Beggars in Spain vs X-Men
Kress’ Beggars in Spain almost certainly draws some influence from the famous Marvel comic X-Men. If not, their plot and message are eerily similar but both, I feel, very effective. Using science fictions and superheroes, Beggars and X-Men both make social commentary on acceptance, bigotry, and diversity. I want to discuss how they compare and contrast with each other, as well as what we can learn from them, all under the umbrella of what we learned about the science fiction genre today.
The story line of the comic X-Men goes that there is a group of special people in the world that possess special powers due to a special X-gene they were born with. It is not known where this X-gene comes from, but one theory is that all who have it are the children of American scientists who worked with atomic weapons. Soon the world begins to fear and loathe these X-Men and Professor Xavier, or Professor X, must gather the mutants and bring them to his mansion so that they can all learn together how to use their powers and prove that mutants can be heroes.
If that explanation does not draw you to think of the Sleepless, then you did not read Kress’ story. It is almost the exact same plot with the Sleepless being the X-men and Tony and Jennifer are Professor X, who build the safe haven for all to go to. Both begin to be oppressed and hated because they have different traits that allow them to perform in different, often superior ways, and they must band together to show that they can be good.
There are some obvious differences as well: the Sleepless must defend themselves against the common people, and while the X-men must do the same, they also have arch nemesis Magneto to worry about. At first for the Sleepless, there is someone in the world who chose for them to have the trait that makes them not need sleep. For the X-men, there was no choice involved. Later on, however, when it is seen that the sleepless gene is dominant and Sleepless offspring begin to be produced there is a parallel in the randomness of whether someone will be born a “mutant.”
In our discussion today we talked about characteristics of the science fiction genre and if it can truly be considered good literature. Character development was brought up, as were possibility. The only wide gap I see in the two stories is the possibility of the two. Gene alteration so that someone does not need sleep obviously seems much more feasible than a gene mutation that would cause someone to shoot lasers out of their eyes. As far as character development goes, the Sleepless did not seem too different than superheroes. They all achieved incredible things that very few other people can. They certainly stood out and received special treatment. The only one Kress really develops in depth is Leisha and we certainly see a more human side to her especially with the whole concept of beggars in Spain. Several in depth story lines evolve about the characters in X-men so characterization is seemingly on par as well.
I’m not trying to say that the X-men comic books should be considered good literature, but I draw value from both of these works because they both make me think about my world around me and have messages that underlay their text. One thing I was brought away from this story thinking about was how in todays society people who are intelligent are often looked down upon. Just like the Sleepless who are high achievers, anyone today who seems very adept at something (other than sports) is often seen as an overachiever or as a nerd. People seem to fear achievement, and also the progress that comes from this achievement as well.
I thought the parallels were eerie but very cool. There is a lot to gain from pondering both of these works.
-Peter S L