The Genocide of the Vampires

A guest post by Noah Berlatsky, from his new book The Hammer Dracula Films: And Other Vampires. Which is great stuff that you should check out.

You can’t see a vampire in the mirror for the simple reason that the vampire is your reflection. The monsters onscreen are projections of human desires. Hammer audiences lick their fangs with Christopher Lee at all the delicious bosoms beckoning. Dracula pierces the exposed neck with a phallic oomph, just as the vampire hunter drives his rigid stake into the nubile beauty’s trembling form. Lust and blood drive both the living and undead; the population of Stephen King’s Jerusalem’s Lot is murdered by proliferating vampires, and then murdered again by the heroic vampire killers. First the vampires rage through the town like a consuming fire, and then, at the end of the book, they are themselves consumed. The same townspeople are destroyed once, then twice— as if the first time was so much fun it needed to be rewound and watched again.

In King’s Salem’s Lot (1976), the fact that the vampires are in fact, just us, is the point of the novel and its horror. King hates the people of Jerusalem’s Lot, and ...


Well that was a pleasant surprise, albeit on the whole more pleasant than surprising. It’s not quite fair to say that bottle episodes are easy to do well, because they’re very definitely not, but once you’ve got them working they tend to end up with enough momentum to pull off impressive things. “Detained” is a case in point. It doesn’t shed Class’s persistent problem of never aspiring to anything more than cliches done well, but it does at least manage to take the cliche to an interesting place that’s based firmly on what Class can do as a show.

What that is, given the singular lack of an original idea at any point so far this season, is good character work with an impressive ensemble. Which is maybe an obvious thing to say about a bottle episode - character work is what they inevitably end up hinging on. But “Detained” is a bracing reminder of just how good a cast of characters the show has. Even Matteusz and Charlie, who have generally been the weak links in the cast, get moments to shine here. The use of Matteusz as the first person to pick up the stone on one level ...

What is a Moral Person on Arrakis? (Dune)

This one has been a long time coming, I'm afraid, mostly because A) I took an extra week to get the book read, B) one recorded, I took my sweet-ass time getting the damn thing edited and C) this fucking election has taken basically all of my intellectual and creative energy over the last few weeks. Thankfully on the last, the election is now over, and all is back to something like normality, right?


Anyway, in this episode James is back and we're chatting Frank Herbert's Dune. I know there was some question about whether we'd be talking about the whole series or any of the ancillary material, but the original novel is more than enough I think for a single podcast episode. If James is up for returning to this universe in the future, we might do supplemental bits, but that's not on the agenda anytime soon. 

Go give it a listen, if you like. If nothing else, an extended chat about the Great Houses of the Landsraad and the difficulties of resource allocation should completely distract us from the shitshow that 2016 has become. Or, you know, not. 


Notes on Fascism

Or 'Faeces on Trump 2½'

Or 'Fasces on Trump'


So, a lot of people seem to be talking about fascism these days.  It's the 'next big thing' stateside, they say.  There are even some people who say it could catch on here in the UK.  So I thought I'd take a moment to have a look at it and tell you what I think.  So here goes. 

First, a disclaimer: There are many perspectives on fascism.  I've just written down mine.  I have not gone into others here which I don't agree with.  Because they're wrong, and the people who hold them WILL be punished.

Oh, and another disclaimer: Fascism shouldn’t be reified into a 'thing' that can be easily and neatly classified.  Fascism is a spectrum, not a discrete alien phenomenon.  Fascism has contained many variations which have almost as many differences from each other as they do similarities: Italian Fascism, German Nazism, Spanish Falangism, possibly even Japanese militarism (this is hotly debated and I know comparatively little about it… which is my eurocentricity showing).  Even so, certain essential common features can be delineated ...

A Pure and Awful Poetry of Fire (Kirby's Dream Land 3)

Moore, drawing from Bunyan, calls it Mansoul. Blake goes with Eternity, while the Aboriginal Australians call it the Dreamtime. Kabbalistically it’s Yesod. It is the world in which the implications of things are made real, their secret histories and imagined futures stretching into the horizon, ghosts and possibilities not haunting them so much as simply inhabiting them, the ordinary and everyday population of the vast and surreal psychic metropolis. When your children asked you where Mario goes when he’s out of lives, this is what you were afraid to tell them.

The peripatetic pink puffball before us may seem a strange psychopomp, but he’s got prior form, with his sole NES game also post-dating that console’s obsolescence. At least in his early days, this was simply what he did, the Nintendo character who appeared at the end of a console’s life to usher it into this glittering and sunken realm of lost nostalgia. And in a sense he’s the perfect guide to this shimmering realm; he is literally a consumer, eating the dream-creatures around him and taking on their essence and nature. This is, after all, how the mass culture of video games works. For years, it’s what we did ...

Permanent Saturday: Something about the presence of a cat

With deepest apologies to Chris Stangl, Permanent Saturday is a semiregular critical exploration of Jim Davis' comic strips Garfield and U.S. Acres/Orson's Farm.

The first level this strip works on is a standard joke about Garfield's ego. We see variations on this joke, just as we see variations on all Garfield's jokes, show up infrequently every so often: Jon will make a quip about how the world does not revolve around Garfield (though he is big enough for it to), or that Garfield is not the centre of the universe, which Garfield will either deny or quip back that if he isn't he should be. Sometimes the roles are reversed, with Garfield opening the strip declaring he's the centre of the universe, which Jon will then proceed to reject.

The impetus for the joke's setup comes from actual cat behaviour: Much of Garfield's personality is derived from taking humans' observations and interpretations of the things their housecats did and anthropomorphizing them: Cats are vain, cats are aloof, cats only care about me for what they can get from me, they claw things I don't want them to claw, don't ...

Pex Lives 2016 Election Special

We are pleased to announce a new episode of Pex Lives, in which Kevin and James forget to watch The Mind Robber and talk about the smoldering wreck that is the 2016 election instead. That's available here for your listening pleasure, or through most standard podcast apps. 

Faeces on Trump 2

The Democrats’ vote collapsed.  Many people who had previously voted Democrat, and many people who might’ve been expected to, didn’t go to the polls for Hillary Clinton.  There is, undoubtedly, a degree to which sexism is involved here. I don’t want to minimise that.  Hillary is the subject of a great deal of venomous misogynistic hatred.  She comes in for loathing more than male politicians with equally grubby histories.  She is often the redirected hate-object for people who have come to hate her husband and his legacy.  The Clintons generally have become obsessive hate-objects for many Americans - particularly but by no means exclusively conservative Americans, despite being both extremely right-wing in real terms.  The reasons are interesting but somewhat outside our scope here.

There is much to dislike about Hillary Clinton her purely on her own account.  Some people might not like my taking the time to go into this at the moment, but I think it’s very important we don’t allow (entirely rational and reasonable) horror at Trump to make us forget the very real horror of the system and its apparatchiks under ‘normal’ conditions.

Clinton has - as those tapes made all too clear, as if it weren’t clear ...

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