Sunday, October 26, 2014

The 80s Make Everything More Epic

Here is one of the more nerdy pattern matches that my brain has ever inflicted on me. Ladies and gentlemen, how to use the technobabble from 80s cartoon Voltron (Lion version) as a checklist for starting your car:

  • Insert keys (keys)
  • Activate interlock (seatbelt)
  • Dynotherms connected (ignition)
  • Infracells are up (parking break)
  • Megathrusters are go (shift into gear)

And now you have something to look forward to as you go to work tomorrow.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Quote of the Moment: An Apocalyptic Review

"Every generation conjures its own apocalypses and dystopias. They give us an index of the collective anxieties of the era."

The New Yorker takes a look at one of my favorite classic post-apocalypse novels, A Canticle for Leibowitz, examining how the author's real life experience with apocalyptic events (World War II) influenced the book and his life.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

This Year's Halloween Costume

The time has come once again for me to pick my hypothetical Halloween costume. With wars and ebola stepping up the real life scary, I want something that will really upset people, maybe even provoke incoherent outbursts and irrational rage. The choice is clear: I will be a political campaign ad.

Bookworming: House of Leaves

House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski, **
How to start describing a book with a dedication which reads "This is not for you."? At it's heart lies the tidy horror story told in a documentary made by a photojournalist of what happened when he and his family moved into a house that was somehow bigger on the inside than the outside. Because of the edited nature of a documentary, and because the documentary is of the creator's family, much of the motivations of those involved are unclear. It's therefore a good thing that we the readers are presented this narration in the context of an academic examination of the film, covering copious theories, diversions, and many, many annotated footnotes. Except that this academic treatise is presented to us by a man on the fringes of society who found said documents and adds his own commentary in yet more annotations and his own pages-long narrative diversions. He quickly lets us know that the author of the extended essay appears to be making up many of his references, and in fact there is no evidence the documentary exists. And yet, the man's notes give more and more evidence of mental decline and obsession with the document he found. And if that weren't enough the book's "editors" chime in with the dark context of the compiler's history, leading to further questions about what might be real and what not.

The word "house" always appears blue.

And so goes House of Leaves: metaphor within metaphor, unreliable narrator within unreliable narrator. Narrative chaining to analysis chaining to footnote, footnote of the footnote, and reference to the copious, seemingly unrelated appendices. This is less a novel than a work of art trying to deconstruct a wide variety of writing styles from within. The central horror story is a genuinely great one which taps directly into a subversion of home being a safe place. The entire book seems meant to have a similar effect on book lovers. It is more than just a non-linear style fostered by the jumps from main content to footnotes to end notes and back, the portions that represent the visual documentary also take on the aspects of that tale, changing orientation on the page, even flowing "through" the pages at one point.

So what did I actually think of it? Well, it certainly wan't an easy read. I can appreciate the artistry of it to some extent, but I also suspect that I lack the literary training or exposure to really appreciate some of the levels of irony (or is it nihilism?) going on within the pages. In the end, I can say, yes there is a good story in here, maybe even more than one, but digging it out is work. Judging by the comments on Goodreads, it is work you will either find rewarding or utterly pretentious. The one thing I can confidently say: this was the oddest book I have ever read.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ten Ways the World Ends

A quick link tonight to io9's taxonomy of fictional apocalypses. It provides an excellent primer into the ways fears feed into setting choices in apocalyptic stories.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Quote of the Moment

Hopelessness is the limit and beginning of a new kind of hope. You have to keep going – not to achieve dreams of beautiful mountaintop forests, but because life is more powerful than death. Hopelessness makes possible a new hope, a faith in the basic tissue of life that is stronger than any disaster. This is how humanity survives. This is the strength that keeps us going.”
–Naseer Hassan, as quoted by Roy Scranton in “Rolling Stone” “Back to Baghdad: Life in the City of Doom”.