Fear and Conquest

A review of Duane Burry’s Numbered (In Here Be Monsters: Tongues and Teeth: Issue Seven, 2012)

Cover photo courtesy of the publisher

Cover photo courtesy of the publisher

Duane Burry’s Numbered presents humanity with an opportunity for interplanetary communication, a way of bridging the dark, silence of space. For a planet that has not discovered space travel, this is an incredible opportunity to speak to civilisations older and far distant than our own and share with them incredible wonders from a place of infinite diversity. The communication device is ancient in design and none of the interplanetary species that use it are aware of where it comes from.

But, the joy of interplanetary communication is quickly quashed when it is discovered that no one is willing to share anything about their distinctive worlds for fear of war. The vast interplanetary silences are not facilitated by the distance of space between worlds, but by terror and the fear of the threat that others might represent.

Numbered echoes the horrors of war and colonialism, where fear of potential threats over-rides a curiosity in different people.  Fearing war and potential threat, sentient races feel the need to conquer others before they become a threat – proving that fear is the universal constant.

To find out more about Here Be Monsters, visit their website at http://herebemonstersanthology.blogspot.ca/

Subversive Summonings

A Review of Claude Lalumiere’s The Ministry of Sacred Affairs (In Here Be Monsters: Tongues and Teeth: Issue Seven, 2012)
By Derek Newman-Stille

In The Ministry of Sacred Affairs, Lalumiere demonstrates his love of questioning social conventions and enforced messages by giving voice to a socially abject figure: the goblin, a figure hated by the public and viewed as a general threat to public safety.

Lalumiere creates a world where the Ministry of the Sacred has dogmatic control, gradually declaring anything that does not fit within its purview as blasphemous and subversive. The world becomes one of fear and isolation where anyone can be viewed as a danger to others, a traitor, or a potential terrorist. Any humanitarian outlook toward those judged to be subversive – whether rendering them aid or voicing concerns for their safety – can be viewed as an act of terrorism itself.

This is a world where secrecy is the most important lesson – keeping things hidden and never revealing too much of yourself, even to friends, family, and lovers. Lalumiere cautions readers about the dangers of giving in to fear of the Other and accepting the government and religious authority message of submission through fear, a government that uses the name of protection to enforce its control. Everything has been made into a threat.

Lalumiere uses the figure of the golem, an animated clay body without a will of its own, an image of the body subjected to total control to question the control that is imposed by religious and political authorities. Family secrets intersect with religious secrets as Leo’s father refuses to share the secrets of the creation of golems with him. But the golem becomes a figure that Leo shares his adolescent secrets with, all of the things that he couldn’t share with others. The golem becomes a manifestation of secrecy, the hidden, the unspoken. The golem becomes a vessel of secrets, of hidden fears, and the concerns that cannot be revealed to a society charged with terror and hatred. Despite being a figure that is designed by virtue of its creation itself as an unquestioning, silent vessel, the golem comes to illustrate the need for social change, the desire to challenge authority, and an image of resistance to the hegemony of fear. Lalumiere’s golem becomes a symbol for members of society without agency or voice. It is the golem who begins the process of standing up for the rights of the oppressed goblins in this society, taking on agency when it is needed to defend others.

Lalumiere unconventionally uses the figure of an old man, a 70 year old, to challenge convention. This, in itself challenges the too-often-seen portrayal of the elderly as unshaking and unchanging in their way of life and conservative in their viewpoints. Often the elderly are portrayed as people who enjoy the political use of fear to enforce conformity, so Lalumiere’s use of an elderly man to question the status quo impressively changes the reader’s preconceptions.

Lalumiere delightfully invites the reader to question everything and ignore limiting social messages by displaying a society where people who ask questions or challenge norms are cast as threats. Lalumiere uses the demonic figure of the goblin to represent the demonising of others in our society. He illustrates that the notion of “Truth” is subjective.

Explore more about this volume at http://herebemonstersanthology.blogspot.ca/ and find out more about Claude Lalumiere and his current projects at http://lostmyths.net/claude/

Eldritch Summonings from the World of the Unconventional

A Review of Here Be Monsters: Tongues and Teeth Edited by Duane Burry, Vincent Mackay, and Alexander Newcombe (Here be Monsters Speculative Fiction issue seven, September, 2012)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo courtesy of the publisher

Here Be Monsters: Tongues and Teeth is the first of the Here Be Monsters anthologies that I have read, and I am extremely impressed with the quality of work in this volume. It is great to see that an epic battle for which stories should be included in the volume, that, according to the editors involved “fighting with tooth, tentacle and claw… eldritch summonings [and] chaos magic” still proves its effectiveness in producing an incredible volume of speculative fiction – the old methods still produce incredible results.

The magical and monstrous suffuses every page of this volume, summoning the reader’s attention and passions. The stories in this volume question reader pre-conceptions, encouraging them on their own adventure into the darkness of their own subconscious to find the root of their social confinement and dig it up.

The volume itself becomes like a body of text or a textual body, laying out each section with a depiction of the body, illustrating that horrors come not from without, but from within.

Claude Lalumiere’s short story The Ministry of Sacred Affairs evokes the threat of a society that demonises others, a society where fear prevents any form of inquiry or debate and supporting the supernatural is viewed as a terrorist threat. Goblins and golems become figures that question the status-quo and shake up a society that has become complacent in its fear of others.

Numbered by Duane Burry continues the theme of questioning social fears. When communication technology is discovered that allows for interplanetary conversations and connections with aliens from other worlds, instead of viewing it as a method of discovery, it is perceived as a militaristic threat. Humans, unable to travel to the stars, are able to speak to other civilisations, talk to people from distant worlds who have foreign experiences and knowledge to share, but in a universe of fear, all they share are threats of war and questions about possible dangers. It is not the silent vastness of space that cuts off interplanetary voices, but the vast terror of the sentient mind and the secrecy that terror imposes.

Karl Johanson’s The Airlock Scene illustrates a different danger with encountering new worlds: beauraucracy and the need to perform for an audience at the expense of the adventure of exploring a new environment. Johanson portrays the need of scientific minds to mediocritise the fantastic through their pedantic ego battles. Like Burry’s story, Johanson’s is about political issues interfering with the sense of wonder the pervades exploration.

Universal questions are turned domestic in Amy Bright’s Private Transit where the monstrosity of domestic assault is displayed and one can see that abuse is as alienating as any landscape from space, causing the victim to lose all pieces of themselves to feed the monstrous abuser.

Pickle’s Story by Alexander Newcombe reveals the power of myth and legend as well as the bond that can develop between the human and the animal. Newcombe shows the power that gossip and tales can have in creating a reputation, and the power of a thief who wields lies to create his own mythology.

Tarquin Steiner evokes nostalgia in his story Cobbled by modeling it after a text-based computer game.

Camille Alexa casts us back into space in her Children of the Device where, despite being the fifth generation of inhabitants on a colony ship escaping from a doomed Earth, our traditions continue from New Year’s resolutions to war and greed.

Tyler MacFarlane brings the search for identity and the inescapability of ourselves back to the Earth in his Antennae. MacFarlane illustrates that despite the desire for a distraction, the next new thing, we always are brought back to ourselves.

We are reminded that we can’t escape from ourselves again in Carl Roloff’s If Not the Moon, Then the Exquisite Sun where humanity faces the destruction of the Earth by our own sun, and, in an attempt to save something about the human experience, decides to transmute the remaining human beings into crystals – converting individual human thoughts and experience into art that will reflect the burst of the sun into the universe. But Roloff reminds readers that eternity is an experience that is alien to humanity and transcendence is a form of loss itself.

Where Carl Roloff presents the mind as a form of escape and transcendence, Vincent Mackay’s Brain Freeze warns readers of the dangers of technologies of the mind. The mind becomes something that can be used for terrorism and war, converted into supermindbombs that can only be decoded through a process that seems equal parts psychology and computer programming. The Earth’s surface has been made uninhabitable by a field that requires inhabitants to control their own thoughts to the point at which they become insane. Thought becomes a weapon.

Thought is further explored as a vehicle for terror in Sterrennacht by Cat McDonald as art itself becomes a place where kidnap victims and stolen items can be stored. McDonald explores the idea of a world where people can enter into paintings and the terrifying effects of experiencing impressionist art from the inside. Van Gogh has never been so absorbing as McDonald explores the physical, auditory, and other sensory experiences of being totally enmeshed in the world of art. But art has an effect on those who experience it, and the danger of art is that it can consume you.

Ann Ewan explores the loss of humanity in a different way, through literal consumption by an ogre. In Ogre Baby, human beings are infected with ogreness (through ogre mud placed in the body of dead human beings) as a means for the ogres to reproduce. They depend on human beings as an infusion into their own tribe, as a way of expanding their numbers. The familiarity and difference of the human being and the ogre horrifies both species and, in the ogre, excites a deep hunger that may stem from their need to be partially human, to incorporate humanity into their monstrous form.

The body further fascinates Rich Larson in his Strings. The body becomes a marketable commodity, and re-shaped for sexuality. It is divorced of its thoughts so it can become a vessel for sexual pleasure, conveying the notion that as a society we tend to look at bodies in isolation, separate from their fundamental humanity.

Here Be Monsters: Tongues and Teeth is as much a voyage into the self as it is a voyage into the realm of the Other. Like the monster itself, the pages of this volume are dark mirrors reflecting all of the hidden things we like to forget. It is a volume that is fundamentally about the search for a deifining feature of our humanity, the fear of a loss of our humanity, and the dangers that are presented in the human spirit.

To find out more about this volume of Here Be Monsters and other volumes in the series, visit their website at http://herebemonstersanthology.blogspot.ca/

“I hear there are some quadrants where the residents sleep in a single tangled mass, all together, as though the proximity gives their small human bodies more weight when measured against the vastness of space outside these thin metal walls”

-Camille Alexa – Children of the Device (In Here Be Monsters: Tongues and Teeth: Issue Seven, 2012)

Quote – Huddling Together Against The Vastness of Space