On the surface, I was calm: in secret, without really admitting it, I was waiting for something. Her return? How could I have been waiting for that? We all know that we are material creatures, subject to the laws of physiology and physics, and not even the power of all our feelings combined can defeat those laws. All we can do is detest them. The age-old faith of lovers and poets in the power of love, stronger than death, that finis vitae sed non amoris, is a lie, useless and not even funny. So must one be resigned to being a clock that measures the passage of time, now out of order, now repaired, and whose mechanism generates despair and love as soon as its maker sets it going? Are we to grow used to the idea that every man relives ancient torments, which are all the more profound because they grow comic with repetition? That human existence should repeat itself, well and good, but that it should repeat itself like a hackneyed tune, or a record a drunkard keeps playing as he feeds coins into the jukebox…

Must I go on living here then, among the objects we both had touched, in the air she had breathed? In the name of what? In the hope of her return? I hoped for nothing. And yet I lived in expectation. Since she had gone, that was all that remained. I did not know what achievements, what mockery, even what tortures still awaited me. I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past.

Stanisław Lem
Solaris

A major part of what Clare taught me about film I learned in bed – and I don’t mean in relaxed postcoital conversation, but in active process. At first, until I grasped that this was Clare’s preferred style of instruction, I found myself dumbfounded. When, in the act of love, she began to murmur a stream-of-consciousness lecture on Russian Formalism in my ear, I felt certain I should pause and take respectful note. But no. With a pelvic shove and a slap to my buttocks, she bullied me on, almost angrily. I continued; I accelerated the rhythm of our intercourse; her words flowed more rapidly, her voice grew stronger. Spread luxuriously beneath me, with eyes closed, sweat beaded across her upper lip, she became more articulate by the moment, even as her breath caught and raced. That was the first session in what would become a frenzied cerebral-genital curriculum. In the nights that followed, the theories of Arnheim, Munsterberg, Mitry lathered from her like prepared lectures. What was more surprising – I was taking it all in! The ideas were registering vividly. It was as if my body, totally preoccupied with pouring its libidinous energy into Clare, transformed my brain into a tabula rasa on which every word could be imprinted.

Theodore Roszac
Flicker

Monster

April 21, 2020

When monster meets monster, one monster has to give way.

Tennessee Williams
Sweet Bird of Youth

[“This trinket of sensation you feel now will be a delight compared to the onslaught of agony that awaits at our hands -“

Gary Tunnicliffe; Hellraiser : Revelations]

Damsels in distress have been a part of cinematic grammar since the medium’s invention, from Pearl White narrowly escaping certain death in the “Perils of Pauline” serials to the tried-and-true crowd-pleaser known as “woman in jep” (showbiz parlance for “woman in jeopardy”). But the genre took a radically darker turn in 1992, when the psycho-thriller “The Silence of the Lambs” won five Oscars, including best picture.

Suddenly a film in which the women-in-jep were being flayed alive — and the story’s wily, charismatic anti-hero was a cannibal, no less — left the confines of hoary melodrama or B-grade pulp and became respectable, glossed with the patina of awards-worthy seriousness. Soon, films from “Seven” and “Kiss the Girls” to “Sin City”…were upping the dubious ante on how gruesomely women could be raped, tortured, disfigured or otherwise degraded — with extra points if the victims were under 18.

Not only have the perils of Pauline become exponentially more perverted, pornographic and pervasive, they’ve become the lazy screenwriter’s go-to springboard to get the action underway…

Ann Hornaday
In movies, violence against women lets filmmakers indulge toxic fantasies
The Washington Post, 19th September 2014

the first werewolves

March 8, 2020

wolfwoman

There is a certain irony here, because many of the first werewolves to be outed in society from the 16th through the 18th centuries were actually women. Just as our American ancestors had their Salem Witch Trials, Europe had its Werewolf Trials, and a large number of the so-called “werewolves” tortured and burned at the stake were female…In the 17th-century werewolf trials of Estonia, women were about 150 percent more likely to be accused of lycanthropy; however, they were about 100 percent less likely to be remembered for it.

There’s also a pronounced lack of female werewolves in popular culture. Their near absence in literature and film is explained away by various fancies: they’re sterile, an aberration, or — most galling of all — they don’t even exist. Their omission from popular culture does one thing very effectively: It prevents us, and men especially, from being confronted by hairy, ugly, uncontrollable women. Shapeshifting women in fantasy stories tend to transform into animals that we consider feminine, such as cats or birds, which are pretty and dainty, and occasionally slick and wicked serpents. But because the werewolf represents traits that are accepted as masculine — strength, large size, violence, and hirsutism — we tend to think of the werewolf as being naturally male. The female werewolf is disturbing because she entirely breaks the rules of femininity.

Julia Oldham
Why Are There No Great Female Werewolves?

the key to a new sexuality

February 27, 2020

Trying to exhaust himself, Vaughan devised an endless almanac of terrifying wounds and insane collisions: The lungs of elderly men punctured by door-handles; the chests of young women impaled on steering-columns; the cheek of handsome youths torn on the chromium latches of quarter-lights. To Vaughan, these wounds formed the key to a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology. The images of these wounds hung in the gallery of his mind, like exhibits in the museum of a slaughterhouse.

J.G. Ballard
Crash

Ever since the word “robot” first appeared in the English language in the early 1920s (although it was invented by a Czech writer), science fiction writers have warned about the blurring of the distinction between human and machine.

Robots are becoming more and more like humans, such that it may one day become difficult to tell the two apart. But were they ever really so different? Philip K. Dick suggests possibly not, and his vision of replicants in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) – which was to become a classic movie, Blade Runner – certainly poses a lot of important questions.

It’s not just robots we have to worry about these days. AI is now perhaps an even bigger threat than its robot cousins. From the ominous HAL 9000 in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), to the “benevolent” AI character Mike in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966), we’ve been warned that the power of AI to infiltrate every aspect of our daily lives might one day prove our undoing – and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Mike Ryder
Visions of the future: five dark warnings from the world of classic science fiction

Attention! Product Recall!

February 22, 2020

Belief in the returning dead

February 22, 2020

Although he makes no reference to it in his notes, Stoker was always interested in Irish folklore. Long before Dracula, he wrote a series of horror tales, based on Celtic themes, for children. He spent time in the West of Ireland, his mother’s home country, where Gaelic and the old traditions still hung on in his day. The word for bad blood in Gaelic is drochfhuil and the genitive singular is drochfhola, which is pronounced very much like the word Dracula. Belief in the returning dead was very strong in Ireland. Stone were piled over the graves of the dead to try to discourage them from rising out of the ground.

Radu R Florescu and Raymond T. McNally
Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times