Thursday, 16 March 2017

'The Ruins of Reality'

The fourth story in Mark Samuels' collection Written in Darkness is so bleak it's almost funny. It begins with an account of an economic recession that threatens to bring down Western civilisation, and the appearance of something called the N Factory. The new factory system promises fulfilling employment, but I don't think the reader is supposed to be fooled by that for a minute.

The odd thing is that mass unemployment is not, really, the major problem now - though of course it could be in future. What people are really unhappy about is that so many of those in work are struggling. Perhaps that is too complex a crisis? Because 'The Ruins of Reality' takes a very simple, straight line between the idea of old-school Depression-era poverty and yet another Ligottian take on the futility of existence. A Ligotti collection is even name-checked - the factory is managed by 'Dead Dreamers'.

The story is a kind of prose-poem to misery, ugliness, and despair. It transcends conventional dystopian fiction because the crushing of humanity's hopes leads to a collapse in the natural order. There are parallels with Lovecraft's 'Nyarlathotep', here. A black aurora dominates the sky as a permanent winter grips the globe, and some form of unidentifiable radiation sickness strikes down millions. The N Factory has possibly liberated the dreams of the masses, allowing them to influence reality. It is a 'cosmic blight'.

I am beginning to doubt whether this book contains any whimsical ghost stories about Edwardian gentlemen scholars.


manfred arcane said...

I've properly discovered Samuels only months ago, but I'm already a fan. Yeah, his stuff can be unrelentingly bleak at times. His short novel, The Face of Twilight, is the sort of thing that have you taking a pause from reading modern weird lit in general. Second half of that novel is just urban decay upped to 11 mixed with surreal take on zombie apocalypse mixed with imagery straight out of those nightmare sequences from Jacob's Ladder. Thank god that it is as short as it is.
Anyway, I'm glad that I've jumped in at the time when much of his work is being re-released in more affordable form.

(Another thing, one of your own stories has a thing going on that also appears in some of his stories, namely language being infected/itself being an infection. Graffiti one. Was that a nod to Samuels, since I saw that particular theme being much praised by his fans, or is it just the case of you two having similar influences?)

valdemar said...

Re: that story 'The Glyphs', I think I wrote it before I'd come across any MS stories. Though I do see the parallels. The idea of language as infectious might stem from Richard Dawkins' notion of 'memes' spreading like viruses, which emerged in the Eighties.