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Recovery

Wow.  Missed two days, there.  Not feeling great about that, but carrying on.

Made it home, and not feeling quite as satisfied about that as I might expect.  The place feels… well, it’s mine, and that’s good.  But it feels much less comfortable than some of the places we stayed.  I know that hotels are designed to be comfortable[1], so there’s an edge there, but this place feels like it’s not ready to be lived in yet.

We picked up a painting in a little homestyle restaurant the other day–yesterday, in fact.  It’s all warm gold and brown tones, a country road and a cloudy sky, an oil painting that was up on the wall for sale.  I’ve hung it up, and it seems to help a bit.  Looking around now (not anywhere I can see the painting in question), the walls seem pretty bare.

Maybe reorganizing a little will help.  I don’t know.  We don’t spend a lot of time in the living room; our offices are on different floors.  I know it’s different coming home, but it definitely seems easier to spend time away from each other with the layout here.

Something to think about, I guess.  Probably when the coming-home melancholy wears off.


[1] And they all had these amazing pillows.  I mean really big pouffy cuddly pillows. I miss them.

Apocalypse as revelation.

Pardon the etymology geekery, here.  Apocalypse, broken down to its Greek roots, means revelation (from apo-, “from, away from; after”, and kalyptein, “to cover, conceal”.)  So it’s a sudden shocking understanding, a tearing back of the shrouding curtain of ignorance; in Middle English it referred to a sudden vision or insight.

So.  Going back to the post about the lack of end-of-the-world movies; half of the ones I listed came with a sudden revelation that cast the events of the movie itself in a different light, and of the two Dead movies, Day had a pretty shocking (within the genre) revelation right around the climax.

I suppose it’s easy to have everything go wrong.  But it’s harder to have everything go wrong and have people not feel cheated.  Paying attention and following a story and then having the protagonist fail and the things you cared about be undone regardless of your caring about them is annoying.  But paying attention and following a story and then having all the little details you picked up and absorbed mean something new and different while the protagonist fails; that can work.  It’s a different pay-off; rather than vicarious victory through the story, you get personal understanding of the story.  At its best, it’s that brilliant “oh my god, that’s what was happening!” at the end of The Usual Suspects.

I wonder if it’s easier to do in speculative genres because the audience is more prepped to pay attention to details of the setting, so it’s easier to seed things for them to pick up.  Or possibly in crime/mystery stories, because the genre invites people to try and figure it out; there’s the expectation of some kind of puzzle, even if it’s not necessarily a world-twisting puzzle.

I suppose the advantage of doing this in stories rather than movies is that people will generally feel like they’ve invested less in a story that suddenly twists to become something different, and are less likely to resent it if they don’t like the change.

Ashewoods

I’ve been rereading some of my old work; I thought this might be reather appropriate in October.  I ought revist the Ashewoods, I think.

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The Ashewoods are an interesting case.

All the Houses are interesting cases, of course, and all have their claims to uniqueness. Perhaps it might be better to say that the Ashewoods are an unsettling case. Part of it is their Hearth; what is now called Barrowlux was once a necropolis filled with the entombed ranks of the dead, catacombs beneath a long-fallen city. Part of it is their lineage, and what they bred with down in the dark.

The Ashewoods are part ghoul.

According to their history, when the Darkness fell, a few survivors sought shelter deep in the catacombs. Over the years, the descendants of those survivors adapted to their environment. As the city above Barrowlux was razed, the survivors moved deeper, scavenging for survival. Presumably the incursions from Neverborn above led to the first uneasy alliances between human and ghoul; the details remain unrecorded. Over the years, the deeper parts of the catacombs were turned into a refuge, secured as best as possible by the traps and the great doors left above.

Barrowlux sits at the far northeastern edge of the House’s lands, and is the farthest city of any note–beyond it, there are a few scattered hamlets, and the sparsely-mapped stretch of the wilderness. Buildings are being constructed aboveground–low, square, and wide-roofed, walls plastered smooth with mud or daub when stone is beyond the means or the reach of the builder. With the disappearance of the Darkness, the eating of the dead among the Ashewoods has become largely ceremonial, though it still deeply marks their culture. Their physics are a particularly striking example–nowhere else is the study of medicine so deeply entwined with the study of cooking (on the theory that really, it’s all a matter of caring for and preparing the body).

Ashewoods tend towards the wiry and pale, with dark hair, strong jawlines, and a good sense of smell. Brown eyes are most common, although green or red are occasionally seen. Occasionally the jawline will be prominent enough to be described as a muzzle, and the brown of the eyes light enough to be more reasonably described as “ochre” or “yellow”. They are generally soft-spoken, reserved (although visitors to Barrowlux report a more relaxed attitude towards guests), and quite cautious in matters of physical security.

Stuffy mornings and the end of the world.

Definitely coming down with something.  It might just be something that’s a reaction to being so far south of my usual stomping grounds, but it’s something.  Am regularly coughing up a little muck in the mornings, and I hate that.

Lete’s see, thoughts… alright.  Discussing, recently, TV series that ended properly (weren’t cancelled, felt like they came to a natural resting place) and movies that ended with the end of the world.  Movies set after the end of the world–that is, movies which are presented not only as happening in a resource-poor high-danger wasteland but happening after everything was destroyed to produce this wasteland–are a lot more common.  For ones which actually end with the end of the world, the only ones coming to mind right now is 12 Monkeys, Dawn and Day of the Dead, and Return of the Living Dead (seriously, watch it).

I’m not sure why the reluctance to produce such things.  Most of the movies that depict a setting which could result in the end of the world aren’t ones which are likely to have a sequel anyway, so it’s not as if they’re being avoided out of fear of murdering franchise potential.

(Oh, Terminator 3!  I forgot that one.  And would sort of like to go on forgetting it, actually, but it counts.)

End of the world movies are a downer, yes, but that doesn’t make them bad.  Movies (in terms of pacing and complexity) tend to resemble short stories, and there are a lot of short stories that end with the end of the world.  So why, relatively speaking, are there so many fewer movies that go that route?  Harder to make?  Less likely to be popular?  And is that last veering towards the snobbery of insisting hoi polloi can’t possibly appreciate a good apocalyptic tale?

The road goes on and ever on.

Checked out and waiting in the lobby for the shuttle to the off-site parking. My nerves are killing me and I’m not sure why. I think part of out might be leaving the hotel, rather than a friend’s place. Feels a lot more final and a lot less amenable to having anything we forgot mailed to us.

Also, going to the States. I’m looking forward to seeing John’s friend and family, but I am not looking forward to the border crossing. Never had any trouble, but I know that sometimes they take (very boring) ages, and have heard the horror stories.

That, and, well… it’s the States. It’s NotHome. Which is an interesting disconnect, since as far as I can remember I did not have this anticipatory flinching when I went to London, and that is considerably less close to home and rather more anxiously edging towards draconian.[1]

Call it half lack of familiarity and half the horror stories John keeps finding.

[1] Than Canada.

Belated and stunned.

Didn’t post last night, and am actually okay with that.  It’s nice to not be spiralling into some kind of slough of despond over missing one day, and instead getting up and dusting off and carrying on.  🙂

Went to the Daredevils exhibit in the IMAX Theatre today.  It was actually rather upsetting, to be honest.  I understand people being cruel, or petty, or unthinkingly stupid.  (I don’t like it one bit, but I understand.)  And the stories about all the people voluntarily cheerfully planning to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel was baffling, and a little sad.

One man thought it would be a good idea to tie an anvil to his feet inside the barrel.  For ballast, you see.  Ballast would mean that the barrel would float right way up when he got to the bottom of the falls!

They found his right arm.

And then there’s the man who made it over and survived but suffocated when his air ran out, and the man who made dinner reservations whose body was never found, and… I really do not understand.  Especially having seen the falls.  The idea of going over them is terrifying, and this was entirely voluntary.

An anvil.  Was there no-one around to say “hey, Chuck, maybe this ‘going over Niagara Falls in an enclosed space with a 100 lb chunk of iron loose in there with you’ idea is not the greatest”?  Why didn’t he listen, if there was?

Splendid isolation/I don’t need no-one

So, John and I are driving around, and between the GPS in the cars and our phones, it’s a very well-informed trip.  And it came up in casual discussion that many many horror movie plots have been rendered unworkable by the existence of these things–GPS systems and cellphones.

This is pretty obvious stuff; it ties back to the truism about horror movies being, in many ways, about isolation.  Being able to dial 911 and start hiking out with a map that shows you your heading and the distance to the highway makes things a lot more manageable.  (Or, you know, the amusing values of being able to Google something like “chainsaw sabotage”…  But I digress.)

We went back to it later, a bit.  If you eliminate the tactical elements of isolation, then what you’re left with is two options.  There’s social isolation (“they won’t believe me” or “they didn’t believe me”)[1] which has a long and storied history, including those godawful fifties movies about the aliens landing and the teenagers being the only ones to see them.  Or else there’s self-imposed isolation, where the protagonists don’t want to call for help; what that sprang to mind was them being in a haunted house where they had no right to be[2], but Session 9 is also a beautiful example.  The guy needs the job, there’s no way to leave and get it done, and he can’t afford to take the time to call for help.  Alright, yes, there is definitely an element of social isolation there; that’s fine.  One kind doesn’t need to do all the work.

So I am discussing this with John, and he points out that splitting up becomes a lot less frightening, a lot more manageable, if you have something like Google Latitude in place.  You know where people are, you can track them.  And I nod in agreement, and then he smiles and points out that it isn’t true.

“You don’t know where I am.  You know where my phone is.”

I do confess I shuddered.  (A lovely moment over lunch, to be sure.)

Because that takes it out of isolation and into uncertainty, which is the other great foundation of horror.  The world crumbling out from under you, slowly or suddenly.  In some ways it ties to isolation–not having anything you can be sure of to reach out to–but it’s a basically different development.  It’s the horror of “The calls are coming from inside the house!“, which relies not on there being no-one to help but on the space that you were sure was safe being taken away.

So that’s something else to look to, I guess.  Not sure how much good it’d be for movies, which don’t necessarily have a lot of time to establish certainty, but definitely something to keep in mind for written work.

(ObDisclaimer: no, not all horror movies rely on isolation.  Scream, f’r ex, handles the advent of the ubiquitous cellphone quite well.)


[1] See also: all the travel horror that involves being surrounded by those terrible strange Other People (usually brown).[3]
[2] Or this 90s movie about four suburban guys out for a night on the town who accidentally see a murder and don’t want to call for help because they hit someone with their car… I will try and look up the title later.
[3] …echoes of HP Lovecraft, actually…

Old-fashioned cheese and water power

Upper Canada Village today. Kingston. Dinner with Becky. The Long Sault and the Lost Islands. (Had never heard of them before.)

Cat here purrs like splitting celery. And is warm.

Probably not making 200 words today.

Back of thighs starting to ache really badly just above knees on the outside sides. Not used to this much walking.

Goodnight.

Rhinos and llamas and tigers, oh my.

Went to the Granby Zoo today.  Walked for about seven hours.  My feet are gearing up to kill me, my hair smells faintly of something that I persist in identifying as llamas[1], and I don’t think I’ve been so ready to sleep so early in months.

I had a wonderful time.  😀

I have 380 pictures on my phone, and more on my camera (the batteries died).  I’ll be sorting through those later, but I think some of them turned out pretty well.  It was cold (7’C) and  very seriously rainy; we’d been expecting a light drizzle.  I ended up buying a disposable poncho in the guest shop for a couple of bucks.  (I don’t think it was meant to be disposable, but after the rainbow lorikeets descended upon me en masse it got a couple of holes in it and the situation just got worse as the day progressed.)

Watched a tiger for about twenty minutes.  She was playing with a giant plastic ball, which fell into the pond and which she then spent a quarter hour trying to get out.  It didn’t work; she was sort of quite adorably sad.  I took a *lot* of pictures, and really need to figure out exactly what the “action shot” mode on my camera phone is meant to do.


[1] It’s totally not llamas.  I suppose it’s “ruminants and straw”, or more generally “zoo”.