Response Assignment #5

For next week, please read the following (handouts given in class):

  • Fox, Gardener. (1965) The Hunter Out of Time. New York, NY: Ace Books, Inc.

Chapters I-II (p. 5-35).

Chapters VII-VIII (p. 97-119).

This time, instead of listing questions, I’m going to ask you to either write about whatever most takes your attention (as it relates in style, content, or concept) about the culture/s of cyberspace, compare this reading to another previous reading, or engage in a conversation with someone who has already posted.


22 responses to “Response Assignment #5

  1. Hey everyone! I was wondering if anyone would be able to send me copy of “The Hunter Out of Time?” Or if someone could scan it and send it me that would be fine. E-mail me at

  2. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m missing pages 26 and 27 of the reading.

  3. Yeah, I’m missing 26 and 27 as well as 32 and 33. Gets a little confusing without them.

    One of the things I noticed in this reading the first time through it, in fact, the very moment I read it, was the line that Kevin says, claiming something can be too ideal “when you make everything so easy for a man he loses his fighting instincts, his – animal properties, if you will” (25). I immediately thought of the discussion we had about The Time Machine. In that story, humans became childish and stupid when things got too easy. In this one, they become easily controlled and manipulated. When people can be made to believe in a rule so much that to break it is unthinkable, then you have a very Orwellian society. I find this concept interesting in this setting, though. George Orwell used similar ideas in 1984, but what gets me about it here is that humans find breaking laws created by other humans to be completely unthinkable, but they routinely break our modern laws of physics. They can control gravity to fly, recycle energy itself, disintegrate matter (contrary to the law of conservation of mass), and, of course, travel through time. It’s interesting that natural laws can be so utterly destroyed by people who can’t imagine a world without every decision being controlled by human lawmakers.

    In a more direct relation to cyberspace are the machines that dump knowledge into people instantly. Sure, we’re far from it now, but it seems the web and other computer software is well on its way to doing just that. I’m sure I’m not the only one that has seen ads for programs that can make the user fluent in a new language in some ridiculously short time (which to me is less than a year, I spent 4 learning French and I’m far from fluent). And the knowledge databases, of course. In fact, there are online services now to back up your entire computer’s memory over the internet. Is it not unreasonable to one day do it for organic memory (humans)?

  4. Let’s talk about time travel a little. I was in a class (about writing science fiction) in the fiction department taught by Phyllis Eisenstein and she said that time travel stories fall into two categories: 1. Any change in the past has vast consequences (a la “A Sound of Thunder”) or 2. No change in the past will have any effect on the future (a la “The Man Who Killed Mohammed”). What strikes me about The Hunter Out of Time is that Fox has arranged it so that he can have it both ways. Right at the beginning Glynna tells Kevin “Nobody is allowed back beyond the Red Line. Sometimes things that happen back this far change what is to happen in our own time.” (p14) Which implies that time travel is freely acceptable and allowed after the Red Line without fear of consequences. To pull from something else we’ve read, it’s like the world pre-Red Line is the world in which “The Garden of the Forking Paths” takes place in. Everything is happening all at once, but we’re only aware of part of it depending on our actions. However, once we pass the Red Line, it doesn’t matter what our actions and choices are. The story is always the same. What could the Red Line be that it has this kind of effect on the world? Unfortunately, this chunk of reading doesn’t really explain that.

  5. The same thing jumped out at me, about the evolution of Man. People have these dreams of perfect (utopic) societies but they don’t factor in evolution. Both The Hunter and The Time Machine show (seemingly accurately) that utopic societies aren’t possible, or at the very least aren’t quite possible in the way that we’d want. For instance in The Time Machine the humans had almost de-evolved, and become innocent and stupid. In The Hunter they’d lost their freedom; they’d become obedient to the point of folly.

    When the evolution angle jumped out at me the first thing I thought of was Childhood’s End, a fantastic book by Arthur C. Clarke. In it a few mysterious beings visit Earth to learn from the Humans. I don’t want to give too much away, but basically the main character discovers that these beings don’t seem to age or reproduce. Eventually he finds out that they used to, but as their race advanced technologically they were able to extend their life indefinitely and attain immortality. With nobody dying they eventually evolved, or de-evolved the ability to reproduce. They reached an evolutionary cul-de-sac. Without reproduction you lose the ability to evolve.

    Now I don’t know if that’s actually possible. Theoretically the very act of reproducing makes reproduction necessary and thus it could never be removed from the gene pool. But it’s a fascinating idea. Technology continually extends our average lifespan; it’s interesting to wonder about what will happen when we can extend life indefinitely.

  6. On a completely different tangent, is ‘utopic’ a word? It doesn’t appear to be in the dictionary, but I don’t know what the correct adjective would be. Utopical is in the dictionary, but I’ve never heard anyone use that, only ‘utopic’.

  7. The thing that struck me the most was the way in which the time machines (from both the Time Machine and the Hunter Out of Time) traversed time. Both involved the machines being stationary as the future (or past) unfolded around them. The machine from the Time Machine, though, was less sophisticated as it was created during a more “primitive” time: “I seemed to reel; I felt a nightmare sensation of falling” (pg. 218). The Timeler, on the other hand, was a more comfortable ride. I just thought it was interesting that these two different authors touched on the same method of time travel.

    Now that I think about it, this makes sense, but I had never really thought about time travel in these terms. All the knowledge about time travel I had, admittedly, came from the Back to the Future series (…) and I just assumed that the default way to achieve time travel would involve something similar to a DeLorean and a flux capacitor.

    In response to Brandon’s question, I don’t think “utopic” is really a word. And then there’s the matter of whether or not “cyborgian” is a word (I haven’t found that in the dictionary either).

  8. My view of time would be more aligned with Ts’ui Pen’s from “The Garden of Forking Paths” than with “The Hunter Out of Time.” I think that time as we usually think of it is essentially an illusion. It is just a way to measure the movement of matter through space. Everything is happening “in the now.” Whatever happened in the “past” or the “future” really only occurs in the “now” of that moment. I also think that even “the now” is somewhat of an illusion. What we perceive of as happening now has in fact already happened. When you look at the stars in the sky, you are actually seeing light that is millions or more years old. And when you look at your hand in front of you, it also takes time for that information to reach your eyes and then for your brain to process it.
    Even if I were to accept an idea of time more consistent with “The Hunter Out of Time,” this idea of the Red Line seems sort of arbitrary. Could there be a point where you could change the future, and a point where you couldn’t? How would you find it?
    As far as Glenn’s comment about people uploading their entire memory and then sort of “rebooting” themselves if they happen to die, I think this is almost an inevitability (if we don’t destroy ourselves in the next fifty years). All it would take is advances in data storage (which are happening exponentially) and the ability to reverse-engineer the human brain (which is also quickly approaching).
    And to the question of whether “utopic” is a word – my standard is that if we all know what it means, then it’s a word. The dictionary doesn’t have to be the final authority. But I think the dictionary would recommend the word “utopian” instead.

  9. On the subject of time travel, there has been a lot of debate on whether you can go back in time and “change” history. In this case, how would they be able to tell? Would a change past the Red Line be noticed in the future, or would it only be apparent to the returning time traveler? Unfortunately they don’t get into this in the book, but I think it’s something that bares thinking about.

    Also, on the subject of downloading your brain to be reused later. This is something they brought up in Neuromancer. Though we didn’t meet The Flatline in our readings, we hear about what he is. When we meet him later in the book, there’s something eerie about him.

    When the construct laughed, it came through as something else, not laughter, but a stab of cold down Case’s spine. “Do me a favor, boy.”
    “What’s that, Dix?”
    “This scam of yours, when it’s over, you erase this goddam thing.”

    Though the contents of his brain remain intact, there’s something very inhuman about “the construct.” I’m not going to get into what the defination of sentience or human here, but it seems to be lacking.

  10. Utopian! Of course, now that you say it it’s completely obvious. I wonder how ‘utopic’ got to be so widely used with Utopian so widely available.

  11. On the subject of changing time, I think that it would be something that is only viewable by the person who changed time, at least in this story. If not, than it would be painfully obvious if something was changed. In a single instant everything would be turned on its head. With the ability to time travel so readily available to these people, than that would be a frequent problem that the people would have to deal with.

    I think the easiest way to view time travel for myself, is actually the way it is presented in the Back to the Future trilogy. If something is changed, then a parallel universe would be created, birthed from that one change. Only the time traveler would be able to view the change, but at the same time it wouldn’t be the same people that would be viewing this change. It would be parallel beings unique to each “universe”.

  12. You’ve [April & Corey] raised an interesting idea.

    If time is an illusion, ‘everything’ essentially exists in the ‘now.’ Past, present, and future would also exist simultaneously. If this were the case the idea of ‘going back in time’ is also an illusion. You would not travel ‘back’ rather you would delve deeper into the illusion [assuming the time/space continuum consists of depths].
    Its all happening at the same time, there is no linear progression.

    Also the idea of changing the past affecting the future. If time exists ‘simultaneously,’ then any ‘change’ occurring is happening already, except that it affects the dimension of ‘time’ that it is currently encompassed, not other ‘times.’

    That would make the ‘red line’ merely the system restore setting for a particular date, i think.


  13. As with Glenn, Orwell’s 1984 was in the back of my mind also during the reading. 1984 was about information technology, central to the success of the vast, totalitarian empire that had been set up over Oceania was a device called the telescreen, a wall-sized flat-panel display that could simultaneously send and receive images from each individual household to a hovering Big Brother. The telescreen was what permitted the vast centralization of social life under the Ministry of Truth and the Ministry of Love, for it allowed the government to banish privacy by monitoring every word and deed over a massive network of wires. The predictions of the book were wrong, however, when 1984 came, instead of Big Brother monitoring us, we were now able to monitor Big Brother.
    One story that crossed my mind more so was Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. This delt more with the new technology revolution of bio-technology. Brave New World talked of the hatching of people not in wombs but in vitro; the drug soma, which gave people instant happiness; the Feelies, in which sensation was simulated by implanted electrodes; and the modification of behavior through constant subliminal repetition and, when that didn’t work, through the administration of various artificial hormones. In Brave New World, posthumans lived in a world where everyone got what they wanted. The Controllers realized that force was no good, and that people would have to be seduced rather than compelled to live in an orderly society. In this world, disease and social conflict have been abolished, there is no depression, madness, loneliness, or emotional distress. There is even a government ministry to ensure that the length of time between the appearance of a desire and its satisfaction is kept to a minimum. No one takes religion seriously any longer, no one is introspective or has unrequited longings, the biological family has been abolished, no one reads Shakespeare. But no one, besides John the Savage, the book’s protagonist, misses these things, either, since they are happy and healthy. The most significant threat posed by Huxley with contemporary biotechnology is the possibility that it will alter human nature and thereby move us into a “posthuman” stage of history.
    This seemed to be the world that Chan Dalh felt he needed to escape.

  14. Yeah I agree with pretty much everything you all have said here. Regarding the Red Line and being able to time travel up until that one point…and I know Glynna said that in her time no one dare break the rules but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about how cavalier that society was being by allowing such frequent time trips. Whenever I heard about time traveling and stuff as a kid it was always stated that the traveler, if going to the past, couldn’t change anything or they could screw up their own time and that’s what I’ve become accustomed to knowing. So I guess just the attitude toward the time traveling was a little strange to me. I also agree with the argument about evolution, in the stories we’ve read so far the characters did seem to angle towards a more Utopic world but at the cost of their will or intelligence and I wonder what that says about the authors view on our own world. We can’t live in a peaceful world without losing our ability to chose and think for ourselves? Hm..

  15. What got my attention was upon reading this I immediately thought of two things Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and every cliche on Tv and movies about time travel. “The Hunter Out of Time” reminded me of “Brave New World” because in both the government has complete control of new and powerful technologies, in this case it was time travel. “The Hunter Out of Time” shares the same overused idea that if you go back in the past and do something it could change what happens in the future,for example the plot of the movie “Back to The Future” is based on that concept. Marty, a boy of the 80’s, has to come to grips with being in the 50’s and get his parents to fall in love to set straight the damage his presence has done to the events of the past. “The Hunter in Time” warns of said damage.

  16. Paul Sernatinger

    I’ll do my best with this one but I realized too late that my copy was missing pages 26 & 27, ironically right where they start talking about -The Mystery- in the Timeler and later pages 32 & 33 which i can only guess covers how he goes from being clever and a fast thinker to the council somehow deducing that he is in fact Kevin Cord.

    The piece starts “I saw my self dying on the other side of the street,” which in addition to being an amazing hook is of in some ways anticipatory of cyberspace. I have seen my virtual death so many times, as a soldier, a knight, a thief, a space-fox, although I have yet to see -myself- in a game I have spent upwards of a day or two attempting it in the Oblivion character editor. Generally I have more fun starting from scratch though and going for something unreal or absurd and silly. Come to think of it now, nothing would be more absurd than watching myself die. Although in this case the virtual representation aspect is less applicable, the cybernetic implant part resonates quite well. Here is a good time to talk about the device or technique (it is not to my knowledge explained or explored) of Plasticraft which “can change anything about human flesh.” This is perhaps even a step beyond what a cybernetic enhancement is typically thought of as. Imagine being able to boost strength or speed or precision using only biological parts instead of synthetic replacements. Imagine simply smoothing cancer away, instead of excising it or replacing the organics that have been affected. (try not to think about identity theft!) That’s what I think we’re talking about here.
    Let’s jump ahead to the idea of the Chronomad. First off, it’s a cool word, but more importantly, it is used as a sort of evolution to the job of archeologist. Glynna is similar to the archeologist in that they both seek a greater understanding of humanity. Differences being that while Kevin is limited to only what has already happened, Glynna is limited to anything after a certain point. But Kevin mentions that he is now doing the opposite of what he had been his whole life, moving forward instead of looking back.
    Initially I got all excited about Glynna and Chan wearing the same clothes. “She wore the same black and white jacket that clothed Chan Dahl.” but I found out later that this was merely the uniform of the Chronomads. What I wanted to see was still there, but much more subtle: “Her jacket was slightly longer than his, reaching to the tops of her thighs.” So really these coats were hardly different at all. The tps of the thighs are a matter of inches away from the waist. I’m surprised to still see any distinction but clearly, it is growing more and more disparate. Going back to the concept of Plasticraft we have Glynna’s appearance. “She was all woman, very feminine and deadly as a King Cobra.” Along with the additional info that she has a paltry 22″ waist, she is clearly the idealized “femme fatale.” The fatale part coming in later when the Hierarch has her in his grips.
    Glynna explains to Kevin “Ours is a polyglot language taken from half a dozen star civilizations added to an Earth base.” Later she adds that it is -by law- that all the language is the same. This is obviously anticipatory of a universal language, part of the utopian vision of cyberspace. The earth itself is described as being restored to how it was. “a paradise of trees and curving sand, blue waters, distant wooded areas…” which is also in line with the utopian vision.
    Quickly I wanted to address the coat of arms of the Federation, a sword crossed with a pen, and simply point out the old adage that “the pen is mightier than the sword” but also point out that even today the “might makes right” doctrine of action is all but discredited so really, both aspects of the logo are antiquated relative to Glynna and Chan’s time.
    “Machines teach us…” Glynna explains of the encephalometer. I still remember wondering if this would ever be possible someday as a child. It’s still not possible but I still wonder often. To me this is the ultimate in freedom and abundance of information, but with some catches that I will get to momentarily.
    We hear of The Infovox: that “all citizens will hear and understand.” this is referred to as though it were some kind of public address system but it sounds like, alaong with who knows how much other baggage, part of the encephalometers indoctrination program is to pay heed to the infovox. This sounds like a kind of mind control, which brings me to my next point.
    Kevin, by chapter 7, has the information and memories of Chan Dahl, all of the formative indoctrinations that he was subjected to, but he also still retains his own thoughts, his own identity, his own animal instincts, which are perhaps the most important parts. This is indicative of another idea of cyberspace, the freedom of communication and free flow of ideas. But it also shows how that vision can be mis-served. When we are no longer synthesizing our own ideas there is no longer a need for the free flow of information and communication, it would be useless, if say we all were encephalometrically programmed identically. So the idea that we all could chare the same information now comes with a condition, that individual thought synthesis and expression must continue, lest we remain intellectually stagnant. That is to say, there is a fine line hear between making possible a new level of human reason, intelligence knowledge and understanding and down right mind control. Later we get confirmation of this when the Hierarch is able to take over Glynna’s mind, but not Kevin’s.
    The line “the ball called fate takes many bounces” and the exposition that follows it makes me think of the garden of the forking paths. Really, this whole story is a subtle nod to that piece, the “Red Line” being the manifestation of that knowledge.
    The scene with all the alternate earths stands out to me. I think about all the different virtual worlds that exist (I meantioned dying in them earlier…) is the current manifestation of this idea of multiple concurrent dimensions and realities. There belongs in here something about Quantum Physics but I can’t explain it and I fear that even if I could it would be basically unreadable. Also, for some reason when we see Glynna and Kevin in the Timeler we get a scene that I recognize as St. George and the Dragon, but I have no idea wha tthe significance of this is. Anyone with insight (or a correction as to my interpretation is way welcome).
    The scene where the Hierarch takes over Glynna’s body is a lot like the one in Neuromancer where Case is riding inside of Molly. The intention is not the same but it boils down to the same ideas. Of course where Case had no control over Molly, the Hierarch has ultimate control, which is basically the point I was getting after earlier.
    Towards the end we get our glimpse (since I assume it is covered in the intermittant chapters) of the Hierarch’s nature as, essentially, a cybernetic Alatar. Again showing how cybernetics can enhance, even though in this case that might even be termed a cautionary tale, it is a technique being used against us, rather than by us for our own benefit.

  17. What if we thought of time as a basic software program… like linux, and it is built upon from there…

    Could the ‘red line’ be the basic software, the dimensions/events–the elaborations of time, the depth–wouldn’t that be what each software designer makes of their program…

    And she/he, if necessary, can go back to this ‘red line’ to start over, or change it…

    Just throwing that out there…

  18. The first thing that struck me in The Hunter Out Of Time was a reference to “The Terrible Time”.
    “The temperature increased just a few degrees—enough to melt the polar ice and submerge much of the continental land masses.”
    I think that this reference, 42 years ago, to global warming, is fairly stunning. Right after that reference, another:
    “Did many people parish?”
    “Oh no. Men lived by reason in those days”.

    It seems almost laughable. Satirical, even. After her statement to Kevin she “threw a triumphant glance” at him. In The Hunter Out of Time, this happens thousands and thousands of years into the future. In reality, it (meaning global warming/the melting of the polar ice) is happening now. Within the next fifty to a hundred years. This is also not a time for reason. While we may be decent concerning technological achievements, we are NOWHERE near the advancement that Fox describes. We don’t have the space to relocate large costal cities to other planets. We are at least half a century away from anything like that. In our case, the ice melting would mean many, many people would perish. There would be chaos.

    I think the time travel idea Fox presents, messing up the future by changing the past, would seem to be a fundamental aspect of time travel. The most minute of changes could alter the future greatly, such as in Back to the Future I and II, though not so much III. That movie sucks.

    I find it very interesting that every author has their own literary view of how time travel is possible. Be it energy displacement, the handy dandy flux capacitor, wormholes, etc… Even more interesting, there always seems to be dire consequences associated with the manipulation of time.

  19. There was one sentence in The Hunter Out of Time that really jumped out at me: “When Plato wrote of it, then, the truth was so distorted as to be almost unrecognizable (Fox 22).” This sentence appears when Glynna mentions how the legend of Atlantis ‘really’ originated. However, the legend of Atlantis notwithstanding, this statement really embodies the theme of the entire novel. Plato’s Republic proposes that the ideal society is one where reason governs all and the philosopher (or the most educated i.e. the Federation) rules. Philosopher-rulers are motivated not by power, or even their own pleasure, but for the good of the state. Society then gravitates toward the common good, and those in power are wise enough to make decisions for the good of society and free of corruption (that’s my brilliant summary of The Republic lol). This is the type of society that Glynna exists in. In Glynna’s world, the ideal society is no longer a concept or a hypothetical—it is reality. And while peaceful, orderly, and utterly rational, this society is still not entirely just because it leaves so little devotion to choice and the individual. Fox clearly refutes Plato’s vision of the ideal society with The Hunter Out of Time, and I thought it interesting that he slipped that line into the novel. The Republic is such an old standard in education, and I feel like Fox is kind of taking a jab at it with that line.

    Fox’s novel is excellent commentary on human nature and its imperfection and perhaps, its inability to reach perfection. He poses the questions, “What is the perfect society? Does that even exist?” Given ‘the way things are’ in the future in The Hunter Out of Time, even with that near-perfect society, humanity still finds a way to muck things up (and perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to be). Not that the society in the novel can be defined as near-perfect—maybe in terms of efficiency and reason…but how does that serve our emotions? As humans, we strive toward the ideal although we may never reach it…and yet, are the ideals we have in mind always just? Are they the right ideals to have in mind? Fox’s novel forces us to ask these questions. Humanity is about the struggle in trying to find that balance between heart / mind, animal / intellect—too far in either direction, as this novel suggests, can be disastrous.


  20. In The Hunter Out of Time, I was very interested in Glynna’s response when Kevin kisses her, and her rejection of all things instinctual and animalistic. No war, no violence, those are good things- but no passion?

    I agree with Glenn in that it is extremely similar to George Orwell’s 1984. Everyone is terrified to break the laws. There is also peace, but at the loss of anything remotely animalistic. The world becomes very bland and seems to me just a bunch of empty shells making sure they don’t get in trouble.

    It is also similar to 1984 in the sense that there isn’t natural love. In 1984, purity was held up to high regard and sex was for procreation. In The Hunter Out of Time, sex is purely for procreation as well. (Goodness, both of these stories are about future societies, and yet they’re reverting back to an idea that girls were taught pre-1960’s?)

    The series of examinations that couples are forced to undergo in order to get married is the same in some religious doctrines. While I do not know the details, I know my mother and father had to go to a priest for this kind of questioning, and I believe there was a movie quite recently that was based around that similar plot. I have not seen this outside of religious belief- perhaps the community of the future is reverting back to pre-Enlightenment times where it wasn’t a common idea to have separation of church and state?

    Interesting how these communities are so technologically advanced, and yet their ideas are regressing in time.

    I also found the idea of feeding information into people’s heads quite interesting. I was discussing the same idea with a friend a few weeks ago, although my view of it had a much more romantic appeal than in this handout. I was interested in the idea of being able to capture a memory, one of those perfect moments in time, and be able to print it out like a photograph so you would never forget how something looked in that moment. Similarly, one could show others exactly how something looks in their imagination- works of art that they see vividly and are beautiful, but may not have the talent to produce on the physical plane.

    A non-romantic appeal to the idea would be the ability to examine someone’s memory in the name of solving a crime. It has no use in Glynna’s world because there is no crime, but it would be very useful in ours and would prevent innocent people from going to jail.

    And of course, it would prevent the need to go to school for many years to learn the basics. I’m sure every student would highly enjoy that, although it would take the feeling of accomplishment and pride out of learning information one enjoys.

  21. The fact that Kevin Cord is an archeologist caught my attention. Since archeologists are only concerned with the past and artifacts and history. However, he started findind he was even more enthused by the future which is interesting. Could it be possible, if time travel did exist that there could be such thing as an archeologist that studied future artifacts and future history. And also could computer hackers alter future events in cyberspace and therefore disrupt the past and/or present?

  22. In “The Hunter Out Of Time” reminded me of Frankenstein. When before we talk about cyborgs half robots and half human. Carla seem more like she is a cyborg. They show Cyborg has feeling like when Kevin Cord kiss her she got really furious at him for kissing her.

    At first believe Kevin was actually Chan Dahl. Kevin kept explaining to Carla that he is not Chan Dahl. To Carla the way Kevin’ appearance, the way he talk, and when she scan him he was the identity of Chan Dahl. Kevin tried so many ways to persuade Carla. He even tried fingerprints and they were identical. Once Kevin kiss Carla she knew it couldn’t be Chan. She knew he couldn’t do such a thing.

    Cara mind tell her two different things. She still believe this man is Chan and other tells her it’s Kevin. Which I find it interesting because I believe her memory can’t hold every data it wants to believe in. She wants believe in Kevin but her brain telling her Kevin is a liar and he is really Chan. It’s not her fault, it robot side that is having difficulty trying understand what is in front of her.

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