Thanks for another great episode. I think the podcast rightly points at the ‘moral’ of the story as among other things, anti-conservatist and anti-bureaucracy/lethargy. I like the tale very much, which has to do with the object of the tale: the weird in the phenomenon of antrophogenic structures as impossible living entities. There are quiet some weird tales that has this object. Here are some examples of tales that I like:
He – Lovecraft (1925)
The following quote can’t be more Lovecraftian, and wait, it IS from him 😉:
‘My coming to New York had been a mistake; for whereas I had looked for poignant wonder and inspiration in the teeming labyrinths of ancient streets that twist endlessly from forgotten courts and squares and waterfronts to courts and squares and waterfronts equally forgotten, and in the Cyclopean modern towers and pinnacles that rise blackly Babylonian under waning moons, I had found instead only a sense of horror and oppression which threatened to master, paralyze, and annihilate me.’
The point of this story is totally different from Miévilles (it has to do with horrible visions and portals to other times of the same city, according to Wikipedia stemming from Lovecraft’s xenophobic hatred of New York).
At first I thought back to his tale as one about a walk in the city which seems to change during the walk through impossible back yards and alleys that never existed before, but now I reread it, I can’t find this lines anymore – probably it was another, similar tale, but I can’t find it anymore. (Maybe it was a Feral Tale…)
A Tale of Two Cities (in: Sandman, Worlds’ End) – Neil Gaiman
Here follows some citation, edited by me, from ‘The Sandman Companion’ (by Hy Bender):
‘Robert loves his city, but when he gets on a train he’s never seen before he sees the Sandman. When he leaves the train, he finds himself in a city similar to his own, except that it’s virtually devoid of people. After much wandering, Robert eventually meets an old man who surmises that both he and Robert have become trapped in the city’s dreams. Eventually he escapes, but since that time, Robert has lived in fear that something even worse may happen; that one day all the sleeping cities will wake up, and rise.’
I really really like that last sentence. So, this tale is about whole living cities, not merely streets.
Neil Gaiman said about this tale: ‘It’s right in the H.P. Lovecraft vein – I even use the word cyclopean toward the end of it.’ And according to Wikipedia: ‘…especially [Lovecraftian] in its image of a character nearly driven to madness after discovering a truth that humans were never meant to know.’
House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski (2000)
This postmodern horror novel has many resemblances to Miéville’s tale (and is one of my all time favorite books). Instead of streets the seemingly living entities are the rooms of a certain house, that are changing and labyrinthine and are to be walked with survival equipment. Here also the people are becoming mad or dead or lost because of the impossible of the phenomenon. The house also houses a never-to-be-seen monster which is compared to the minotaur, but is something more elusive.
Another similarity is the postmodern use of documents and mystification, although this book takes it further with supposedly real but footnotes by the editor of the book, that are labyrinthine itself, as is the lay-out of the book.
Does anyone knows another such tale. I want to read them! (And they are very interesting as they all point to some deeper or darker side of humanity and the world, I think.)