As I think about the Ancient and sci-fi, I realize that I’m missing some novels, in particular novels by folks like Wolfe and Silverberg (and LeGuin, duh), in which the genre-bend happens between science fiction and fantasy. I know that I tend to focus too much on the technology components, with a particular interest in the military piece (which is probably because I think about all of this in terms of games), but Wolfe and Silverberg (and a bunch of other folks as well) have this fascinating ability to start a novel in a way that makes the reader think they’re in a fantasy novel, only to change the narrative perspective and shift time by about a million years.
I now want to re-read The Book of the New Sun and Lord Valentine’s Castle, dammit…
As I consider the many ways in which the Ancient appears in games, I can’t forget the Ancient Mother. Technology challenges a multitude of at the very least traditional structures, and family relationships – in particular, that primal mother that we all answer to – are perhaps the most at stake. I think of the huge females in Left 4 Dead 2 (called Witches, one of which even gets married), the bizarre motherly figures in many horror games, and the fact that E.V.E. is called, well, E.V.E. As Dr. Zwinger so nicely pointed out in my diss defense, technology is a revolt against the Primal Mother in some barely-understood Lacanian way, and that revolt is as much worth thinking about in the context of the Ancient as are all the other technology and ancient/deep structures of the brain.
So, as I keep count of the various ways I have to approach this concept, and the questions that keep coming to mind, I think of things like this:
- Is the Ancient some kind of chomskian deep-brain idea?
- can I think of it as residue, residual tissue from a time in which we needed those kinds of deep-seated fears to maintain our communities/desire to stay in a tribe/sense of urgency to live in caves and build fires?
- is the residue one that isn’t actually located in a particular brain structure but somehow carried molecularly, across several features of the brain?
- Am I completely off the deep end here? And where did that primal mother go?
Still I can’t help but think about the ways in which those Wolfe/Silverberg novels worked (completely linguistically, I guess), drawing me into what I thought was some sort of very limited perspective and then out of that perspective to a very futuristic world…