Tag Archives: Horror

Transcendence of Fiction

PrintThe Electric Ant was far the most reality bending, mind-blowing acid trip of a story I have ever read. Reality is a very baffling aspect of life that can never be explained, and the nature of it’s complex facet can be seen through Philip K Dick’s short story The Electric Ant. After reading such tale, my mind was engulfed and flummoxed by the amount of ideas and theories The Electric Ant entertained with.

Electric Ant has its own rhythm, its own slow grind towards Dick’s proselytizing of reality as a sustained and consensual hallucination. In broad strokes, Garson Poole wakes after an horrendous accident. It’s the near future, and yet. The loss of a hand, something Garson has ostensibly suffered, is still a setback. A slow dread mounts as Garson prepares himself for living with the best prosthesis future-money can buy. And yet, the absence of pain, and the absence of phantom-limb complex allows for an entirely other kind of dread to steadily mount. Why is there no pain?

Garson Poole of course is the titular Electric Ant, parlance for an organic robot. Garson Poole is an object, property that is owned, that has been traded, positioned into an artificial life, and ultimately is replaceable. His steady relationship with his partner, his friendship with his corporation’s CFO; these are nothing more than controls implemented by Poole’s perennially unseen owners.

How scary is having to reconfigure your life after the loss of a limb? It really is nothing compared with the deletion of a history. It was 1969 and PKD crafted a tale of pure terror. Electric Ant was and remains an exhilarating ride into fear, where perpetually unseen forces dehumanize the human spirit.  Electric Ant is also the unfurling of the human spirit. Taking his existence into his own hands, Garson Poole begins to manipulate the paper reel that runs his punch-card code that controls his reality. Garson Poole, on the terms of his new existence, begins to edit the code that represents his reality. And he slips anonymously away from objecthood into personhood. Very literally, Garson Poole re-humanizes himself. There is an indomitable refrain that appears. Not just in Poole’s courage to manipulate reality, but in PKD also. It is 1969. And PKD’s idea of reality being locked into place as a perception of a wide spectrum of possibility, narrowed to one code that must constantly re-run is 15 years ahead of Kanerva’s famous algorithm of distributed memory. It can be obviously dictated that the impact of PKD’s work is immense. It is a wave, reaching backwards in time as far as it crests forward.

However, with all this said there is also another theory that has unraveled itself through research of PKD himself. The theory of how there is a parallel that can be observed through the story of The Electric Ant with hallucinatory drug experimentation. PKD acquired a reputation as a “psychedelic writer” during the late sixties because of his fiction. In a interview, he even stated that he had a big drug problem, however it was only from prescription amphetamine abuse. To paraphrase from his explanation of his experience from lsd, the landscape froze over. God was judging him as a sinner and it went on for a thousand years. He could only speak Latin and the only part that captivated him was that when he looked in the refrigerator he saw that it was full of stalactites and stalagmites. Convenient and interesting how such a simply experiment can relate to so much of the experience explained within Electric Ant. Although many people including myself may prefer the first theory of PKD being ages ahead of his time, it doesn’t dispute the second theory that maybe he just got lucky with all the drug experimentation. However, no matter what PKD still transcended time with his story writing and opened up a whole new landscape of fiction and theory.

Frankenstein

With dull yellow eyes, pearly white teeth, black lips, and a shriveled complexion, the fiend in Frankenstein was a horror to the human eye. Not only did he cause fear in those who faced him, but also in his creator, Victor Frankenstein. As the novel develops, we learn, as well as Frankenstein, that playing the role of God is not a human responsibility. However, because of his eagerness and dream to infuse life into a dead body, Frankenstein works 2 years to accomplish this goal. Then, when the lifeless thing arose from its inanimate state, Frankenstein feels terror. “For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart” (pg. 51).

frankenstein

The novel continues to develop, and we then read from the monsters point of view as he explains the troubles of being a wretched creature, who strikes fear in those he comes in contact with. In this, we see how he goes from quietly observing humans, hiding in the shadows, to murdering Frankenstein’s love, friend, and brother.

As we see the transition of the wretch, he gets angrier as the text progresses. He demands that Frankenstein create another monster to be his companion because he is living a terrible, and lonely life. To strengthen his desire, he tells Frankenstein: “If you consent, neither you nor any other human being shall eve see us again: I will go to the vast wilds of South America. My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment” (pg. 130). However, Frankenstein does not create a companion for the monster and in anger, the monster then kills Elizabeth and Clerval. So, my questions to the class: Did the monster deserve a companion to roam the earth with? Does he not deserve the chance to be happy too, like humans? Was his promise to leave man alone worth creating another monster?