Alien invasion has never been so funky.

Speaking of War of the Worlds, I’ve also been listening to this beauty while reading the HG Wells novel this week – ‘Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds’.

My Dad introduced me to the record when I was a kid, and I remember being fascinated by the gory album art and sci-fi strings. Give it a listen, it’s dead fun.

I also think it’s really cool that a Victorian sci-fi novel can become a prog-rock-opera eighty years later. Anything can be adapted into anything if you want it badly enough. And so I eagerly await the release of Paradise Lost: The Video Game. … Or perhaps not. Dante was weird enough.

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Interesting (but relatively pointless) thought of the day

So here’s an idea.

Say you watch a film which is an adaptation of an earlier work of fiction, say a classic novel or a forty year old film, transposed to a relatively realistic modern-day setting. In order for the plot to make sense, you have to assume that this new story is set in a world where the earlier fiction it is based on never existed. Otherwise, the story would be so familiar that everyone would be walking around with real life spoilers inside their collective social memories. This is particularly noticeable with things based on very famous works, for example, Shakespeare plays transposed to the modern day – though, admittedly, the use of early modern English colloquialisms in an American high school probably causes more of a break in the realism. Forsooth, thou saucy cheerleader.

I say this because I just watched the 2005 remake of War of the Worlds (the slightly disappointing one with Tom Cruise in it) and thought that all of these poor civilians running around screaming must live in a world where the original novel by HG Wells never existed. Otherwise (SPOILER ALERT… :P) they would realise that those familiar tripods would keel over and die after a very short while due to their lack of resistance to Earth’s microorganisms. Maybe then they would’ve just found somewhere quiet to hide for a while instead of panicking so much.

Just a thought. I realise it’s probably been suggested before, so if this isn’t the first place you’ve read this, please just pretend there’s a footnote. (also, let me know) 🙂

– SYKES

Frankenstein’s Monster

Frankenstein's Monster

‘His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath: his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.’ – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 1818

(Apologies for the double post, was just done because I wanted one with the painting by itself, where it would show up in the reader. 🙂 )

Rebuilding Frankenstein’s Monster

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Lecture-time is doodle-time.

I’m still alive!
This past week I have been busy doing a university, rereading and studying Mary Shelly’s classic novel, Frankenstein. It’s one of those words so embedded in Western culture that the mere title is enough to conjure up images of the lumbering brute with the bolt through the neck – even among those who haven’t read the book. Especially among those people.

The Frankenstein’s monster that most people, myself included before reading the original, imagine, and which pops up a thousand times over with a Google image search, is the one portrayed by Boris Karloff in the 1931 film version. This guy:

The part in this film version where he throws the little girl in the lake is always unintentionally hilarious to me. Does that make me a bad man?

And yet, this version, iconic and enjoyable though it is, strays heavily from the novel in terms of both plot and aesthetics. Here is the first description of Frankenstein’s creature from Mary Shelley’s 1818 original, after the hapless scientist succeeds in creating life by infusing ‘a spark of being’ into a lifeless body:

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! – Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath: his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

Seems fairly different to the monster which most of us have locked away in our shared/public memory. Frankenstein is a difficult novel to adapt faithfully to the screen, due to its framing narrative device, extended internal monologues, and various convoluted plot points. The closest version to a faithful adaptation I’ve seen so far is the 1977 film ‘Terror of Frankenstein’ (dir. Calvin Floyd), an Irish/Swedish production which takes the story very literally. It’s enjoyable, but quite dense and heavy handed at times.

The various adaptations go to show, I think, that this is a novel with an incredibly enticing imaginative prospect, so enticing that curious re-writers everywhere are happy to overcome the problems with representing such a profoundly creepy being in a visual form.

Finally, here is my own attempt at this, in watercolour paint. It’s only when you try to do it yourself that you realise how difficult it is to create an image of a being that is unbearably ugly, unsettling and not quite human, despite Shelley’s seemingly specific descriptions above.

Frankenstein: 'Begone! relieve me from the sight of your detested form.' 'Thus I relieve thee, my creator,' he said, and placed his hated hands before my eyes.' Even ungodly walking corpses have a sense of humour.

Frankenstein: ‘Begone! relieve me from the sight of your detested form.’
‘Thus I relieve thee, my creator,’ he said, and placed his hated hands before my eyes.’
Even ungodly walking corpses have a sense of humour.

– SYKES

Based on a True Story

I have been quiet this week on the blog front, mainly because of persistent intervention of the so called REAL WORLD dragging me away from my computer and off into the misty wastes of the outside land.
In other words, it was time to leave home and go back to uni for a new term.

Here’s how it went down.

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Despite my best efforts to stay hidden and hunched over a laptop, I was eventually seized by those terrible monsters some call ‘responsibilities’ and forced to leave my room.

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Luckily for me, in this case I was spared the full brunt of adulthood as I have one more year’s respite, returning to university after 3 years to study for a Masters degree. And so I did, with only a tiny bit of earth-shattering complaint and unreasonable fear. It’s actually pretty great to be back.

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END

Disclaimer: This is more or less how it happened, though I may have exaggerated ever so slightly with the part about the glowing ethereal arms of reality dragging me kicking and screaming into the light. The part about the bowl is true though. It all got very Withnail and I.

-SYKES