God(s) in Fiction
I am writing some strange things lately. Not that that is unusual in itself. The Antitopia Universe is a pretty odd place. After last week's post I got on a world-building kick and found a way to include some pretty odd critters in the evolution of conscious species. This whole mess got me thinking about god(s) in fiction. Not religion, necessarily, but the entities from which myths derive.
It could be argued, of course, that myths derive from human misinterpretation and ignorance, but we're in Fictionland, and that means anything is probable. Here's what probably happened in Antitopia. There are seven species of conscious beings (I've only defined three so far, but there's time) in the universe. Two are symbiotic in nature, those being my version of vampire and our good old human being. The other is Kardeshev V level crazy pants god things.
For those unfamiliar with the Kardeshev scale, it is a measure of civilization based on the ability to harness energy. Humans are around 0.73 on that scale with the potential to reach level I within 100 years or so. A level I civilization is capable of harnessing the full energy potential of it's home planet, and usually has to travel space due to demand outweighing energy supply. Level V civilizations have expanded to multiversal existence. Such beings would flit in and out of existence as we understand it without batting an eye.
These entities will likely play little part in the main stories of Antitopia. They will show up from time to time just to keep things weird, but they have no genuine interest in humanity. Woe betide us all should they ever gain an interest in us, because that kind of attention would be catastrophic!
This week's winning topic is brought to you by my friend John. And spite. He suggested some other topics that were more thoughtful, but this one is the one that got me thinking the most. I'm not very enthused by zombies, and never really have been. I may get kicked out of horror for this, but I think the zombie is the laziest monster in fiction. That said, I prefer to promote the things I love, so I will write about what I admire in zombies first.
They make a compelling bad guy. The perfect bad guy, in my opinion, is one which makes determining its motivation impossible. If you can't figure out what the baddie wants, they become difficult to defeat. Jason Voorhees was interesting and scary when he was a mask and a machete hacking up young lovers in the woods. Give him a morality and he becomes dull. Romero's zombies hungered for brains and while they were scary to my kid-mind, they grew tiresome when everyone and their mother started shoving out brain-eaters as their monster. More modern versions aim towards an unknown or undiscovered motive which makes them more interesting. The Walking Dead makes zombism a pandemic, and a disease's only known motive is to eat and reproduce. The zombies become a backdrop to the bigger enemy (humans are terrible) but make for a convincing menace.
And for me, that's it. Beyond being a wave of teeth and blood drops, zombies don't do anything. What we learn from zombie apocalypses is that human beings are awful and probably deserve their fate. As cynical as I may be, I still hold out hope for humans. I think with time we can move away from the rampant consumerism Romero's zombies represent and the mindless perpetual appetite of Kirkman's, and find ourselves an enemy worth fighting. Maybe we can have a lich represent corporatism...
Don't get me wrong, I will still sit down an watch a zombie flick and I'll probably enjoy it if it's a good story. But like Resident Evil 2 (Milla Jovavich era) I have no problem walking away when it loses me.
I do have a favorite zombie movie, though, and it may have tempered my view on all that have come since watching it: The Serpent and the Rainbow. While Wade Davis' methods and findings in his book may be suspicious, the movie made for some damned good story. I like the mythological and cultural zombie far more than what they've been turned into. The voudon zombi has the potential for redemption, where the pop zombie is generally cured with a shotgun. I think conflation of the two has left us with a terrible misunderstanding of a rich culture and a pretty lame monster to boot.
I guess the take away is that when you hammer people over the head with the same monster with little variety, they become bland. There is always potential, and more innovative writers show up every day, so who knows? Maybe the next round of zombie apocalyptics won't put me to sleep.
John makes amazing wood sculptures with stumps and a chainsaw and knows an awful lot about movies.