The first is Erikson, the last Bakker. They aren’t together because I think they are really related, but I read them the same day.

“Traditions die. And those who hold fast to them, cursing and filled with hate as their precious ways of living are torn from their hands, they dwell in a world of dreams where nothing changes.”

“Tradition was not a thing to be worshipped. Tradition was the last bastion of fools. Did the fisherfolk see their final fate? Did they comprehend their doom?

And oh, how they all grew fat and lazy in the weeks that followed, their bellies soft and bulging. There are fish in the lake, the elders said. There have always been fish in the lake. There always will be fish in the lake.

The elders stopped telling their stories. They sat silent, their bellies hollowing out, the bones of their wizened faces growing sharp and jutting. They spat out useless teeth. They bled at their fingertips, and made foul stench over the shit-pits. They grew ever weaker, and then slept, rushing into the distant dreams of the old days, from which they never returned.

The layering of memories built tradition’s high walls, until the place made by those walls became a prison.”

“There were two pasts; he understood that now. There was the past that men remembered, and there was the past that determined, and rarely if ever were they the same. All men stood in thrall of the latter.”

Annihilation seems to be some sort of sister product of Arrival. I had problems with the way Arrival structured its theme, but the movie was still exciting and interesting to watch. Annihilation not even that. It’s a movie without even ONE good idea, filled with flashbacks that only add bland sentimentality, and with an elaborate final scene that is inspired visually but that only apes symbolism without putting anything of value within. It’s as if one took the final sequence of 2001 Space Odyssey and stripped that visual fancy eye-candy away from any deeper meaning.

The problem is: the large majority of the public is stupid but enjoys thinking itself clever. As long a movie apes the motions of something clever and “mysterious”, most people are going to believe it. They are going to believe about deeper meanings, esoteric revelations and whatnot. The dumber the movie, the smarter they feel. And Annihilation is really dumb.

So this is what we got, straight from the wikipedia:

It received praise for its visuals, performances, direction, and thought-provoking story, but, suffered from being deemed “too intellectual” for general movie audiences.

They think it’s too smart.

an impressively ambitious—and surprisingly strange—exploration of challenging themes that should leave audiences pondering long after the end credits roll

a bracing brainteaser with the courage of its own ambiguity. You work out the answers in your own head, in your own time, in your own dreams, where the best sci-fi puzzles leave things.

deserves several viewings, and your brain’s whole attention

In order to be smart you’d have to actually say something. This movie suggests, without saying. This is the usual technique when you have nothing to say: you just pretend and let people imagine whatever they like. It’s typical illusionism.

That’s why I tend to agree more with this description instead:

I’d say this film is more “feels-provoking” than “thought-provoking.”

That’s euphemisms to say it’s manipulative.

Once the basic context has been established in the movie, nothing else is being added or even expanded. Some sort of thing arrived from the sky and produced an area where all life forms experience strong mutations. The movie ends with the spectator having the exact same information delivered already in the premise (the final revelation is that the bubble causes the DNA to “refract”, which is a functional synonym of “causes mutations”). Simply put: the movie goes nowhere. It’s more like a documentary on visual effects. It’s, if you want to be kind, esthetic poetry.

Maybe I’m too harsh but I resent when I watch a movie for two hours and the movie doesn’t even offer one worthwhile tiny idea that I can take away from it. And because the movie itself only delivered some pathetic horror scenes amidst the sentimentality bits, it was also annoying to watch. At least sometimes movies can be bad movies but still offer interesting themes and ideas. In this case it wasn’t entertaining and I haven’t taken anything worthwhile out of it either.

Without having read the book (and currently no desire going there) I don’t know if there are some actual ideas that have their legitimate roots there, so I can’t say that my “explanation” of the movie is complete. What I got out of it is that this organism interacts as an agent of change. The movie explicitly defines it “annihilation” and it is described as a process.

But of course on top of this mechanistic process that affects all biologic material there’s also contact and interaction with the “real” deal: human consciousness. That’s what makes the movie disappointing, because it’s like they had an infinite number of possibilities. The potential to really go deep. But absolutely nothing happens.

When the process interacts with consciousness what we get is that the squad of women progressively dissipates to one woman (to mirror the “morale” the movie infodumped at a previous point: that often organisms seek self-destruction for no reason). As in Arrival, the plot seems to be justified through sentimentality, but I honestly didn’t grasp the reason why one only survives. Without the book I cannot even know if some lack of “symmetry” is an artifact left by the imprint of the book itself, or a deliberate choice. For example you could interpret the finale by saying that the goal of this organism was to infiltrate humanity. So “mission accomplished”. But why two “doppelgänger” instead of one? Why the bubble didn’t dissipate when Kane came back? And why it did instead dissipate only when Lena does?

You could hypothesize that while Kane killed himself, leaving the doppelgänger, Lena instead tricked the organism into suicide. That’s quite silly, but it seems coherent with some themes in the movie (apoptosis). But this solution doesn’t hold up, because in the final scene we are shown identity between Kane and Lena. Either both are “transformed”, or both are the same. This suggests that whatever happened, happened to BOTH, in the same way. So why, again, does this organism disappear after producing two new organisms instead of just one?

You can justify that as poetic license. Plot-wise Kane came back for Lena, and Lena came back for Kane. The cycle is complete at that point. But it’s just artificial and not satisfactory.

There’s only one idea the movie does play with, and it’s the one I put in the title. This is the central point, but the problem is that the movie does nothing with it, beside simply using it. The Ship of Theseus is a philosophical concept that focuses on the idea of “identity” and what it truly means (or the illusion that builds it). In the context of this movie: what happens when all the cells in your body are recreated, are you still the same person? Are you a different person? But if you are a new person, why do you still feel like “you”?

This idea is implicit in the movie. We end up with two doppelgängers, so two “copies”. Does it mean that both Kane and Lena died and what we have now are two “impostors”? The idea that this organism recreated only the physical shape of these two individuals, in order to “infiltrate” humanity, doesn’t hold up, because they both retain, for example, language. Both Kane and Lena return not just with a physical body, but also with knowledge of human language and behavior. Human language and behavior that you aren’t BORN WITH, but that are built by living in a society. That means that these doppelgängers not only retained the physical features of their originals, but also the *minds*. How much of those minds? Well, we cannot know, but if they retained so much of that human knowledge it means they probably retained all of it. Minus some silly recent memory wipe as if they smoke a large amount of weed?

In any case, without the confirmation of the book, this is what I recognize as the central theme. These two doppelgängers might be complete, accurate copies. So how can we say that something “new” was produced if what we obtained is identical to what we started with? With the two original bodies gone, nothing was destroyed, and nothing was created.

It was all a dream.

There are going to be spoilers here that while vague and abstract might give a good hint about how the first season of the show develops.

Before I write what’s left in my memory about the new Twin Peaks I thought I’d write down about the “mythology” behind Dark, a recent miniseries on Netflix that I watched when it aired (so this too has been a while). I’m only writing on the mechanics of time travel.

The aspect I want to focus on is that Dark is built on the same conceptual mistake that can be found in “Arrival”. Both of these try to reach up for some sophisticate science/mythology that awes the average spectator, but that breaks completely down with careful analysis. When I saw Arrival I ended up writing SEVERAL walls of text to analyze it from every angle possible. This time, thanks to that heavy lifting I did back then, I’ll go straight to the point without being too pedantic.

Both Arrival and Dark (or Dark limited to its first season) are built on a fundamental principle of “time travel” that set itself apart from the tradition of time travel mechanics in fiction and movies like “Back to the Future”. In that case a modification of the past creates a new timeline, so the output of that method is a branching reality like a multiverse of possibilities. Every small change creates a brand new universe. And this way of seeing time travel is so widespread in popular fiction that all of us are able to conceptualize and understand it without any problem. It’s part of us now.

But Arrival and Dark use instead a new concept: time is a solid. That means that even if time travel happens, it only “causes” events to happen in that precise determined way. Change is always “apparent” because things are (pre)determined to go only in a certain specific way. Time as a solid means that time is fixed and unchangeable. In Arrival information can travel through time, from the future to the past, but only to make so that events happen exactly as they are “meant” to happen. Time as a solid means there’s only one timeline and it all happens “at once”. There effectively are no “loops”, and no branches and alternative timelines.

What happens in Arrival is that a woman starts experiencing events in the future the same way we would normally have memories of our past events. As if her memory stored past and future events both. Eventually even letting her reaching for information only available in her future to use this knowledge in her “present” time, effectively making that information travel through time. This of course possible because the concept at the foundation, as already explained, is that time is fixed. It can be “known” (hypothetically) because it’s already determined and so, in a certain way, always available.

This leads to a kind of paradox or counter-intuitive scenario where this woman would have in her “present” time a memory of a future event, and then when the times comes she would have to live again that event as if she was an actress tying to mimic exactly that scene the same way she remembers it.

Since thinking about this stuff can be very confusing and mind-bending, I’ve shaped an example that’s extremely simple and intuitive, and still retains all the features we’re examining here.

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

– Let’s reproduce the same scenario. The hypothesis that time is fixed, and there’s a woman who can see the future because that future is already determined.

A room, two chairs, me (just a normal being who can’t see the future) and this woman (who can indeed see and know the future). I simply ask the woman to decide and then say aloud between two options: A and B. Letting her know that if she says A, then I’ll say B. And if instead she says B, I’ll say A. (and that’s exactly what I want to do as soon she speaks)

Here’s the trick: before the woman makes this choice I ask this:
“This experiment is meant to prove to us that you can indeed see the future, and that the future cannot be changed. So I simply ask you, what is the next thing I’ll say, A or B?”


This is the experiment. It goes without saying that, if the thesis is right, then time is fixed and the woman knows EXACTLY the next thing I’m going to say. Time cannot be changed, so there cannot be any other option beside what she already knows. BUT, this experiment is built so that as soon the woman offers her answer of what I’m going to say next, I’LL SAY THE OPPOSITE. Because that’s exactly what I told her. If she says I’m going to say A, then I’m going to say B, breaking her prevision.

I’ve now offered this thought experiment to quite a number of different people to see if someone offered a new angle and prove what I’m saying has some kind of flaw. But the reaction is generally always the same. Usually people suppose there’s something wrong with the way the experiment is built, so they’d generally say, for example: she can’t answer because she knows that then it would produce a contradiction, so she’s in a position where she just will stay silent.

The problem with this explanation is that people want to cling to their intuitive model instead of realizing that the model itself is broken. This thought experiment has a solution, instead. The solution proves there’s a fallacy at the presumption the thought experiment is based on.

SOLUTION OF THE PARADOX

The paradox is easily solved. The concept of time as a solid is built on the premise nothing can be changed and so follows a complete description, set in stone. There’s nothing incorrect in this premise. The mistake is built on the next aspect: the presumption that the state of this system can be “known” from inside the system (like this woman who can see future events) without this knowledge producing any effect on the system itself.

What happens in this scenario, when built correctly, is that whenever the woman receives memories from future events, those memories are new information that is going to ALTER the system. This means, in ALL cases, that every information about the future WILL alter the future.

I repeat: if time is truly a solid there’s nothing wrong. But if time is a solid then it cannot be possible to take information from a future moment and give it to an agent (this woman) in a different moment leaving the system unchanged. This creates a recursion where information in the past has to account for itself in the future, then goes back in the past, causing the future to shift again, and so on and so on. In technical terms this system never closes and continues to grow without reaching a final state. So creating an infinite recursion where we will never obtain a fixed state. And so a system where future events can’t be known because the time is always shifting, which is the opposite of the premise “time is fixed”. It cannot be fixed if it can never reach a closure and so a final state.

Applied to the thought experiment above the result is that when the woman receives information from the future (for example that she says A, and I’ll say B), and then she correctly predicts and say B, by saying that she ALTERS the flow of time, so that I’ll instead say A. But this will alter again the future, so she’ll instead know I’m going to say A, and so she says I’ll say A, altering AGAIN the future and making me say B, which will change again her vision of the future, and so on and so on.

“Time is fixed” presumes there’s a final state, and that this state is then recorded and unchangeable. But what I’ve proven is instead that if you build this system under those rules what you obtain a system that is caught in a recursive loop similar to the concept of “infinite regress” so that this system can never possibly close, so denying the possibility of eventually reaching a fixed final state.

So you’ll ask, how does “Dark” fit in this picture? Dark (trying to not spoiler too much) shows characters who see themselves doing things in the future. Then the time comes, and they do EXACTLY what they previously saw.

It’s stupid. Because as I’ve explained here knowledge of the future necessarily changes it. In fact Dark seems built on the premise everyone’s an idiot. It cannot afford thinking characters because there’s no way to make it work that way. They have to somewhat wave all that away and “make believe” in a clumsy way and convenient Deus Ex Machina. That guy couldn’t make 1 + 1 and so ended up doing the same thing he tried to avoid. Because time is fixed? Nope, because he’s stupid and because if he wasn’t the plot wouldn’t work.

Both Dark and Arrival take a concept that is quite valid. The hypothesis that time might be “fixed” is a good one. That’s why people naturally accept it, and it’s already famous because it’s part of Nietzsche’s Eternal Return. The point here is that Nietzsche wasn’t an idiot and he didn’t make THAT mistake. The mistake of imagining time as fixed AND giving that information to entities that are part of the system without realizing that doing so creates an infinite regression.

If we imagine a system where time is fixed, all is correct. There’s nothing “paradoxical” about it. Just as long the information on how this system evolves can only be known when you observe the system without interfering with its process (like observing from outside). But if you take this information and you push it INSIDE the system, then this information HAS TO account for itself and alter the system. Because it’s brand new information that perturbs the system and sends it in a new state. And having done just that means that time isn’t anymore fixed: you created a recursion that never produces a fixed closed system.

Recursive systems are a bitch. Please handle with care, especially if you don’t know what you’re dealing with.

When I criticized the conclusion of “The Leftovers” TV show I relied on my own alternate theory and on the fact that the official explanation was instead brittle to the point of being objectively unacceptable.

So, in my mind I groped around to explain this concept. I knew what I meant, but I struggled to manifest it. Today, I found out that there’s a scientific concept that is built exactly on that idea. So I can finally explain concretely what I meant with a more universal evidence.

For me the show already went past a threshold and reached a breaking point with episode three of the very first season. There was something in that episode that was like a statement, a line being drawn on the ground that wouldn’t have allowed going back anymore. No matter how many more episodes and seasons there were going to be. Now I know that breaking point isn’t just an abstract, subjective idea, but a well known scientific concept that is instead quite concrete.

The thesis the finale completely relies on is that what is being shown has to remain “ambiguous”. That means that even the weirdest events that you see always have a “scientific” explanation and a more magical one. The whole show thrives on that ambiguity, keeping both paths open and never explicitly choosing one.

But as I said, I think instead that the show made a crucial mistake already at episode three. That means that instead of remaining ambiguous, the show actually made a “statement”, by showing something that I consider unambiguously impossible. That is: episode three shows something that can ONLY have a magical explanation. Hence, that episode codifies the rest of the show as something that only appears as ambiguous, but that has instead one solution only. Like a collapse of the wave function: those two superpositions collapsed into one, already with episode three.

What’s this breaking point about? It’s all about reverend Matt winning at the casino after following the will of the god. The show simply wants us to accept that outcome as a statistical but still plausible anomaly. But it is not. In my head this event was already way past the threshold of ambiguity because it was a lot more than an anomaly.

One thing is to consider the “anomaly” of red three times in a row related to the totality of the games happening in that casino. In this case “three times red” is going to happen relatively often. It’s far from impossible. But if a specific person “decides” at a specific moment that red is coming out three times in a row, and this does indeed happen right at that moment, then in my mind this statistical event is shot way beyond what can be considered plausible, and right into a magical realm. Because we aren’t more seeing an anomaly that is made possible by a large sample, it’s instead an anomaly right when it’s “desired”. That’s the threshold.

Today I found out there’s a scientific concepts to determine exactly that: a way to scientifically decide when en event just cannot have a rational explanation (to simplify):
p-value

I’m not an expert of that stuff, so I don’t know if my thesis is actually right. But now I know that it is possible to study that episode to determine if it’s actually true that Matt winning three time at that precise moment constitutes something that goes under the p-value. It can be objectively measured.

The concept of p-value works even in reverse: if we know the system isn’t rigged, and the result goes below the p-value, then it means that something “magical” happened (a relationship between the god and the winning). That there was an interference. That in this case is obvious: the writers of the show intruded in the fabric of that dimension. So, either you consider that as a “writing mistake”, or, as I did, a statement that “collapses the wave function”. That makes The Leftovers come out of its ambiguity and take one path explicitly.

I might be right, I might be wrong. But it can be calculated.

(p-value also needs more contextual evidence, if you read carefully, and the show provides plenty of it, even if you could ideally write that out as “poetic license”. The contextual evidence is that the number “3” is echoed explicitly through the whole episode. Providing more and more statistical anomalies that would contribute lowering the p-value.)

This was the first time for me, with Twin Peaks.

When it premiered over here it was like a huge wave. I didn’t watch it but the day after at school *everyone* was talking about it, so I was only caught in that hype and wave of interest that followed. For me it was more interesting because how everyone seemed enthralled by it, more than the murder story itself. No one was speaking of the more mysterious parts, probably because those were relatively hidden at the beginning.

But I had missed that train and of course I didn’t want to start watching it without the first episode. Some time later, probably even a year, the first episode was broadcasted again, and I was ready in front of the television. But for some reason I got interrupted after half an hour and missed the rest, so even this second train was missed.

Only many, many years later I caught it once again on television, deep in the night. But I think it was already somewhere in the middle of the story, maybe even the second season. It was pretty much impossible to follow what was going on, especially because I have already problems recognizing and remembering faces and names, and trying to understand Twin Peaks through some random episode is quite impossible. But I caught some sequences in the Black Lodge, enough to realize this had a broader vision than a straightforward murder drama. It had a haunted, dreamy atmosphere that set it apart. And at that time I already knew David Lynch quite well anyway.

Last June instead I went through both season 1 & 2, and it was essentially a fresh experience since my knowledge of the series still had been fairly limited. This means that for me Twin Peaks was an experience that followed LOST and X-Files, and, in some way, it was diminished because of that.

I absolutely loved the whole series and I haven’t really perceived that sharp dip of quality that people say is supposed to happen after episode 9 of the second season. And yet I watched carefully with my attention also focused on these aspects. My personal impression was that there was some kind of parabolic decline, a smoother downward curve, and whose seeds were planted already within the first season. I didn’t notice any sharp turns.

The major surprise for me was that I went in expecting something dense with its own mythology and mystery, instead I found a story that was surprisingly simple and straightforward. There wasn’t that much to speculate about, and those elements that were there seemed to have their own function in a relatively simple way. The whole thing was somewhat “transparent” to me. And actually it’s the second season that tries at least to toy around with the mystery, sometimes in a really clumsy way but at least more explicitly.

This is why my interpretation of the classic Twin Peaks, its concept, seems also different from how everyone else would probably describe it. For me Twin Peaks is firstly a blatant parody of an established genre, a parody of soap operas. Filled with improbable but still charming characters, doing quite silly things. Yet it elevates itself from a simple parody because it takes itself seriously, there are moments that are genuine and dramatic. But all the mystery is only an undertone, a vein of inspiration that runs through the whole thing, but that is never really the point. It’s still a joke, and the joke is about us, who are watching it and take it very seriously.

I’m not going to dissect the details, but what I noticed is that already early in the first season there were lots of implausible elements that simply couldn’t have a logical explanation. Some dead ends. These become more prominent as the show goes on, and especially with the second season, but this second season doesn’t introduce or twist anything that wasn’t already there and meant to go that way. For example one of the most ridiculous sub-lots is Nadine’s super-strength, and it’s all already there in the first season, it only gets exasperated in the second but the trajectory was already there, already defined. The second season is clumsy, but “correct”. For a show that relies so much on atmosphere and visceral reaction the execution matters a lot, and so this second season can still be seen as a failure, but it’s still Twin Peaks and still within what I perceive as its canon and its design.

Twin Peaks is parody, from my point of view. It plays directly on the audience’s expectations, it’s full of jokes and meta-fiction meant not for who’s watching, but for who’s behind the scenes. The audience is mainly the butt of the joke, the object of the parody itself. It’s David Lynch making fun of that type of seriality, bending it to his own purposes and internal dialogue.

Lynch said he never wanted to reveal who killed Laura Palmer, and he thought that the revelation is one of the reasons why the public abandoned the show. I’m actually glad instead the producers forced that reveal because I don’t think there was much to hide behind that mystery. It wasn’t worth it, and I also believe the public abandoned the show for other reasons. It moved away from the visceral and relatable story to explore its own quirks. That sense of realism that held it together was progressively lost.

For me, that’s one more concrete thing and one less vague mystery to distract from the rest. So what is that characterizes Twin Peaks and its concept, when it comes to its mystery? Coming from LOST and X-files, as I said, there isn’t much to work with. All the stuff about Major Briggs is itself just a parody that would then be taken seriously and developed in X-files, but the point is that in Twin Peaks it’s all a surface, all about going through the motions but without meaning deep down. The same for the other mythical elements, the ring, the Black Lodge, the obscure references, the Log Lady. It’s all infused by dream logic but I cannot see anything truly symbolic and meaningful. What you see is what there is. A silly story of magical possessions, military conspiracies and esoteric FBI. It’s well done and fun, but it’s still a surface that I can’t take seriously, and I don’t think it’s meant to be.

And then there’s the movie (Fire Walk with Me). I started watching it right after the second season, but after I saw the first hour I got sidetracked, then watched another 10 minutes in October, and the last part only in December… It took me half a year. The movie is much different. It adds a lot more substance to the mythological elements. It takes itself more seriously but without contradicting anything of the silly and parodist style that came before. It improved it and played competently on both sides of its own game. The movie puts even more emphasis on the dreamy atmosphere and it has some truly haunting sequences that push it to another level. But stylistically it’s still something that appears fairly simple to me. For example the movie uses heavily fade-outs and cross-fades. The idea I get is that dream overlaps with reality, the two worlds and planes of reality that blur together. Images are often superimposed, two different places that seem to merge, or share the same space even if they aren’t compatible. Mystery is an undertone, a pervasive, ethereal touch that can reach everywhere. The dream is present during daylight, it doesn’t retreat to the cover of the dark. And of course Laura Palmer. I know the movie got some mixed reactions and I suppose it’s because there are scenes that are really weird and absurd. Laura constantly overreacts to things seemingly quite normal, and yet she’s there screaming and making freaking faces and the people around her don’t even seem to notice. She’s disconnected from the fabric of reality. That’s again to me a sort of symbolic introspection pushed out. These aren’t “real” sequences, but scenes that are distorted by a dream. They are played externally as they happen internally, and so the “melodrama”, the excesses of the reactions. It’s an exasperation that I see as deliberate and meant to show Laura’s own internal landscape. Reality upside down. What is inside is pushed out, and reality itself submits to those emotions. Reality comes after.

There are also symbols and mysteries that I only caught by looking at the wiki, like corn/Garmonbozia. But that’s all stuff so vague that I don’t like to use energies to speculate about because I just cannot expect to obtain something of value and that is not simply subjectively imagined. The movie seems to close pretty much all the loose ends in the plot and from my point of view the whole Twin Peaks story can be closed there. It makes sense and doesn’t seem to have any missing part or unfinished businesses.

But there’s this third season now, and the third season changes the approach. It’s a third season that comes after the stuff that took inspiration from Twin Peaks, and Twin Peaks itself becomes more mature and deep. If all the mystery in the first two seasons and movie can be waved away without leaving a meaningful trace, the new Twin Peaks instead goes deep and makes the mystery its vehicle. Yet it doesn’t truly transform its own nature and is still faithful to the original “design”. It’s both a sharp turn as it is not.

I’ve rambled enough, I’ll write about the “new” Twin Peaks in a separate post and I’ll explain more in detail what’s my interpretation of it. After watching the 10th episode I thought there needed to be another six seasons to make sense of everything that was thrown at my face up to that point. I had very little hopes that it would make any sense by the time it was over, or even that Lynch would be generous enough to offer a “conclusion”. But I was surprised. In my opinion those last few episodes seem to close everything quite neatly and elegantly. I do believe I retain a fairly simplistic and limited vision of it, as it was for what came before and that I described here, but I continue to be persuaded that what I see is at least close to Lynch own genuine vision. I’ll write about all this later.

I was skimming a Tor article on this latest Cloverfield, skimming because I haven’t seen the actual thing yet:
https://www.tor.com/2018/02/06/the-cloverfield-paradox-movie-review-cloververse-franchise/

There’s a line at the bottom that caught my attention.

populated by cardboard characters who are merely the victims of greater forces

…You mean as it happens in reality?

But no one seems to have liked this movie, so maybe the article still has a point.

EDIT: I’ve seen the movie now, it’s awful. But I still can’t see how “characters victims of greater forces” is a valid criticism. The cardboard part is true, but the totality of the movie is cardboard. The concept itself has a few small aspects that are interesting, but it’s all savagely sacrificed to the altar of Hollywood machine writing. At its best the movie is a truly bad and clumsy imitation of old sci-fi movies that do everything much better, including special effects.

I was really hoping to see “greater forces” at play, but there’s nothing of that sort. Even that aspect was disappointing.

I plan to focus more on being concise than complete but I’m still spread across too many things to make any decent use of this place, going forward.

I was about to start saying “a few weeks ago”, but now I notice the news came out in the middle of October. Time is ACCelerating.

I wanted to write down a few scattered and confused thoughts about the announce of the delay of the final book in the Kharkanas Trilogy, in favor of the planned trilogy that instead comes after the main Malazan sequence. Right now I’m 50 pages into the second book (Fall of Light) and slowly acclimatizing myself again to that story. Forge of Darkness remains for me the very best by far in the whole overall cycle, and every time I pick up the book to check something and re-read a page here and there I reconfirm that idea.

I was of course disappointed by this choice, though not surprised at all reading that this prequel trilogy sold badly. But I’ll put this discussion to the side, there are many reasons why the prequel trilogy didn’t get a lot of attention. It’s 2018 (now), I’m still at the beginning of Fall of Light, and I even have the last four books still to read in the main series, plus pretty much all of Esslemont. So it’s not like I need a book right now. A Walk in Shadow, the final book in this prequel trilogy, is not “canceled”, just delayed. Maybe to be written after this other trilogy is finished, or maybe to be written just right after the first new book. It’s up to Erikson.

My worry isn’t about an urge to have the book as soon as possible, my worry is that time affects and transforms things. It isn’t about having the book out in five years from now instead of next year, it’s that the delay will make it a different book. Maybe it’s already even too late for A Walk in Shadow, I would have hoped Erikson already deep into it in order to carry exactly the style and momentum and sharp, almost visionary focus that I admired in Forge of Darkness. My belief is that this time will transform the book, necessarily. Will Erikson be able to dive back in and make as if no time went by? Will it be the same book as if it was written now? So I worry that now this trilogy, that is the best Malazan especially for that style, tone and mythical vision, that specific mindset, is doomed to become somewhat “lopsided”, even in the case it will be completed later on. As with what I wrote about Sanderson, the risk isn’t about not completing the thing, but about being in that relevant mind-space (and one has to be honest, Sanderson is better, and has significant help, at keeping track of all his stuff).

I certainly won’t complain. I still hold Fall of Light, and Malazan has already delivered way, way more than one might ask. Even if the final book will never be finished, Forge of Darkness by itself makes a complete and satisfying statement.

But I also worry about this new “toblakai” trilogy. I’ve seen people in the forums being relatively excited and my opinion is pretty much irrelevant since I’ve yet to read the remaining books and I have no idea in what kind of place Karsa ends up, or what are the premises this trilogy is built on. I’m very skeptical about it, but I was also very skeptical about the prequel trilogy as well, and that turned out amazing.

I just wonder how it might work, and if it really could be more successful commercially. The prequel trilogy was a distillation of the very best Erikson, but “best” doesn’t mean “popular”. The idea of a sequel is always more alluring than a prequel, as it’s still a continuation of a well known story compared to the curiosity about flashing out details of a remote past. A prequel trilogy requires more dedicated commitment to go diving into those details. A sequel instead is perceived more as a mandatory read, for those who went that far. So there’s the potential for it to see better sales overall… But.

I’m uncertain about it being “Karsa’s trilogy”. I enjoy the character a lot, I enjoyed the beginning of House of Chains and I enjoyed the parts in The Bonehunters. I’m just not sure how far you can stretch that character and how you can make it the backbone of the whole thing. I do think Karsa works best in small doses, same as Icarium. Those are characters that bounce the ball back in a specific way. The backbone that truly sustained Malazan, I think, is about the Bridgeburners and the Bonehunters. That diversity. Everything else creates the tapestry, gives scope. But it works because it stays grounded, and what grounds it are the soldiers.

The beginning of House of Chains worked because it was a rediscovery of everything. It had layers upon layers of revelation and deceit (wheels within wheels within wheels). That arc was interesting for many reasons and Karsa grew as a character in that compressed sequence that tied back with book 2 brilliantly. But in a certain way these characters have a tendency to evolve when under the looking glass, to then fall back into their natural role. That’s fine. As I said I still liked Karsa a lot in The Bonehunters, but from my point of view he has become a more static character simply because he had to preserve his function. That’s a risk. You have these characters that are well done but fall in a certain “type”, built to embody a certain function in the fabric of the novel, so, when you have these large, sprawling stories, these characters work as cogs in a larger machine, in order to explore certain aspects of that story. The result is that they work as long they maintain that function, that role and that type, and the consequence is that they have to remain relatively static, or give the illusion of movement, or moving only to still fall back in a similar place. I think the same happened to Karsa. You can see the whole dramatic trajectory, and that’s stays meaningful, but in order to function Karsa ends up not so far from where he started: it’s the same war writ larger. So I wonder: is it enough to carry a sequel? Doesn’t emphasis risk being twisted into parody? Karsa and Icarium are strongly typified characters that function in a certain way and that are quite hard to “ground”. I just wonder if this can work in a series built all around that.

It is a problematic sequel because of all that came before. The main series was built on a pre-existing background, this time everything has to be built as if new. It’s a huge unknown, bigger than the prequel trilogy itself. Ideally a sequel demands the stakes to be raised, could Malazan even sustain that? Or will Erikson be satisfied writing a simpler side-story with a smaller scope that will serve as an epilogue? It might work, or might not. My preference would always be for daring and experimenting more, rather than being conservative, but I think even Erikson himself is persuaded than he can’t top the main series, and so, even commercially, the best choice might be to write something relatively more accessible to give that epilogue that some readers might enjoy. I don’t know. But wouldn’t that choice strip away the qualities that define and set apart Malazan from everything else?

I’m very glad I’m not the one making these choices.