In this episode, your hosts delve into two jungles; one 8,000 miles removed from from familiar Twin Peaks psychogeography, and the other in the very center of America’s heartland. One set in, arguably, the most hopeful American Decade, the 1960s. The other marinates in the psychic despair of “The End of History.”
Both, in their own ver different ways could be called Cold War movies. They depict the varied fields the first Post-Modern War took place on: one at its figurative and literal hottest, the other in the chill of its coldest pyrrhic victory, where the forces of Liberal Democracy declared themselves winners of the conflict, and in so doing managed to grab defeat from the rushing jaws of victory. This juxtaposition became even more interesting to us when we realized that both “Apocalypse Now” and “Candyman” have their tap roots sunk deep into the 19th century, the slave trade, and the most murderous ghost to ever stalk the world: Colonialism.
So, what does a psychedelic war movie based on Joseph Conrad’s 19th century critique of Belgian murder in the Congo, “Heart of Darkness”, have in common with a ghost story set in Chicago’s most notoriously failed housing project? Join us and find out what we think about domineering, even cannibalistic power structures, the desperate revenge and stratagems of resistance by oppressed lands and peoples, and the weird nature of very real evil have to do with it.
If you are patient with us, we will trace Conrad’s river of blood through its roots in a disturbingly mundane 19th century colonial genocide to the weirdly repressive focus of slasher mythopoetics up to the present moment (“The horror. The horror.”) we find ourselves in. If you are very, very patient with us, we might even say something about how all this relates to how Lynch and Frost see the World.
Some jungles are made of Douglas Firs.
“You are entering the vicinity of an area adjacent to a location. The kind of place where there might be a monster or some kind of weird mirror. These are just examples. It could also be something much better. Prepare to enter, The Scary Door.”
— Futurama, “A Head In The Polls”
An episode about such vast and important subjects as “Apertures and Doorways” deserves more than a few scattered puns and pop culture references to introduce it. You, dear listener, deserve insightful analysis and deeply researched facts of impeccable pedigree. The sort of treatment that a Joshi, a Price or a Vandermeer would give. These are just examples. It couldn’t get much better.
While not that, we are still proud of some of the far shorelines that this conversation paradoxically beached itself on. We start with the need for an inciting incident to enter into a protagonist (or at least their house) through a door of some kind. This is either the traditional sort of door, or the more metaphorical kind, such as those reputed to window the soul. For the auteur director to which we focus much of our interest, the camera aperture may be more apropos, but Lynch is not the first stop on our weird odyssey this episode.
Ligotti is in fact the beginning and end of our conversational carnival this time out. We are the Grimscribe’s Puppets as he leads us from the heights of horror celebrating “The Last Feast of Harlequin” and “The Frolic” to the absurd humor of the famous parody of his style reviewing a particularly horrifying pizza product sporting a crust too insane to contemplate, much less devour. We end on a familiar territory made alien in his unproduced script for the X-files: “Crampton.”
Karl forgets to mention the chain of thought that runs from That Town to Barbara Crampton, to the curious interplay of horror and other dangerous subjects. This is almost certainly a good thing, since he was planning on referencing what the rift that Elle opens to the Upside Down in Stranger Things most resembles. Honestly, the mention of Lovecraftian sinuses is plenty bad enough. Jubel saves the day by defining Liminality, allowing us to ride the Lost Highway all the way to a paradoxical shoreline by way of CS Lewis’ alternate dimensions of Christian Allegory, Altered States of consciousness like Beyond the Black Rainbow, Dreamscape, and in a fortunately family friendly way, Stranger Things. Our indulgence in nostalgia takes a Naval turn with Jubel’s mention of Battleship Potemkin and Karl’s incoherent babble about the horizontal time-traveling hurricane that swallows the USS Nimitz in The Final Countdown.
From the warmth of the South Pacific in 1941, we turn our attention to one cold night in February of 1989, and how the roads we travel matter. Even when they aren’t matter and don’t behave as roads. Those equivocal paths may lead to you to a set of freestanding curtains or a Scary Door, but there is no reason to be afraid. After all, fear is the mind-killer that gets you eaten by the Lurker On The Threshold. If you let the path pass through you, and turn your mind’s eye back toward the shimmering aperture you will realize that,
“Beyond this world strange things are known.
Use the key, unlock the door.
Come explore this dream’s creation,
Enter the world of imagination.”
— Rush, “The Twilight Zone”
So, your hosts will be talking about Aliens. We talk a lot about how very, very similar our modern abduction narratives are to 17th Century fairy stories, and a little about how Twin Peaks‘ concept of lodge denizens as aliens (or aliens as the lodge entities?) Heralded the modern state of the folklore.
In order to do so, it was necessary to time-travel to the beginning of human culture, tracing down the path of daylight disks and flying saucers through the ages until H.P. Lovecraft and Charles Fort hitch us to Chariots of the Gods? The gods contained in that dog eared and yellowed paperback conveyance entice us, beckon us on through the final and most dangerous leg of our journey toward final and horrible truth.
That truth is a gaping maw. A yawning Stargate leading not only your hosts, but also you true believer, to fictionalization and beyond! There, in that gulf of ultimate chaos, we have arranged for you to have a Close Encounter (kind currently unclassified) with a mysterious Blue Book crammed ever so deeply In the Mouth of Madness. A mouth constantly burbling infinite inanities in the long-lost language of….
…Please stand by.
Today, Counter Esperanto is celebrating Women in Horror Month, which is February and therefore a bit in the rear-view mirror, but now it’s March, which is Women’s History Month, so it all works out in the end! Karl and Jubel begin by discussing Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and “Don’t Look Now.”
Daphne du Maurier brought the Gothic into the 20th century, and looked at the modern world, and human relationships through the classic Gothic lens. High-profile adaptations from Alfred Hitchcock and Nicholas Roeg helped to solidify her legacy, but while she is certainly not a forgotten writer now, her extraordinary work deserves praise and reappraisal as some of the finest horror written in the 20th century.
We look at some other classic authors, but it is important to us that we help spread the word regarding the exciting work that is being made here and now. Not only do we live in the so-called “Weird Renaissance,” where hundreds of talented authors are able to disseminate their work through digital media and boutique small-press publishers, but many of the best of these authors happen to be women. So in this episode, Jubel presents a short piece written about some of his favorite women authors working today: Gemma Files, Livia Llewellyn, Nadia Bulkin, Betty Rocksteady and S.P. Miskowski.
We all need women in horror month.