narrator can feel and think on behalf of the character. See interior monologue.

Information block
A component of creative nonfiction in which the writer breaks away from storytelling (scene blocks) and delivers factual reporting or history that adds necessary context and texture to the story. (See also embedded information).

In media res
Latin for "in the middle of things". The tactic of opening a story in the middle of a narrative sequence rather than at the natural "beginning", usually with no exposition.

Inner point of view
A technique in which the writer sees the world through the eyes of the real people or fictional characters in the story.

Interior monologue
An innovation of modernist writers wherein a character's thoughts are rendered directly in a stream of consciousness style. Often the monologue is put into italics to distinguish it from other parts of the narrative. The monologue is vivid, dramatic, and can reflect the mind's random and associative stream of ideas and impressions,  or it can reflect a more rational stream of thought.

Interviewing
A technique for researching nonfiction stories. The writer asks questions, listens, takes notes, and double checks the accuracy of any quotes to be used in the final story.

Intimate details
Descriptions that allow a reader to hear and see characters more vividly. The details are precise and revelatory.

Journalism
A style of nonfiction writing that relies on outside sources (interviews, research, eyewitnesses) to report facts and truths, usually for a general audience.

Lede
In journalism, the lede conveys the Five W's (who, what, when, where, and why/how) at the beginning of a story. In creative nonfiction, the lede functions differently. It introduces the purpose of the story and indicates where the reader will be led. Often the lede can be cut or placed after the "hook." (See Hook and In meda res.)

Libel
A false and defamatory statement in writing about a third party (excepting public figures). Must meet two tests in court: the statement is not true and its intent is to injure the third party.

Linear narrative
A story organized in a linear sequence, proceeding from beginning to middle to end with few or no deviations, taking care to trace relationships of cause and effect.

Magical Realism
A style of fiction that blends fantasy with reality. It produces dreamlike, surreal, uncanny effects while maintaining some anchor, no matter how fragile, to the everyday world.

Memoir
A true story revealing the intimacies of an author's life. A memoir usually focuses on one aspect or period or incident in the author's life. This contrasts with autobiography which is more epic in scope. (See personal essay)

Metafiction
A postmodern style of storytelling wherein the writer makes storytelling part of the fabric of the story itself. In other words, the form of the narration calls attention to itself in ironic and self-conscious ways. Metafictional stories play with reflexive narrators, unconventional plots, unrealistic settings, etc.

Metaphor
An implied comparison which does not use the words "like", "as", or "as if" to connect the subjects being compared.

Modular narrative
A story organized according to some nonlinear principle--and usually without a strict cause-effect structure. Modular narratives are organized by juxtapositions of scenes, scene-blocks, embedded information, exposition, etc., rather than by linear continuity, which moves from start to finish in time. (See braiding, collage)

Motivation
A character's wants, needs, and desires, revealed to a reader through description, summary, dialogue, monologue, decisions, and actions.

Narration
The mode of telling a story. In first-person narration, the story is told by a speaker called I or We. In third-person narration, an outside narrator tells the story about he, she, and they. In second-person narration, the narrator uses the voice of "you" to tell the story.

Narrator
The person in charge of telling the story. Can be a character in the story or an outside, more "objective" observer.

Non sequitur
Latin for "does not follow". Any narrative element that appears to be misplaced, thus confusing the linear sequence.

Novella
A "little novel." Narrative fiction that is longer than a short story but shorter than a full length novel.

Omniscience
The power of knowing everything about the actions, thoughts, and feelings of any of the characters in a story. A story which reports only the actions of all the characters is externally omniscient. A story which also reports the thoughts and feelings of the characters is internally omniscient as well. An author has the power to be selectively omniscient, which means focusing the omniscient point of view on usually one character in the story.

Personal essay
A nonfiction style of writing about an idea or theme, wherein the writer bases most of the content on personal experience. Essays are not narrative by nature but can include narrative elements. (See scene blocks).

Plot
What happens in the story. The sequence of events. More specifically, the plot is how the sequence of events is presented in real time, how the events of the story are structured, organized and laid out for the reader.

Point of view
The perspective on the events in the story. The position(s) from which the story is narrated. (See Narration)

Present action
Whatever is happening in a narrative's present time frame. (See flashback.)

Profluence
The forward motion or momentum generated by a strong plot. The unfolding of the plot in a natural and necessary chain reaction of cause and effect.

Protagonist
Traditionally, the "hero" of the story. More generally, the protagonist is the main character, whose fate is the focus of the storytelling. Protagonists are not always "good guys."

Realism
A mode of story-telling which appears to present an accurate picture of the real-world as we commonly perceive it.

Real time
Time as measured by a clock, uncondensed, not expanded. Good storytellers know how to distort real time, when to jump, skip, condense, summarize, and extend real time.

Reconstruction
A frequently necessary nonfiction technique that involves the recreation of a circumstance, incident, or memory, while striving to remain as true to the spirit and facts as possible. Unethical or incompetent or excessive reconstruction results in  fabrication (not desirable!).

Reflection
A technique used commonly in personal essay and memoir wherein the writer thinks aloud about what is happening or has happened in the story. Can consist of pondering, musing, assessing, judging, opining, and emoting.

Resolution
The outcome, positive or negative or inconclusive, of conflicts in a story.

Retrospective narration
Storytelling in the rear-view. When a narrator looks back on past action and reviews, comments, reflects, usually with a sense of perspective not available at the time the actions occurred. Retrospection adds another layer of perspective to the narrative point of view.

Reversal
An unexpected turn of events in a plot.

Revision
The process of rethinking, re-imagining, re-organizing, and rewriting some or all of a story.

Rising action
Sequence of events building towards a climax, where conflicts are more acute, resulting in heightened  tension and suspense.

Scene-block
The foundation of most good storytelling. A scene is a unit of action containing an incident with a definable beginning and end.  Something happens that is thematically significant or advances the plot. (See full-scene.)

Setting
The physical environment and time period in which a story takes place.

Short story
A fictional narrative that arose in the 19th century in magazines in America and Europe. Short stories are short enough to be read in one sitting and typically focus on one main character and one narrative plot line using a mix of scenes, imagery, summary, dialogue, and setting. Styles of short story vary, but the traditional short story tends towards realism.

Simile
A stated comparison using the words "like, "as," or "as if."

Subtext
Information which lies below the stated surface of the story. Relates to backstory.

Summary
An efficient retelling of events in a story that are not given a full dramatic treatment. Telling the story instead of showing it.

Surrealism
An unconventional mode of story-telling which depends on fantastic alterations and distortions of the world as we commonly perceive it.

Suspense
An urgent desire to know a piece of information or outcome. Authors generate suspense by withholding key information from readers.

Symbolism
The systematic use of something in a narrative to represent something else, often the use of a concrete object or image to stand for an abstraction.

Theme
A message or meaning embedded in a narrative. Usually the themes evolve naturally out of the story in a suggestive way and are not explicitly revealed to readers.

Tone
What the story sounds like when told. Analogous to tone of voice in conversation, where the mood of the storyteller is conveyed above and beyond the actual content of the story.

Unreliable narrator
A character whose version of events is not entirely to be trusted by the reader.

Vector (narrative arc)
A line defining the direction of movement in a story, roughly synonymous with a plot line.

Verisimilitude
A measure of how successfully the writer has evoked a vivid and continuous fictional dream in the mind of the reader (fictional truth). In creative nonfiction, a measure of how faithfully and realistically the writer has evoked the truth of the topic.

Vignette
A small, graceful literary sketch. A short, impressionistic scene that provides insight into character, setting, or theme.

Voice
The personality of the narrator, conveyed through a combination of style (word choices, word order) , dialect, and degree of interior consciousness shared with the reader.
















Mar 20, 2016

Green Confusion in Dr. Moreau

John Glendening's "Green Confusion: Evolution and Entanglement in H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau  offers up an extended analysis of the novel in light of Darwinian and Lamarckian theories of evolution and the anxious, destabilizing "chance" motif that roils through the plot. Recommended read.

Jul 31, 2014

Aristotle's travels

Here is a map plotting Aristotle's movements, using major events from his biography.  Includes the locations of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum in Athens, Greece.


Jul 15, 2014

Writing and Discussion prompts on "For a Breath I Tarry" by Roger Zelazny

Q: What do we learn about what it means to be human? Will it ever be possible for machines to become as it were, human?

Q: What makes Frost, unique, special, different? How does this motivate his curiosity in wanting to learn more about humanity?

Q: What happened to the people on earth? describe the setting. who runs the earth and for what purpose? Who are Solcom and Divcom and why are they opposed? What role does Mordel play on the story? Explain the wager between Frost and Mordel

Q: Trace the process Frost takes in attempting to become human. What do these steps suggest about the essence of human nature? What are the obstacles and how does he overcome them? Why does frost have trouble making art?

Q: What is the ore crusher's story and why is it important to the plot and theme? Why does Frost go to Bright Defile and what does he find there?

Q: Wow does Frost become human? How do they know he has successfully achieved his goal?

Q: Explain the relevance of the allusion to the A.E. Housman poem

Teaching Notes on E.T.A Hoffman, "The Sandman"

Citations refer to Heather Masri's text Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts.

The Uncanny is a theme we will look at: "uncanny doubles, fatal obsessions, and dark secrets. Uncertainty about boundaries -- between reality and fantasy, between the animate and the inanimate -- is typical of Hoffman's work, and a key to its disturbing effects" (Masri 196).

The Sandman is a key story in the history of Gothic and Romantic fiction. It is a precursor to Science Fiction and horror genres. There is an uneasiness about the creative powers of technology. Automata were popular back then. Automata are mechanical dolls that could perform lifelike tricks. They are precursors of modern robots.

Hoffman is most interested in the pathology of the imagination in "The Sandman." Is Nathaniel victimized by real supernatural forces or by his own diseased mind? This ambiguity charges the story with tension, and it is these aspects of horror that give it a lingering appeal to audiences.

NARRATIVE TECHNIQUE

Hoffman begins it as an epistolary tale: a set of letters written between the characters, then he shifts to the participant narrator (a friend of Nathaniel) who tells the rest of the story, what happened to his friend.

Letter from Nathaniel to Lothaire: Nathaniel wants to tell him about something horrible that happened to him, something that had a "fatal effect" on his life.

On October 13, a barometer salesman came to his room and Nathaniel kicked him out. To explain the importance of this, he flashes back to tell a story from his childhood, how when his mother would send the children to bed, she would tell them the Sandman was coming. Nathaniel would hear footsteps on the stair, fearing it was the Sandman. When he asked the old nanny, she told him the Sandman was a wicked man who throws sand in the eyes of children. The eyes bleed from their heads. He puts their eyes in a sack and takes them to the moon, and feeds them to his own children. These children have crooked beaks that pick out the eyes of misbehaving children (198).

This scares the bejesus out of poor Nathaniel, and though he is old enough to know better, the specter of the Sandman looms. He hears those footsteps. He once heard him violently force his way into his father's room. It preoccupies him: "his intercourse with my father began more and more to occupy my fancy."

When he was ten years old, his mother moved him to new bedroom down the hall from his father's room. Now that he is closer to encountering the Sandman (he hears more, he smells more), Nathaniel sneaks around, finally hiding in his father's room to await the appearance of the Sandman. It so turns out that the Sandman is actually Coppelius, a man who frequently dined with the family. Coppelius is described as a disgusting, offensive, repulsive figure. But his father treats Coppelius "as though he were a superior being, whose bad manners were to be tolerated and who was to be kept in good humor at any cost."

Quote the passage on page 200, where the father and Coppelius work at the fireplace.

As my old father stooped down to the fire, he looked quite another man. Some convulsive pain seemed to have distorted his mild features into a repulsive, diabolical countenance. He looked like Coppelius, whom I saw brandishing red-hot tongs, which he used to take glowing masses out of the thick smoke, which objects he afterwards hammered. I seemed to catch a glimpse of human faces lying around without any eyes -- but with deep holes instead. (200)

Coppelius seizes him, intends to burn his eyes. The father intercedes. Then Coppelius screws his hands and feet roughly. It is almost as if he is treating Nathaniel like a doll. Nathaniel faints. He regains consciousness and his mother is stooping over him.

Did any of this actually happen?

Coppelius disappears. A year later, he returns, ominously, and an explosion occurs in the father's room. His father is burned to death. Coppelius vanishes.

But this is the man who returns as the barometer salesman, freaking out Nathaniel.

Some questions for low-stakes writing and discussion:

What aspects of the story strike you as being particularly frightening, creepy, disturbing?

How does Freud define the uncanny? How does he use this concept to analyze "The Sandman"? Does Freud's interpretation make sense? Do you have a different interpretation?

Discuss Nathaniel's character. How much of his memories and experiences really happened, how much is in his imagination? On what evidence do your base your interpretation?

Discuss Clara's character. In what ways is she distinguished apart from Nathaniel? Explain her reaction to his poem. How is she trying to help him? Why does Nathaniel turn away from Clara and fall in love with Olympia?

Discuss the motif of "the double" in the story. Where do you see evidence of doubles? What might be significant about them? Use Freud's comments on doubles to help you out.

Discuss the motif of the automaton. Where do you see evidence of automata

Discuss the motif of "eyes" in the story. Highlight every mention of eyes, then analyze their significance. Compare to what Freud says about this aspect of the story.

Notes on Freud, "The Uncanny"

The Uncanny is related to what is scary. It arouses dread and horror. What distinguishes "the uncanny" from what is otherwise generally frightening?

"The uncanny is that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar."

How does the familiar become frightening? That is what Freud wants to investigate

The German psychologist Jentsch thought that uncanniness resulted from intellectual uncertainty. Freud thinks this is incomplete.

Freud explores the etymology of the word unheimlich and its opposite heimlich. On the one hand, heimlich means that which is familiar and congenial, and on the other, that which is concealed and kept out of sight. "Unheimlich" is used as the contrary of the first definition but not the second. Everything is unheimlich which ought to have remained concealed but has come to light.

One manifestation of the uncanny can be found in the example of automata, where inanimate creatures are thought to be alive. Think wax figures or statues or robots or puppets or dolls. Epileptics strike us this way too, because their motions are involuntary and mechanical.

Freud begins his analysis of "The Sandman". The story certainly contains an automaton, namely Olympia; however, Freud is more interested in Nathaniel's childhood memories of the sandman Coppelius.

What is uncanny is the fear of being robbed of one's eyes. This fear occurs in children and continues into adulthood. It is associated with the dread of being castrated. Notice how Hoffman juxtaposes the anxiety about losing eyes against the father's death. Also notice how the Sandman always appears to disturb Nathaniel from love. The Sandman symbolizes the dreaded father who threatens to castrate the son.

Next Freud turns to the theme of "the double". The double for Otto Rank was originally an insurance against the destruction of the ego. This starts in the primary narcissism of childhood. When the child grows up, the double takes a different guise. Instead of assuring immortality, the double foreshadows death. This double acts as an observer and critic of the ego, our conscience. "There are also all those unfulfilled but possible futures to which we still like to cling in phantasy, all those strivings of the ego which adverse external circumstances have crushed, and all our suppressed acts of volition which nourish in us the illusion of Free Will."

"The quality of uncanniness can only come from the circumstance of the 'double' being a creation dating back to a very early mental stage -- long since left behind, and one, no doubt, in which it wore a more friendly aspect. The 'double' has become a thing of terror, just as after the fall of their religion the gods took on demonic shapes."

There is a compulsion to repeat that goes back to our instinctual impulses. Whatever reminds us of this is perceived as uncanny.

Freud also talks about the uncanniness of the "evil eye". This relates to a principle of mind he calls the "omnipotence of thoughts", harking back to animism, spiritualism, magic powers. The uncanny triggers those primitive memories of animistic mental life within us.

The uncanny, psychoanalysis teaches, consists of the return of something familiar and old, now perceived as strange, because we have repressed it.

Notes on P.K. Dick's The Second Variety

These notes refer to Dick’s story as it appears in Heather Masri's textbook: Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts.

Heather Masri in her headnote suggests we can read this in three ways:

1. Parable of the Cold War. How does the story reflect the ethos of its age (1950's)?

The cold war, which spanned the years 1945 to 1990, involved the two victorious superpowers from World War II, namely the USA and USSR, in an adversarial zero sum struggle for world domination. Each country had its economic, military and political sphere of influence -- for the USA that included most of the western hemisphere, Western Europe, the defeated Japanese empire, Israel, and other parts of post-colonial Asia and Africa; for the USSR this included the Eastern bloc countries behind the "iron curtain", communist China (technically China was an independent emerging third power, though allied ideologically with Russia), and various third world proxy nations such as Cuba, North Korea, North Vietnam, parts of Asia and Africa, the Middle East and Central America. The "war" was waged on several fronts, through diplomatic alliances, "hot" wars in third world nations (e.g. Korea, Vietnam, Central America), propaganda, the space race, and the arms race. The Americans dropped the first nuclear weapons on Japanese territory (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), thus bringing an end to World War II. The Russians then developed their own nuclear weapons, and both nations (and others) tested nuclear weapons, first atomic, then hydrogen bombs. Nuclear power was weaponized by means of missile defense systems, intercontinental ballsistic missiles. A policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (acronym MAD) persisted for over thirty years. The idea was to amass so much firepower that any one nation could obliterate the other, or upon being attacked, respond in kind, thus annihilating all life as we know it on planet earth. Again, this was standard foreign policy for decades. During the Cuban Missile crisis in 1963, when JFK faced down Kruschev over the placing of missiles in Cuba, a mere 90 miles from the mainland United States, the world was brought to the brink of nuclear war. The Russians agreed to remove the missiles, while the United States secretly agreed to remove missiles from Turkey, which were within easy range of the USSR.

So that is the background context. "Second Variety" was written in the 1950's, when Americans were realizing the acute threat of apocalypse posed by nuclear weapons. In his story, the Russians and Americans have destroyed the better part of the planet, and the remaining soldiers inhabit a post-apocalyptic landscape of ash, dust, and radiation. There isn't much left to live for.

2. Crisis of faith in humankind's ability to control its technological creations (cite examples from our present age)

How does the story divulge this crisis? Through out of control killer robots. This expresses the fear that our technology risks getting out of hand and coming back to annihilate us. We are building machines to kill indiscriminately, and one gets the sense here that by the end of the tale, machines will indiscriminately kill other machines. The carnage is senseless, absurd.

We might think here of the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction, how logical it was and yet how insane to build guided missile systems capable of destroying life on earth as we know it. We made that possible. And the film Dr. Strangelove by Stanely Kubrick is a black comedy about how easily the end of the world could be triggered.

But I also think of smaller scale machines that can kill. Think of drone warfare, of flying machines that can be remote controlled from half a world away by humans sitting before telescreens with headsets and joysticks. There is something chilling about this. How one doesn't know the enemy any more. One cannot see his opponent.

3. Darkly ironic statement on human nature itself. Is Masri suggesting that we grapple with Dick's handling of themes such as trust and doubt, faithfulness, paranoia, empathy, gullibility?

How do the robots work so insidiously? By using our humane qualities of loyalty, compassion, attraction. The double-cross is liable to happen at every turn. One learns not to trust anyone, ever.

4. I would add a fourth dimension to the discussion, building on number three: how does Dick destabilize our sense of what is real? Is anything what it seems in this world? What makes this vision so nightmarish and how might we guard against it?