Writers: Create A Truer Dystopia With Neurotic Cannibals

5 04 2017

The times being what they are, a lot more dystopias have been popping up in media. Lately, I’ve noticed these new dysfunctional societies have these things in common:

  1. Centralized planning, both economic and political
  2. Industrial efficiency valued more than privacy
  3. Poverty
  4. No distractions like sports, art, holidays, contests.
  5. Discrete cannibalism

Maybe it’s just me just cherry-picking, but it’s what I’m noticing. Here’s an example from Pseudopod: “Meat” by Sandra M. Odell.

That this is a short story makes no difference in world building. A word here, a phrase there, adds to the fleshing out (sorry) of the environment and adding to the reader’s ability to relate without detracting from the plot.

For me, a pared-down dystopia is unbelievable.

Consider the archetype for the dystopic story, the novel “1984”. Grungy, war-weary, and soul sucking. Yet it had the very basics of distraction. There was music. There were museums and newpapers. There were viewscreens. All of it was government approved, sure, but it took the proles minds away from their drudgery, and made them more efficient for the long haul.

There were pubs and perhaps illicit drugs. There was a lottery with announced winners (invented prizes for invented winners, but still, a distraction). There was chocolate, weak and smoky in flavor, which makes me assume there were spices, so maybe a culinary culture for homemakers.

Why do I find these distractions important? Without these distractions, the citizens would very quickly go insane.

Now, insanity is a further opportunity for worldbuilding. Cultures have their own, distinct neurosis in response the culture’s environment and social pressures. These neurosis are called “culture-bound syndromes”. We know about amok , a murderous rage found in Indonesia (and source of the term “to run amok”). What of  taijin kyofusho in Japan, which makes a citizen so afraid of making social blunders that he refuses to leave his home? A disorder among the Inuit called piblokto is thought to be caused by both isolation and Vitamin A deficiency. Last, we have the origin of hysteria in Western Europe, first defined as a woman’s disorder which caused emotional excess leading to rebelliousness.

A dystopia would have any one of these, plus oppressive treatments for their removal.

Note in “Meat” that there are “crazy heads” who are condemned to “Processing” and that the protagonist herself has a rather nifty psychosis developing for solid social reasons. Well done there.

I know you’re asking “what about the cannibalism”?

I’m wondering if a reader could still relate to an industrial dystopia where cannibalism is considered a duty. In “Logan’s Run”, killing people off at the age of 30 was sanctified by a supernatural “renewal” ritual. There are primitive societies where eating enemies or the brains of deceased relatives was encouraged, the latter creating a culture bound syndrome (subject of the X-Files episode “Kuru”).  What would it take for your closest city to dig in?

Did “Soylent Green” have side-effects?

What dystopia strikes you as believable? How messed up is it?

It’s “The Battle Royale Office Space In The Woods” With The Belko Experiment

26 03 2017

Have a look at this:

You’d think this movie a twist on the manga and movie “Battle Royale”, and on the surface you’d be correct. Instead of BR’s high school students being kidnapped and stranded on a deserted island, TBE has office workers in South America trapped in their curiously well-fortified office building. Both purposes are for all participants to kill each other until one remains alive.

The movie is written by James Gunn (Dawn of the Dead! Guardians of the Galaxy!) and directed by Greg McLean (aussiesplatter classic Wolf Creek). Actors are mainly from TV, including John McGinley (who always does great villains), the President from “Scandal”, the big guy from “ER”, and a lot of actual South Americans, even though it was shot in NY state though set in Bogota.

In BR, the government selects a class at random each year. In TBE, we are never really told why the voice demands the massacre, except for a vague monologue by a disfigured white guy at the end of the movie.

However, deeper down, TBE owes much more to “The Cabin In The Woods”, Joss Whedons’ satirical ode to American horror tropes. As mentioned, a faceless corporation maintains the high-tech murder site and watches using omnicient security cameras. Both movie feature a pot-smoking slacker who turns the corporate technology against its masters.

What actually happens? Trailer says it all. The tension is evenly paced. Characters are believable, even slightly sympathetic. The cool boss becomes lethally practical, friendships are betrayed, old scores are settled.

What didn’t work? The pothead in “Cabin In The Woods” was sharp and rebellious where TBE’s stoner bordered on hysteria, yet somehow overcomes qualms to literally pick through the remains of his co-workers, and that just did not convince. Also, the director of “Wold Creek” must have wanted some practical effects gore, but the prosthetics here are more ambitious, and the camera lingered too long on skulls looking more deflated than shattered.

Overall, it was a taut, entertaining thought experiment at 1 1/2 hours long. Have a look at it when it hits streaming or cable.

What Makes “Logan” Good?

24 03 2017


Writers: Compare Versions To See Strengths

10 02 2017

I liked William Malone’s 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill, and I remember watching his 2002 follow-up Feardotcom back when I was working in a video store. All I remember about it at the time is that it felt immediately dated, and already a little too reminiscent of that year’s American remake of The Ring. (Even though Feardotcom […]

via “I believe death should be repulsive, so we don’t grow too fond of it.” – Feardotcom (2002) — Who Killed Orrin Grey?

Horror: This Is An Excellent Trailer

8 02 2017

It Comes At Night is a 2017 American horror film, written and directed by Trey Edward Shults (Krisha). It stars Joel Edgerton, Riley Keough, Christopher Abbott, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Carmen Ejogo. A man learns that the evil stalking his family home may be only a prelude to horrors that come from within. Secure within a desolate home […]

via It Comes At Night (2017) — HORRORPEDIA

My Prayer For Spec-Fic

9 06 2016

Oh Lord, are You there? My soul thirsts for You. Could You give me a Double-Gulp helping of You?

I yearn for a sf movie without “Star” in the title. I yearn for something that JJ Abrams hasn’t tainted with his signature TV cinematography and Slusho world-building. I yearn for Damon Lindoff to live a productive and happy life without the ability to write.
Some movie worthy of a franchise that isn’t already populated with 70 year olds from other franchises. A movie without The Wilhelm Scream. A movie that wasn’t produced simultaneously with three of its sequels. A movie smart enough to have its own language and culture, yet still smart enough to not hide its MacGuffin behind the name “Unobtanium” and keep its villains out of military uniforms and business suits, just once.
Something that doesn’t happen in a high school either midwestern or Asian.

I so thirts for a horror movie without a death in a car where an arm punches through the driver’s chest. Without someone crawling on the ceiling. Without a garish, flat spiritworld where everyone just smiles creepy or sings songs in public domain. Without the Christian being a hypocrite or worse. Without an explanation of why the monster came to be. Without being a disappointing remake.

Without lush childrens’ storybook styling to remind us this is a Metaphor.

People know when a movie is going to suck. They go anyway to be part of the event and be able to discuss the merits of the movie. Even M. Night Shamalan has had little effect.

Could we have a spec-fic show that’s brightly lit? In a nice, clean world? An original world without characters from story books?

Can we have real teenagers who act and speak like real teenagers? Who have sharp-eyed, meddling, loving adults involved in their lives? Can we have actual old people?

We spend our lives making money. We give this money to movies and books and TV. The art is consumimg our lives, yet is made of parts long dead. Now not only is it a zombie (slow moving), it’s  and being further shaved of its face and features so it can shamble into China and digest the Chinese.

I can’t be the only one who feels this way, Lord of Hosts, Host of All Media.

And get people to turn off their tablets in theaters, too.


Hereforth, writers should no longer use…

25 09 2013

…the word “Susurrus.” I have just listened to two podcasts in a row where this word appeared, describing the sound of a sandstorm and the movement of an ocean-sized group of nanites. It is onomatopoeic, sure, but also a sign of journeyman work.

…a movie with “Zombies”: I have just read Arnold Schwarzenegger will be in a “Walking Dead” -esque zombie movie co-starring Abagail Breslin. I had thought that movie was already made and called “Expendables 3” co-starring Sly Stallone.

…any genre descriptor except “Bizarro” or “Weird.” Thanks to vagueness and overuse, Bizarro now encompasses Farce, Lampoon, Surreal, and Bawdy. Weird has surpassed “fiction exploring humanity’s insignificance”, and now includes “any fiction using subjects invented purely by the writer which makes the reader feel icky, including economic forecasts.”

How To Make Me Walk Out Of Your Movie

25 08 2013

It actually physically pains me to watch a movie when these things happen. It is a squirming pain, part embarrassment and part frustration, like being in front of relatives while a dentist extracts a sex toy that took a really wrong turn.

For those who think I am “picky”, please keep in mind that while I walked out of Francis Coppola’s “Dracula”, Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”, and Pixar’s “Rango”, I sat through and enjoyed “Balls Of Fury.”

Every annoyance has been assigned a percentage. When the total reaches 100%, I am gone. Current record: Turning off “Insidious” on Netflix in ten minutes.

For each instance of:

Self-reference, say by using sound effects from other movies like The Wilhelm Scream +10%
I get it, Director! You are an old movie fan. Now that you have carefully crafted a world, by all means put in an inside joke to jolt me back out and make me roll my eyes at your pretension.

Predictable Dialogue +20%
If I can predict what the character is about to say, you are not paying homage to a genre. You are boring me, “Insidious”. (I lasted until I was leading Rose Byrne by thirty seconds)

Kevin Smith +30%
He is witty. He is clever. However, he talks about people I already know, using language I already use, composed in camera shots I could have done. Thanks to Kevin Smith, I discovered I go to movies to go somewhere new. And get away from…

Stunt Casting +15%
…Alanis Morisette as Mime God. (Which is why I did not make it through “Dogma”)

Poor Research +10%
Hey “Prometheus”, a billion miles from Earth, you are still in the Solar System.

Instance of Inconsistent Character Behavior +20%
If a man is terrified of the prospect of meeting aliens, why would he volunteer for deep space travel? And if he finally meets an alien, why would he suddenly want to put it in his pants? My god “Prometheus”…

Acting That Hurts +20%
Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder in “Dracula” were accents wrestling with affects.

Trying To Be Tarrantino +50%
What was that movie with Walken and the cute tangential stories about off-beat petty criminals? That one. (“Three Days In The Valley” and that movie with the dogs and Tom Waits, both within twenty minutes)

Distancing Your Story Through Finding DEEP PORTENSE +50%
DEL TORO-O-O-O-O-O! Not everything is a goddam fairy tale! Sometimes things are scary because of unanswered questions, not because of elaborate backstories “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” (The third BIG TRACKING SHOT) and “Mama” (When Ti-D-Bowl Mom finally showed up after scores of shadows, knocking, music stings, dire warnings, kid stares, and it was still the first reel).

Quirky Campy = Scary! +75%
“American Horror Story” will soon be performed at parties by fans of “Glee” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Do not ask about the sex toy reference. It was a dare and my elementary school records were expunged.

Movies You Should See: #4 “Antiviral”

25 08 2013

In the near future, an unseen result of genehacking is the collection of genetic material from celebrities. Share the same strain of Herpes as your favorite actress. Buy cloned muscle tissue from your favorite actor, then eat it as a steak. Imagine this on a global scale. This movie slides from this premise into a pretty interesting noir thriller.

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