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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...

Monday, February 12, 2018


In MESSING WITH MISTER INBETWEEN PT 2 I explained my reasons for not deeming Neil Gaiman's NEVERWHERE star Mayhew to be a less than combative protagonist.

Mayhew may kill a monster with a great weapon, but the weapon's just given to him, with no sense of his having mastered it. 

The sense of mastery-- which I also referenced as a form of Nietzschean "self-overcoming" in COMBAT PLAY PT. 4-- can be a factor that plays a vital role in determining whether or not a given character can be seen as possessing at least "exemplary dynamicity." of the type described in DYNAMICITY DUOS PT. 1.

Jack Burton, my earlier example, might be styled a "weakling with a weapon," just as Gaiman's Mayhew character is. Burton's weapon isn't even as special as the one Mayhew inherits-- it's just a common throwing-knife-- but Burton uses a common object in an uncommon way, while Mayhew uses an uncommon object in a common way. The former places a positive light on Burton's self-overcoming, while a negative light is cast upon the short heroic career of Mayhew.

Another example appears in the British SF-film THE TERRORNAUTS, which I reviewed in August 2013. Main character Joe Burke and his tiny coterie of allies are roughly on the same level of "ordinariness" that I find in the Gaiman character. However, for what it's worth, the characters do have to pass some tests before they can get hold of the super-weapons with which they repel a horde of alien invaders.

Suffice to say that the humans pass all the tests, despite getting no help from the comedy-reliefs.  This accomplishment proves that they've capable of rational thought, and they receive presents, such as a ray-gun weapon, as rewards from the automated test-givers.  They soon learn that there had been a living caretaker of the asteroid facility, but he has died, which may explain why they never get a proper briefing on their reason for being here.  Fortunately, they stumble across the answers through various accidents, one of which teleports Sandy to the very planet of which Joe Burke dreamed.  After a violent encounter with some savage natives, the scientists learn that an interstellar space-fleet, which previously caused the destruction of the asteroid's makers (I think), is now headed for Earth.  Burke and his fellows then activate long-dead weapons and manage to blast the interstellar fleet into dust (hence my LAST STARFIGHTER comparison). 

True, the everyman heroes get some help from electronic skull-caps that instruct them on the use of the space-station weapons.

However, they, like the main character of LAST STARFIGHTER, have to figure out how to use the weapons in combat. so that the film slightly anticipates the 1970s vogue for video games like SPACE INVADERS.

I mentioned in my review of TERRORNAUTS that I hadn't re-read the source-novel, Murray Leinster's THE WAILING ASTEROID, at the time that I reviewed the film. However, I eventually did reread the Leinster novel, and found that the film followed the novel fairly closely-- except for the one scene that makes TERRORNAUTS a combative film for me. Leinster's characters pass more or less the same tests and don the skull-caps-- but they don't get to play "first-person shooters" with alien invaders. Instead, the Earth-people simply unleash what might be termed a "Maginot line" of explosive asteroids, and the enemy ships blunder into them.

Leinster's conclusion, though it has the same narrative value in terms of destroying the alien threat, lacks the significant value of combative sublimity, and so his everypeople don't quite ascend to even the "exemplary" level of megadynamicity I observe in the movie's characters.

More on this subject anon.

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