Blobs in a Snowstorm

With extra material by Charles Daniels (so there’ll be at least one bit of it worth reading).

What is Doctor Who but a “carnival of monsters”? A peepshow for kids that want to look in on lots of other worlds full of funny little creatures doing funny little tricks, like arguing and fighting and being chased and eaten by monsters? In fact, that’s TV generally. Well, actually, it’s fiction generally. But Doctor Who is what’s being examined here. A cheap ‘n’ cheerful carny entertainment, proffered by el cheapo entertainers. The purpose is to amuse, simply to amuse. Nothing serious, nothing political……

Except that entertainment is inherently political, as is fun, as is the imagination, as is the love of monsters. Monsters, as China Miéville has put it, are “good at meaning” things. He says that we’re a teratoculture, that we make monsters as part of our inherent humanness. They’re all over the caves that prehistoric man painted. We’re the animal that is scared of our predators… but also wonders how cool it would be if four of our different predators all donated body parts to some chimera creature that exists only in our heads. And we still love monsters, even in our world of technology and capitalism. We go to them for amusement, to fend off the boredom. And they mean things for us at the same time.

Inter-Minor (a world whose name suggests interiority and petty little concerns) is run by grey-faced, bureaucratic, xenophobic, snobbish, isolationist killjoys. It reminds me of what James Connolly said about the consequences of dividing Ireland, that it would be a “carnival of reaction”. And right he was too. The Inter-Minoran rulers could be the Catholic Church in the South, cracking down on fun (though they’re a bit too disapproving of colourful kitsch and bling to convince as Catholics) or the Protestant ruling minority in the North, holding down the Catholics. Bit of a stretch? Yeah, okay, probably. But either way, they hate the Scope because it might amuse the Functionaries, the exploited underclass who are shot down for stopping work and protesting. And the Functionaries do look interested! The “official species” won’t let them look, however. They fear the contamination brought by the multi-coloured, sequin-plastered fakers who want to bring colour and fun to their world. They don’t want the functionaries getting ideas. Like the British imperialists on the SS Bernice who generalise about “Johnny Chinaman” and the laziness of their “Madrassi” (which is a racist slur, in case you didn’t know), the Inter-Minorans don’t think their beasts of burden can be trusted to pause working without also losing their discipline and becoming dangerous.

Is this a protectionist state tyranny that fears the freedoms brought by the free market – personified by the entrepreneurial Vorg? Maybe, but this story also critiques British imperialist racism… and Vorg is hardly an ethical paragon. His business is the cruel and utterly callous exploitation of the “monsters” that find their way into his little malfunctioning techno-zoo. A machine that separates people into their little boxes and keeps them there, running round in circles, doing the same things over and over, stuck in time, unalive and unaware of it.…

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