8FOLD/HCC: Journey Into # 20, "Her Face In My Mirror"

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Sat Feb 7 20:03:28 PST 2015

On Saturday, February 7, 2015 at 5:05:32 PM UTC-5, Andrew Perron wrote:
> On 2/7/2015 12:02 AM, Tom Russell wrote:
> > On Friday, February 6, 2015 at 10:56:42 PM UTC-5, Andrew Perron wrote:
> >> On 2/2/2015 10:15 PM, Tom Russell wrote:

> >>>                  III. SCHERZO
> >>
> >> Ohshi Gallifreyan body horror--
> >
> > ??
> http://img3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20121217222626/tardis/images/d/d8/Scherzo_cover.jpg
> It's apparently pretty disturbing! <3

Hadn't heard of that one, and of course I meant it in the symphonic sense. :-)

> >>>      Her first suspect in the easiest to cross off her list; turns out
> >>> the third Kickflip Kingpin was captured two days before the attack by
> >>> his regularly-scheduled nemesis, Rainshade of Naperville.
> >>
> >
> > Not the first time either of these characters have appeared, by-the-by.
> Really. o.o But in which identity, I wonder.

In those identities, actually. :-)
> >>>      "I thought you were dead," says Pinochle. He opens a pack of cards.
> >>> "Or dying."
> >>
> >> Hm, I wonder if he's related to... um... wossface.
> >
> > ??
> Hm. I think I might have been thinking of Gallery? I'm not sure.

Huh. I didn't intend for him to have any familial connections to preexisting characters, though I won't necessarily rule that out. Was there something about him that gave that sense?
> >>>      That was until two months back when Dr. Metronome phased her hand
> >>> into the dentures, slamming them shut, permanently.
> >>
> >> Ewgh. Speaking of body horror, you seem to be a fan. (Well, NHOP confirmed that.)
> >
> >I don't know if I'd say that I'm a "fan" of body horror, per se. I'm
>  > actually extremely squeamish, and I find the whole genre deeply unsettling.
>  > I certainly do have that in mind with NHOP, which I mean to be unsettling
>  > without being gross, and where I am trying to extrapolate Maggie's own body
>  > image issues via genre elements.
> I dunno, it seems to be something you go for pretty often, in terms of trying 
> to make characters disturbing.
> (Also, NHOP gets. Pretty gross. @.@)

Well, not all the time, right? ...right?

Honestly, if "gross body horror" is the main impression one gets from NHOP, then I need to do a better job of it.
> >In this particular case. I was trying to come up with something that felt
>  > like a "scary" villain, as opposed to the more colorful sorts of villains
>  > that, for example, Knockout Mouse or Darkhorse might tangle with. I was
>  > going more for "darker Batman villain" than consciously evoking any
>  > elements of body horror, though of course there is some overlap between the
>  > two (e.g., Two-Face).
> Interesting - honestly, I was thinking more of that whole 
> hand-phased-into-mouth thing as being the most body-horror part.

Huh, I guess I see your point. I guess the presence of phasing attacks against mechanical/cyborg persons in superhero stories (cf. the Vision, Kitty Pryde... does Martian Manhunter do that as well?) has diminished the horrifying element somewhat.
> >>>      "Apparently she wanted out of her life," says Bethany. "Away from
> >>> the kids, from the husband. She saw her sister, single, free. Wanted
> >>> that life for herself. And when the List came out last week, she
> >>> thought she saw an opportunity. She killed her sister and took her
> >>> place, hoping we'd be looking so close at the Metronome angle that she
> >>> wouldn't be a suspect."
> >>
> >> So... why did she lie about it in the first place? `.` I wouldn't think
> >> random, compulsive lying would line up with calculated, remorseless lying..
> >
> >That's a good and perceptive question-- and there's a couple of reasons for
>  > it, one of which is hinted at in the story. I chose not to spell them out
>  > both to keep the focus on Kate, and to keep the Evil mysterious and
>  > unknowable. The latter is an intentional echo of Kate's origin story, in
>  > which her mother tries to drown her shortly after catching her
>  > masturbating, with no apparent motive or explanation.
> Hm. I dunno, this kind of thing pushes my buttons, because crime stuff has a 
> real problem with "unknowable evil"; implying that criminals, and especially 
> murderers, are Evil in an alien way that has no relation to the problems and 
> pressures of us Normal Folk.

I don't have a problem with unknowable evil myself because I don't think specific cases of "unknowable evil" necessarily implies that *all* or most criminals or even murderers are evil, alien, or abnormal. Most criminals, and even must murderers, are humans reacting to an dealing with psychological pressures and problems. And while I don't think any of that excuses the crimes, or mitigates the harm they've done, I do think it is worthwhile and important to try to understand the reasons for the crime, and to extend a degree of empathy to persons who have been driven to those circumstances.

Two quick personal examples that might be illustrate this point-- someone I know has been jailed repeatedly for drug-related breaking and entering. And he is not "evil", or unknowable. He is someone who was dealing with drug addiction, social pressure, anger about his father's death and his financial situation, and emotional/sexual abuse at the hands of his mother, who got him addicted to drugs at the age of 12 in the first place.

Second example: for a while I worked as a caregiver to a non-verbal autistic man who would suddenly become violent. That violence was always turned against my person-- really, myself and his other caregivers were effectively hired to be scapegoats and outlets for the violence. I never could anticipate the violence, which was always pretty horrifying. And I can't say I ever understood what was going on his head. But I had empathy for him, and understood-- in an intuitive way-- where that violence came from, where his frustration and his anger came from. Really, the only language he had at his disposal was that of violence. That didn't make him evil, completely unknowable, alien, or abnormal.

Acts of violence, up to and including murder, often come from a very human place-- frustration, anger, lust, grief, pain, even love. I know a woman who had a severely disabled adult son in his forties. She killed him, and then herself, upon learning she had cancer.

I think most of my fictional "bad guys" are, on the whole, recognizably human (exceptions made for robots and the like, of course), and driven to their actions by human needs and impulses. And I don't think portraying cases of unknowable evil necessarily diminishes the inherent humanity of 99% of criminals and murderers in either fiction or in life.

Now, all that being said.

I think there do exist specific cases where a person's motives are alien to conventional human understanding-- unknowable-- and cases where a person's actions are especially heinous, and performed without remorse-- evil. Or, at least, alien and heinous /enough/ so as to require an extraordinary amount of empathy so as to even begin to put the actions and their motives into anything resembling a recognizably human context-- a degree of empathy that is so great that its extension might constitute a callousness toward the suffering of the victims, and might indeed be undeserved. Theodore Bundy is a pretty apt example of this.

To be clear! I am not saying we as a society should /not/ strive to understand people like Bundy-- it is I think vitally important that his sickness (and it is a sickness) be understood and studied. We should not dismiss him or others like him as "not human". At the same time, it must be recognized that he was not someone driven by the same pressures as, or who acted even remotely like, "us Normal Folk". Us Normal Folk might be driven to steal, or cheat, or even murder by circumstances, stresses, and emotions. Generally, however, us Normal Folk will not murder women and then return over a series of several weeks to rape, apply make-up to, and wash/brush the hair of, their decomposing corpses. It is, and should be, well and truly alien to any decent human being.

This might be some pretty fine hair-splitting on my part, but I do think there is a difference between (a) dismissing someone or their actions as evil and unknowable and (b) recognizing that said actions are evil and unknowable. It's the difference between "no human being would do that" and "how could a human being do that?", a statement and a question, if you get what I'm saying.

Now, all /that/ being said. I do not think specifically w/r/t fiction that utilizing The Other, that presenting violence as seemingly unmotivated, is problematic, and the reason I do not think it is problematic is that it presents that violence in a way that reflects the way violence and malice are perceived in real life and in the moment-- scary, alien, and incomprehensible. An intrusion into "normal" life. (Though of course this generalization is limited to persons whose lives aren't "normally" violent due to war, abuse, etc.)

In the first Metronome story, the violence is presented from Kate's point of view, and that's the point of view of an eighteen year old woman who cannot understand why her mother is trying to kill her, who will never understand it. In the case of this story, it's not so much that Pond's motives are necessarily inscrutably alien, but that (a) the story wasn't about those motives, (b) Kate didn't really have an interest in them, and (c) I thought that presenting the violence in this way worked well with Kate's general uncertainty about the other things going on in her life. YMMV, of course.

> >A little background: before I wrote the Metronome-Knockout Mouse team-up
>  > story, I re-read Kate's origin story. (Which has some nice moments, but
>  > maybe doesn't hang together as well as I'd like.)
> I think it's pretty good-- a good beginning for Journey Into, to be sure.

Aw, thanks. Almost all the good stuff was Jamie's, of course. :-)

> >> Hmmmmm! Would people make that assumption, necessarily?
> >
> > Well, if you look at what's known by John Q. Eightfoldian...
> >
> > + Paige Pond was confirmed by the government as being Dr. Metronome.
> > + Paige Pond murdered her sister and was arrested.
> > + Dr. Metronome hasn't been seen since.
> >
> >....I think it's a fair assumption for a large chunk of the public. There
>  > would be those who doubt its veracity-- persons who think, for example,
>  > that the government was wrong (which, in fact, they were). I think,
>  > however, with the List being verified as correct in most if not all other
>  > cases that this kind of theorizing might be met with skepticism, and that
>  > the mainstream belief that Paige Pond was Dr. Metronome will hold.
> See, I thought that fact #2 would cancel out fact #1-- but then, it really 
> depends how it's reported, isn't it? Hmmmm...

Very true. But let's look at how it would be likely to be reported, assuming a mass media that general conducts itself like that in our world. Dr. Metronome is a minor hero whose best "work" in long behind her-- career highlights having been in 2005 (capturing Dingham) and 2008 (about which, more later). Now, this minor superheroine using a villain's codename and tech has killed her own sister? The media would eat them up with a spoon. On top of that, she was and remains a fugitive (at least while in Chicago), but they've turned a knowing, winking blind eye to her for the last three years. They could have, "should have" captured her, prevent this murder from happening, etc. On top of that, this blind eye policy was done at either the explicit or implicit direction of Lacey Trimmer.

Lacey Trimmer being the Secretary for the Department of Super-Human Affairs. Appointed by Barack Obama.

If nothing else, Fox News would have a field day, Republicans would call for inquiries, etc.

I know if I was Kate, before retiring I would definitely want to put in one more, at least token, appearance as Metronome, providing clear evidence that she and Paige Pond are not one and the same. And I think she probably will do at least that if she is going to retire (she might, she might not; the whole issue in the story really isn't about answering whether or not she's going to retire, but rather how she feels about that question.)


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