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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, February 16, 2017


I've written a few times about the difficulties of sussing out a focal presence when the narrative "will" seems to be focused upon a non-sentient environment. Carroll's Wonderland may be one of my earliest examples, since I don't believe that any character or group of characters stands out as the star of the show. In OBJECTS GIVEN LUSTER I looked at two narratives in which entire planets, irrespective of their inhabitants, were the foci of the respective stories.

The same principle applies to matters of time rather than space. I don't consider "the Time Traveler" to be the star of Wells' TIME MACHINE, and from one standpoint I might teem "time itself" to be the star. However, the bulk of the narrative does center itself upon the Eloi/Morlocks period of future-history, and so it's possible to see that one period as the focal presence of the Wells narrative.

It's much less problematic in some of the film-works influenced by Wells: in both WORLD WITHOUT END  and THE TIME TRAVELERS, some very forgettable viewpoint characters travel to specific eras of future-history. In the first, the time-jumpers manage to remake the future-Earth to suit their 20th-century tastes, while in the second, the travelers make it possible for the dead-end survivors of humankind to be reborn in a figurative "new Eden." But in both movies, it's the future-Earth that is the focal presence.

Still, there are times when a given "godlike figure," or group of figures, stands as the representative of his environment and/or people. Exeter of THIS ISLAND EARTH both stands for, and somewhat apart from, his fellow Metalunans. In the 1972 eco-horror film FROGS, the titular batrachians don't actually do anything to the hapless victims of a hostile environment. In my review, I remarked:

Oddly, the frogs don't do anything directly to anyone, but this is possibly the film's best conceit.  The frogs just sit around croaking while the other animals do all the dirty work, as if the batrachians were the brains of the swamp.  

Spooky houses or territories can also go either way. In my opinion the Overlook, the haunted hotel of Stephen King's THE SHINING, is the exothelic star of the story, not the psychic kid or his deranged dad. On the other hand, in the considerably less celebrated GHOST TOWN, a whole passel of spectral outlaws haunt a deserted western site. But only the leader of the outlaws, the significantly named "Devlin," incarnates the exothelic will of the haunted terrain: his stooges and the town itself are of lesser significance.

ADDENDA: It surprises me that though I completed this essay on the same day that I completed my essay on a MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER story, I failed to note that the main villain of the Magnus tale-- who went by the odd name of "L'sier" (like the French chemist Lavoisier?) represented the opposite tendency seen in THIS ISLAND EARTH and GHOST TOWN. Although L'sier is clearly the leader of the wastrel Gophs, as well as the only one named, he doesn't really do or say anything to distinguish himself from the rest of his crew. Therefore, although the Magnus story is *endothelic*-- that is, the authorial will concentrates on the featured robot-busting hero-- L'sier is not his "opposite number." Rather, the Gophs as a whole represent the antagonistic"will that opposes the central will." In similar fashion no single character in the motley crew of humans knocked off in FROGS stands out as representative of humanity, though Ray Milland's patriarch has the distinction of being saved for the final course of eco-revenge.

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