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Belated. But less belated.

I thought I’d get a little of this down.

Examples of made men–in the “simulacra of humans created by magic” sense–include the golem, Pygmalion’s sculpture, that strange bronze man that Medea helped Jason and the Argonauts defeat, and Frankenstein’s monster.  I’ll also note the soldiers that sprung up from dragon’s teeth–they weren’t really a created individual, which is most of what I’m looking at, but they do come to mind.

Two functions seem to show up.  First, there’s creatures created not to fulfill a duty but simply to be, because having them around was what their creator wanted.  Out of this you get Frankenstein’s monster, Pygmalion’s sculpture, Snegurochka the Snow Maiden from Russian folklore, and actually pretty much any of dozen examples of “child created out of objects rather than born because the parents wanted a child so much”.  This is not what I’m thinking about right now.

Second, there’s the made man that has a protective function.  The golem is pretty much the most blatant example I can think of; persecuted minority + ghetto + desperate need for protector -> great hulking clay defender.  The strange bronze man (can’t remember his name, but I’m sure one of my Asimov books mentions him as being the first example of a robot, which is actually a pretty fair description) was also, IIRC, protecting the land that he was found on, although the story there focuses on the protagonists who need to get around the protector.  Hrm.  Made men as having a tie to the land–made of clay, protecting a specific terrain?  Need to reread that Greek myth.  On a similar note, the soldiers sprung up when the dragon’s teeth were planted in the earth.

…actually, that last sentence probably addresses every single metaphor I want to play with, except the birds and the Fowler.

(I can’t actually promise that any of this has a point.  It’s mostly just an expression of one aspect of the context I’m putting a particular story into, so I have it down in a concrete form.  Once it’s in a concrete form, it’s easier to refer to, build on, and change if I need to.)

Hrm.  Cannot think of birds having any association with made men.  I know that in Russian fairy tales, sending the raven off to get the water of death (which made a dead body whole again) and the dove off to get the water of life (which made the dead body not dead) showed up occasionally, but I think that was strictly restoring a previously living human to life.

Alright.  Moving away from myths/legends/folklore of made men and towards the scarecrow…

  1. made by humans, yes;
  2. protective device, yes;
  3. associated with cultivation and so with earth and specific patches of land, yes;
  4. wards off birds, yes.

Thinking of them, still, as made of what I can only call natural fibers, albeit cultivated ones.  The idea of a jack-o’lantern-headed scarecrow, while quite possibly impractical, is also one I really like.  So it stays.  (I was influenced by Bradbury’s depiction of Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud at an early age… the image of someone leaving this plane of existence by blowing out their own candle flame and then having the smoke curl out of ears and eyes and nose and mouth is, to me, incredibly powerful.)

Need to look at the associations of fire; off the top of my head, there’s just standard transformative stuff, the duality of creation and destruction, nothing particularly special.

Alright, I thought vacation was *over*…

It still feels like Friday.  And it’s past 2 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Am home, and since getting home… well, there’s been a lot of late nights and a lot of sleeping in.  Until noon, today, in fact.

I don’t like this.  I really don’t like the feeling of so much time lost, slipping away.  And I’m a bit worried because of how upset I actually was.  I’m not sure if it was just the sleeping in and feeling disoriented when I woke up, or being late to take my meds, or what.  I mean, I settled down fine for breakfast, but I was really unhappy before then.

I don’t imagine staying up until 2-a.m.-plus today will help either, though.

In other news… well, not much.  I’m going to be keeping an eye on my mood, and going back to the job hunt.  I made it out to stitch-n-bitch last night, and felt a bit more awkward than usual, but it wore off.  And I’m going to set my alarm for tomorrow.

Just about finished catching up on Breaking Bad; the closing music is playing for the end of season four.  Brilliant show.  Have started watching American Horror Story as well, and am–

Oh.

Oh holy crap.

Okay.  Well.  Just saw the end-end of the last episode of season four.  Walter, you son of a bitch.  That’s brilliant.  That fits.  It’s horrible.

I highly recommend that show, FTR.  Check it out, if you haven’t seen it.

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…