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:-
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.
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
Art: Engraving 1
Art History 4
Cthulhu Mythos 1
Dream Lore 1
Credit Rating 2
First Aid 5
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
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 Occupation: Forger 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
You’re going to take it all back – mostly via translation into Arabic, Xhosa and Igbo. Nothing illegal or clandestine. Unless it’s really necessary.
Investment is transitory. Schools, universities and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina project are what will make Africa great again.
They soon back off when you show them the blade.
Investigator Name: Tuesday Naledi Adisa Drive: Thirst for Knowledge Occupation: Catalogue Agent Occupational benefits: You may interact with bibliophiles at their Credit Rating. Pillars of Sanity: Bibliotheca Alexandrina; self-sufficiency. Build Points: 2
Your elder brother is the Bishop of Bangor and you’ve heard people in the village refer to you laughingly as “The Second Cumming”.
You have a personal relationship with God; you don’t hold with all that skirt-swishing and high-and-mighty stuff.
You’ve a lot of good stock you can’t shift and all this hullabaloo about “The Lost Library of Ynys Môn” is a great opportunity to unload some of it onto another bookseller.
Investigator Name: Alun Cumming Drive: Duty Occupation: Bookseller Occupational benefits: You operate with dual Credit Ratings, one for your shop and one for you; you may discover a “squiz” at the auction. Pillars of Sanity: All of human knowledge; kindness is a cure; God moves in mysterious ways. Build Points: 2
Library Use 6
Textual Analysis 4
Credit rating 3/4
Document Analysis 2
Electrical Repair 3
First Aid 5
Mechanical Repair 3
Sense Trouble 5
A disquisition on traffic-flow soon gives way to descriptions of the behaviour of light under observation (see Physics) and these and many other explanations of everything-at-once to an analysis of the relationship of Money to Economics and of “rational self-interest” to the Metaphysics of everyday life: “Everything we eat has been stolen from the mouths of others,” says the character known only as “The Doctor” (Ruffalo): “If we rob them of too much, we are responsible for their deaths… in a way, we are all murderers.” Saramago takes care to distinguish the sudden irruption of his “White Signus” from known varieties of blindness (see Medicine) and thereby to identify it as a “blindness of rationality” on the scale of a Disaster: this is, in other words, the catastrophe of the twentieth century writ large and described in chatty, free-ranging and precise style at the scale of the human, sometimes from the point of view of a particular human being, usually that of “The Doctor’s Wife” (Moore), sometimes at the level of the pack of blind humans for whom she is responsible and sometimes, boldly, directly and with no loss of dramatic focus, at the level of humanity’s shared past, as “you”, the reader, or “we” who are reading this, the world-changing Memes of a variety of thinkers, such as Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) – “What is right and what is wrong are simply different ways of understanding our relationships with the others…” – or the critique by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) of the relationship between Identity and self-presence, or, indeed, the assault by Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) on the ontology of Western discourse, part of which informed Derrida’s interrogation of “rationalist” thinkers and the French philosopher’s insistence on Linguistics as the best means of analysis of those cultures that define themselves by contrast with those they consider less “developed”, as in: “There’s no difference between inside and outside, between here and there, between the many and the few, between inside and outside, between what we’re living through and what we shall have to live through.” Every aspect of human behaviour is illuminated by the onset of “white” blindness, from the necessary delusions of human relationships to the deep-seated affiliation between fascism and the imposition of Sex on the unwilling: the breakdown of the social contract here reveals what the social contract was obscuring, a form of impaired vision from which we all, to greater or lesser extent, suffer. “It is beginning to emerge that this distinction between nature and society (‘nature’ and ‘culture’ seem preferable to us today), while of no historical significance, does contain a logic, fully justifying its use by modern sociology as a methodological tool,” Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote in Les Structures élémentaires de la parenté (1949 trans James Bell, John von Sturmer and Rodney Needham as The Elementary Structures of Kinship1969), but Saramago, like Derrida, goes beyond the convenience of this distinction to reveal how deeply human instincts are embedded in culture and now intrinsic cultural definitions are to descriptions of apparently natural behaviours:-