Author Archive: Christopher Waldrop

Immortal Remains.

One of the classical ideas about art is that it should outlive its creator. Nothing lasts forever, although there is the saying, “Man fears time, but time fears the pyramids.” And there are cave paintings that look at the pyramids and laugh and say, “Kids,” but that’s another story. Freud wrote about the same idea, saying that art isn’t just creative, it’s procreative. And how many artists speak of their works as their children? Well, I don’t have exact numbers, but it’s pretty common, even among artists who have actual flesh and blood children–and I’m not talking about artists whose medium is flesh and blood.

Another way of looking at it is that every work of art is the remains of an artist. Sometimes that can be taken a little too literally. In 2001 the mystery writer Patricia Cornwell was so convinced the Victorian painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper she purchased more than thirty of his paintings, spending more than £2 million, and had forensic scientists cut one up in search of DNA. Sometimes you’ve gotta roll the bones, but in this case it came up snake eyes: no DNA was found. Cornwell may be right but the evidence that Sickert worked in more than just oils is still sketchy.

Cracking the case of one of the most famous serial killers of all time–2018 marks 130 years since the Ripper’s spree–would be something, but maybe some ghosts are best left alone.

What To Expect When You’re Infected.

Source: IMDB

So you’ve come into contact with an alien parasite. Chances are this wasn’t planned. You were expecting your life to go a certain way and suddenly everything’s about to change. You’re probably asking yourself a lot of questions like, How did this happen? What can I expect? Will this affect others around me? How long have I got? Is there anything I can do? Could I have avoided this if I didn’t work at an arctic research station, for an interplanetary mining operation, or live in a small California town?

Most of these are good questions. Don’t worry! This brief guide will offer you some information about what you can expect. For now we’ll just focus on some of the most common alien parasites you’ve likely picked up. And cheer up! Your body is going to be undergoing some strange and exciting changes soon, but it’s all part of the miracle of life. More specifically it’s all part of the miracle of life adapted to survive the harsh darkness of interstellar space. Good luck on your incredible journey!

So you’ve been infected with…

Xenomorph Type A: Able to absorb and replicate any carbon-based life form, transmitted through direct physical contact.

Gestation period: Under an hour.

Pros: Lucky you! You’ll be able to replicate and successfully pass among humans or other dominant life forms, easily assimilating others. Better do it in private, though, and keep the noise down. You don’t want anyone knowing that you’re not one of them—at least not until it’s too late! Your ability to perfectly duplicate not just looks but the speech and behavior patterns will allow you to pass unnoticed and created fear and suspicion, which is really entertaining to watch. That’s just where the fun begins, though. You’ll also be able to contort, twist, and reshape your body. You’ll even be able to send individual pieces scuttling away if the rest of you is damaged or even threatened. Even more exciting you may not retain any individual consciousness but you will have the knowledge from all previous lives giving you the ability to construct an interstellar craft in case you need to make an escape or if you’re just ready to move onto another planet. And if you can’t do that you can also survive in deep freeze for an indefinite amount of time, just waiting to be thawed.

Cons: For the host, assimilation is quick and only somewhat painful. For the parasite, reveal yourself too soon or get caught in the act of assimilating someone and you’ll give your presence away. Be careful about who or what you assimilate because you’ll also pick up any physical ailments. Each cell of your body will also act independently so something as simple as a hot needle in a petri dish of your blood could give you away. And keep in mind that you’ll be really susceptible to fire.

Xenomorph Type B: Grows inside a host from a larval form. Retains some characteristics of the host species but has a distinctive body armor and chemistry.

Gestation period: Several hours.

Pros: Oh boy, this is a lot of fun! Well, not so much if you’re the host, but if you are, relax, it’ll be fine. After a nice long rest you’ll wake feeling refreshed. You’ll appear healthy and happy and just fine right up until the point that your alien parasite bursts out of you in a messy, excruciatingly painful birth process that, let’s be honest, is going to kill you. If you’re the parasite, good news! You’ll literally hit the ground running. You’ll be strong and energetic, and while you might need to hide out for a bit, don’t worry. It won’t be long before you’ve matured into an extremely large armored creature capable of surviving even in the vacuum of space. You might even have a chance to be a queen and lay hundreds or even thousands of eggs. And no need to worry about any nasty cuts. Your acidic blood will eat through almost anything.

Cons: Because you’re so formidable you’re going to be wanted by large, vague corporations intent on exploiting you for military purposes. Some alien species will even hunt you for sport, practice, or just as a rite of passage. And keep in mind that you’ll be really susceptible to fire.

Plant-based Xenomorph: Grows from a seed pod, externally replicating a usually sleeping host who then dies.

Gestation period: Minutes to hours.

Pros: I would say you have a lot to be excited about but you won’t have any more pesky emotions! Other than that you’ll blend right in. No need for heavy spacecraft either: your seed pods can be ejected directly into space. Also once there are enough of you you’ll be able to identify the remaining humans by pointing and emitting a loud hissing scream which doesn’t really do anything but looks cool.

Cons: The lack of emotions will make people who knew your former self suspicious. Any interruptions of your gestation process could create bizarre a chimera if, say, your pet dog is nearby. And keep in mind that you’ll be really susceptible to fire, and pretty much everything else.

And This Is How The Message Ran.

So I was walking to the bus stop and needed some walking music to get there and pulled out my phone. And because it was October, the most wonderful time of the year, there was only one thing I was really in the mood for. I pressed the button and said, “Play Science Fiction Double Feature.”

And my phone replied, “Which one?”

Oh, yeah.

The scary thing is this isn’t even the complete list.

Feet, And Everything Else, Of Clay.

Source: Cartoon Brew

When I was a kid I’d spend hours playing with modeling clay, creating miniature worlds and the strange creatures that inhabited them. When I was finished I’d mash them up and start over again, although what I really wanted to do was Claymation. Some magic tricks are even more impressive when you know how they’re done, and after seeing how it was done that’s how I felt about Claymation. It just fascinated me that every motion, every gesture, every change of a clay figure was produced through the slow and patient work of a pair of human hands, and not that different from what I created, then destroyed, at the kitchen table. I even created characters, wrote scripts, plotted out movements, but cameras were expensive then. Well, they still are, but most of us carry cameras around in our pockets all the time.

What I didn’t know until I recently heard about his passing was that the genius behind a lot of the Claymation I loved so much was Will Vinton. Vinton created the term Claymation. He won a 1975 Academy Award for his short Closed Mondays, which I remember seeing bits of but not in its entirety until now—thanks, YouTube—and several other projects. His studio produced, among other advertising campaigns, the California Raisins and Domino’s Noid, which has a weird and dark history. His studio also produced the Claymation Christmas Celebration which I loved even though I’d outgrown playing with clay by the time it first aired.

I never even knew his name but he was one of my childhood heroes.

Hail and farewell Will Vinton.

Getting Deep.

Spending the night in a cave was fun.
I went in with my Scout troop. Spoiler alert: I also came out with my Scout troop. Well, most of them, anyway. We might have lost one or two. We were touring Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee. Part of the fun was that we left home after school on a Friday afternoon in the fall so we arrived after dark and had to make our way up the trail to the cave entrance with our flashlights out and our sleeping bags on our backs. The cave rangers, a group of guys in olive drab, heavy boots, and bright yellow hard hats, led us down a stairwell and into the main entrance room, a high-ceilinged area that was brightly lit and had a canteen area and restrooms at one end and at the other stretched away into darkness. We were told to leave our bags there but to choose a spot carefully because it was where we’d be sleeping. I picked a spot away from the main group. I wanted to get the full cave experience and if I rolled over to one side I could look into the abyss. I didn’t think about how that might affect my sleep. In fact we were then taken on the spelunking tour at what seemed like very late at night. In fact it was probably not later than six or seven, but I realized time has no meaning in a cave. There is no day or night underground. There is only the passage of time, a passage that, for most caves, is measured in slow, steady drops that build hanging stalactites, the rising cones of stalagmites, and that wear away the stone to reveal crystals of quartz or gypsum. In one massive room we were told that where we were sitting had once been the ceiling, that it had collapsed approximately ten-thousand years earlier, and I hoped it wasn’t due for another makeover, but that’s another story.
After we had been through the “wild” part of the cave, where the only light we had was our flashlights, where we had to crawl through tight spaces, and where we went through the infamous Bubblegum Alley, a stretch where the mud nearly sucked the shoes off our feet, we were brought back to the main room. Everyone settled into their sleeping spots. All the lights except the ones just overhead were turned off so that we were in a warm pool surrounded by darkness. One of the rangers, a tall skinny guy who stood out because he was the only one without a beard, came and stood among us.
“I’m going to tell y’all why you don’t go spelunking alone,” he said. Shouldn’t this have been covered before the tour? I thought. “I’m going to tell y’all about a Scout like you who was at the back of the line and decided to go explore a side tunnel. His name was Kevin. He thought he could find his way back, but if you’ve done spelunking you know the way back never looks like the way in. There are turns and tunnels that you didn’t see that open up. Not all these caves have been mapped either, and we don’t know how far they go. Search parties were sent out but Kevin was to deep, and he kept moving. If you get lost in this cave,” and he looked hard at all of us, “you stay in one spot. It’ll make it easier for us to find you.” He walked among us, continuing to talk. Kevin drank water from pools he found and ate the cottony fungi that grew on the walls. It tasted terrible but it was all he could find. Then he started to catch small cave fish, and he caught bats and would drink their blood. Kevin managed to survive a year, then two years. His clothes were shredded on the rocks and he went naked. One night he found his way into the main room. As the ranger told us this I thought about Gollum, and stories of subterranean humans, and wondered if those creatures were inspired by real events. None of us asked how the ranger knew all this in such detail.
“It was late at night and Kevin walked among the sleeping campers,” the ranger went on. “He knelt down next to a boy and touched him. The boy woke up and screamed. All the lights were turned on and Kevin saw his own body for the first time in a long time. His skin had become translucent, his organs visible and pulsing. He ran and disappeared before anyone could grab him.” The ranger crouched and started tracing the dirt with his finger. “No one knows if Kevin is still out there. People think they see him sometimes on the tours, and rangers report finding footprints in the farthest ranges of the cave. We don’t know if he’d hurt anyone but where he touched the boy he left a mark, a white mark, right on the boy’s jugular vein, where the blood flows, like the blood of bats that he drank to survive.”
The ranger stood up. “Well, good night kids!”
All the lights were turned off and we were left in total darkness. There is no moon, there are no stars in a cave, only a ceiling of stone.
I was bleary-eyed at breakfast the next morning. After picking up a pack of cereal and a carton of milk I sat down at one of the long tables across from the ranger who’d told us the story. I looked over and noticed he was wearing a name tag.
Kevin.

How Do We Get There?

Source: Space.com

So scientists have discovered what might be the first ever exomoon, a moon around a planet in another solar system, and that’s exciting because within our own solar system moons have become the place to look for life outside of this planet. Specifically Europa and Enceladus may be homes for extraterrestrial life; worlds with big sloshy oceans and hot cores hidden under a thick layer of ice, which means that if there’s life there it may never have seen the stars. It may not have any awareness of life beyond its own world. And if you know your Douglas Adams you know what that could mean for life, the universe, and everything.

The reason they why they had never thought to themselves “We are alone in the Universe,” was that until one night, they didn’t know about the Universe.
Imagine never even thinking, “We are alone,” simply because it has never occurred to you that there’s any other way to be….
They flew out of the cloud.
They saw the staggering jewels of the night in their infinite dust and their minds sang with fear.
For a while they flew on, motionless against the starry sweep of the Galaxy, itself motionless against the infinite sweep of the Universe. And then they turned round.
“It’ll have to go,” the men of Krikkit said, as they headed back for home.

Or it might not be so bad. With the discovery of every new exoplanet, or even considering the possibility of life beyond our little blue sphere, my first thought is always, how do we get there? Because even if you barely know anything about astronomy you know that the universe is really big and that means there’s a lot of, well, space, between us and even our closest neighbors. Consider this: it takes eight minutes for sunlight to reach us and if you’ve ever looked at the sun you know how close it is. Also you should never look at the sun. It takes thirteen minutes for that same sunlight to reach Mars, and it takes a really long time for any sunlight to hit Uranus, but that’s another story.
It takes more than four years for that same sunlight to reach our nearest stellar neighbor, and that’s how big space is. Getting there seems like an insurmountable challenge, but we’ve been exploring the local solar system for less than a century. And as for the question, where are the aliens? we’ve barely begun to even look. Even if they use the same radio frequencies we do their transmissions are going to be limited by the same speed and distances as ours. Space exploration has already spanned generations and will have to take several more–it took Voyager 1 thirty-five years just to leave the solar system, traveling at about 38,000 miles per hour, and even if it doesn’t get pulled over for speeding it’s going to be a really long time before it reaches another solar system.
If we’re going to survive as a species–and I realize that’s a big if–the real challenge isn’t going to be living on this planet but what’s beyond it, which is why what’s out there, where the whole process of life started, where it must be continually starting in so many places, is the key to our very existence. And what’s out there isn’t going anywhere, so the question is, where are we going?

And All The Devils Are Here.

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

-John Milton, Paradise Lost

Except for the horns he might have been a nude middle-aged man, shaved, and painted bright red. But if he’d been human you wouldn’t have wanted to know him. He seemed built for all of the Seven Deadly Sins. Avaricious green eyes. Enormous gluttonous tank of a belly. Muscles soft and drooping from sloth. A dissipated face that seemed permanently angry. Lecherous—never mind. His horns were small and sharp and polished to a glow.

-Larry Niven, Convergent Series

Why, this is Hell, nor am I out of it.

-Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

There was a time when I used to get lots of ideas… I thought up the Seven Deadly Sins in one afternoon. The only thing I’ve come up with recently is advertising.

-George Spiggott (Peter Cook), Bedazzled

People all said beware,

Beware, you’ll scuttle the ship.

And the devil will drag you under

By the fancy tie ’round your wicked throat.

– Frank_Loesser, Guys & Dolls

He was a softly glowing, richly smoldering torch, column, statue of pallid light, faintly tinted with a spiritual green, and out from him a lunar splendor flowed such as one sees glinting from the crinkled waves of tropic seas when the moon rides high in cloudless skies…So I chanced the remark that he was surprisingly different from the traditions, and I wished I knew what it was he was made of. He was not offended, but answered with frank simplicity:

“Radium!”

-Mark Twain, Sold To Satan

Therefore Lucifer was perhaps the one who best understood the divine will struggling to create a world and who carried out that will most faithfully.

-Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion: West and East

There had been times, over the past millennium, when he’d felt like sending a message back Below saying, Look we may as well give up right now, we might as well shut down Dis and Pandemonium and everywhere and move up here, there’s nothing we can do to them that they don’t do to themselves and they do things we’ve never even thought of, often involving electrodes. They’ve got what we lack. They’ve got imagination. And electricity, of course. One of them had written it, hadn’t he…”Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”

-Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens

 

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