Fantasy, science fiction, paranormal thrillers. Visit http://blakemont.com/
The ocean is the most mysterious place on Earth. We probably know more about the other planets of the Solar system than about the depths of this vast expanse that covers 71% of the surface of our planet. Deep-sea exploration has been fascinating humankind since antiquity. In the “Alexander Romance” (earliest version traced to the third century BC), we find an episode in which Alexander explores the bottom of the sea in a glass diving bell. But the ultimate classic novel dealing with oceanic exploration is “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne (French: “Vingt mille lieues sous les mers”, 1870). This literary masterpiece is one of the earliest science fiction novels, and it features a particularly interesting postromantic character, the “tragic villain” Captain Nemo. Jules Verne shows us that the human soul is like the abyss; one can find light even in an ocean of darkness.
On 28 August we celebrated the 200th birthday of Sheridan Le Fanu, author of “Uncle Silas” (1864) and “In a Glass Darkly” (1872), among other works. He is best known for his novella “Carmilla” featuring a memorable female vampire. Despite their sensationalist nature, Le Fanu’s stories are deeper than one might think; he masterfully used the supernatural to comment on Victorian society and its systems of repression and control. His works are also noteworthy for their aesthetics. In “Carmilla”, he cultivated a typically dark romantic image of the vampire; more than just an undead creature feeding on the living, Carmilla symbolizes destructive passions, these wild, forbidden desires that live within us.
“She used to place her pretty arms about my neck, draw me to her, and laying her cheek to mine, murmur with her lips near my ear, ‘Dearest, your little heart is wounded; think me not cruel because I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness; if your dear heart is wounded, my wild heart bleeds with yours. In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die--die, sweetly die--into mine. I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love; so, for a while, seek to know no more of me and mine, but trust me with all your loving spirit.’
And when she had spoken such a rhapsody, she would press me more closely in her trembling embrace, and her lips in soft kisses gently glow upon my cheek.
Her agitations and her language were unintelligible to me.
From these foolish embraces, which were not of very frequent occurrence, I must allow, I used to wish to extricate myself; but my energies seemed to fail me. Her murmured words sounded like a lullaby in my ear, and soothed my resistance into a trance, from which I only seemed to recover myself when she withdrew her arms.
In these mysterious moods I did not like her. I experienced a strange tumultuous excitement that was pleasurable, ever and anon, mingled with a vague sense of fear and disgust. I had no distinct thoughts about her while such scenes lasted, but I was conscious of a love growing into adoration, and also of abhorrence. This I know is paradox, but I can make no other attempt to explain the feeling.”
Sheridan Le Fanu, “Carmilla” (1872)
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is known for his mystery and horror short stories, but he also wrote in other genres, including science fiction. His best SF stories (in chronological order) are “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall”, “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion”, “The Colloquy of Monos and Una”, and “Mellonta Tauta”. We can also mention “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains”, “Mesmeric Revelation”, “The Power of Words”, and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”. His only (complete) novel, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym” (1838), bordered on SF and inspired masterpieces such as “Moby-Dick” (1851) by Herman Melville, “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea” (1870) and “An Antarctic Mystery” (1897) by Jules Verne. Edgar Allan Poe also wrote an essay on cosmology, “Eureka: A Prose Poem” (1849), that can be read as a philosophical SF work.
Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (1818) is one of the most famous Gothic horror novels, but it was also one of the earliest forerunners of science fiction. Could humanity be destroyed by its own creation? Are we ready to face the consequences of technological progress and industrialization? Do we have the right to play God, create artificial life and intelligence? Questions like these are familiar to all science fiction readers, yet it was Mary Shelley, an early 19th century romantic, who articulated them for the first time. “Frankenstein” shows us that science without ethics is dangerous, monstrous, and can only lead to tragedy.