October

The latter half of the month has been a bit much, but rather than focussing on that I’m going to note the positive.

First, it’s October, which is always a good month. A surprising number of the neighbours put up their decorations on the 2nd, and when I walk to the bus stop for work I’ve been walking past tombstones and skeletons and grasping decomposing hands and one disturbingly large and green plastic Slimer and cobwebs and–

Look, even the more restrained houses have hay bales. It’s a very enthusiastic neighbourhood this year.

I finally got a chance to sit down and rewatch Trick ‘r Treat, and that was comfortably reassuring as always. I usually try to watch something seasonal in October, and that was the first chance I had. (Speaking of which, a YouTube channel called CineFix did a list of the top 5 horror movies of all time once you eliminate all the famous ones, and it seems pretty solid–there are a couple in there I haven’t seen, and I think I should catch them.)

I also got a few sketches done for Inktober. Nowhere near close to one a day, but it was good to sit down when I could and scribble something out in twenty-odd minutes.

And finally, I got a couple more stories into a state fit to send out, so I’ve started collecting even more rejections; I’m pretty sure I’m on track to make fifty submissions this year.

Advertisements

Twenty minutes into the Future…

During the entirely too excessive amount of time I spent on planes yesterday, one of them offered Mad Max[1] as an in-flight movie. And I saw the summary and grumbled, because the summary ran

In a post apocalyptic world, Australian policeman Max seeks to avenge the death of his family at the hands of bestial marauding bikers. (115 min)

Mad Max, I maintain, is not a post-apocalyptic movie (and dammit, you hyphenate that when it’s an adjective). I would listen to arguments that it’s a world in the slow beginnings of an apocalypse as society crumbles into a new dark age[2], but it ain’t post-apocalyptic. There wasn’t an apocalypse.

I do think it’s part of a really identifiable sub-genre of dark dystopias that are very low science fiction (if any) and that I think tend to get lumped into SF because they’re set “technically in the future” rather than because they’re movies about the effects of a new technology. I mean, things are in the future and it’s different and bad–that’s part of what SF is, right?

(We shall now pause for a regularly scheduled observation that if all SF was was complaints about how everything was going to hell, it would not deserve its title as “the literature of ideas”. Future rants about the reactionary nature of time travel may follow.)

But these movies… you know the kind I mean, right? The setting of Mad Max is undermaintained and there’s been a decay of the social order for some unspecified reason, but that’s it. Escape from New York came out in ’81, and there really isn’t any new technology in there; a bunch of it was probably developed during World War III, but that never really comes up. Dead End Drive-In is a low-tech (and very low-budget) excuse to pen a bunch of unemployed hooligans up in a isolated parking lot and leave them there.

I’m not saying these different-society-plausible-technology movies are bad. Some of them are bad. Some of them are fun. Some of them are pretty cool.

But I really don’t think they’re speculative fiction, and I wish I had a name for the sub-genre. I suppose they’re dystopias, or possibly just near-future dystopias, but I kind of wonder if someone else has already thought about this and come up with a better name.

(NB: Not saying the subgenre of “twenty minutes from now, it’ll be the grim dark future” is exclusively low or no SF–you can look at Rollerball, Death Race 2000, or RoboCop for counterexamples. Or Max Headroom, which is the source of the post’s title. And I have a bit to say about both Max Headroom and RoboCop, but it’s actually still 10 p.m. on my body clock and I think I need a nap, never mind all this sunshine.)

[1] Not Road Warrior, not Beyond Thunderdome, not Fury Road, just Mad Max.
[2] The distinction between apocalypse and societal decline is interesting, and one that I suspect largely has to do with framing and speed. (Possibly enhanced by weapons of mass destruction. I suspect that a society that crumbles without anyone having the potential to fire off nukes is going to do so rather more gracefully than a society with said potential, insofar as such processes can be called graceful.)

I think it’s the insects’ turn.

Poster for the 1988 movie MIRACLE MILE. I rewatched Miracle Mile tonight; last night, actually, by the time this post is done. (Spoilers follow.)

If you don’t know it; it’s a 1988 movie about a guy who accidentally gets a phone call telling him nuclear war is starting (has started? the missiles are locked in, at any rate), and LA will be nuked in 70 minutes. The rest of the movie is him trying to get to his girlfriend and escape the city.

He manages one of these things.

Miracle Mile is dated, and its pacing and dialogue make it a bit hard to approach, but it pulls itself together as the film goes on. Some of the scenes towards the end are surprisingly bleak; the frantic crawl through the traffic jam is something I’ve never quite seen a match for. And it is an unapologetically downer ending[1]; I find it rather touching as well, which mellows it slightly, but fundamentally this is a movie that unquestioningly accepts that  nuclear war is going to be the end of things and waits for the characters to catch up.

“People are going to help each other, aren’t they? Rebuilding things?”
“I think it’s the insects’ turn.”

I would love to see a remake of it, but I’m not sure it could be done. It seems very much a movie rooted in the Cold War; the idea that a nuclear war could happen, that it was such a real and obvious and accepted fear that with so little prompting people would behave that way. I think you could convey a world in which that fear was present, but I think that for the audience it might be a case of learning that fear, not recognizing that fear.

[1] I said, to the light of my life, “is it really that much of a downer?” And he said to me, “World War Three started, LA is nuked, the main characters drown in tar. It’s a downer.”
He has a point.