Saturday, August 24, 2013
Californian Noir and Sci-Fi Dystopia: "The Day of the Locust", "D.O.A.", "Elysium", "Blade Runner"
Of the three writers [Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain] connected with "Double Indemnity", Cain was the least inclined to see California in dystopian terms—this despite the fact that he began his career as a journalist and college teacher on the East Coast and served briefly as an editor of The New Yorker. Like Dashiell Hammett, Cain was a veteran of World War I who wrote about violence and who published with Blanche and Alfred Knopf. In one of his most widely discussed essays, “Paradise” (1933), he attacked Southern California’s automobile fetishism, bad food, and lack of organic culture; in the same breath, however, he declared that the state was populated by a more talented class of people than other parts of the country, and that “some sort of destiny awaits this place” (quoted in Cain's biography by Roy Hoopes). But Cain avoided the pulps and did not write detective fiction; instead, he specialized in Dostoyevskian narratives of criminal psychology, transposed into lower-class America and strongly influenced by the naturalism of Theodore Dreiser, the modernism of Ring Lardner, and the cultural criticism of H. L. Mencken. He was therefore discussed alongside such “serious” writers as John O’Hara, William Saroyan, and Nathanael West, whom Edmund Wilson dubbed “poets of the tabloid murder.” -"More Than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts" (2008) by James Naremore
"New groups, whole families, kept arriving. He could see a change come over them as soon as they had become part of the crowd. Until they reached the line, they looked diffident, almost furtive, but the moment they had become part of it, they turned arrogant and pugnacious. It was a mistake to think them harmless curiosity seekers. They were savage and bitter, especially the middle-aged and the old, and had been made so by boredom and disappointment. All their lives they had slaved at some kind of dull, heavy labor, behind desks and counters, in the fields and at tedious machines of all sorts, saving their pennies and dreaming of the leisure that would be theirs when they had enough. Finally that day came. They could draw a weekly income of ten or fifteen dollars. Where else should they go but California, the land of sunshine and oranges?" -"The Day of the Locust" (1939) by Nathanael West
The Stars My Destination is a science fiction novel by Alfred Bester. Originally serialized in Galaxy magazine in four parts beginning with the October 1956 issue, it first appeared in book form in the United Kingdom as Tiger! Tiger! – after William Blake's poem "The Tyger", the first verse of which is printed as the first page of the novel – and the book remains widely known under that title in markets where this edition was circulated. A working title for the novel was Hell's My Destination, and it was also associated with the name The Burning Spear. The Stars My Destination anticipated many of the staples of the later cyberpunk movement, for instance the megacorporations as powerful as governments, a dark overall vision of the future and the cybernetic enhancement of the body. Bester's unique addition to this mix is the concept that human beings could learn to teleport, or "jaunte" from point to point, provided they know the exact locations of their departure and arrival and have physically seen the destination.