Fairies in Space August 7, 2013Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary , trackback
After some rather nauseating episodes in Victorian fairy stories fairies became scary again in the late nineteenth century with the writing of men like ‘Fiona MacLeod’ (William Sharp) and, of course, Arthur Machen. Scary fairies were a late Victorian and Edwardian topos and we’ve looked before at the way the tradition developed and some examples. However, one point that Beach has so far avoided is the science-fictication (sorry) of the fey. There were already movements towards the stars in some of H.P.Lovecraft’s efforts in the 1920s. However, the fairies really left earth behind only with a curious story by Clark Ashton Smith entitled ‘Dwellers in the Martian Depths’ (aka ‘Dwellers in the Gulf’). True the ‘dwellers’ don’t have wings and they don’t plait the manes of horses in the red Martian deserts, but they are clearly descendants of some of the nasty little fairies that Arthur Machen had spotted running around various Welsh monoliths. ‘The Microscopic Giants’ (1936) by Paul Ernst, meanwhile, took us back to earth. The first sentence predicts a great war in 1941, which should immediately get Ernst some respect: actually he claimed the war ended in that year, but even so… 40,000 feet under the earth copper miners encounter ‘mannikins’ that can pass through pure rock and that are dressed like spacemen: think Knockers with sharpened teeth. This passage is notable for introducing fairies to atomic theory.
The three metal-laced mannikins stood in the open air of the tunnel, with their backs to the wall that had offered no more resistance to their bodies than cheese offers to sharp steel. And behind them there were no holes where they had stepped from. The face of the concrete was unbroken. The atomic theory must be correct, I thought. The compacted atoms of which they were composed slid through the stellar spaces between ordinary atoms, leaving them undisturbed. But only a small part of my mind concerned itself with this. Nine-tenths of it was absorbed by a growing, indefinable fear. For now the three little men were walking slowly toward us. And in every line of their tiny bodies was a threat. Belmont looked at me. Our hands went uncertainly toward our revolvers. But we did not draw them. You don’t shoot at children; and the diminutive size of the three figures still made us consider them much as harmless children. Though in the back of my mind, at least, if not in Belmont’s, the indefinable fear was spreading . . .
Of course, from Smith and Ernst it is only a few steps to the Tusken Raiders on Star Wars, but what are the intervening steps? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
17 August 2013: The great Chris S has sent this in. At least for me it proved an education. Well worth reading though it is long. I would like to suggest looking at Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. He has little red people who are the fae spying upon the big clumsy humans who are colonizing their homeworld. Of course KSR puts it all in the context of folklore rather than something people actually believe which may or may not be a Good Thing ™. Another fae who gets mentioned a lot is Big Man. On Mars, everything’s big. Valles Marineris, Olympus Mons, et al in comparison to Earth despite Mars’s size in comparison. “It seemed, however, to be a world without life. People searched for signs of past or present Martian life, anything from microbes to the doomed canal-builders, or even alien visitors. As you know, no evidence for any of these has ever been found. And so stories have naturally blossomed to fill the gap, just as in Lowell’s time, or in Homer’s, or in the caves or on the savannah– stories of microfossils, wrecked by our bio-organisms, of ruins found in dust storms and then lost forever, of Big Man and all his adventures, of the elusive little red people, always glimpsed out of the corner of the eye. And all of these tales are told in an attempt to give Mars life, or to bring it to life. Because we are still those animals who survived the Ice Age, and looked up at the night sky in wonder, and told stories. And Mars has never ceased to be what it was to us from our very beginning– a great sign, a great symbol, a great power. And so we came here. It had been a power; now it became a place.” Red Mars, KSR, page 3: “Well, back before the beginning, Paul Bunyan came to Mars, and he brought his blue ox Babe with him. He walked around looking for lumber and his every footprint cracked the lava and left a rift canyon. He was so tall that he could reach into the asteroid belt while he walked around, and he chewed those rocks like Bing cherries and spit the pits out and boom there would be another crater. And then he ran into Big Man. It was the first time Paul had ever seen anyone bigger than himself, and believe me Big Man was bigger– the usual two magnitudes, and that’s ain’t just twice as big let me tell you. But Paul Bunyan didn’t care. When Big Man said Let’s see what you can do with that axe of yours Paul said Sure, and with one stroke he hit the planet so hard that all the cracks of Noctis appeared at once. But then Big Man scratched the same spot with his toothpick, and the entire Marineris system yawned open. Let’s try bare fists, Paul said, and he landed a right cross on the southern hemisphere and there was Argyre. But Big Man tapped a spot nearby with his pinky and there was Hellas. Try spitting, Big Man suggested, and Paul spat and Nirgal Vallis ran as long as the Mississippi. But Big Man spat and all the big outflow channels ran at once. Try shitting! Big Man said, and Paul squatted and pushed out Ceraunius Tholus– but Big Man threw back his butt and there was the Elysium massif right next to it, steaming hot. Do your worst, Big Man suggested. Take a shot at me. And so Paul Bunyan picked him up by the toe and swung his whole bulk around and slammed him into the North Pole so hard that whole northern hemisphere is depressed to this day. But without even getting up Big Man grabbed Paul by the ankle, and caught up his blue ox Babe in that same first, and swung them into the ground and slammed them right through the planet and almost out the other side. And that’s the Tharsis Bulge– Paul Bunyan, almost sticking out– Ascraeus his nose, Pavonis his cock, and Arsia his big toes. And Babe is off to one side, pushing up Olympus Mons. The blow killed Babe and Paul Bunyan both, and after that Paul had to admit that he was beat. But his own bacteria ate him, naturally, and they crawled all around down on th ebedrock and under the megaregolith, down there going everywhere, sucking up the mantle heat, and eating the sulfides, and melting down the permafrost. And everywhere they went down there, every one of those litle bacteria said I am Paul Bunyan” Red Mars, KSR pages 350-351 “Big Man came from a big planet. He was just as much a visitor to Mars as Paul Bunyan only passing by when he spotted it and stopped to look around, and he was still there when Paul Bunyan dropped in, and that’s why they had the fight. Big Man won that fight, as you know. But after Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox Babe were dead, there was no one else around to talk to, and Mars for Big Man was like trying to live on a basketball. So he wandered around for a while tearing things apart, trying to make them fit, and then he gave up and left. After that, all the bacteria inside Paul Bunyan and his ox Babe left their bodies, and circulated in the warm water lying on the bedrock, deep underground. They ate methane and hydrogen sulfide, and withstood the weight of billions of tons of rock, as if they were living on some neutron planet. Their chromosomes began to break, mutation after mutation, and at the reproduction rate of ten generations per day, it didn’t take long for good old surviva of the fittest to make its natural selections. And billions of years passed. And before long there was an entire submartian evolutionary history, moving up through the cracks in the regolith and the spaces between sand grains, right up into the cold desert sunshine. All kinds of creatures, the whole spread– but everything was tiny. that’s all there was room for underground, see, and by the time they hit the surface certain patterns were set. And there wasn’t much to encourage growth up there anyway. So a whole chasmoendolithic biosphere developed, in which everything was small. Their whales were the size of first-day tadpoles, their sequoias were like antler lichen, and so on down the line. It was as if the two-magnitude ratio which always has things on Mars a hundred times bigger than their counterparts on Earth, had finally gone the other way, and piled it on. And so their evolution produced the little red people. They’re like us– or look kind of like us when we see them. But that’s because we only ever see them out o fthe corner of our eyes. If you get a clear look at one you will see that it looks like a very tiny standing salamander, dark red, although the skin apparently does have some chameleon abilities, and they are usually the same color as the rocks they’re standing among. If you see on ereally claerly you’ll notice that its skin resembles plate lichen mixed with sand grains, and its eyes are rubies. It’s fascinating, but don’t get too excited because the truth is you’re not ever going to see one of them that clearly. It’s just too hard. When they hold still we flat can’t see them. We would never see them at all, except that some of them when they get in a mood are so confident that they can freeze and disappear thbat they will jump around when they’re in your peripheral vision, just to blow your mind. So you see that, but then they stop moving when you turn your eye to look, and you can never spot them again. They live everywhere, including all arou rooms. Usually there’s a few in every pile of dust in the corners. And how many can say their rooms don’t have some dust in their corners? I thought not. It makes a good abrasive when you get around to swiping down, doesn’t it. Yes, on those days the little red people all have to run like hell. Disasters for them. They figure we’re crazy huge idiots that every once in a while have fits and go on a rampage. Yes, it is true that the first human to see the little red people was John Boone (A George Washington-esque figure without the millitary aspect, he dies in the first chapter of Red Mars). What else would you expect? He saw them within hours of his landing. Later he learned to see them even when they were still, and then he began talking to the ones he spotted in his rooms, until they finally cracked and talked back. John and them taught each other their languages, and you can still hear the little red people use all kinds of John Booneisms in their English. Eventually a whole crowd of them traveled with Boone wherever he went. They liked it, and John wasn’t a very neat person, so they had their spots. Yes, there were several hundred of them in Nicosia the night he was killed. That’s what actually got those Arabs who died later that night– a whole gang of the little ones went after them. Gruesome. Anyway, they were John Boone’s friends, and they were just as sad as the rest of us when he was killed. There’s no human since who has learned their language, or gotten to know them anywhere near as close. Yes, John was also the frist to tell stories about them. A lot of what we know about them comes from him, because of that special relationship. Yes, it is said that excessive use of omegendorph causes faint red crawling dots in the abuser’s peripheral vision. But why do you ask? Anyway, since John’s death the little red people have been living with us and laying low, watching us with their ruby eyes and trying to find out what we’re like, and why we do what we do. And how they can deal with us, and get what they want– which is people they can talk to and be friends with, who won’t sweep them out every few months or wreck the planet either. So they’re watching us. Whole caravan cities are carrying the little red people around with us. And they’re getting ready to talk with us again. They’re figuring out who they should talk to. They’re asking themselves, which of these giant idiots knows about Ka? That’s their name for Mars, yes. They call it Ka. The Arabs love that fact because the Arabic for Mars is Qahira, and the Japanese like it too because their name for it is Kasei. But actually a whole lot of Earth names for Mars have the sound ka in them somewhere– and some little red dialects have it as m’kah which ads a sound that’s in a lot of other Terran names for it too. It’s possible that the little red people had a space program in earlier times, and came to Earth and were our fairies, elves and little people generally, and at that time told some humans where they came from, and gave us the name. On the other hand, it may be the planet itself suggests the sound in some hypnotic way that affects all conscious observers, whether standing right on it or seeing it as a red star in the sky. I don’t know, maybe it’s the color that does it. Ka. And so the ka watch us and they ask, who knows Ka? Who spends time with Ka, and learns Ka, and likes to touch Ka, and walks around on Ka, and lets Ka seep into them, and leaves the dust in their rooms alone? Those are the humans we’re going to talk to. Pretty soon we’re going to introduce ourselves, they say, to just as many of you as we can find who seem like Ka. And when we do, you’d better be ready. We’re going to have a plan. It’ll be time to drop everything and walk right out on the streedts into a new world. It’ll be time to free Ka.” Green Mars, KSR, pages 234-236 Ants came to Mars as part of the soil project, and soon they were everywhere as is their way. And so the little red people encountered ants, and they were amazed. These creatures were just the right size to ride, it was like the Native Americans meeting the horse. Tame the things and they would run wild. Domesticating the ant was no easy matter. The little red scientists had not even believed such creatures were possible, because of surface to area volume constraints, but there they were, clumping around like intelligent robots, so the little red scientists had to explain them. to get some help they climbed up into the humans’ reference books, and read up on ants. They learned about the antas’ pheromones, and they synthesized the ones they needed to control the soldier ants of a particularly small docile red species, and afer that, they were in business. Little red cavalry. They charged around everywhere on antback, having a fine old time, wenty or thirty of them on each ant, like pashas on elephants. Look close at enough ants and you’ll see them, right there on top. But the little red scientists continued to read the texts, and learned about human pheromones. They went back to the rest of the little red people, awestruck and appaled. Now we know why these humans are such trouble, they reported. Humans have no more will than these ants we are riding around on. They are giant meat ants. The little red people tried to comprehend such a travesty of life. Then a voice said No they’re not, to all of them at once. The little red people talk to each other telepathically, you see, and this was like a telepathic loudspeaker announcement. Humans are spiritual beings, this voice insisted. How do you know? the little red people asked telepathically. Who are you? Are you the ghost of John Boone? I am the Gyatso Rinpoche, the voice answered. The eighteenth reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. I am traveling the Bardo in search of my next reincarnation. I’ve looked everywhere on Earth, but I’ve had no luck, and I decided to look somewhere new. Tibet is still under the thumb of the Chinese, and they show no signs of letting up. The Chinese, although I love them dearly, are hard bastards. And the other governments of the world long ago turned their backs on Tibet. So no one will challenge the Chinese. Something needs to be done. So I came to Mars. Good idea, the little people said. Yes, the Dalai Lama agreed, but I must admit I am having a hard time finding a new body to inhabit. For one thing there are very few children anywhere. Then also it does not look like anyone is interested. I looked in Sheffield but everyone was too busy talking. I went to Sabishii but everyone had their heads stuck in the dirt. I went to Elysium but everyone had assumed the lotus position and could not be roused. I went to Christianopolis but everyone there had other plans. I went to Hiranyagarba but everyne there said we’ve already done enough for Tibet. I’ve gone everywhere on Mars, to every tent and station, and everywhere people are just too busy. No one wants to be the nineteenth Dalai Lama. And the Bardo is growing colder and colder. Good luck, the little red people said. We’ve been looking ever since John died and we haven’t even found anyone worth talking to, much less living inside. These big people are all messed up. The Dalai Lama was discouraged by this response. He was getting very tired, and could not last much longer in the Bardo. So he said, What about one of you? Well, sure, the little red people said. We’d be honored. Only it will have to be all of us at once. We do everything like that together. Why not? said the Dalai Lama, and he transmigrated into one of the little red specks, and that same instant he was there in all of them, all over Mars. the little red people looked up at the humans crashing around above them, a sight which before they had tended to regard as some kind of bad widescreen movie, and now they found they were filled with all the compassion and wisdom of the eighteen previous lives of the Dalai Lama. They said to each other, Ka wow, these people really are messed up. We thought it was bad before, but look at that, it’s even worse than we thought. They’re lucky they can’t read each other’s minds or they’d kill each other. That must be why they’re killing each other– they know what they’re thinking themselves, and so they suspect all the others. How ugly. How sad. They need your help, the Dalai Lama said inside them all. Maybe you can help them. Maybe, the little red people said. They were dubious, to tell the truth. They had been trying to help humans ever since John Boone died, they had set up whole towns in the porches of every ear on th eplanet, and talked continuously ever since, sounding very much like John had, trying to get people to wak up and act decent, and never with any effects at all, except to send a lot of people to ear nose and throat specialists. Lots of people on mars thought they had tinnitus, but no one ever understood their little red poeple. It was enough to discourage anyone. But now, the little red people had the compassionate spirit of the Dalai Lama infusing them, and so they decided to try one more time. Perhaps it will take more than whispering in their ears, the Dalai Lama pointed out, and they all agreed. We’ll have to get their attention some other way. Have you tried your telepathy on them? the Dalai Lama asked. Oh no, they said. No way. Too scary. The ugliness might kill us on the spot. Or at least make us real sick. Maybe not, the Dalai Lama said. Maybe if you blocked off your reception of what they thought, and just beamed your thoughts at them, it would be all right. Just send lots of good thoughts, like an advice beam. Compassion, love, agreeableness, wisdom, even a little common sense. We’ll give it a try, the little red people said. But we’re all going to have to shout at the top of our telepathic voices, all in chorus, because these folks just aren’t listening. I’ve faced that for nine centuries now, the Dalai Lama said. You get used to it. And you little ones have the advantage of numbers. So give it a try. And so all the little red people all over Mars looked up and took a deep breath.” Blue Mars, KSR, pages 91-93 Hope this might be of relevance to your most recent posting. Thanks Chris!!!