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Below are 20 journal entries, after skipping by the 20 most recent ones recorded in Cavalorn's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, June 12th, 2012
10:11 am
Monday, June 11th, 2012
11:35 am
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
1:48 pm
Prometheus Unbound: What The Movie Was Actually About
This blogpost contains many and frequent spoilers for Prometheus, so if you're planning on seeing it, I recommend you don't spoil yourself.

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Thursday, May 31st, 2012
4:21 pm
Jockeying for space
Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.


Bobby Gentry's 1967 ballad Ode To Billie Joe derives its ambience both from its tantalising incompleteness, and from the uneasy indifferent stasis that the narrative wanders into at the end. The elements of a mystery are set up, with inferences and implications, but nothing is ever resolved. Any shocking revelation there might have been, any broader meaning a young man's death might have had, is simply allowed to dissipate like flower petals in muddy water. A sultry, implacable indifference reigns over all, and we are left with the impression that only the narrator's private memory retains any value.



'Memory' was the original title for the first half of the story that would become Alien. (Its second working title, Star Beast, was discarded when the word 'alien' leaped out of the page during one of Ronald Shussett's late-night writing sessions, and solved a multitude of problems in a single masterstroke. 'Alien. It's a noun and an adjective.')

Dan O'Bannon's 'Memory' only covered the first half of a movie. The second half, in which the Alien causes bloody havoc on board the Nostromo, was based on another earlier idea about gremlins getting on to a World War II bomber. I don't know it for certain, but it seems to me the chestburster sequence is the exact point of division, splitting the film neatly in two.

The first half, the Memory half, is - to quote Alan Dean Foster's novelisation - 'redolent with alien ghosts and memories'. Reading through an early draft of the Alien script, I'm struck by how much of the text didn't make it into the movie but did make it into the novel, almost verbatim in some cases. And yet, for some reason, the Space Jockey sequence is completely missing from the book.

The 'memory' part of Alien is, like many a good ghost story, cryptic. It presents both the characters and the audience with riddles that are only ever partially deciphered. The 'distress signal' that is partially decrypted, revealing it to be a possible warning; the origin and purpose of the derelict vessel; the unexplained fusion of biological and mechanical forms; and of course the greatest enigma, the identity of the grotesque, curiously pathetic, long dead being that the exploring trio discover in its chair.

As with Billy Jo MacAllister, the only certain fact about the Space Jockey is that it is dead. It is so nakedly, explicitly dead that its deadness seems exaggerated, as if the basic notion of 'skeletal remains' had been overblown into a sort of carnival of ossification, more dead than any previously living thing could ever be. It is hapless, and though grotesque, it is not sinister; in the early draft of Alien, the yet-to-be-Gigerized creature's skull is taken back to the ship and even brought on to the shuttlecraft, where it watches over the final survivor 'like some dead, melancholy pixie'.

The Book of Alien (not a holy text, despite how it sounds, though many of us revere it) comments on the benevolence of the Space Jockey: 'Sitting in repose in its doomed derelict ship, the jockey appears to somehow have been a benign creature. People involved in the film tend to agree on this. But they can't explain why.' This sense of benignity, of possible kinship even, is present in the early Alien draft, in which the character who would later become Ripley says of the dead creature 'I wish it was him we'd met in the first place - things might have turned out different.'

The composite figure of the Space Jockey provides us with too many disparate points of information to triangulate into an easily resolved answer. Confronted with this, our instinct to imagine the possible confluence of events that led to this macabre relic goes strangely awry, like the effect of plunging one hand into a basin of hot water and the other into cold. We can see that, as Dallas exclaims, it looks like it's grown out of the chair, but we cannot visualise how that could have happened. The chair itself is part of some kind of colossal device, presumably important to the ship, but we can't reconcile its form with any guessable function. We can see the Jockey's empty-eyed hose-nosed face with stark clarity, but can't easily imagine the living creature. The Jockey is like an Escher picture in that respect, presenting an architecturally impossible image that cannot exist except as artwork, except as a finished, static thing.

I can't help thinking that the elephant-like Space Jockey taps into childhood sentiments. Elephants never forget; elephants are wise, ancestral, tragic; elephants are primal. And, of course, elephants are giants.

The crew of the Nostromo don't say it, but we think it: the dead alien on board the derelict is huge, and more humanoid than not. This resonates on a mythic level; the whole 'there were giants in the earth in those days' bit. Humanity is saturated with legends of ancient gigantic beings who towered above us and whose fragmented wisdom lives on only in the ill-understood relics they left behind. Seen in that light, the Space Jockey is the same breed of entity as the Titans, the Nephilim, the Fomorians, the builders of the Giants' Causeway.

Giant alien bones in a derelict ship, evidence of ancient civilizations not our own. Before they appeared in Alien, they appeared in the 1965 film Planet of the Vampires. The parallels have been denied, but they're hauntingly apparent. See the following clip, from 6.55 onwards:



The screenwriters of Alien claimed they had never seen Planet of the Vampires. Call me naive, but I tend to believe them. There's some organic sarcophagus deep in our brains where the Space Jockey and his ilk eternal lie - and I don't mean that in some fatuously literal Von Daniken sense, just that when humans make myths, they unconsciously veer in prescribed directions. Giant, monstrous; almost-human bones; fragmentary messages from the past; ruins, relics, images too saturated with meaning for us to understand them. We know these things.

The enigma of Billy Joe MacAllister's suicide eventually, perhaps inevitably, resulted in a movie. It explained every detail, exhaustively but not, one might say, canonically. Bobby Gentry didn't ever say 'Yup, well done, you solved it'. It was an answer given because there was money in giving an answer, and because doing so scratched the maddening itch of the unresolved.

Ridley Scott's Prometheus is now showing at a cinema near me. I am given to understand it offers answers, of a sort, to the enigma of the Space Jockey. I'm going to see it, of course; but I can't help thinking that any definitive answer as to his origins would rather diminish that gnomic icon of long-decayed intelligence. It is the sinister implication of the alien remains that we take away from the scene, and implications do not gain power by being reduced to explanations.

The xenomorph is Alien; the Space Jockey, I like to think, is Memory.

And for me, no prequel or spinoff or supplementary feature could ever tackle the strangest riddle of the Jockey: its seeming serenity. It seems to me not only benign, in the utterly inhuman way that the eye of a blue whale is benign, but indifferent to its fate. There is no sign of a struggle. Its arms lie neatly by its side. Its trunk lies down the dead centre of its chest.

And I think there is a very slight suggestion of amusement in its hollow eyes. Like the dead child in 'The Inquest', by William Henry Davies, the victim seems to smile at our unease and bafflement:

For as I looked at that one eye,
It seemed to laugh, and say with glee:
'What caused my death you'll never know -
Perhaps my mother murdered me.'
Monday, May 28th, 2012
9:24 pm
Hmm. Maybe I should start using this again.
Sunday, September 4th, 2011
12:44 pm
Saturday, April 23rd, 2011
4:21 pm
Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
7:51 pm
Massively.com are hiring
Vacancy for a paid MMO news blogger. Having done this job myself, I can strongly recommend it.
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
1:39 pm
MILHOLLLAAAAAND
First there was this

And then there was this

And now we have this.

I am doomed to become the Avatar of Waffling Exposition!
Monday, February 7th, 2011
1:46 pm
Dragon Warriors has a new home!
Serpent King Games is new home for the Dragon Warriors RPG

Considering the chosen name, I think one of the company members should be nominated to get an enormous snake tattoo on his head and back. In this cutthroat economy, you can't take half measures when it comes to marketing.

Anyway, fantastic news for DW. It couldn't be in better hands.
Sunday, January 30th, 2011
1:38 pm
Friday, January 14th, 2011
8:12 pm
“Semiramis, the queen of heaven, was “born again” as the goddess Easter (Ashtarte) as she emerged from a giant egg that landed in the Euphrates river at sunrise on the “sun” day after the vernal equinox. To proclaim her divine authority, she changed a bird into an egg laying rabbit. As the cult developed, the priests of Easter would impregnate young virgins on the altar of the goddess of fertility at sunrise on Easter Sunday. A year later the priests of Easter would sacrifice those three-month-old babies on the altar at the front of the Sanctuary and dye Easter eggs in the blood of the sacrificed infants. (Michael John Rood, The Mystery of Iniquity, Chapter 8)”

This is not a joke.
This is not a hoax.
This is what some people actually believe.
Sunday, November 14th, 2010
7:56 pm


lifted from delux_vivens
1:13 pm
Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
12:58 pm
Thursday, November 4th, 2010
3:25 pm
'These transcripts also contain daily snippets of dialogue, the way these guys talk to each other... so, they had some pet rabbits on the balcony. One guy comes in with a dog, an Alsatian. But then some of the other guys are confused, they don't know if the Alsatian is a breed of dog in and of itself, or if it was a baby Doberman, and they get into a panic that it looks very docile and it might get beaten up by the rabbits on the balcony. And they thought that would be hilarious if you had to explain that your dog was beaten up by rabbits. This is not the conversation one expects from a hard-baked mastermind of terror.'

From an interview with Chris Morris here: FOUR LIONS: FINDING THE LULZ IN JIHAD.
Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
3:35 pm
Did somebody just try to buy the British government?
Did a shadowy organization nicknamed 'Foundation X' attempt to buy the British government? Or is Lord James of Blackheath, to put it kindly, behaving somewhat erratically?

This is in HANSARD, the official record of what's said in the Houses of Parliament. He actually said these things.

(NB. Charles Stross's site is getting hammered right now, so some patience may be necessary.)
Monday, November 1st, 2010
10:04 pm
Boosting the signal.
A friend is facing eviction tomorrow because of bank cockups.

Yes, it's genuine - many of my friends, such as disgruntledgrrl, know him in real life and can vouch for this. Anything anyone can chip in would be appreciated.
Sunday, October 31st, 2010
9:49 pm
Friday, October 29th, 2010
4:46 pm
That one time I made myself come up with fifty adventure ideas
I'm going over old files right now, hunting for certain bits and bobs of text, and came across the original Drow War trilogy planning document. This section was nothing more than hardcore caffienated brainstorming, coming up with fragmentary ideas that I could later work into full scenarios (or not). The vast majority of them didn't get used, but I've marked those that did (in some form) with an asterisk. There's also the first notes toward a dwarven/Jehannum pantheon that I simply didn't have space to include, which is a shame, because I like it.

Anyhow, I was reading through that famous list of Lovecraft story ideas that didn't get fully developed, and enjoying it. It struck me that some people might like to read my fragments, if only to get a glimpse into the disordered brain of a game designer taking on a ludicrously big assignment. So here you go.

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