June 22, 2012

Glacial and empty


Michel Houellebecq in HP Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life:
Few beings have ever been so impregnated, pierced to the core, by the conviction of the absolute futility of human aspiration. The universe is nothing but a furtive arrangement of elementary particles. A figure in transition towards chaos. That is what will finally prevail. The human race will disappear. Other races in turn will appear and disappear. The skies will be glacial and empty, traversed by the feeble light of half-dead stars. These too will disappear. Everything will disappear. And human actions are as free and as stripped of meaning as the unfettered movement of the elementary particles. Good, evil, morality, sentiments? Pure "Victorian fictions". All that exists is egotism. Cold, intact and radiant.
And then:
It is possible, in fact, that beyond the narrow range of our perception, other entities exist. Other creatures, other races, other concepts and other minds. Amongst these entities some are probably far superior to us in intelligence and in knowledge. But this is not necessarily good news ... It is ridiculous to imagine that at the edge of the cosmos, other well-intentioned and wise beings await to guide us towards some sort of harmony. In order to imagine how they might treat us were we to come into contact with them, it might be best to recall how we treat "inferior intelligences" such as rabbits and frogs. In the best of cases they serve as food for us; sometimes also, often in fact, we kill them for the sheer pleasure of killing. This, Lovecraft warned, would be the true picture of our future relationship to those other intelligent beings.
It's well-established that, among the stew of influences that make up Prometheus, Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness is an important one. It's basically the plot of Ridley Scott's movie and word is that Guillermo del Toro abandoned his film of the Lovecraft story once news leaked about Prometheus. But does Prometheus have the radical pessimism that Houellebecq is talking about or are Scott and writer Damon Lindelof trying to have it both ways? The Prometheus sequel will surely have Noomi Rapace's Liz Shaw and the robot-head-in-a-bag confronting the Engineers on their own planet. At that point, the tension in the current film, between the pessimism of Lovecraft and the more benign cosmic view of Erich Von Daniken, the other big influence on Prometheus, will have to be resolved.