Saturday, November 13, 2010
Hungur’s Strange Metaphors: An Exploration of Alien Desires
The vampires in Hungur are stranger than your typical human-vampire. And, as I read the Walpurgisnacht 2010 issue, I became fascinated with a particular type of vampire: the alien-vampire with undefined and elusive motivations. The metaphor of the unfamiliar is powerful. It resonates with the unknowable elements within our lives, within our personal relationships or within our ever-changing and sometimes bewildering society.
Hungur 10, offers intriguing stories in which alien-vampires have understandable motivation. I enjoyed Marge Simon’s And Babylon Shall Rise Again which tracked an alien-vampire race manipulating the progress of human history, and R.S. Pyne’s Blood Drive which explored the vampire myth through from the point of view of android whose mind hosted a cabal of vampire old ones.
. Good stories, but I was looking for something other. I wanted to dig a little deeper into the bones of the unknown and find the desires which hover on the cusp of perception.
Hungur’s two ‘first contact stories’, both feature alien-vampires and both stories are told though the eyes of a human.
In Dev Jarrett’s Monochrome Smile, a space crew encounter a being of mind control, an entity able to hypnotise unwary humans. This unique alien consumes it victims’ bodies and produces a human facsimile, rendered in monochrome sand. This alien doppelganger retains the memories of its victims and an understanding of human emotion. The alien’s constant refrain is that it wants to be loved. In a nice touch, the people on Earth are thrilled at the discovery of an alien life-form, oblivious to the possible dangers. The story charts the struggle of Gregor, a member of the crew, as he strives to escape the alien and the potential catastrophic outcomes of this first contact.
Robert Essig’s story, Patrolling the Outer Rim, gives another glimpse into first contact. A human patrol ship lands on a planet to investigate strange human-like readings. Once on planet, they discover creatures in a flux between life and death, but these undead creatures are the lures of an alien-vampire race. The human crew quickly find themselves under attack. Patrolling the Outer Rim is a fast-paced adventure story, detailing the struggle between the crew and the alien-vampires.
Essig’s and Jarrett’s stories are both told from the point of view of the human characters and the motivations of the alien-vampires are not directly stated. Good stories, but I felt as if the stories demanded that I assign malevolent motivations to the alien-vampires. They did not quite capture the unknowable element I was seeking.
I found this elusive strangeness in a story and in a poem from writer and editor Terrie Leigh Relf. Her story Chimes of Bone has a dreamy, poetic quality which quickly established the strangeness of the setting with the depiction of the world’s three moons. This story is a cautionary tale: a warning to a young girl who has ventured into a forbidden place. The vampire creatures of this story seek the ‘secret codes’ in their victims’ blood which is needed for their transformation, first into monstrous creatures, and then into a disguise which allows them to blend into the native population. This story is full of wonderful strangeness and puzzling images, the narrator is revealed to be a ghost; the story echoes to the sound of the bones chime, made from the vampires’ victims; there are references to time distortion and to the recurring images of the world’s three moons. It is a lovely story full of unanswered questions.
Terrie Leigh Relf’s haibun poem balances strangeness and familiarity. The poem describes a wine tasting, but quickly establishes an unbalanced and weird world. The final haiku is particularly powerful.
Although it is a pity to reproduce it incompletely, I think this last haiku gives a flavour of the strangeness of Relf’s poem:
their contents spill
I am fascinated by the exploration of the strange. Hungur with its blending of the alien and vampire metaphors, within its axis of speculative incongruity is a good place to find such strangeness.
Hungur is published twice a year. You can purchase a copy ($12.50 + $2 S&H) from Sam's Dot's Genre Mall
Editorial guidelines can be found here.