Of all the precursors to Twin Peaks this is probably my favourite.
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 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.
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 Evolution, Climate Change and Medicine:-
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.
Concrete Cow 18 is this coming Saturday 17th March in Wolverton, near Milton Keynes. You should go if you’re at all interested in roleplaying games. I’m offering the following game in the morning session:-
The Bees of the Invisible
“We are the bees of the invisible. We madly gather the honey of the visible to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Five bookhounds and a dreamhound convene for an auction of unusual items at a Welsh country house.
- Elspeth Cellan-Jones (Book Scout)
- Alun Cumming (Bookseller)
- Tuesday Adisa (Catalogue Agent)
- Rick the Red (Forger)
- The Divine Angela (Occultist)
- Rex Whistler (Artist)
6 pre-generated characters
6 core clues
6 pages from a lost grimoire
Who dares bid on The Lost Library of Ynys Môn?
Please be aware that this game contains mature themes.
It’s all been a bit of whirl since you did the scenery and the costumes for Ninette and Gavin, no time for anything; this job is immense. You know His Lordship is vexed at the overrun but you have to get every bit of it just right, for Caroline.
Nothing’s been right since the shell-shock. The sleepwalking is a bit of a worry, to be honest.
The sea is churning right there on the wall but they don’t see it: a Claudean sunset with pink clouds, fluted and pointed like the prow of boats. We live our real lives in the dream light, far from men – that’s what she says. People misunderstand you and the Lady Caroline. When she’s with you there is not one fragment of your true being, of your real personality, that does not participate unreservedly in the eternal celebration of sovereign night.
Investigator Name: Rex Whistler
Drive: Muse of Fire
Occupational benefits: Anagnorisis – you may spend your point of Mythos to trigger the denouement of the game; you have Medium as an Investigative Ability.
Pillars of Sanity: Drive fast, die young; huntin’ and shootin’.
Build Points: 2
Art: Engraving 1
Art History 4
Cthulhu Mythos 1
Dream Lore 1
Credit Rating 2
First Aid 5
Hispano-Suiza H6B coupe
Tweeds and sou’wester
You’re in contact with a number of spirits – gypsy-girl Bathsheba, mad centurion Quintus Flavius and the shieldmaiden Brünhilda. They’re terrible people but great fun at parties.
They’re all just overgrown boys with mummy-issues, really. They collect and collect and fetishize what they’ve got because mummy was romancing the accountant or whatever.
You might not be so attached to Quintus Flavius if he were flesh and blood. He’s a bit of a brute.
Investigator Name: The Divine Angela
Drive: To the Magic
Occupational benefits: You know every occult collector at the auction; you may purchase Magic as an Investigative Ability from tomes.
Pillars of Sanity: Theosophy; the imagined life.
Build Points: 2
Credit Rating 4
Oral History 1
Sense Trouble 4
Pet Pomeranian “Pookie”
Welsh-language library of memoirs by witches
The authenticity is in the act, not the provenance. Every time you knock someone off, it’s a courtship – a long, drawn-out process of getting to know someone better than they know themselves. Mind you, the money doesn’t hurt.
Art historians are free-loading pissants.
A little side-bet on which book fetches the most wouldn’t go amiss – all the better if it involves your own work.
Investigator Name: Rick the Red
Drive: Artistic Sensitivity
Occupational benefits: You are “the last word” in four types of forged document.
Pillars of Sanity: Art is immortality; a little flutter never hurt anyone; other people’s money.
Build Points: 2
Cop Talk 1
Credit Rating 2
Art: Calligraphy 2
Art: Engraving 2
Art: Printing 2
Craft: Bookbinding 2
Craft: Papermaking 2
Document Analysis 2
Sense Trouble 3
D6 types of ID in D6 different names
The best Villains make sense of the paradigms they oppose; that the major antagonist of Black Panther, now grown up to become US military intelligence operative Erik “Killmonger” Stevens after being abandoned by the custodians of his Wakandan heritage as a boy, expresses everything that has gone wrong with the world and, simultaneously, everything that might go right with it in the Near Future, gives him a moral force far beyond that of any of the Aliens, AIs or Gods and Demons that have previously served as signifiers of large-scale Disaster in the Shared Worlds of the MCU. That he is also the agency of the Conceptual Breakthrough that persuades the Pocket Universe of Wakanda to re-territorialize as a member of the United Nations recasts the Lost World trope as one of cultural elision and false consciousness. N’Jadaka speaks the truth about Race in SF that large parts of the SF Megatext has had trouble accepting:-