10 Reasons Why I Don’t Understand the Neo-Reactionary Alt Right: (10) “Deus Vult!”

 

10 REASONS WHY I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE NEO-REACTIONARY ALT RIGHT: (10) “DEUS VULT!”

 

This is particularly a catchphrase for the neo-reactionary alt right (rather than the neo-Nazi alt right), which demonstrates how much they are just one big medieval LARP.

 

The Latin phrase, “God wills it”, was the rallying cry when Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade. Of course, given that the alt right predominantly know their history (and most other things) from memes (because poorly designed internet cartoons or graphics are the most credible and reliable source of information), their use of the catchphrase originates more from the use of the phrase in the video game Crusader Kings (although it arguably more emulates Monty Python and the Holy Grail).

 

Typically, the neo-reactionary alt right ignore that the historical Crusades ultimately – and predictably – failed, a large part of which was because of Christian infighting, including the Fourth Crusade actually being directed at the Byzantine Empire that had originally requested the First Crusade. After all, what’s history got to do with the alt right’s purported campaign to revive history? Anyway, the alt right tend to use it not in any historical sense (despite endless memes about Crusaders and taking Jerusalem), but in the political sense against opposition outside their definition of Catholicism or Christianity – which is to say, almost anything, but particularly Islam or Islamic immigration. In other words, they see everything through the prism of a crusade and the appropriate response to opposition being violence.

 

Quite frankly, I find it hard to reconcile with the universalism inherent in the very name of the Catholic Church (to which much of the neo-reactionary alt right purport to pledge allegiance), let alone with what Jesus says in the Gospels. But then, what would he know, compared to the alt right?

10 Reasons Why I Don’t Understand the Neo-Reactionary Alt Right: (9) “Globalism”

 

10 REASONS WHY I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE NEO-REACTIONARY ALT RIGHT: (9) “GLOBALISM”

 

Overlapping the alt-right conspiracy theory of cultural Marxism or cultural Marxists is their conspiracy theory of globalism or globalists, typically as opposed to nationalists. Sometimes, they mix it up by identifying it with oligarchy, bankers or international finance, tipping off to whom they are really referring. (Spoiler alert – Jews. Sigh)

 

It’s particularly amusing that the neo-reactionary alt right constantly rants against their idea of a ‘globalist’ oligarchic elite, when their whole shtick is raving FOR their idea of aristocratic or oligarchic elites running countries. If one were to put one’s tongue in one’s cheek and take their ideas seriously, one might well argue that the new elite has more merit than the old elite, having earned its place by making money and displacing the old elite, rather than simply being landed aristocracy that has inherited the military successes of its ancestors by accident of birth.

 

Mostly however, this conspiracy theory is ridiculous, taking what is simply a phenomenon and labelling it a conspiracy. Globalism simply describes various exchanges between different people – trade and investment or the movement of goods and services (including money or financial services), cultural exchange or media, legal and political agreements or treaties. Of course, the usual focus of the alt right tends to be on one aspect of globalism – migration or the movement of people. However, ‘globalism’ – trade, cultural exchange, agreements or treaties and migration – has existed since before modern nations or nationalism, and indeed, ever since contact between different groups of people. The only difference is the increased scale of globalism in the modern era, due to improvements in communication and transport, as well as other factors such as increased population. Of course, the alt right tends to focus on ‘bankers’ or ‘international finance’ as ‘globalists’. Yet, one might also describe every farmer who grows or produces crops or animals for export and every business or worker in industries that import or export goods or services as ‘globalists’. There may be reasonable arguments for nations to impose limits on ‘globalism’ but calling it a conspiracy isn’t one of them.

 

And as usual, what strikes me most is the bad historical sense of the neo-reactionary alt right, particularly when by their own definition, they are primarily concerned with history. Their whole stance is to advocate a return to (idealized) history – to pre-democratic European monarchies, typically Catholic monarchies allied with the papacy. And yet, the increased scale of globalism in the modern era was effectively a product of, you guessed it, pre-democratic European monarchies – expanding from their so-called Age of Discovery or Exploration (most notably of the Americas) to their ‘globalist’ maritime empires that continued through to the twentieth century (with vestiges even in the twenty-first century). You don’t get much more of a ‘globalist elite’ than the parties to the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, when the Catholic monarchies of Spain and Portugal literally divided the world between them as arbitrated by the papacy, although of course other European monarchies – Britain, France and the Netherlands – subsequently ignored this treaty to forge their own ‘globalist’ maritime empires. That is, unless you count the Berlin Conference, in which all these monarchies – along with new players such as Belgium, Germany and Italy – literally divided up Africa between them. Even the increased modern scale of global mass immigration, that recurring alt right bugbear, commenced with Europe – or more precisely mass European migration, mostly to the Americas or Australasia, on a scale that may well exceed modern immigration as a proportion of population.

More Apostles of the Goddess & Saints of Pagan Catholicism – Fantasy

 

MORE APOSTLES OF THE GODDESS & SAINTS OF PAGAN CATHOLICISM

 

It’s time to canonise my saints of pagan catholicism from last week’s fantasy special mentions – no apostles of the goddess this time but another clean sweep for saints of pagan catholicism

 

SAINTS OF PAGAN CATHOLICISM (FEAST DAY SAINTS)

 

frankcaronfst

 

ST. MARY SHELLEY OF FRANKENSTEIN (FEAST DAY – 30 AUGUST)

 

St Mary Shelley earns her feast day as one of my saints of pagan catholicism for creating one of the most mythic figures of fantasy, horror and science fiction – or more precisely twin mythic figures in Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his monster.

 

Bonus points for casting it as a modern Promethean myth (explicitly in her own subtitle for the novel) of stealing the fire of creation, or in this case, the creation of life – or for that matter, a subversion of Creation itself in John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

 

Bonus points also for lending a name to science playing God. After all, somebody’s got to…

 

 

dr-jekyll-y-mr-hyde

 

ST. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON OF JEKYLL & HYDE (FEAST DAY – 13 NOVEMBER)

 

St. Robert Louis Stevenson ranks among the feast day saints of pagan catholicism for his creation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, twin halves of one of the most mythic figures of fantasy and horror – and one that suggested that heaven and hell lie within ourselves.

 

 

ST. BRAM STOKER OF DRACULA (FEAST DAY – 8 NOVEMBER)

 

St. Bram Stoker rides to his canonization as a feast day saint of pagan catholicism on the bat wings of his most famous creation, Dracula – perhaps the most mythic figure and certainly the archetypal vampire of popular culture, so much so that he might readily be re-imagined as a dark pagan god. Dracula codified the definitive vampire tropes in fiction, and with him, Stoker arguably created a cult mythos of modern vampire fantasy to rival Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos (or indeed to surpass it in terms of popularity).

 

Bonus points for making it a s€xual mythos, particularly with the Brides of Dracula, from the archetypal trinity of ‘weird sisters’ in Dracula’s castle to his newfound brides in Victorian England (Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray). Indeed, it wouldn’t be hard to recast Dracula as a Dionysian figure in a dark modern version of the Bacchae, with the Brides as latter day Maenads or attendants.

 

 

Lord-of-the-Jungle-6-corrected1

 

ST. EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS OF TARZAN (FEAST DAY – 1 SEPTEMBER)

 

St. Edgar Rice Burroughs swings to his canonization with his creation of Tarzan, perhaps the greatest mythic hero of popular culture and archetypal barbarian jungle hero.

 

Bonus points for the pagan goddess figure La, high priestess of La, one of the background characters in Tarzan’s adventures (and for that matter, his Martian princess Dejah Thoris in his Barsoom planetary romance series).

 

 

conan-pose

 

ST. ROBERT E. HOWARD OF CONAN (FEAST DAY – 22 JANUARY)

 

St. Robert E. Howard’s Conan earns his feast day as the creator of Conan, one of fantasy’s greatest and most iconic heroes, and a thoroughly pagan one to boot – “Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian; black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jewelled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feat”.

 

Conan is a pagan hero in a pagan prehistoric world, one adapted or drawn from numerous mythologies and condensed into the so-called Hyborian Age. Conan himself draws from Celtic mythology, with his indifferent deity Crom (possibly derived from the Irish Crom Cruach), typically invoked more in expletive than in prayer – “What use to call on him? Little he cares if men live or die. Better to be silent than to call his attention to you; he will send you dooms, not fortune! He is grim and loveless, but at birth he breathes power to strive and slay into a man’s soul. What else shall men ask of the gods?”

 

Crom, indeed!

 

Bonus points for crucifying Conan (in “A Witch Shall Be Born”), although of course Conan is stong enough to pull himself off the crucifix, which would make for an interesting gospel according to Conan.

 

SAINTS OF PAGAN CATHOLICISM

 

 

DorianGray_0

 

ST. OSCAR WILDE

 

St. Oscar Wilde earns his canonization pretty much for just being Ernest Oscar.

 

Bonus points for his pagan philosophy of aestheticism and his aesthetic works.

 

 

Top 10 Girls of Comics (Revamped)

 

TOP 10 GIRLS OF COMICS (REVAMPED)

 

I’ve been quietly working behind the scenes revising both my fantasy girls and my top tens – this is my revamped top 10 girls of comics.

Harley Quinn has earned her own entry in ninth place – while Suicide Squad may have been, ahem, an average film at best, her cinematic incarnation by Margot Robbie certainly raised her public profile (as well as being one of the few things people consistently liked about the film) so that she earned this entry. Similarly, I have substituted Mystique for Emma Frost as the X-woman in my seventh place entry. Although Emma may well rank higher in the comics, Mystique wins out because she is much more memorable as that nude blue girl in the cinematic franchise (appearing in every film so far, not including spin-offs). Also, did I say she’s that nude blue girl?

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Video Games (Honorable Mention): Chun-Li – Street Fighter (1991)

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF VIDEO GAMES (HONORABLE MENTION): CHUN-LI – STREET FIGHTER (1991)

 

Video games don’t get much more iconic than the Street Fighter franchise and its characters don’t get much more iconic than its flagship character Chun Li. Well, I suppose she is part of the holy trinity of Street Fighter, along with Ken and Ryu, but they’re both fairly generic guys in karate suits.

 

The Street Fighter franchise essentially defined the genre of fighting games – it “gave the genre depth, popularity, and, most importantly, legitimacy” and “even modern fighting games cling tightly to the features and tropes innovated by this series”. The game’s playable characters originate from different countries around the world, each with their own unique fighting style.

 

 

And Chun-Li has been an iconic part of that franchise – and indeed video games in general – when she was introduced as the franchise’s first playable female character in Street Fighter 2 in 1991. While she was not the first playable female fighting game character or female fighter, she is  definitely the first prominent and well-known one, earning herself the title of the “First Lady of Fighting Games”. She introduced the trend of female fighters being quicker and lighter – with a preference for kicks from her Amazonian thighs.

 

 

 

She was introduced as a heroic character, perhaps the game’s most heroic character – a Chinese police officer and Interpol agent with a strong sense of justice to avenge her father at the hands of the game’s villain, the nefarious M. Bison and his criminal organization Shadaloo.

 

She is trained in several styles of martial arts and apparently also a skilled firearm user as part of her police training, which begs the usual question of the genre why she doesn’t use them. She “has also been noted in-universe for her fluent English, investigating skills, penetrating eyes, beauty and acting talent for deception”.

 

 

Of course, what she is mostly known for in our universe is her iconic appearance, notably those Amazonian thighs, apparently originating in something of a thigh fetish in her original designer. Perhaps even more iconic is her costume of blue qipao or early twentieth-century Chinese dress, albeit modified to allow for those kicks and other wide range of martial arts movements. Her costume also includes large spiked bracelets, white combat boots and brown tights, while she wears her hair in buns or ‘ox horns’, with brocades and ribbons. The size of her thighs and her costumes have varied with game designs, with both being somewhat sleeker in an acrobatic unitard in the Street Fighter Alpha games, while she has had alternate costumes in other game versions.

 

 

Since her introduction, Chun-Li has become a mainstay of the franchise and indeed one of its flagship characters, appearing in sequel or spinoff games as well as the wider media franchise of films, anime, comics and merchandise. She has also consistently ranked amongst the top girls of video games.

 

 

 

And of course she has featured in cosplay, both in her iconic costume and her alternate costumes.

 

 

10 Reasons Why I Don’t Understand the Neo-Reactionary Alt Right: (8) “Cultural Marxism”

 

10 REASONS WHY I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE NEO-REACTIONARY ALT RIGHT: (8) “CULTURAL MARXISM

 

There’s that obsession with a stab-in-the-back plot again, as Cultural Marxism is the alt right conspiracy of choice. For the alt right, modern society is a product of an ongoing conspiracy, which they tend to identify as (Jewish) Cultural Marxism.

 

Cultural Marxism (and its nefarious agents or Cultural Marxists) is the bizarre conspiracy theory that classical Marxists realized that they could not win through economics and resorted to cultural Marxism to subvert western society by cultural revolution instead – seizing the sources of culture or influence such as academia and media to promote ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ ideas. In some of the more titillating versions of the theory, this involved conflating Marx with Freud to produce the S€xual Revolution (or ‘s€xual Bolshevism’), which admittedly sounds a LOT more fun than standard Marxist communism. This time, the Revolution will be televised – and rated X! More usually, they tend to connect it to actual cultural Marxism, the so-called Frankfurt School or small group of academics engaged in an esoteric and obscure field of social theory or philosophy – that, according to the theory, when it left Nazi Germany, then embarked on world domination over decades through its powers of Jewish mind control. Quite frankly, if anyone managed to pull this off, they kind of deserve to win.

 

I’m strongly anti-communist (in terms of history that is, as there aren’t many actual communists about these days) and relish any opportunity to roleplay Paranoia by denouncing people as commie mutant traitors, but even I find this theory ridiculous. It is absurd to propose that the centers of power and influence in the Western world, with its entrenched capitalism, are secretly communist beyond McCarthy’s wildest nightmares. Or that there is a singular and all-encompassing communist conspiracy, given the divisions or in-fighting within communism – and the disintegration of Soviet communism (which, with the whole Cold War thing, begs the question for cultural Marxist conspiracy theory, what was all THAT about?).

 

Ultimately, cultural Marxism as it is used by the alt right is meaningless, because it is so inchoate and all-encompassing as it extends to everything they don’t like, or in other words, virtually every element in modern society throughout the world. I mean, seriously, they draw up convoluted flowcharts of cultural Marxism that resemble the organizational chart of SPECTRE extending its international tentacles into everything. Even things that are inconsistent with each other or that predate academic cultural Marxism – so that wilder variations of this theory not only seem to conflate Marx and Freud, but throw them in with H.G. Wells and his time machine, which admittedly would be an awesome science fiction plot.

 

And of course, it is literally recycled from original Nazi conspiracy theory of Cultural Bolshevism used to abuse political opponent –  in particular, Jews were secretly orchestrating the spread of Communism (or Jewish Bolshevism) as well as promoting sexual and gender permissiveness (sexual Bolshevism!), and at the same time also behind international finance and capitalism.

10 Reasons Why I Don’t Understand the Neo-Reactionary Alt Right: (7) “Cuck!”

Cuck! Cuck! Cuck!

 

10 REASONS WHY I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE NEO-REACTIONARY ALT RIGHT: (7) “CUCK!”

 

The balance of things I don’t understand about the neo-reactionary alt right consists of their usual suspect catchphrases – although they are helpful in that they are terms that, when I see them being used, I can immediately dismiss their source as any sort of serious political discourse. Or meaningful communication as opposed to troll slang.

 

And of these terms, perhaps the most notorious – and the most loaded with various pathologies – is “cuck”, although its repetition by the alt right does prompt thoughts of them clucking like chickens, and about as mindlessly.

 

For the alt term, the term cuck is perhaps their ultimate pejorative term or term of abuse, although it essentially translates for normal people as not being racist or fascist enough – or, you know, possessed of basic reason and empathy.

 

The alt right intend it as a term for appeasement, weakness or surrender, which begs the question of why they don’t use alternative terms more suited to that usage. Instead, all their worst racist and sexist pathologies come together in a foul, thick, steaming miasma of a word – shortened from cuckold, the derisory term for the husband of an adulterous wife, particularly in the racially fetishized sense of a (white) husband who meekly stands by or passively watches while his wife has s€x with another (black or non-white) male.

 

At its sick heart then, the term cuck has the extraordinary implication that any peaceful coexistence or compromise literally equates to white men acquiescing in or offering up white women (typically wives or daughters) s€xually to non-white men.

 

Seriously.

 

Almost as extraordinary are the other derogatory terms used by the alt right for, well, essentially everyone else. Of course, for those people or things to which they are particularly opposed they use degeneracy or degenerate, borrowed straight from the original fascists and Nazis. Otherwise, they tend to oppose their Matrix red pill reference for themselves by referring to the rest of the community that doesn’t share their ideology (or in other words, sane) as blue-pilled, or even more derisively, “normies”. Although, certainly some sort of pill or medication is in order for the alt right…

10 Reasons Why I Don’t Understand the Neo-Reactionary Alt-Right: (6) It’s Conspiracy Theorist

 

10 REASONS WHY I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE NEO-REACTIONARY ALT RIGHT: (6) IT’S CONSPIRACY THEORIST

 

Remember that characteristic of fascism – obsession with a plot, typically of the stab-in-the-back variety? Well, the alt right has it in spades. Indeed, for them, modern society is essentially the product of conspiracy and an ongoing conspiracy against them, a grand unified conspiracy theory as it were (although it doesn’t take much for the alt right to devolve into competing conspiracy theories). Usually that point of unification is anti-Semitism, typically mixed with anti-Americanism, albeit often disguised in terms of ‘bankers’ or ‘international finance’. I mean, how many times can they keep warming up the leftovers of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

 

I have a pet hate for the whole ‘golden age’ mentality and associated stab-in-the-back conspiracy theories of the neo-reactionary alt right. If pre-democratic European Christian monarchy was such a golden age, then how did it come to an end? Unless of course, it was not so golden after all, at least in that it could be so universally displaced or replaced. There’s a similar problem with stab-in-the-back conspiracy theories. In the words of my favorite anarchist Bob Black, “fascist ideology always incongruously asserts to its audience, its chosen people, that they are at one and the same time oppressed and superior. The Germans didn’t really lose the First World War — how could they? ex hypothesi they are superior — therefore, they were stabbed in the back. (But how could a superior race let such a situation arise in the first place?)

 

Also, there’s a word for a ‘conspiracy’ that is so all-encompassing that it extends throughout the world and every element of society. It’s called history – and it tends to happen from change rather than conspiracy.

10 Reasons Why I Don’t Understand the Neo-Reactionary Alt Right: (5) It’s Sexist and Misogynist

“Do you want the fall of Western civilization? Because that’s how you get the fall of Western civilization!”

 

10 REASONS WHY I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE NEO-REACTIONARY ALT RIGHT: (5) IT’S SEXIST (AND MISOGYNIST)

 

Well, duh – again.

 

Sexism or misogyny is as much of a defining characteristic of the alt right as racism. Possibly even more so, particularly in its neo-reactionary wing, which contrives a more muted racism than the neo-Nazi wing. The alt-right has cross-pollinated (or is that cross-polluted?) with much of the internet ‘manosphere’ – MRA or men’s rights activists’ and the so-called ‘red pill’ community, with both the alt-right and manosphere sharing the latter term for their newfound ‘consciousness’ of the world a la the Matrix. To borrow from Rationalwiki, just don’t point out the irony that they have wholeheartedly embraced a term from a movie written and directed by two transgender women for something by which a black man and a woman convince a white man to fight oppression.

 

Again, I’m not going to argue the sexism or misogyny here, because I shouldn’t have to argue about something that sees one half of all people should be subordinate to the other. It just strikes me is that for a ‘movement’ that claims to champion white people, the alt right sure doesn’t actually like many white people. (And that’s begging the question of who is actually ‘white’, something for a subsequent feature). For one thing, it doesn’t like any white people of different sexuality or ideology to their own preference, but most of all, they don’t seem to like white women. Or at least ‘non-traditional’ white women, by which they mean white women who do anything other than stay at home serving white men and pumping out white babies. Or don’t do it subordinately enough. Indeed, if anything, the alt right seems to hold such ‘renegade’ white women with a contempt exceeding even that they have for non-white people – typically to the effect, that traitors are worse than enemies. You see, because it’s the white women that are letting in the non-white people, and worse, mixing with them. And you can be sure that “race-traitors” and “race-mixing” are the nicer terms they use, particularly when the mixing is in a Biblical sense. You see, it’s feminism (and feminization) that is one of the major reasons, if not THE major reason, for the alt-right’s touted decline and fall of Western civilization. Sometimes they try to disguise themselves by saying it’s radical feminism, but really it’s any feminism – given that they yearn to reverse even female suffrage. Seriously.

 

As in, seriously, shut up now, alt right.

Top 10 Fantasy – Special Mention (Part 2)

 

TOP 10 FANTASY – SPECIAL MENTION (PART 2)

 

frankenstein_by_caseycallenderart-d4dsdve

 

(1) MARY SHELLEY – FRANKENSTEIN (1819)

 

Frankenstein is one of the most iconic figures in horror, fantasy and SF. And yes, literary purists, I know that Frankenstein was Dr. Victor Frankenstein (perhaps the most famous doctor in literature), not his nameless monster – but the latter has also been named Frankenstein by popular culture and they’re a matched pair in any event.

 

Of course, their iconic stature owes more to their cinematic adaptations rather than the original novel by Mary Shelley, in which they are mutual tragic figures. Brian Aldiss claimed Mary Shelley as the mother of science fiction, but the original novel still seems more Gothic fantasy to me, particularly without all the, you know, science that we see in the cinematic adaptations. Mary Shelley was understandably scant on the process of the monster’s creation and does not describe it in her narrative, other than vague references to chemistry – as opposed to the electricity and “it’s alive!” and the rest of the monster’s creation that is the most iconic part of the cinematic adaptations. Indeed, the strength of Shelley’s work lies in its ideas and themes (including the Promethean theme of its subtitle, The Modern Prometheus), which have lent themselves to popular culture – the work itself may seem somewhat dated (and melodramatic) to a modern audience.

 

frankcaronfst

 

Victor Frankenstein is frequently invoked as a symbol of scientific hubris, a recurring theme in SF and popular culture in general – although his true villainy was more arguably abandoning his creature, because it was so, ah, ugly.

 

Perhaps it would have worked out better like this?

Perhaps it would have worked out better like this?

 

After he is so superficially abandoned, the monster rises to his own villainy with a murderous rampage. Okay, so murderous rampage is something of an overstatement, since he kills one person, Victor’s brother, William (and an innocent servant girl is hanged for the crime). He approaches Victor in truce, seeking Victor create a female companion for him. Victor initially does so, then destroys her as he fears a race of monsters. (Really, Victor? Come on – show a little imagination, man. You could always create her without ovaries. Or make the monster a male companion). The monster renews his rampage with a vengeance, or more vengeance anyway – killing Victor’s close friend and then Victor’s bride Elizabeth. In her bed on their wedding night – admittedly a nice villainous touch. Victor’s father dies of grief, as was the fashion at that time. Victor then pursues the monster to the Arctic for his own vengeance, but fails miserably and freezes instead. The monster then mourns his creator, perhaps because he realizes he will now have nothing to do, and vows to destroy himself.

 

In the novel, the character of Frankenstein’s monster is somewhat different from his iconic film appearance, not least because he is sensitive and emotional – like an emo Hulk without the smashing. He is also highly articulate and literate, indeed having read Paradise Lost – clearly no good could come of that. Even so, he is as iconic as his creator – an enduring influence in theme, when not directly adapted in name or image. In his personal study of horror, Danse Macabre, Stephen King considered Frankenstein’s monster (along with Dracula and the Werewolf) to be an archetype of numerous horror figures in fiction, in a role he referred to as “The Thing Without a Name” – although he acknowledged that “its classical unity is broken only by the author’s uncertainty as to where the fatal flaw lies—is it in Victor’s hubris (usurping a power that belongs only to God) or in his failure to take responsibility for his creation after endowing it with the life-spark?”

 

RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

 

dr-jekyll-y-mr-hyde

 

(2) ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON – THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1886)

 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the alternative halves of the iconic character from Robert Louis Stevenson’s short novel “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, with the latter as the monstrous or villainous half (although that is arguable as Jekyll unleashed Hyde in the first place).

 

Hyde’s villainy is characteristic of his original Victorian melodrama, as he does not actually do much. At the outset of the novel, he tramples and injures a young girl, but pays compensation when accosted! In fairness, he does enjoy nightly forays of unidentified depravity, and ultimately does beat a man to death with a cane. The appeal of the novel lies in its now well known twist that the respectable Dr. Henry Jekyll IS the evil Mr. Edward Hyde – or more precisely, transforms, into Mr. Hyde. Initially, that is with a serum of his own creation – and somewhat surprisingly, Hyde is more diminutive than Jekyll. Over time, however, Hyde becomes stronger and more powerful than Jekyll, such that Jekyll begins to involuntarily transform into Hyde without the serum, firstly while sleeping and then in waking hours – and Jekyll has to use the serum to transform himself back. Ultimately, Jekyll commits suicide as his serum is about to be exhausted – and accordingly his ability to reverse the transformation.

 

Jekyll and Hyde have achieved iconic stature, which has been a source of adaptation or influence ever since (with perhaps my personal favorite being Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde), perhaps reinforced by Jack the Ripper shortly after its publication. It is in turn an enduring modern adaptation of werewolf legend. Hyde is symbolic of the Dark Side of each of us, the inner struggle between good and evil within each of us.

 

RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

 

 

dracula4541611835

 

(3) BRAM STOKER – DRACULA (1897)

 

Count Dracula is THE vampire – in the words of TV Tropes, as Sherlock Holmes is to detectives, James Bond is to secret agents and Superman is to superheroes, so Dracula is to vampires. The eponymous villain of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel is the archetypal vampire, such that his name is synonymous with vampire – again in the words of TV Tropes, the vampire known even by people not familiar with the book or even the genre, particularly through countless (heh) adaptations in popular culture.

 

draculadownload (1)

 

Indeed, Bram Stoker’s novel codified the definitive vampire tropes in fiction, although Dracula still manages walking around in sunlight without bursting into flame (albeit depowered) and certainly without sparkling. The novel itself can be somewhat surprising to those more familiar with cinematic adaptations, since it is told in an epistolary format through letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, ships’ logs and so on. However, most of the plot elements have been adapted into popular culture – Jonathan Harker as Dracula’s guest in Transylvania, (unknowingly helping the latter ‘invade’ England), Harker’s ill-fated predecessor Renfield (now eating his way up the food chain from insects in an asylum in an attempt to emulate Dracula), the Brides of Dracula (soon to extend to the unfortunate Lucy Westenra and Harker’s fiancee Mina Murray), Lucy Westenra’s band of suitors, Abraham Van Helsing.  The novel “has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel, and invasion literature”. Arguably also, Dracula is amongst the first supervillains in popular culture, and potentially a Dark Lord to rival Sauron in the genre of fantasy. Indeed, it wouldn’t be too hard to recast Dracula as The Lord of the Rings, substituting Transylvania for Mordor and the Brides for the Black Riders (only much sexier). Kim Newman did something of the sort with his Anno Dracula series, where Dracula bests Van Helsing and vampirizes Queen Victoria to rule the British Empire. Or at least, Dracula might have done if he’d had any sort of plan in Stoker’s book beyond picking up British chicks – but then that’s just how he swings, baby.

 

Drac01-Cov-D-Sub-Parrillo

 

Essentially, if a work of fiction in any medium involves vampires, chances are it will at least involve a reference to Dracula at some point, if not an adaptation (or subversion) of him, directly or indirectly. He has apparently appeared in more films than any other character, fictional or otherwise, except for Sherlock Holmes, including films where they have appeared together and which would be utterly awesome. (Apparently, Godzilla, James Bond and Mickey Mouse rank next). Dracula is also an iconic villain in fantasy or horror who was adapted from a figure almost as iconic and villainous from some perspectives (but heroic from others, notably his native Romania or Transylvania) – Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler, named after his favorite hobby. Or Vlad Dracula – Son of the Dragon, which sounds just as badass as the fictional character (but perhaps not so much for his estimated 40,000 – 100,000 victims).

 

RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 5 STARS*****

 

Lord-of-the-Jungle-6-corrected1

 

(4) EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS – ADVENTURES OF TARZAN (1912-1947 AND BEYOND!)

 

Tarzan is perhaps the most iconic hero of fantasy and science fiction – the archetypal jungle hero (or perhaps modern barbarian hero), in the series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, from the first novel Tarzan of the Apes in 1912 to Tarzan and the Foreign Legion in 1947 (not including posthumous publications), as well as all the adaptations in popular culture.

 

Born John Clayton and heir to English aristocracy as Lord Greystoke (or more precisely Viscount Greystoke), he was marooned with his aristocrat parents and ‘adopted’ after their deaths by a maternal female ape within a ‘tribe’ of great apes – indeed, Tarzan is his name in the ape language.

 

Philip Jose Farmer has helpfully condensed Tarzan’s fictional ‘biography’ from the series by Edgar Rice Burroughs into his book Tarzan Alive, an entertaining read and worthy substitute for reading the series. Farmer was an enduring fan of the character and wrote of Tarzan (or his world) in a number of books – most infamously in A Feast Unknown, featuring a thinly veiled erotic pastiche of Tarzan and Doc Savage (where they fight each other with their erections – I bet THAT got your attention), or most famously, in his so-called Wold Newton Universe, where he linked together a number of fictional superheroes to the effect of a meteorite.

 

And I say superheroes as Tarzan is a fantasy hero with virtually superhuman powers – after all, we’re talking someone who has wrestled virtually every animal.

 

Indeed, Tarzan's workout seems to be to wrestle a different animal each day - sometimes he skips shark day

Indeed, Tarzan’s workout seems to be to wrestle a different animal each day – sometimes he skips shark day

 

In short, he easily out-Batmans Batman and is the Superman of the jungle.

 

He is also of superhuman intelligence – a feature not readily discerned from the unfortunate monosyllabic and broken English of his screen adaptations. In the books – indeed, the first book – he could read English before he could speak it, having taught himself to read from the children’s picture books left in his parents log cabin and deducing the symbols as a language, in complete isolation from humans. He also spoke French before he spoke English, learning it from the first European he encountered. He readily learns to speak English – as well as thirty or so languages after that. So much for “Me Tarzan, you Jane”.

 

tarzan646c494480fdeea8e234e65017bf42ff

 

Despite a certain lack of plausibility, he remains an enduring hero – a “daydream figure” who obviously appeals to our continuing fascination for an animal or nature hero (and perhaps less fortunately to a ‘white god’ figure)

 

RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

 

conan-pose

 

(5) ROBERT E. HOWARD – CHRONICLES OF CONAN (1929 – 1936 AND BEYOND!)

 

Robert E. Howard’s Conan, often styled as Conan the Barbarian or Conan the Cimmerian (after his proto-Celtic homeland Cimmeria), is one of fantasy’s greatest and most iconic heroes, roaming the Hyborian Age punching out eldritch abominations and wizards. You know, the Hyborian Age – prehistoric Earth, “after the oceans drank Atlantis” and before recorded history. (Howard’s way of evoking historic cultures without any of that pesky research – he was writing quick magazine stories after all).”Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian; black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jewelled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feat”.

 

Conan is the definitive barbarian hero, playing a large part in creating the fantasy sub-genre of sword and sorcery (being the protagonist sword against the antagonist sorcery). Alternatively, he is the Hyborian Bond, with the requisite episodic Bond girl or two each tale – mostly classic damsels in distress of course, to be slung over his shoulder or hanging off his leg in fantasy art poses. In fairness, most characters, male or female, are damsels in distress compared to Conan himself. In his youth, he was thief, outlaw, mercenary and pirate – in middle age, he becomes warlord and king of Aquilonia, the greatest Hyborian kingdom.

 

Metropolis - Final

 

Conan is described as “sullen” and “smoldering”, with volcanic” blue eyes and a black “square-cut mane”. His size is never made clear, although it is clearly, uh, big. And strong. Strong enough to pull himself off a crucifix, which would make for an interesting gospel according to Conan. The literary character sensibly wears armor or clothing typical to his location – his comics or fantasy art counterparts usually wears the more visible option of loincloths and similar outfits suitable to body oil. He may be all muscle but he’s not dumb muscle – his rippling appearance belies a shrew intellect:  skilled as a warrior and in other trades, talented as a military and political leader, versed and literate in a number of languages.

 

In short, Conan is the sort of hero for which they coined the phrase mighty thews and it is fortunate that he is limited to his own heroic fantasy, because he’d make short work of any other – as George R. R. Martin observed of The Lord of the Rings, coming to it as he did from Conan

“Robert E. Howard’s stories usually opened with a giant serpent slithering by or an axe cleaving someone’s head in two. Tolkien opened his with a birthday party…Conan would hack a bloody path right through the Shire, end to end, I remembered thinking.”

 

On the other hand, Conan would have made quick work of the Quest, while making off with an elf girl or two...

On the other hand, Conan would have made quick work of the Quest, while making off with an elf girl or two…

 

RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

 

OTHER

 

DorianGray_0

 

OSCAR WILDE – THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1891)

 

Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray is of somewhat similar symbolism to Jekyll and Hyde, with his Hyde in a portrait rather than a serum – Dorian remains young while his magical portrait ages and shows all the signs of his corruption and depravity. And we all know what that ‘corruption and depravity’ was, don’t we, Oscar?  Which makes it all seem somewhat coy and not so depraved today – so that the modern reader might want to imagine something more evil than gallivanting around gay old London. In fairness, Dorian does murder his friend and the painter of the portrait, before blackmailing another friend into destroying the body. (He is also responsible for other deaths, but more through callousness and melodrama). Ultimately, he stabs the portrait, fatally transposing the wound to himself while swapping their appearances (so that the portrait is now young and innocent while he is aged and corrupt).

 

RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

 

monkey's paw

 

W.W. JACOBS – THE MONKEY’S PAW (1902)

 

This supernatural short story, penned by W.W. Jacobs (who mostly wrote sailing stories and other non-fantasy fiction) in 1902, has since achieved iconic status – not least for the near infinite variations and adaptations of its story.

 

The titular paw (removed from the dead titular monkey) is something of a cursed magical item, akin to the worst genies – it does indeed grant three wishes, but in the worst possible way, such that you wish you hadn’t wished in the first place (CENTURY OLD SPOILER ALERT…)

 

The protagonist couple, Mr. and Mrs. White, obtain it from Sergeant-Major Morris, who obtained it while with the British Army in India (although he does attempt to destroy it first by throwing it in the fire, but Mr. White recovers it). In a spirit of trivial levity and skepticism, Mr. White wishes for 200 pounds for the final payment on his house (although he doesn’t really need it). He does indeed get it – when his son dies in a work accident and the employer, although denying responsibility, pays the Whites a goodwill payment of…200 pounds. About a week or so after the funeral and maddened by grief, Mrs. White urges Mr. White for their son to return to life. Against his better judgement, he does so – and what follows is effective mounting suspense, building to the knocking at the door. His wife rushes to the door and fumbles with the locks, while he desperately retrieves the paw to make his third and final wish – which is revealed as Mrs. White opens the door to find nothing there. (I guess the monkey’s paw couldn’t find a way to subvert taking back a former wish, as opposed to every child who has cried no take backsies!)

 

It has been directly parodied, not least by The Simpsons in one of their Halloween episodes, perhaps the highest accolade to which a literary short story can aspire (although how could wishing for world peace go so awry?)

 

Its story has been endlessly adapted in other works. One of the most notable is in Stephen King’s monkey’s paw of a novel, Pet Sematary, which even follows the original story’s rule of three as the protagonist just keeps burying things in that damned revenant Indian burying ground – his cat, his infant son and finally his wife. It also follows the effective suspense and final lack of reveal, which best leaves things to the audience’s imagination (“Darling!”) – the cinematic adaptation not so much, as the film fumbled the final reveal by actually showing it. However, another notable television adaptation of the original story also followed the final lack of reveal – the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Forever” (in which Dawn and Spike wish for Buffy’s mother, died of cancer, to return – although it is Buffy herself who rushes to the door).

 

RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****