And the Dust Shall Reveal

[For a Thai-language version “วิวรณ์หมอกธุมเกตุ,” click here.]

Picture by a Facebook user for free distribution. The original comment where the picture was attached has since been deleted.

Usually if you get stuck on the ninth avatar bridge long enough you can discern the new skyline to the south as far as golden jubilee bridge (watch the goddamn road!). Of late, however, from the same vantage the cityscape seems to extend no further than the nearer easterly spires among which stands the one fugly tower that looks as if it got nibbled by rats. Ghost highrises lie just beyond this boundary like jötunn mourners at vigil where gods fell. Some days the sunglow outside the window where I sit eight to four ranges in shades of pee from mildly to moderately dehydrated same as that Vegas setpiece from Blade Runner 2049. In any case, I’m afraid I can no longer say with confidence that blue is the default colour of sky.

What is the practical function of karma if not an understanding of causality facilitated for the buddhist by revenge fantasies? All are welcome to less cynical definitions. As days continue to break pisscolored, I find myself wishing more and more for things to get worse, for an outbreak of some implacable viral strain, for the air to suddenly become unbreathable, and so on. On my shoulder the imp whispers the gospel. It says it harbours a simple desire for complicity in all its forms to be punished. This in turn brings to mind what someone famously said to the effect that it is easier for us to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.

How does the apocalypse trope figure in the weird genre of fiction? Brett Davidson, in a study of British weirdist William Hope Hodgson1, contends that both weird fiction and its close cousin science fiction originated within the cultural context of western imperialism, a benefactor neither would at first betray. Unwilling to take their imagination too far from the norm, many early weirdists and science-fictioneers drew inspiration from contemporary science, most prominently the grim implications in the second law of thermodynamics of the material universe’s ultimate unsustainability. WHH’s two most famous novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land (published 1908 and 1912 resp.) can be said to epitomize this trope. Indeed, even H.P. Lovecraft never managed to imagine in precise details the end of the universe for his Cthulhu Mythos tales. Davidson further proposes a distinct category to which WHH’s vision belong, what he calls “The Long Apocalypse”.

Contrary to the original meaning of Greek ἀποκάλυψις, or revelation, Long Apocalypses “. . . are apocalypses by degrees: nothing is revealed all at once; rather, they are worked out through the accumulation of knowledge over time.” The unnamed protagonist of House witnesses the gradual decaying of earth from beginning to end, hurtling through untold cycles of ever dimming sun toward the collapse of the solar system. Set within the same eschatology but not the same canon, The Night Land tells of humanity’s Last Redoubt in the far future when the sun has completely burnt out and of physical and psychical terrors besieging this refuge. To Hodgson, there is no redemption or new world waiting at the end of the end. On the other hand, being himself alive up to only WWI, a period without any sensational prospect of a global ecological disaster, he had nothing and no one concrete to condemn.

At this point in my rambling I must confess to a most basic and nonacademic dilettantism in ecology. The extent of my reading in the field includes only the article Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin written by Donna Haraway for Environmental Humanities, vol.6. Admittedly, I was more interested in what use an ecofeminist could possibly have for the name of Lovecraft’s most famous creation.

Chthulhucene denotes an ecological epoch in which people and assemblages of species must come together to flourish, one that runs concurrently or succeeds such epochs as Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, and so on. This appropriation of Lovecraft’s invention may seem at first counterproductive. Great Cthulhu, after all, embodies madness and destruction among other anti-life abstracts. Haraway calls attention to the difference in spelling and the new meaning made therefrom2. Her Chthulhu consists of the Cthulhu, tentacular entwining of all things reminiscent of the alien god’s octopoid visage, and an extra ‘h’ as homage to the Chthonic, ancient earthborn powers that possess more potential for liberation than Lovecraft’s cosmic nightmare3.

Students of the weird may be tempted to further ask Then why not just go with Chthonocene and spare Lovecraft from association with anthropocentric sentimentalism? My two cents: by pitting the two forces against one another, Haraway admits to ongoing battles the outcomes of which remain uncertain. Also, Lovecraft should never be spared. The times of aloof aestheticism have long passed. Legacies must be scrutinized, subsumed, composted. One small step toward victory for mother earth.

We already live in an apocalypse, I always say. Are we not its witnesses written about in tall tales of old, humans of bad karma whose suffering the great creative minds failed to anticipate in scope and kind? We are Oba Yozo, no longer human, who throws out a million uneaten bags of rice in one lunch sitting. We are the boy at the end of McCarthy’s grey road; we are also the consumed and the cannibals in no particular order. In this dust that reds the nose and waters the eyes, in this festival of masks; a prelude; an interlude; but never a postlude we lust after, it’s okay to take a deep breath once in a while.

1  Brett Davidson, “The Long Apocalypse: The Experimental Eschatologies of H.G. Wells and William Hope Hodgson”, Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies 1, no. 1 (2013).

2  A worthy but clumsy defiance since most of the Lovecraftian vocabulary is phonetically malleable. For this specific name, S.T. Joshi said at a NecronomiCon 2013 panel that, because the word was not meant to be enunciable using the human vocal cord, any slight variation in the English rendition is acceptable, and that he himself preferred to pronounce it ‘Klulu’ however it is written.

3  My own paraphrasing of Haraway.