Friday, May 08, 2009

Alien Biology: A 21st Century Lovecraftian Tangent

Chrispy thinks too much about bugs, but in any event my reading of Lovecraft is that he purposely selected repugnant creatures to represent his monsters, gods, and Neo-Lamarkian devolutions. In the Edwardian era, the creatures he selected were considered vermin to be eradicated: frogs, rats, spiders, snakes, octopii, and so forth. Lovecraft would have probably rejected out of hand a Thoreau or even a Rachel Carson sentiment that we would embrace today: That all creatures form a complex habitat and are valuable. Even if Lovecraft would have considered it, the idea would not have been useful in constructing his fictional mythologies.

I think it is time to revisit alien biology and fictional - even nihilistic fictional - concepts. The theory that Lovecraft held were that human-like gods and villains were not useful to construct a materialist and nihilistic horror. Humanish creatures led to personifciation, which detracted from their utter alienness. The utter alieness were exactly what was needed to place mankind in a useless and insignificant point fo view, which then would lead quuickly to madness once man's place was truly understood: We were nothing.

Scientifiction tried to fulfill that trajectory, often pittting advanced or alien civilizations as ants, vegetables, dinosaurs, or some other thing, but the literary efffort often failed because the wirter or reader refused to accept a story without people being integral. Lovecraft, too, compromised and used people, but they were tainted, demented, transmogrified, or otherwise twisted to show the descent to madness and resultant alienness. Even he threw his hands up in dispair because his results were inadequate.

The trick, then, it seems is to portray alienness in such a way as to totally make the human condition irrelevant and meaningless. The gradual realization of this in a fictional setting results in horror and ultimate madness. If Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am," then a Lovecraftian might say, "I know utter nihilism, therefore I'm nothing." From that point fo view, suicide, murder, and mayhem may result - and usually does in a Lovecraft story. It's not necessarily quid pro quo, but it is in the Lovecraftian fictional universe.

Since this is so wordy, tomorrow, I'll present a recent real-life science article to help the argument along it's way. A 21st century perspective on what alien life really is - a view of alienness so different and perhaps repugant (though some may say beautiful) that it's shocking to our anthropomorphic system.

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