Why Can’t Monsters Get Along With Other Monsters: Thoughts on Pacific Rim, Lovecraft, and the Endless Abyss
– H.P. Lovecraft
Essentially every culture has a mythological history which includes primal, undifferentiated formlessness: the abyss, as much topless as it is bottomless. Figuratively speaking, this abyss is neither aquatic nor interplanetary. Rather, it’s a little of both. The howling Tao, the primal ocean upon which Vishnu slumbered, amorphous being, chaos preceding time, primordial stew.
Today, in cockpits and bathyspheres, astronauts and their aquatic counterparts contort into metal cabins, surrounded by death, to peer from thick windows into empty, hostile landscapes. Cloaked in metal, they transport light where there has never been any — to what James Cameron, after his much-ballyhooed 2012 submersible dive to the Challenger Deep, called a “barren, desolate lunar plain,” or (more viscerally) which William Beebe, passenger in the world’s first bathysphere, described as “the black pit-mouth of hell itself.” From this hell-mouth emerge our literature’s greatest monsters, those embodying primeval dread itself: the Kraken of maritime myth, Godzilla, Cthulu, and now, the Kaiju aliens, which shimmy through an interdimensional breach at the bottom of the ocean and sow chaos on the coasts of the world in Guillermo Del Toro’s magnificent new film, Pacific Rim. READ MORE >
I had a vivid nightmare—it involved a member of my nuclear family turned into a little person with a suction cup mouth. The mouth had tiny teeth around the inner rim. The family member was coming to hurt me and grab me with its little hands. I thought Why did he ever buy the new mouth? because I knew that installing that on his face was what had changed everything. And I had to go up a narrow tower staircase and close a trap door behind me.
I woke up raining sweat. I was literally vibrating. The feeling of authentic fear was also a kind of exhilaration. Related to the feeling of having escaped.
(Is there a word, perhaps a German word, for the vertigo one feels when waking up from a dream and realizing it wasn’t real? That is, the terrible disappointment of waking from a dream of finding millions of gold doubloons buried just under the dirt of your back yard and realizing you’re still broke—or the glorious relief of waking from a nightmare of losing limbs or being humiliated, only to realize it never happened—or the guilty rush of waking from a dream of murder to think: Whoa… I got away with it. Because I’ve had all of those.)
I realized I hadn’t had that feeling in a long time—hadn’t had a nightmare that felt so real it scared me. I saw my heart beating fast through the skin of my chest. People pay money for that feeling. Then I realized I hadn’t been scared, genuinely scared like with a quickened heart rate, by a book or a film in recent memory.
Do you lose that susceptibility as you age (and read/watch more)? Because I know it happened to me more often as a young reader. Off the top of my head I tried to make a list of Shit that Actually Scared Me:
I’m the pain in the ass who makes deciding on a movie en masse impossible. But is it violent? How violent is it, if it is? Do animals get murdered? Do children get murdered? Eventually we’ll decide on a bonehead comedy or a beautifully shot Icelandic film about rafts in the gloaming.
Nicholson Baker wrote a horror story about potatoes. Penguins live in the sewers of Cape Town, South Africa.
Potatoes are a part of the family of plants sometimes called the nightshades. People refer to penguins as “nature’s clowns.”
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