Friday, 3 July 2009
Looks and sounds bad
Interesting video from YouTube: Kate Bush's 1986 Experiment IV, a Quatermass-style story about the development of a lethal sound at a research establishment; it still manages to be scary despite the jokey treatment. I don't know if it's a case of conscious/unconscious allusion, but the scenario is remarkably similar to David Langford's "What Happened at Cambridge IV" (in the anthology Digital Dreams, 1990) about the development of a lethal image at a research establishment. The latter is within Langford's mythos that started with his 1988 "Blit" (originally in Interzone) and continued in "comp.basilisk FAQ" (Nature, 1999) and "Different Kinds of Darkness" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2000).
See Motif of harmful sensation for many more examples of this idea. This is an Internet Archive document, because in March 2009 it was deleted from Wikipedia as original research. However, it's worth preserving as a catalogue of the myth, literature and culture concerning sights and sounds that can grab the mind in some harmful way (not necessarily fatally). This very common in SF and fantasy, which is no surprise (classically, Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos and Robert W Chambers' The King in Yellow spring to mind), but it extends to other genres such as mythology (e.g. the Medusa) and comedy (notably Monty Python's sketch about a deadly joke). A lot of the examples outside SF are entirely new to me. I'd never read Mark Twain's "A Literary Nightmare", for example, and while I'd heard of the Paris syndrome that fazes Japanese tourists, I didn't know about two other forms of culture shock, Jerusalem syndrome and Stendhal syndrome.