Starfall

Giant, beetle-like Aliens dubbed “Scarabs” destroy earth’s twelve most populous Cities in the autumn of 1951, fortifying the impact of their Invasion by use of superior Weapons and Technology to bring much of humanity into conditions of Slavery. As with the invaders from Mars in H G Wells‘s War of the Worlds (April-December 1897 Pearson’s1898), the Scarabs have been observing the planet for some time, and have scheduled their arrival to occur at precisely the point between planetary depletion from War and developments in Nuclear Energy. Nigel Kneale-scripted dramas such as The Quatermass Experiment (18 July-22 August 1953 6 episodes) and Quatermass and the Pit (1968; vt Five Million Years to Earth) direct Starfall‘s comprehension of the thematic link between humanity’s predisposition to fascistic behaviour [see “Nigel Kneale and Fascism” under links below] and the suitability of planet earth as a target for the Colonization of Other Worlds:-

 

Starfall entry

Hurtwood

 

I’ve had couple of trips down to Surrey in the last week or two, once for a hike and once for live action roleplay.

The convenience of the North Downs being less than an hour away on the train cannot be overestimated. Get out there if you can: sunshine and play are the best restorative.

 

IMG_1977
Don’t laugh; I cut a magnificent figure.

The Cabin in the Woods

Commentary is rendered as reality conspiracy. White-coated Scientists Sitterson (Jenkins) and Hadley (Whitford) preside over a team of underground technicians whose aim is to draw victims into a Godgame dedicated to satiating the appetites of chthonic entities who are the ages-old Secret Masters of planet earth. Similar danse macabre – the pope, emperor, king, child, and labourer archetypes of medieval tradition are here commuted to whore, athlete, scholar, fool and virgin – are carried out at other facilities around the globe according to local custom: this provides Goddard and Whedon with an opportunity to send up Swedish sobriety, Japanese schoolgirl tropes and so on, and thereby to display Whedon’s usual facility for ventriloquizing Fan Language through characters. As long as one of these global offerings to the gods (see Gods and Demons) of down below goes off, the End of the World is averted. American college students Dana Polk (Connolly), the “virgin” and, therefore, according to the rules of the genre, the “final girl”, Curt Vaughan (Hemsworth; the “athlete”), Jules Louden (Hutchison; the “whore” who dies as soon as she exposes her breasts), “scholar” Holden McCrea (Williams) and dope-smoking free-thinker Marty Mikalski (Kranz) – a character similar in register to that of Zeke Tyler from The Faculty (1998) and, indeed, to a great many similar characters in American high-school movies – all start the film by adhering to the clichés of the form but gradually begin to deviate from the railroaded idiocy of their roles as the Technology of the presiding technicians – a holographic containment field around the cabin, Drugs in Louden’s blonde hair dye that make her dumb, pheromones, trapdoors, surveillance and the like – begins to go awry. This is counterpointed with the failure of the corresponding rituals around the world, and a fair degree of Humour is derived from the interplay of filmography and Fandom, and from Hadley and Sitterson’s growing comprehension of impending doom, but the film never quite succeeds at being both scary and ironic. If there is any point to postmodernity (accounts differ) it is about who owns or delivers the constructed narrative and what they derive from it, and about what kind of moribund or frightening truth is revealed when that process is undermined. Sigourney Weaver is (as usual) convincing in her role as “The Director” – a kind of precursor to her depiction of the Villain Alexandra in the television series The Defenders (2017) – but the off-stage unknowability of the chthonic entities here arouses none of the intensely lyrical subjectivity of H P Lovecraft‘s protagonists in the face of cosmic time, or the connotations of Holocaust attendant to the appearance of the lost daughter in Hideo Nakata’s Ring (2000), or even the existential implications of Cube (1997). Dana and Marty share a spliff at the end of the movie and decide that humanity is not worth saving. Would that the vastations of planet earth were so easy to shrug off:-

 

The Cabin in the Woods entry

 

CabinMonstersCubes

Lathe of Heaven

The light changing is such a relief. Winter was rough but there were a few high points.

We’ve no home group for roleplay anymore but I did have a preliminary costume fitting for my character in Old World Adventures, an ongoing larp inspired by the world of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

If you’re ill or if you lost someone this winter, then bless you.

 

lathe-of-heaven2

Annihilation

Much of the bi-associative strangeness of the book’s descriptions of Area X is preserved: blossoming branches act as antlers on deer, human limbs are melded into the root systems of trees, concentric rows of teeth occur inside the crocodile-like Monster that attacks the women as they explore an orchard of humanoid bushes. “A religious event? An extra-terrestrial event? A higher Dimension? We have many theories and few facts,” admits Ventress. “When you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you,” says VanderMeer’s protagonist in the novel. “Desolation tries to colonize you.” This is, perhaps, the most important attribute of the New Weird – that it replaces human delusions of self-importance with deeper and more mysterious truths. From the Space Opera scope of M John Harrison‘s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy with its pointless repetitions of people and the monstrous haunting of humanity from the Time Abyss to the Drugs and crime (see Crime and Punishment) and photography sequence of the Cass Neary novels by Elizabeth Hand – both series of novels display their authors’ facility at counterbalancing Postmodernism with a deep comprehension of genre – the form must go beyond its delivery mechanisms to achieve its emotional payload. More often than not the weird does this by combining the real and the uncanny and making the uncanny seem more real than the everyday delusions of human assumption. Symbolism and surrealism is very often important to this process, as is a central scientific metaphor. In the case of Annihilation, this is cellular activity and its connotative capacity for communicating the implications of EvolutionClimate Change and Medicine:-

 

Annihilation entry

 

SolarisGif

 

Ninth Expedition

There’s a lovely, gentle atmosphere at Concrete Cow.

My Bookhounds of London game turned out schlonky and overstuffed with clues, despite fun and enterprising players. I’d hone it and reorder the narrative were I ever to run it again.

I played Ralph Lovegrove’s Cthulhu Dark: Annihilation game in the afternoon session, which was excellent.

 

CarolinePagetBook