Archive for August 13, 2021

Geeks Bearing Grifts

Posted in FILM, literature, Science, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2021 by dcairns

Got our copies of THE HANDS OF ORLAC and THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD a while back. The Wiene film is a really great package, with Fiona and I’s video essay, Extremities, joined by a plethora of extras. My favourite is Tim Lucas’ study of the film’s ongoing influence, and on the works of original author Maurice Renard.

I just recently read The Light of Other Days, the award-winning sci-fi story by Bob Shaw, which deals with slow glass, a scienti-fiction substance through which light passes very slowly, so that you can see things that happened on the other side decades before. Shaw’s story uses an affecting tale of bereavement to dramatise the concept — a man can still look at his wife and children, who died years ago — but he says, in How To Write Science Fiction, that he first considered a murder story, where the killer fears that his guilt will be discovered when the light finishes its glacial journey.

Well, according to Lucas, Maurice Renard got there first, in Le Maître de la lumière, which has the murder and the slow glass, here named Luminite. But I suspect this wasn’t plagiarism, but what they call parallel development. Every idea will occur to multiple people, unless the first iteration becomes so universally famous that nobody thereafter can think they’re the first to come up with it. Renard’s own big idea in his novel Les Mains’ D’Orlac, the hand transplant where the recipient imagines his new parts retain their owner’s (murderous) impulses, was not wholly original to Renard. I’m quite chuffed that Fiona and I were the only extra-makers on this disc to dig up the earlier version, Mortmain, by Arthur Cheney Train. You can read it online. It’s terrible.

This film adaptation has been lost, last seen at The Cozy.

In other news, the stack of discs I’ve worked on now comes up to my nose.

But not up to Richard Kiel’s

Further reading: a few stories from the collection Far Out by Damon Knight, the first of which, To Serve Man, became a celebrated Twilight Zone episode. It’s a fairly dumb story on some levels (even assuming the titular cookbook has no giveaway illustrations, the idea that the title could be translated before any of the contents is a preposterous distortion of how translation works) but the idea is fun. Idiot Stick, the second story, is a variant on the same “too good to be true aliens” idea, and while the premise proves to be equally illogical (aliens want to blow up Earth to create an asteroid belt as a barrier), the human solution to the alien invasion is awe-inspiring. I think maybe it was Theodore Sturgeon who defined an sf story as “a scientific problem with a human solution.)