Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 04:19 on 25-05-2014, Ibmiller
Brain junkies! I wasn't paying that close attention when I was watching Warm Bodies, to be honest. Or are you talking about the book/short story the film is based upon?
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at 22:02 on 24-05-2014, Robinson L
Ibmiller: Both series posit that if you eat brains, you get some mind back. It's a handwave, but a semi-clever one?

Can't speak for White Trash Zombie, but in Warm Bodies, even before the zombies eat brains, they're not actually mindless (they're a bit like zombies in the figurative sense of "people who are really out of it and don't make much use of their higher brain functions") - the semi-clever bit is the way the author comes up for a plausible explanation for how they could still be semi-intelligent, and still almost always act like a classical mindless zombie around humans (basically, they have a deep-seated hunger for human brains and exceptionally low self-control when it comes to resisting said hunger).
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at 09:01 on 24-05-2014, Melanie
I remember this webcomic, Ow My Sanity, that maybe did a bit. Or a lot, depending on how you take "humanize".
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at 05:50 on 24-05-2014, Michal
Cthulhurotica did, um, romanticize the creatures just a little.
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at 05:35 on 24-05-2014, Bookwyrm
Has anyone else besides Chez Apocalypse tried to humanize(romanticize?) the creatures of the Lovecraft mythos?
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at 13:46 on 23-05-2014, Ibmiller
In Warm Bodies, they attempt to ignore/cure that part, leading them to be, indeed, no longer zombies. In the White Trash Zombie series, there's a system of distribution from local morgues and funeral businesses - at least for the "good" zombies. It's like a lot of the urban fantasies starring vampires - the "good" undead eat the already dead/animals/synthetic stuff, the "bad" undead go about killing people to get it.

Of course, the mindless thing is the real problem. Both series posit that if you eat brains, you get some mind back. It's a handwave, but a semi-clever one?
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at 13:11 on 23-05-2014, Shimmin
This is my problem with a lot of the existing urban fantasy stuff, but, surely the defining features of zombies are a) being mindless and b) craving human flesh? I just don't see how you can "rehabilitate" them, because if you remove a) they're not only no longer zombies, but they're cannibals; if you remove b) they're drones; and if you remove both they're either dead or human.

Can anyone explain?
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at 23:26 on 22-05-2014, Ibmiller
There's also the rather drippy and cliched "Warm Bodies," and the urban fantasy "White Trash Zombie" series by Diana Rowland - much less drippy and cliched, though not fully to my taste.

I...know Orphan Black is about clones, and I don't know if it's that or the trailers, but I have zero desire to know what happens in the first place. :)
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at 17:54 on 22-05-2014, Tamara
My sister has been raving about "In the Flesh," which is apparently a BBC Zombie-rehabilitation show with a gay protagonist. Who knew there was more meat in zombies yet?

I may have to check out Penny Dreadful...

Orphan Black - I watched the first season, and I found it much more impressive than actually enjoyable, for some reason. (I think I'm in a minority though, most people I know thoroughly love it.) It ticks all the boxes, both in terms of politics (women, LGBT, Hard-ish SF, etc) and in terms of craft (acting, pace, plot, etc) but also had a total lack of anything - character, plot point, mystery, ANYTHING - that actually made me want to know what happens next.
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at 16:53 on 22-05-2014, Arthur B
Now, the more inhuman your supernatural entity of choice looks, the less able you are to "rehabilitate" them in this way -- faeries have glamours to make them look human, werewolves look human most of the time, you can invent all sorts of ways to have vampires wander around the human world, but what do you do with dehydrated, bandage-wrapped, shambling, faceless, ex-humans?

Well, first you get a lot of moisturiser...
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at 16:39 on 22-05-2014, Alice
I've been thinking about the "which supernatural beings have been included in contemporary re-imaginings?" question, and why it seems that mummies haven't formed a big part of this (in contrast to, say, vampires, witches/wizards, and werewolves. Though there's been a smattering of mummies, I suppose -- even the thoroughly non-supernatural Castle had a "mummy's curse" episode).

And it strikes me that one of the reasons for a not-so shocking lack of mummies in recent(ish) works is that there's been a shift from seeing various supernatural entities as mindless monsters to at the very least charming and attractive (albeit dangerous) monsters (Anne Rice's vampires?), all the way across the (anti-)hero spectrum (not entirely sure if the Cullens are quite heroes, but they must be getting pretty close).

Now, the more inhuman your supernatural entity of choice looks, the less able you are to "rehabilitate" them in this way -- faeries have glamours to make them look human, werewolves look human most of the time, you can invent all sorts of ways to have vampires wander around the human world, but what do you do with dehydrated, bandage-wrapped, shambling, faceless, ex-humans?

Then again, no-one's tried to rehabilitate zombies from monsters to protagonists, either (as far as I know), but they are pretty well-established baddies. So it still seems a bit odd that there are relatively few works with mummy antagonists.
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at 22:38 on 21-05-2014, Ibmiller
Is that what it's about? The trailers were playing, and I couldn't tell anything other than a) it has Eva Green (yay!); b) it looks like horror (nah).

Also, does anyone here watch Orphan Black? I was hanging out online last night, and a friend from Australia and a friend from the US were both raving about the show.
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at 22:28 on 21-05-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Has anyone checked the new monster mash show Penny Dreadful? It has all the classics. Vampires(probably Dracula too), Egyptian demons, although no mummies yet, werewolves(at least one) and Dr. Frankenstein. And Dorian Gray. And a cowboy. Didn't seem too Mooreish even.
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at 11:43 on 19-05-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
@Adrienne

Digger is on my list, since it was mentioned here! Good to know that there are vampiric fruit there as well!
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at 11:35 on 19-05-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
@Melanie:

I'm sure there would be a lot of stuff that could be done with Necromancers. That whole gothic, macabre thing is pretty well known and death is certainly a very primal thing to hang a story around.

Mummies might be about fear of the orient, but a part of it is also the fear of death and the unknown, which is underlined by the ancient nature of Egypt, especially at the start of the 20th century, when the whole thing was very much in fashion and the knowledge of Egypt was both limited and also changing rapidly with it seems limitless possibilities.

The love aspect of ancient undead is a good idea in that it makes the creature's motives relatable at some level at least. The all consuming hatred of all things living, which seems to be the raison d'etre of many a lich and like is frightening, but really kind of weird if one thinks about it too much. Fitting for a random encounter or end boss, but not very good for an in depth character.

@Alasdair

That take on were-creatures is interesting. Of the examples, both District 9 and Metamorphosis are a curious take on the idea of dehumanization, as the dehumanization is a thing done to the Prawns and then Wikus and of course Gregor, while all of their status as feeling sentient creatures are emphasized by the story itself. The Fly seems to be a more straightforward example, but of course in that, the change is self-caused and it is more about the hubris of the character rather than an example of abuse by surrounding society.
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at 10:28 on 19-05-2014, Arthur B
Yeah, I think The X-Files went to the "Native American mummies" well too.
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at 10:17 on 19-05-2014, Daniel F
Come to think of it, there was a Buffy episode about it as well, so it must be a thing in pop culture.
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at 04:35 on 19-05-2014, James D
Sometimes Native American civilisation as well, I think? Inca mummies are spooky as well.

According to Tintin, at least.
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at 04:21 on 19-05-2014, Daniel F
Mummies, on the other hand--the major association there is "ancient Egypt", so we're talking probably thousands of years old. Even though there's no particular Watsonian reason that a mummy couldn't be much more recently created.


Right. I'd think about it in terms of the young fearing the old, both on a personal level and on a civilisational level. That's where the awkward Orientalising comes in: young European/American civilisation versus ancient Egyptian/Eastern civilisation. Sometimes Native American civilisation as well, I think? Inca mummies are spooky as well.

I'm not sure how to deal with the clash of civilisations. In principle I'm not sure there's that much inherent difference between a mummy and, say, a draugr or even a barrow-wight. It's just the surrounding cultural context: we think about ancient Egypt through this period of exploitative colonial archaeology.

They're sort of cosmic trolls in that sense and have absolutely no compunction about dragging random innocents into the picture for the sake of further tormenting darklords (or to try and corrupt player characters; Paladins end up having a particularly hard time in Ravenloft...).


If paladins can even exist in Ravenloft at all, which I believe changes from edition to edition.

My recollection was that the setting was incredibly vague on who or what the Dark Powers are, and on what, if anything, they want. Are they just a bunch of cosmic trolls who enjoy tormenting evil? Is Ravenloft actually meant to be some sort of cosmic reformatory, where the darklords repeat their own personal Groundhog Days until they improve? Are they trying to create an army of the most fiendish individuals in the multiverse for diabolical purpose? Are they dispassionate inflicters of karmic justice? I don't think the Dark Powers ever directly move to corrupt people towards evil... they just enforce certain consequences if you do.

*shrug* I always thought Ravenloft had a problem when it came to play. In order to actually play a game in the setting, you have to mostly ignore the darklords. You can't have the PCs ever stop the darklords for good, because if a darklord dies either their entire domain winks out of existence (returning to its original home? Maybe?), or a new darklord is immediately elevated. Moreover, the whole set-up doesn't work very well to facilitate D&D gameplay. Strahd is kind of interesting but after you've run the original adventure, what's left?
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at 18:15 on 18-05-2014, Arthur B
...Interesting. That does go a long way towards explaining it; when I read the book I got the impression that her being the reincarnation etc. was all in his mind and he was just fixating on girls who resembled her and convincing himself (and them) that something more mystical was going on.

To be fair, that could still be the case - been ages since I looked at my Ravenloft stuff but it'd be entirely fitting for the Dark Powers to arrange for women who happened to superficially resemble Strahd's lost love to cross his path for the sake of breaking him still further. They're sort of cosmic trolls in that sense and have absolutely no compunction about dragging random innocents into the picture for the sake of further tormenting darklords (or to try and corrupt player characters; Paladins end up having a particularly hard time in Ravenloft...).
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at 09:32 on 18-05-2014, Melanie
Did you ever see the 1979 Werner Herzog movie, Nosferatu the Vampyre, with Klaus Kinski as Dracula?


I have not! Heard of it, yeah, but never really looked into it.

At present the premise is that undefined cosmic powers called the Dark Powers abduct particularly evil people ('darklords') and trap them in particular domains, doomed to eternally repeat their crimes. It's very much the Tantalus motif.


...Interesting. That does go a long way towards explaining it; when I read the book I got the impression that her being the reincarnation etc. was all in his mind and he was just fixating on girls who resembled her and convincing himself (and them) that something more mystical was going on.

I suppose for me it's to do with the underlying psychological motif. It's very easy to understand the vampire as being about lust for life. Whereas I see the mummy as being about the lust for eternity. The vampire maintains the semblance of life by depriving it from others; the mummy goes on forever by abandoning any semblance of life.


Oooooo, yes! I think that's absolutely right. Vampires could potentially be about the lust for eternity... but it doesn't seem like it's usually the case. When they're old, it seems like they're usually only a few hundred years old, or so. Longer than humans live, but still an amount of time that's... comprehensible to us. Mummies, on the other hand--the major association there is "ancient Egypt", so we're talking probably thousands of years old. Even though there's no particular Watsonian reason that a mummy couldn't be much more recently created.
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at 08:20 on 18-05-2014, Daniel F
Although, yikes, now I'm remembering this one book... I, Strahd? It was a tie-in for some rpg setting I think, but anyway, I remember it being all about how he loved this girl, and she died, and he kept "finding" her again in subsequent generations and having this delusion(?) that it was her... reincarnated again, I think?... and then convincing her (I think hypnotic vampire powers may have been involved) that she was his reincarnated dead girlfriend.


Wow, that brings back memories. That sounds like I, Strahd to me, though I think it's less a vampire thing than it is a Ravenloft thing.

For the confused: Ravenloft is a D&D setting based on gothic horror. It spun off from an original module about the vampire Strahd von Zarovich back in 1983, where Strahd was very much the romantic take on Dracula. At present the premise is that undefined cosmic powers called the Dark Powers abduct particularly evil people ('darklords') and trap them in particular domains, doomed to eternally repeat their crimes. It's very much the Tantalus motif.

So each darklord commits their particular crime over and over again, or is constantly seeking some fulfilment or redemption that they can never achieve. Strahd murdered the woman he was in love with after she married his brother instead of his; now she's reborn every generation and he must always try and fail to woo her. Other darklords have other obsessions. Ravenloft is very big on evil as a cycle.

Very much like Dante, I suppose. The evil suffer because they continue doing evil.

Yeah--but it seems less common, less inextricably tied to them. As you say, with vampires, the preservation angle is usually more of a positive or at least glamorous thing: it's eternal youth, not eternally being a horrifying creepy shambling thing.


Isn't that another of the important differences between them? There is a strong image of the seductive, tempting vampire now. I don't want to generalise that they're all like that, but Dracula, Carmilla, etc., had powerful effects. Whereas I think the mummy is usually supposed to be repulsive.

In a way, I suppose it has to be? The primary dilemma posed by the vampire is that it must drain the life from others in order to go on living. The mummy doesn't have that problem. If the mummy wasn't repulsive, it might be unclear why being a mummy is bad.

I suppose for me it's to do with the underlying psychological motif. It's very easy to understand the vampire as being about lust for life. Whereas I see the mummy as being about the lust for eternity. The vampire maintains the semblance of life by depriving it from others; the mummy goes on forever by abandoning any semblance of life.
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at 08:11 on 18-05-2014, Adrienne
Janne - Dunno if you've read Ursula Vernon's fabulous graphic novel Digger (also available complete on the web), but it does in fact contain vampire squash! Only place I've ever seen them in modern fiction.
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at 07:03 on 18-05-2014, James D
As you say, with vampires, the preservation angle is usually more of a positive or at least glamorous thing: it's eternal youth, not eternally being a horrifying creepy shambling thing.

Did you ever see the 1979 Werner Herzog movie, Nosferatu the Vampyre, with Klaus Kinski as Dracula? That's basically what happens to him. Dracula is portrayed as this tragic figure who's immortal and powerful but also incredibly ugly and repulsive, not to mention he needs to drink blood to survive, so he's incredibly lonely. This is what he looks like.

After Anne Rice, that "Nosferatu-style" vampire has definitely gotten way less popular, though, at least as the primary type. If they're included at all these days, it's usually as some offshoot "clan" or whatever, with the main guys still being glamorous and pretty.
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