Sunday, March 27, 2011

The discovery of Amelica

Speaking of SF: Mere Pseudo Blog Ed. reports on a Seo Young-Chu talk on "North Korea as science fiction" (prefacing a screening of Pulgasari) that I would have loved to go to, and connects it to a Gaddafi angle that hasn't come up in the recent Libya news: Gaddafi's 1998 book of short stories, Escape to Hell.

So much for North Korea, but half a world away, another megalomaniac is busy constructing hyperreality out of midnight-movie pastiche.[...][W]hile Escape to Hell is one of those books that one likes to amuse guests with, it is not merely an oddity.

Of course, it is odd. Suicidal astronauts? “Jewish satellites” taken down by the power of mass prayer? Pathetic entreaties to respect “the earth’s bounty” by a the leader of an oil kingdom? Hand-wringing ruminations on the gender of death? The discovery of “Amelica” by an Arab prince? The line between sarcasm and solipsism is difficult to discern. Certain broad tendencies, however, are impossible to ignore.

Escape to Hell opens with a harangue against urban life, the Fritz Langian bleakness of which is paralleled only by the anxious, mephitic metropolises of dystopian, futurist science fiction. The “Hell” of the title both is and is not the city; even if the latter is vile, “how beautiful is hell compared to your city!” City inhabitants are like rats and mice, scurrying emotionlessly, like the robot inhabitants of sci-fi Pyongyang: ”City people do not address one another as fellow social beings or even human entities, but as ‘You, who live in apartment number x on floor number x…telephone number x, license plate on car number is x’ and so on.” The city is “a filthy tomb,” with “no moon or sun,” perpetually dark like the sci-fi cities of Blade Runner or A.I..

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