He is a young god. Mythologically obscure, always just arriving at some new place to disrupt the status quo, wearing the start of a smile.
To me the mythos is stagnant, boring, and festering. Hardly any new ideas are brought in because too many people are trying to write like Lovecraft or perpetuate the same conventions, but they’re doing it by maintaining the status quo and not offering anything new. And quite frankly, I for one am sick of the same-old, same-old. The same product in a new package doesn’t fly anymore with me, and just the sheer commercialism of the franchise on whole has soured me to it. Not that commercialism is bad, but some of the conventions lumped under it using the mythos are.
Comment by Werecat on Who Cares About the Cthulhu Mythos? in the Key 23 archive.
This first of the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a fast and engaging read. The tale is told by the eponymous “construct”: a security unit android, something like a synthetic rent-a-cop for exoplanet missions. Murderbot has hacked its own governor module and become autonomous, and is mostly interested in consuming the Sanctuary Moon soap opera rather than doing assigned tasks. When a crisis arises to threaten the entire expedition, the self-hacked SecUnit exhibits surprising competencies while trying to conceal its liberated condition.
The best part of this book is the narrating voice of Murderbot, who is profoundly uncomfortable with social interaction, although fascinated by it, as demonstrated by the chosen diet of entertainment programming. Despite some difficulties, the humans of the crew have a much easier time treating Murderbot as a person than Murderbot does in behaving like one. A human describes Murderbot as “shy,” but that radically understates the difference of the construct’s perspective and alienation from human interaction. For all that, Murderbot’s professed laziness and apathy are endearing, as is its resentment for the incompetence of the avaricious corporation that has leased it to the crew.
I read this longish novella in two sittings. It sets up a longer series, but fully completes a plot arc within this first story.
Next day, the victims each receive a letter explaining that their receipt of the objects effected the delivery of a curse. The hex will cause them to come to know their true desires, symbolized by the magical objects. They will also now begin to realize they are acting as enemies of the human race by commodifying desire and working as the agents of soul-Control. The magic art-objects will weave into their dreams and desires, making their jobs now seem not only poisonously boring but also morally destructive. Their desires so magically awakened will ruin them for work in the Media – unless they turn to subversion and sabotage.
Hakim Bey, The Occult Assault on Institutions
Even though so many past and present conspiracy theories are exercises in paranoia rather than history, there have been real conspiracies down through the years; it’s worth remembering that even the Bavarian Illuminati did actually exist at one point, and attempted (however clumsily) a program of political subversion in late eighteenth-century Germany. Distasteful as it may be to modern scholarship, the material is there, and needs to be dealt with.
John Michael Greer, Caduceus III 2, An Embarrassment of Secrets
An absolutist, monarchical government could regularly violate the “rights” of its citizens. The despot decided what privileges each individual would enjoy—and everything according to one’s station. Moreover, if whatever you say or do is automatically scrutinized for possible subversion, what chance is there for a free society? The only recourse, it would seem—short of a revolution—is to operate in the shadows.
The “speculative fiction” of this collection is not hard sf by any stretch; it is not even very scientifically competent. Page 21 in the first story “Percipi” says that rebels living on the dark side of the moon “had survived five years of constant darkness.” This howler left me dubious when later stories offered wormhole-based propulsion and other technological leaps. These are also not generally stories with “big ideas” that are breaking conceptual new ground. There are an android uprising, zombie apocalypse (with an Invasion of the Body Snatchers inflection), a cyborg circus, robots tending a generation starship, and other well-worn themes that will be familiar to science fiction readers.
The jacket copy says that the book “envisages an alternate future as lived by the African diaspora.” But the individual stories aren’t clearly part of any sort of integral future history, and it wasn’t until the fifth story “Buck” that there was any clear indication of a principal character’s race. There’s no question that some of these stories do leverage author Courttia Newland’s perspective as a Black Englishman, and two of them use the Nommo spirits of the African Dogon people to characterize what seem to be extraterrestrials. Still, the science fiction element is definitely more consistent through the various stories than racial concerns are.
The title story “Cosmogramma” was all right, but it–like many of these–was little more than a vignette. In any case, I preferred the descriptive snapshot pieces like this one to the chronicle style evident in “Percipi.” Since the stories are typically quite short, there are a lot of them, and some of them really are notably strange and interesting. I best enjoyed the ones that incorporated significant elements of weird horror and/or were set closest to our contemporary situation, such as “Dark Matters” and “Link” that have city-dwelling youth encountering some sort of alien intelligence.
I really wanted to like this book, but I found it altogether a mixed bag, and it wasn’t one I returned to eagerly story after story.
The issue also contained a defense of the government’s right to snoop on its citizens—i.e. the opening of letters and private correspondences of people suspected of subversion—and also its right to protect loyal subjects from mail-tampering by secret societies (apparently, Hoffmann was paranoid that the Illuminati were spying on him).
These misconceptions may be summed up as follows:—Firstly, that Buddhism is a ‘heathen’ doctrine, whose adherents worship idols and pray to stone and wood; Secondly, that it is a mysterious sort of affair, connected with miracle-mongering and ‘esotericism’; and, Thirdly, that it is a backboneless, apathetic, pessimistic manner of philosophy, with annihilation as its goal and aim, tending to the subversion of all useful activities, well enough for ‘the dreamy peoples of the Orient,’—as those who know them least delight in calling them,—but totally unsuited to the more active and energetic nations of the West.
Allan Bennett, The Faith of the Future, The Value of Buddhism
the prudent but strict curtailment of the freedom of the press; the minute police supervision of all teachers and professors; and the ferreting out Illuminism in its most secret recesses…. The result will be that henceforth no one will be able to corrupt the opinion of the people … and that the real happiness of the people will no longer be threatened by the destruction of religion and the subversion of society.