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Relevant Reads: “The Screwfly Solution”

Call me a Gilead-loving Martha, but I couldn’t get into The Handmaid’s Tale. Compared to books like Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, the Persepolis duology, Infidel, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced and Not Without My Daughter, Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian story about a theocratic U.S. that oppresses women feels more like a Disney movie than a cautionary tale.

Which is why I’m glad I discovered James Tiptree’s (note: Alice Sheldon wrote this story under the name Racoona Sheldon but it’s always recognized as a Tiptree story) 1977 Nebula-award winning short story “The Screwfly Solution”, a spine-tingling yarn that’s one-part alien invasion, two-parts femicide, with a heaping helping of religious fervor.

Now why am I comparing “The Screwfly Solution” to The Handmaid’s Tale? Well, one speculates on a future that may or may not happen. The other can happen anywhere and anytime to any woman regardless of her age, size, class, color or beliefs. It can happen in the home, the office, the school and even on the street. Not all women can relate to The Handmaid’s Tale but every woman can relate to “The Screwfly Solution”.

It’s unknown what inspired Tiptree to write “The Screwfly Solution”. Was it the many serial killer cases (of whom the majority of victims were women) that occured in the ’60s and ’70s – among them the 1977 Hillside Strangler case? We may never know because Tiptree died in 1987.

The story is framed in the form of letters between a husband and wife named Alan and Anne. Alan is in Columbia studying insects and Anne is telling him about some disturbing news reports back home:

The Red Cross has set up a refugee camp in Ashton, Georgia. Imagine, refugees in the U.S.A. I heard two little girls were carried out all slashed up.

All I could see about the clippings was that they were fairly horrible accounts of murders or massacres of women. The worst was the New Delhi one, about ‘rafts of female corpses’ in the river. The funniest (!) was the Texas Army officer who shot his wife, three daughters, and his aunt, because God told him to clean the place up.

In case you haven’t guessed, men are spontaneously murdering women in droves. From New Delhi to Cape Hatteras, bodies of slain women have been piling up in rivers and gulfs and everywhere else. It’s gotten so bad that an advertisement catches Alan’s eye:

THE FORSETTE FUNERAL HOME REGRETFULLY ANNOUNCES IT WILL NO LONGER ACCEPT FEMALE CADAVERS

Go ahead, shudder. Then pause for a moment because it’s all too familiar. Just look at these current events in our world:

A man in Turku, Finland attacks six women with a knife, resulting in two deaths.

In Marseille, France two cousins are stabbed to death while waiting at a train station.

Journalist Kim Wall’s body was found floating in a bag decapitated, dismembered, full of stab wounds and stitches sown into her torso. 

A man who identifies as a woman, murders a lesbian couple and their son in Oakland, CA.

A female torso is found floating in the Oshawa Harbor.

Here’s an in-depth article about violence against women.

WomenCountUSA is a website devoted to the number of girls and women murdered by men.

And let’s not forget India’s “missing girls”.

Yet what do all these cases have in common? They’ve gotten minimal news coverage or have been dismissed out of hand. Just as the murder of women is taken for granted in the story, misogynistic violence in real life isn’t taken as seriously as, say, racial violence or homophobic violence (the murder of the Oakland lesbian couple was barely mentioned in LGBT news media).

But systematic femicide isn’t the only problem affecting society in “The Screwfly Solution”Anne reveals another disturbing trend: a new religion has been gaining acceptance in society:

They’re calling it the Sons of Adam cult now.

What does this cult believe? Alan pulls out a flimsy sent by his friend Barney who explains via a book titled Man Listens to God:

Man must purify himself and show God a clean world…as long as man depends on the old, filthy animal way, God won’t help him. When man gets rid of his animal part which is woman, this is the signal God is awaiting. Then God will reveal the new true clean way, maybe angels will come bringing new souls, or maybe we will live forever, but it is not our place to speculate, only to obey.

And when they say “man gets rid of his animal part which is woman”, Barney means it in a literal way. In the same flimsy he relates a meeting with the Mayor (a devoted member of the new religion) of Peedsville to investigate this new cult – which ends in the casual murder of a female colleague:

Mayor Blount drove up in a police cruiser, and our chief…explained our mission from the Surgeon General. Dr. Premack was very careful not to make any remarks insulting to the mayor’s religion. Mayor Blount agreed to let the party go on into Peedsville to take samples of the soil and water and so on and talk to the doctor who lives there.

The mayor was about 6’2″, weight maybe 230 or 240, tanned, with grayish hair. He was smiling and chuckling in a friendly manner.

Then he looked in the car and saw Dr. Elaine Fay and he blew up. He started yelling we had to all get the hell back. But Dr. Premack talked to him and cooled him down, and finally the mayor said Dr. Fay should go into the warehouse office and stay there with the door closed.

Then Mayor Blount…came in…he smiled at me sort of fatherly, but he looked tense. He asked me where Dr. Fay was, and I told him she was lying down in back. Then he kind of sighed and went back down the hall, closing the door behind him.

After a while the door opened and Mayor Blount came back in. He looked terrible, his clothes were messed up, and he had bloody scrape marks on his face. He didn’t say anything, he just looked at me hard and fierce, like he might have been disoriented. I saw his zipper was open and there was blood on his clothing and also on his (private parts).

I didn’t feel frightened, I felt something important had happened. I tried to get him to sit down. But he motioned me to follow him back down the hall to where Dr. Fay was. “You must see”, he said. He went into the toilet and I went into a kind of little room there, where the cot was. I saw Dr. Fay lying on the cot in a peaceful appearance. She was lying straight, her clothing was to some extent different but her legs were together… Her blouse was pulled up, and I saw there was a cut or incision on her abdomen. The blood was coming out of there…Also her throat was cut open.

I returned to the office. Mayor Blount was sitting down, looking very tired. He had cleaned himself off. He said, “I did it for you. Do you understand?”

He went on to explain how Dr. Fay was very dangerous, she was what they call a cripto-female (crypto?) the most dangerous kind. He had exposed her and purified the situation.

Judging from what I’ve highlighted in bold you can guess why the mayor got away with murder. That’s right, “religious tolerance”. Early on in the story Anne raises the question:

Why can’t they do something, even if it is a religion?

Sound familiar? Here’s some more examples from our world:

At the Women’s March this year a woman holding an “Islam is Misogynistic” sign was attacked by protesters for “spreading hate”.

The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled feminist, FGM survivor and Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali as an “extremist”.

I myself was subjected to this. When I was a high school junior, I told my class about the way women were treated in Saudi Arabia (thanks to the previously mentioned book Princess) in the name of religion and a Muslim boy (who was a real thorn in my side) interrupted me and accused me of Islamophobia. Guess who the teacher (who hoped that one day the US would have a woman president) sided with?

∞∞∞

As the story reaches its conclusion, Alan kills himself after murdering his and Anne’s teenage daughter, and Anne – possibly the only woman left alive on Earth – is living in seclusion in the woods of Canada (at this rate the men are now murdering little boys in rapid numbers). Disguised as a man, she only comes to the local general store in her area for whatever she needs and hears talk from the men about angel sightings (proof to the men that they’re doing God’s Will). Then one day Anne sees the “angel” for herself and she realizes that it’s not an angel but an alien:

Let me repeat – it was there. And I think they’ve done whatever it is to us. Made us kill ourselves off.

Why?

Well, it’s a nice place, if it wasn’t for the people.

So it turns out that the aliens are spreading a mental delusion/disease among men, influencing them to murder the female half of the population, then boys and eventually each other. Once humanity goes extinct, the earth is ripe for the taking.

Are you interested in reading “The Screwfly Solution”? It’s available as a selection  of the only Tiptree anthology in print (bummer) Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. If you have read “The Screwfly Solution” or seen the Masters of Horror adaptation, what impressed you most about the story? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

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18 Signs You’re Obsessed With the “Alien” Franchise

Today is Alien Day! The “holiday” was introduced last year to commemorate the second film’s 30th anniversary. Since the asteroid the xenomorph eggs were found on was called LV426, it made sense to use the date 4/26 to celebrate everyone’s favorite horror-sci-fi franchise (take that 4/20 potheads!) much in the same way we celebrate May the Fourth. To take part in this celebration, I’m going to read your mind and reveal to you how you express your “love” for the Alien movies. Let’s begin shall we?

  • Whenever you send your naughty child to the corner of the house you put a life-size replica of the xenomorph complete with a second mouth that moves in and out in front of him/her.

Image result for ripley and alien gif

                    Go sit in the corner and think about what you did! (Source: Imgur)

  • You took up pole-dancing just so you can perform in a xenomorph costume.

       Then you perform your routine in front of your orange tabby, who just hisses.

  • You buy more than one cart of xenomorph eggs so that one day you can cook them and serve them to your husband for breakfast just so he can know what it’s like to give birth.

Image result for xenomorph toy eggs

                                                     Expires June 3, 2122.

  • You name your daughters Newt, Annalee and Amanda and your sons Kane, Brett, Parker, Ash and Dallas.
  • You sleep in a cryo chamber.
  • You’re license plate is either LV-426 or N0STRM0.
  • You’re answering machine is Ripley’s final report: “This is (your name here), last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off. Please leave a message.”
  • Instead of saying goodbye your parting remark is “Game over, man! Game over!”
  • You bought your in-laws facehuggers for Christmas (in space no one can hear you nag).
  • You sang “You Are My Lucky Star” to your kids as babies – which always ended with a scream.
  • Your biology thesis was on the xenomorph life cycle.
  • When you received news about John Hurt’s death you wore a black chestburster.
  • You wore a jumpsuit to school (with a Weyland-Yutani patch on both shoulders) everyday as a teenager.
  • You keep a flamethrower in the trunk of your car (you just never know).
  • Your ringtone is “Get away from her you bitch!”
  • If any one of your family members is sick you put them on quarantine for 24 hours – in a tent outside the house. We can’t take any risks you know.
  • You’re still sending death threats to the Academy Awards for not giving Sigourney Weaver the 1987 Oscar for Aliens.
  • You’re still sending marriage proposals to Sigourney Weaver – even though she’s been married to the same man for 32 years.

So that’s all I came up with. Could I have listed more? What other ways are you obsessed with the Alien franchise? Any and all suggestions, curses or threats is accepted in the comments section. Happy Alien Day!

 

 

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World War 1 Fantastic – Film

Unless you’ve been hiding out on some island hidden in the Bermuda Triangle, you may have heard the news that DC/Warner Brothers hotly anticipated Wonder Woman movie starring Gal Gadot will take place during World War 1 instead of the era where she was first introduced. DC must’ve read my mind because I’ve always imagined what Diana’s story would be like in the 1910s instead of the 1940s. This shows creativity on DC’s part because if they stuck with tradition, the film would be compared to Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger endlessly. It’ll also introduce a new generation of girls and women not just to a feminist icon but to a bygone era that changed the world a hundred years ago.

But I’m not here to speculate on a movie that won’t be out until next year (FACT: 2017 will be the centennial of America’s entry into the first world war). Today I’m here write another post about The War to End All Wars as seen through the lens of speculative fiction. My first post in the series looked at novels. My second one was about television. My last post listed video games. If you’ve guessed by now that today’s article is about film – you’re right!

Impossible! You say. There aren’t any fantastical films about World War 1! Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong! They do exist, you just have to find them.

Biggles: Adventures In Time: (1986. Released in the UK as simply Biggles). A film with arguably one of the most laughable taglines in movie history:

Meet Jim Ferguson. He lived a daring double-life with one foot in the 20th century and the other in World War 1.

Think for awhile why that that sounds so absurd. No, it’s not “double-life” part.

James “Biggles” Bigglesworth was a character from a series of book by W.E. Johns about an ace pilot and his adventures during and after the Great War. The first story, “The White Fokker” was published in 1932. The series grew in popularity to the point where they continued after Johns’ death. So it was only appropriate to make a full-length feature film about the character right.

Yes, except the original script was going to be closer in tone to the books and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Then Back to the Future was released…The success of that film made executives want to cash in on its popularity and the script was altered to include a modern day character named Jim Ferguson who “stumbles” into 1917 and befriends the titular hero. Jim later learns (from Peter Cushing, in his final film role) that he and Biggles are “time twins” two men who travel through time when one or the other is in mortal danger. OK if Jim just learned he had this ability in 1917 why didn’t he travel to the first three years of the war when Biggles’ life was threatened repeatedly? You know what, never mind. It’s too confusing. In case your wondering, yes, the film was a flop. Enjoy the trailer:

Deathwatch: (2002) A horror movie directed by Michael J. Bassett about a group of British soldiers who are suddenly surrounded by a mysterious “mist” and find themselves on the enemy side of the trenches where terrified German soldiers cower in fear about “something else further down the trenches”. Ignoring their warnings, the soldiers investigate and find rotting bodies, bloodied mud and an inhuman growl in the distance. Needless to say it all goes downhill from there and the British soldiers learn the true meaning of “No Man’s Land”. The question is, is the horror the result of supernatural forces or is it all in the soldiers’ heads? The cast includes a non-CGI Andy Serkis.

Here’s the trailer:

Sucker Punch: (2011) This film is not about World War 1. It’s about a girl living in 1959 who wants to escape from a mental asylum with her friends before she gets lobotomized. Or something like that. This film is very divisive among femgeeks: some call it a sexist masturbatory fantasy, others say it’s a critique about the sexualization of women in popular culture. One scene everyone remembers best, though, is Baby Doll’s (Emily Browning) fantasy sequence where she and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Amber (Jamie Chung), Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Rocket (Jena Malone) navigate through the trenches of World War 1 to retrieve a map. But they must fight off steam powered zombie enemy soldiers because all the allied soldiers are too shell-shocked to fight. The only available clip on YouTube is shown in three parts and is erroneously titled “Nazi Zombies”:

War of the Worlds: Goliath: (2012) This Malaysian animated film is a loose sequel to H.G. Wells’ seminal classic. It’s 1914, 15 years after the first Martian invasion. The world, as you know, is mobilizing itself for the Great War. Except this time the weapons used are engineered from Martian technology that was scrapped after the invaders died from disease. Just as war begins – how convenient! – the Martians return. With bigger, badder weapons! And stronger immune systems! As a wise man once said: “there’s always a bigger fish”.

Here’s the trailer:

So what do you think? Have you seen these films? Do you know of any other sf/fantasy/horror films that take place during The War to End All Wars? Let me know in the comments.

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