Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Times Outside History 5: Stonehenge and Wooden Henge

Wooden Henge. Image © University of Birmingham.

CNN reported July 22 that Professor Vince Gaffney and Dr. Henry Chapman of the University of Birmingham and a team of British and Austrian archaeologists from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna have discovered the imprint of a former Wooden Henge 900 metres from Stonehenge. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Retro-Futurism 3: Conan the Barbarian

There is a vast, unrecorded period of human history.  Roughly 18,000 years passed unrecorded from the latest suggested period of Neanderthal interaction with Cro-Magnons up to the Bronze Age.  This is the realm of fantasy associated with the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard.  The Stone Age began in Africa roughly 2.7 million years ago.  The transition from Stone Age cultures to metal-using technologies is in fact much later than Conan's fictional period: "the transition out of the Stone Age occurred between 6000 BCE and 2500 BCE for much of humanity living in North Africa, Asia and Europe." In Europe the transition to the Iron Age took place around 1,200 BCE.  Howard, like many others, placed the Iron Age much earlier in time than it actually occurred.  The author, best known for his 1930s pulp heroes, the Atlantean warrior Kull and the post-Atlantean Conan the Barbarian, portrayed the Prehistoric Iron Age period.  But Howard's 'Hyborian Age' for Conan is set from 14,000 BCE to 10,000 BCE - approximately 13,000 to 9,000 years too early.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Retro-Futurism 2: Revisiting a Fantasy of the Red Planet

Warlord of Mars #1 (2010). Cover by Jusco. © Dynamite Entertainment.

Broken Frontier reported on July 19 that Dynamite Entertainment would be publishing an expansion of classic Edgar Rice Burroughs's Princess of Mars.  The new series, out in October, will be called Warlord of Mars.  This series continues a current trend which revives the styles, ideas and culture from the long turn of the nineteenth century, roughly the period 1870 to 1930, and jumps headlong into the future.  Prehistoric, Medieval, Romantic and Gothic themes of pulp fiction fantasy dove-tail neatly with current real debates on Mars exploration.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Retro-Futurism 1: The Legendary Hallucinations by William Stout

One page from Hallucinations. © William Stout (2006).

Welcome to a new dimension of Retro-Futurism.  On July 15th, a remarkable book of illustrations entitled Hallucinations came out by William StoutThe Beat just reported that Flesk Publications, which published this book, will have a table at the upcoming San Diego comics convention.  The book blurb: "the multi-award-winning artist presents illustrations that capture the very essence of the good folk and odd creatures who populate the dark woods and sun-filled glades of Aesop’s Fables, who wander the wonder-filled roads of the Land of Oz or who tread the blood-red soil of the planet called Barsoom, which we know as John Carter’s Mars."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reflections on the Revolving Door of Death 2: The Death of the Postmodern Hero

Death of the Flash, COIE #8 (Nov. 1985)

In pulp fiction, character-driven stories, so beloved from the 1970s to the mid-1980s, are now a thing of the past. For many years, but especially since about 2003, DC's comics universe has been awash in death, legacy characters doing the rounds in their fourth versions, dying, and coming back in fifth versions (see my blog entry on this here). DC’s two big events in 2009-2010, Blackest Night and Brightest Day, epitomize the morbid fascination with death and resurrection. Yet the leading lights of the company proclaim that these events in fact will halt the tide of death and reinvest it with meaning, a message that was carried out of Blackest Night. In BN issue #8, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) announces that ‘dead is dead from here on out.’

While we wait for Brightest Day to deliver on writer Geoff Johns’s promise to give death meaning again, it’s obvious that DC and its competitor Marvel have a problem on their hands. During the Modern Age of Comics, which has run from the mid-1980s to the present, the mainstream comics companies painted themselves into a corner when they created the so-called ‘revolving door of death.’ Now, characters die so often in the name of ‘grim drama,’ that readers and critics cynically, or wearily, do body counts at the end of every crossover event. Why has DC killed off more than 650 (at latest fan count here at Legion World) of its characters since 2003? In all this overkill, the 2010 death of the young character Lian Harper aroused outrage at the company for gratuitously manipulating its readers, by taking excess to a new low. There is a deviantART site devoted to the topic here.  Yet DC mistakenly took this emotional response to mean that its creative team had created a dramatic story that moved its readers, rather than comprehending that their audience was expressing annoyance and genuine death trope exhaustion. Why is DC so tone deaf when it comes to hearing what fans are saying? A flood of gore cannot be used to revive the seriousness of already-overused death memes that once were sacrosanct.
X-Men #136 (Aug. 1980)

There’s more to this than a vicious circle of commercialism. Let’s go back. The death of a hero in any medium, let alone in comics, was once the height of drama. It grew out of older roots in epics, fairy tales, literature and religious sources. It was a narrative line that was almost never crossed. It carried weight. And because it was a powerful dramatic tool, it was invariably a commercially successful plot device. Practically every comics fan recognizes the famous X-men cover of Cyclops holding a half-dead Jean Grey. The cover foreshadowed her death in the next issue, when she sacrificed herself to save the universe in the Dark Phoenix Saga. According to Marvel wikia, issue #137 from September 1980 was “the first time that a major Marvel Comics super-hero [wa]s killed off on-panel.” Jean Grey’s death might be considered a harbinger of the Modern Age.