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

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

 

The Bees of the Invisible

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:-

 

AzSpell1

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.

They are:

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.

 

Henry_Paget,_5th_Marquess_of_Anglesey
Henry Paget, 5th Marquess of Angelsey

Rex Whistler

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
Occupation: Artist
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

 

Architecture 2
Art: Engraving 1
Art History 4
Cthulhu Mythos 1
Dream Lore 1

Medium 4
Occult 1
Physics 1

Charm 4
Credit Rating 2

Craft 2
Photography 2

Art-Making 12
Athletics 5
Dreamscaping 8
Driving 8
Firearms 10
First Aid 5
Health 10
Instability 3
Sanity 8
Stability 8

Hispano-Suiza H6B coupe
Tweeds and sou’wester

 

CarolinePagetBook
Lady Caroline Paget

The Divine Angela

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
Occupation: Occultist
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

 

Anthropology 2
Archaeology 2
Bibliography 1
Cryptography 2
History 2
Languages 4

Occult 4
Theology 2

Credit Rating 4
Oral History 1
Reassurance 1

Auction 5
Conceal 5
Filch 5
Fleeing 2
Health 8
Hypnosis 5
Preparedness 5
Psychoanalysis 5
Sanity 8
Stability 10
Sense Trouble 4
Weapons 5

Pet Pomeranian “Pookie”
Welsh-language library of memoirs by witches

 

tree of life by hand

 

 

Black Panther

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 AliensAIs 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:-

 

Black Panther entry

 

Jungle_Action_Vol_2_8

 

The Lost Library of Ynys Môn

 

Children of the Spirit

 

I’m fairly confident of being able to offer a game for Bookhounds of London at Concrete Cow on March 17th called The Bees of the Invisible.

Five bookhounds and a dreamhound will convene for an auction of unusual items at a Welsh country house.

Here is the catalogue of works for sale:

 

 

The Lost Library of Ynys Môn

Catalogue for the private auction of works from the Collection of Henry Cyril Paget,
5th Marquess of Anglesey.

 

2. The Parable of the Strange Fruit by the Reverend C A Johns.

Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1887. 4to. Leather half-cloth, rubbed to extremities. Condition: Fair. Five of six hand-drawn plates remain, two of which have been re-glued; front hinge also re-glued. Closed slit to front external hinge. Fraying top and bottom of spine. Some underlining, particularly to rear parts of text.

Believed to be the only remaining copy in circulation of the Rev. C A Johns’ first-person account of rhubarb grown by the light of the full moon: he believed these to have been harvested by faeries. Johns later recanted and ordered all copies of his work destroyed.

 

3. The Bees of the Invisible by Mrs Eileen Donaghy.

Women’s Institute of Pembroke, Bangor, 1902. 8vo. Green cloth with gilt. Eight black and white engravings by the author. Condition: Very Good.

Each of Angelsey’s 28 cromlechs is adumbrated by Mrs Donaghy’s coruscating commentary concerning their use for “base and licentious acts” in pre-Christian times; pp56-84 concern the perils of drink.

 

4. Brytanici Imperii Limites by Dr John Dee.

Elias Ashmole, Oxford, 1677. 8vo. Black leather with decorative silver gilt, split at the spine and with singing patterns to the bottom right of the text block; front bottom right corner frayed. Condition: Good.

“The Limits of the British Empire”. The voyages of King Arthur and other legendary mariners, including Welsh prince Madoc, who crossed the Atlantic in in 1170 and met the winged fae-folk of Saguenay. Map missing from rear board.

 

5. The Secret Commonwealth; or an Essay on the Nature and Actions of the Subterranean (and for the most part) Invisible People heretofore going under the names of Fauns and Fairies, or the like, among the Low Country Scots as described by those who have second sight, 1691 by Robert Kirk.

Archibald, Constable and Co for Sir Walter Scott, Edinburgh, 1815. 8vo. Half-calf with marbled boards and gilt lettering to the spine; slightly rubbed. Condition: Very Good.

Folklore from traditional accounts in the Scottish Highlands; reports that the author was carried away to fairyland for revealing the secrets of the Good People remain unconfirmed.

 

6. The Last Testament of King Maeglwyn Gwynedd.

Palimpsest of paper and vellum materials, c.1188; rebound in calfskin, Bangor, 1837. 8vo. Condition: Fair.

Handwritten text in dark blue ink includes many crossings- and workings-out: appears to sign over the Isle of Ynys Môn and much of North Wales to the “King of the Birds”.

 

7. The Horoscope of Benvenuto Cellini by Consuela du Pre.

Theosophical Society, London, 1901. 8vo. Decorative blue leather boards bearing the embossed coat of arms of the famous goldsmith and sculptor. Condition: Very Good.

Mrs Du Pre follows the Roman astrologer Manilius in insisting that a child born while the Sun is in Scorpio has “a spirit which rejoices in plenteous bloodshed and in carnage more than in plunder”; pp101-110 detail a cure for gonorrhoea derived from Pliny the Elder.

 

8. Mona and the Moon by “Sister Dierdre”.

Women’s Institute of Pembroke, Bangor, 1907. 4to. Blue cloth with decorative gilt. Centrepiece intact. Condition: Good.

Tidal patterns and lunar cycles on “Hook’s Island” (an older name for the Isle of Angelsey); intended as a treatise for children, it includes seventeen hand-drawn illustrations by local artist Cerys Llewellyn and a full-colour frontispiece by the (as yet unidentified) “Monk of Ynys Môn”.

 

9. New Hyperborean Grammar (4vols).

Skara Brae Press, Kirkwall, 1877. Blue half-cloth with light blue decorative trim and decorative silver gilt. Large item(s).

Claims to be a partially-revised edition of a work first produced at Gardar monastery in Greenland at the end of the fourteenth century. Volumes 2-4 comprise indices and commentary.

 

10. Codex Hibernica by Alejandro Cacamatzin.

Date unknown, Skellig, rebound circa 1560. Folio. Text in Latin and Nahuatl with Aztec pictograms. Whale-skin with decorative insignia, bumped at the bottom right corner of front and back boards and turned at the bottom right outer edge of the text block.

How to perform the intricately-costumed butterfly-dance of Itzpapalotl, the “Obsidian Butterfly”, by an exiled Mexican priest. 64 full-colour illustrations by an unknown hand. Six black and white illustrations of clochán-type beehive cells with an appendix of twenty-one hand-drawn stone crosses and slabs. The favourite item of the 5th Marquess.

11. Knowledge of Angels by Katherine Dee.

Reginald Newbury, Shrewsbury, 1608. 8vo. Leather boards with unstitched signatures. Five colour plates, two pull-out diagrams and 14 black and white illustrations. Text in English, Hebrew and Adamic script.

Includes a phonetic incantation to call forth Uriel from ancient stone and a pull-out design for a “Table of Practice” based on her father’s tradition. A unique item.

 

12. Liber Experimentorum by Ramon Llull.

Bartholomäus Leonhard Schwendendörffer, Antwerp, 1664. 8vo. Calf with decorative gilt. Pagination awry. Condition: Very Good. Catalan, Arabic and Latin text with pictograms of unknown provenance.

Llull’s “Book of Experiments” combines logic and natural philosophy to record the spiritual effects of Majorcan flora on imprisoned infidels.

Suicide Squad

Suicide_Squad_Vol_5_1

 

“I’m a man, okay? I ain’t no Weapon,” insists Chato Santana, or “El Diablo” as the pyrokinetic Los Angeles gang member is generally known. Assassin-for-hire “Deadshot” (Smith) soon persuades Diablo to employ his napalm-like Psi Powers on behalf of the nation whose system of Crime and Punishment so often informs the themes and character-arcs of its Superhero narratives, from the genesis of Batman in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) to the successful forays into on-demand Television on the part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Daredevil (2015-current) and Luke Cage (2016-current). One might argue that the entire genre is about turning oneself into the means by which Cities and communities are defended or destroyed, and that by combining the journey of the Hero from Greek Mythology with the trope of the Mysterious Stranger in Le Comte de Monte-Christo (1844-1845 18vols; trans Emma Hardy as The Count of Monte Cristo 1846 3vols) Alexandre Dumas laid the genre’s most important cornerstone: the confluence of a secret Identity with a thirst for revenge:-

 

Suicide Squad entry

 

Detective_Comics_27

Monte Cristo