Puzzling the Ficto-QuizzicalMay 19, 2009
Making haste on the offer to produce a field report on the emergent phenomenon, Weird Fiction, I will put audacity before caution and spell out this tedious tome! Puzzling out this motley crew of the self-proclaimed “ficto-quizzical”, I offer up some jig-saw pieces, albeit floating in mild confusion:
Weird Fiction are multivisionaries, and I offer this term at once for its obsolescent and optimistic capacities. Multivision was at one point a term for high end multi-projection audiovisual presentations produced with an armada of slide projectors. Today, multitude (the network) is an everyday occurrence, audio-visual phantasms are commonplace as Powerpoints and iPhone apps. Multivision (via analog electronics) is obsolete, and the technologies disappeared to storehouses and second-hand shops. Gone…but not forgotten, as outfits diverse as the Antiques Roadshow and Weird Fiction are a testament to! Yes, there are more uses than one for obsolete tech, more fates than e-waste, more possibilities than linear progressions, more weirdness in truth than fiction— as any follower of Metaphortean Space might sheepishly admit!
In tasking the Lovecraftian canon of nebulous sky-spawn and ancient curses, of forgotten cities and other dimensional entities a nerve is pinched techno-culturally. Weird Fiction tune in to telling tinglers:
Hertzian forces and Dead Media. Hertzian forces are intangible yet real, bombarding us always with information in the broadest sense…terrifying us with the promise that there is a weird world swirling just outside of human sensory awareness. Making one grateful for the sensory limitations of the human apparatus while, nonetheless, these limitations are continually reversed by way of new media!
Hertzian space is forgotten –but not gone! Taken for granted, lurking everywhere but out of sight. The premise of probing a poetics of Hertzian space, is put forward in Anthony Dunnes’ Hertzian Tales circa 1999. Antecedents of both the “hertzian” and the “tale” are of course ample three quarters of century before with wireless radio and the debut of the publication Weird Tales. As noted in Jeffrey Sconce’s Haunted Media, “most media historians designate 1922 as the year radio exploded into national sensation” (p.93)
Weird Tales, of course, was a less mass phenomenon yet authors including notably H.P. Lovecraft and oddly enough Tennessee Williams made literary appearances in this magazine that launched in 1923. Point is these tales were often punctuated with Hertzian horrors, or what scholar Manuel Aguirre terms “Cosmic Terror”
In The Closed Space: Horror Literature and Western Symbolism Aquirre trails a history of haunters, with “Cosmic Terror” as a reflection not of an isolated haunter but a systemic presence. Writes Aguirre of this terror:
“We do not have singular confrontations with our own personal Doubles, but glimpses of the near-impossible, of a something so vast as to be incomprehensible: not our individual mirror-images, but a mirror-image of the human world itself, an image which…the basic laws of nature are flaunted while new monstrous laws emanating from the mirror begin to bear upon its presumed original” (p.160)
Weird Fiction’s propensity towards the glitch, the visual noises, poor transmissions and malfunction, these murky intermixed components (details ascribed to the impish familiars –the space-time transients) constitute monstrous iterations of original source signals.
At once signifying unseen guests from some hideous “Other domain in our cosmos, lurking behind every gateway, seeking entrance into our world” (Aguirre, p163) and literally revealing the limitations of media technology (the extended human apparatus)
Weird Fiction is perhaps a database cinema, too, answering Manovich’s concern that “today we have too much information and too few narratives that can tie it all together.” (Language of New Media, p217.) With variants of Charles Fort’s “damned data” a link that no doubt my Metaphortean readers will understand having incessantly been referred to Fort’s Book of the Damned
Weird Fiction’s perverse reply emerges as a handful of dark, irreverent, labyrinthine and, yes, metaphorical spatial environments. A minor-league mythos, with virtual plateaus populated, at times, with more recognizable haunters and “things that go bump in the night.”
In this regard, cinematic fiction like Monster Squad and sitcoms like The Munsters could also be argued as databases of the damned, yet it is what Manovich would call the “algorithms”, here– the nebulous and scattered plasticity— the “quizzical” not just the “ficto” that is a key distinction.
Synesthesia is not always a utopian vision, anesthesia is not always a numbing wasteland. The heterotopian haunting is a better title for the “ficto-quizzical milieu” embracing and prolonging what has been elsewhere bandied about as “picturing ambiguity” (Stafford), “imaging the abject” (King) and “applied blobsquatchery (Diehl)
I will give pause here for another series of analyses at a later date. Weird Fiction is a nutshell indeed, difficult to crack but still its inklings compel me onward towards continued research!