Monday, March 31, 2014

Fire and Rain

I have been keeping track of weird news stories. My contention is that life is essentially weird. And the weird stuff that actually happens is sometimes weirder than what you would read in a story. I also wrote the other day about this question: Is science fiction dying? One possible answer: How can science fiction be dying when we quite obviously live in a science fiction world? (I know I answered a question with a question, but that comes naturally to the Irish.) Unfortunately, the science fiction world in which we live is too often a dystopia. A case in point: this week, a news story came out reporting that British hospitals have incinerated aborted and miscarried fetuses, in part to help heat their buildings. We all knew we were headed in this direction, but I didn't think it would happen so soon. Writers of science fiction and fantasy have anticipated developments like this, of course. It's equal parts "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift and Soylent Green, based on Harry Harrison's novel. It reminds me also of a cartoon by Andy Singer from his syndicated comic panel, No Exit, in which a man dashes through the background at a filling station shouting, "Soylent gas is made of people," while in the foreground, a man, who is gassing up his car, says, without even turning around, "Yeah, so what."

So the story comes out about human fetuses being burned for heat, and the world says, "So what." I suppose such a thing is acceptable, even desirable, in our science fiction world. You might think at first that it would be unacceptable inasmuch as it contributes to global warming. We should all realize however that it is acceptable to burn human fetuses for heat because they have not yet reached the threshold of carbon neutrality. In other words, they are carbon negative, so burn, baby, burn. Disposing of them in any way is also acceptable because then we can help head off the sin of overpopulation, or in the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, "decrease the surplus population." Great! A twofer!

There was record flooding in Great Britain this winter. That story came out first, so we can't place the two in a relationship of cause and effect. In any case, the last time we did stuff like this, the rains came and washed everything away--except Noah and the animals. So the British who endured inundation this winter get to relive it in a new science fiction movie called Noah. I know that the story of Noah and the flood comes from the Bible, but the movie bears little resemblance to that book. It is in no way biblical. Yeah, there is Noah and his family and a big boat full of animals and a worldwide flood, but otherwise Noah is on its own--pure Hollywood, if not Wormwood. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly reprise their roles from A Beautiful Mind, only, instead of seeing mathematical equations in the sky, Noah sees visions of doom (some of which are drug-induced). She's still the devoted wife of a man who's trying to discover the meaning of existence. (She did the same thing as Charles Darwin's wife in Creation.) Anthony Hopkins plays Gandalf/Hannibal Lecter/Timothy Leary, but in this movie, he trades a taste for entrails for an obsession with red berries (no doubt slang for his favorite recreational drug). Oh, and there are Transformers, too.

I can only assume that Noah is set in a dystopian future with some elements of an imagined past, a sort of Lord of the Rings meets Mad Max. Humanity once again gets wiped out for its wickedness, but there doesn't seem to be much wickedness going on except for eating of cute little animals. And for being a bunch of hungry people, they sure look well fed. Maybe they have been drinking too many Big Gulp sodas. In any case, the suggestion seems to be that it has all come about because of that pesky global warming and overpopulation, you know, the only two sins left in the world. (I guess you can add a third when Tubal-Cain, the Bob Hoskins character, partakes of some salamander sushi, thereby rendering a species extinct.) In the end, everybody learns a lesson, Noah puts his drunkenness behind him through a twelve-step program, and the world goes on. So I wouldn't lose any sleep over Noah. But before you turn in, make sure you turn off your carbon-neutral, fetus-powered, non-incandescent electric light, and if necessary, take a red berry for a nice, dreamless sleep.

Copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

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