Keil has a killer idea for a horror movie. He also has a hilarious idea for a comedy. It’s called Trash Night. Keil has his finger on the pulse of environmental activism and Trash Night will help the lumpen wake the fuck up as we’re so inured to eating our Prole-e-O’s while our Prones vibrate and our LobotoVision Sets no longer ask us if we’re still watching things from decades ago, it’ll just play them because it knows how you, well, you. Our tightly woven world lets us forget that we aren’t making things better with our reusable bags, our “No Dumping” ocean drains, and whatever the hell else you think you’re doing to save the environment as you go on with your day because our normal day has always been structured around abnormal, abominable waste.
This is all covered by this idea Keil’s been carrying. For the sake of his sanity he needs to share this story because the message within is the essence of what H.P. Lovecraft called “Cosmic Horror.” Keil is the harbinger of our doom. He isn’t the first, but he’ll give it to you in a way you want to watch, and the effect will outlast other attempts of tree-hugging proselytizing because he connects the issue with all of us. His story isn’t his, it’s not ours, it just is. The story doesn’t care about us. Other attempts gloss it up, give it three acts and an after-school-special message, perpetuate the anthropic principle. But this story in and of itself has no self, its only message is obvious and dreadful. It’s the kind of story no one wants to bank on because it’ll make you pop opioids and antidepressants like the popcorn you spill during the latest Marvel flick (#hailThanos) and forget like the empty bucket you leave under the seat during the second act lull, which is all a second act is; the bathroom break (another term is “musical” #changemymind). Hollywood players don’t want their name attached to this movie because no audience will risk killing their #bestself or #blessedlife to witness something they already “know” but this time presented #IRL with #nofilter. Keil’s only savior is the horror fan. The horror fan will pay dearly to see this movie, to be entertained by doom and destruction, and thrill at being allowed to see exactly why this is their fate. I am also willing to bet the average American consumer will be curious enough to see this movie now. It’s time. We are all ready.
However, Keil’s story comes as a warning. He wants to ask us a question, he wants to know if we’re too late. It just might be because there is a system beyond the social structure monopolized by a few. It is not God, it is not conscious, it is merely something that does not need us exists outside our reality. It makes clear that what we consider reality is a contrived world that is always a work in progress. This isn’t a paper about living in a Matrix-type world or the universe as a computerized hologram or about us living in the last electrical impulses of brain death, or an attempt to scare you straight. This essay is a very unintelligent attempt at understanding what our world really is by utilizing Eugene Thacker’s three philosophical volumes: In the Dust of this Planet – Starry Speculative Corpse – Tentacles Longer than Night. Another reason I turn to Thacker’s work is because Keil’s story encompasses elements in Thacker’s work, and Thacker uses elements of the horror genre to state his thesis. Understanding Thacker’s thoughts means you will be scared for the rest of your life, but to understand his volumes you need to be well-versed in horror themes. This merging of thought and genre means you will be delighted by terror, which is the crux of all horror; value at the cost of comfort, joy at the cost of security. Horror gets you thinking more constructively than other story genre because it shows you a monster and gives you the tools to deal with it.
My monster at the moment is writing this paper for Keil. He thinks he’s getting a gloriously thought-out piece that’ll help get people interested in our movie. What he doesn’t know is that I have no outline, just Thacker’s volumes vandalized with my pencil highlights and sticky flags. Keil doesn’t know that I am in my underwear, typing away at a crude standing desk. I am flying blind like most protagonists in a horror film, learning as other characters die around them. Thacker would remind me that I can die at any time, I’m not in control, and that it’s possible I’ve already failed. Nietzsche and Schopenhauer were lighthearted compared to Thacker. So let’s dive into the pitch tides of Thacker’s mind. But first some ground rules:
1 – I make no promises of changing your ways. It isn’t that I’m not a decent salesman (I used to be a telemarketer – The horror! The horror!) it’s just that we may already be in the depths of failure regardless of what we understand and realize from here on out.
2 – Drink. Being sober while reading this will be a chore, I recommend a strong ale from Firestone Walker or Stone, or a Japanese whiskey such as Hibiki, or a fine rum such as Bumbu or Kirk and Sweeney’s 23. Please drink from the top shelf; paint thinners will just impede your happiness. Cocktails are fine, I just like to keep it simple with neat little fingers of the good stuff. If you don’t go for alcohol I applaud you. It’s important to stay hydrated, however, so please have water/juice/coffee handy. I originally pitched Keil my idea for this paper as a drinking game, but fuck that. Drink as you see fit. You’ll see it doesn’t matter how you play. It doesn’t even matter if you play at all. You don’t decide the rules or the game or your involvement. Just the act of drinking is a simple thing you can do to stay tethered to our world, much like some suicide survivors or former addicts pick up coffee and cigarettes to fill in the blanks left by departed fantasy, dysfunctional behavior, and delusion. Boy, won’t this be fun!
3 – I highly recommend Eugene Thacker’s three volumes on horror and philosophy. Deceptively skinny paperbacks, they are each packed with dense concepts that hit with the impact of an indifferent asteroid colliding with the indifferent earth, and you just happen to be standing their texting in the shadow of doom. If you really want to know what I’m talking about, then please, go to the source. This paper will certainly miss the mark if one is to be made at all.
The last thing I should do is tell you Keil’s pitch. It’s quick, clever, and if you blink you just might miss the point and end up reading this long treatise on something that’s too simple to need explanation.
“Your trash comes back to take you out.”
Awesome, right? I love it, too. But you still have questions. “I know this is important, I’ve heard the shriek of environmentalists before, but why can’t I just nod and agree that environmentalism is good and get on with my day?” Or,“I saw The Happeninga million years ago, it was meh.”For starters, fuck you, no we can’t let you get on with your day, that’s the reason we’re all in this mess together. For seconders, FUCK YOU, this is not nature taking its revenge, nor is it a lame experiment using weakly twisted endings, robotic movie stars, and insecure cities pleading for screen time. Garbage coming to life is strictly allegorical to help ease you into a very simple idea that is difficult to fathom because humans are not engineered to perceive the world in such a way. It’s also awesome to imagine garbage creatures shredding people, so there’s solid entertainment value in the premise if you’re not into the deeper pretentions.
As far as our “reality” is concerned, the Huns are already inside the Cathedral, so to speak. You know a healthy and stable environment is good, but you actually might not get the real why of it. Thacker is here to help. You’ve seen The Happening and you care not to see a rehash with a different monster. I sympathize, but GTFO. No, actually, please don’t go! I need the validation because I, too, am a sucker for “our world.” We will get to what I mean when I say “our world.” Thacker defined this in his three volumes, discussing the difference between “the world for us” and“the world in itself.” Thacker’s two sequels turn philosophy works into works of horror and then into gems of philosophy. I’m going to work backwards through these volumes and take his concepts as observations of actual reality. I think this chronology and context will be beneficial. First, using volume three, Tentacles Longer than Night, I will explore what we think about horror and fear, and how we deal with the unknown. Second, using Starry Speculative Corpse, we’re going to explore the physical body and how it fits into our perception of self and the world around us. Third, we’ll take a look at the world “for us”and “in itself” using In the Dust of This Planet. Through all three parts I will reflect on Trash Night and how each volume touches on the story that makes this horror film such a good idea, especially right now in our world. Don’t worry, I can’t spoil anything, I’m in charge of writing the damn thing and I haven’t even started!
PART 1 – THINKING TO THE UNTHINKABLE
Tentacles Longer Than Night is a fantastic title. All three volumes boast the best titles in all of literature. This third and final horror philosophy volume looks at classic works of horror as philosophical theses, as papers discussing the unknown. What this juxtaposition does is show us that there is more than fiction and fancy going on within these tales of terror. You’ve heard this before, true fear is when you encounter the unknown. That moment before you know, uncertainty and apprehension that will either end in your favor or not, and the scale seems to be tipping in an unexpected direction. That moment when“Either I do not know the world, or I do not know myself” (pg. 6). Thacker makes a clarifying point here, stating that “what is often at stake is the verification of something strange actually existing” (pg. 5). Like tentacles in black, watery depths, these thoughts have grasped us on multiple levels at some point in our lives, and hopefully only as we are consuming fiction. There are rules to the world as we sense it, scientific laws governing existence, and when something breaks these rules it resonates as horror until we understand it. But what if understanding does not come?
Trash Night fits into our real world—until the trash comes to get us. Suddenly all bets are off and the characters scramble to figure out the new rules to the world they thought they knew. “It’s all in your head. It really happened. These mutually exclusive statements mark out the terrain of the horror genre” (pg. 5). Even though Tentacles Longer Than Night is the last book in Thacker’s trilogy, thought is the first reaction of the characters in Trash Night. We see it in their eyes, an action paused, a piece of dialogue frozen as they witness the world behaving in an alien way. The mental gears turn and for a moment there’s nothing but fear. Panic spreads as new rules assert themselves via violent death borne from monstrous entities made from the waste of something as innocent as a discarded magazine or beer can. It’s silly, but also terrible because trash is everywhere and now it’s changing into cohesive beasts with one mind. This should be impossible, but your boo just got impaled and shredded by the innards of a waste bin, and you’re next as the rancid tendrils of whatever you threw out hours ago is now alive and thirsting for your blood. Trash Night finds its characters like others in the horror genre; frozen in thought, then debating the truth of a new reality. The phrase “think fast!” has never carried more weight than here. Imagine playing a game with one set of rules, then another set of rules is introduced when one of your teammates is murdered, and not just killed but pulverized by something that cannot be. At first you’re not sure if this is real or not, then you’re forced to figure out the new boundaries. “[…] Horror is not just the horror of fear or of a physical threat, but an indefinite horror. Language falters, as does thought.” (pg.? – my bad, I lost the location of this gem) An indefinite horror. The fear of a moment becomes your entire life. This alien moment expands, like tentacles in the dark, and while you’re caught up trying to puzzle out the reason for this wild trigger you don’t even realize your mind and body have failed. You don’t realize you cannot win against something you cannot fathom because it has never happened before and should be impossible. But… but… what if this fear is of the world you happen to live in? What if your brain, in the seconds before death, realizes that it was never your world? Trash Night isn’t just about humans fighting amorphous tentacular spider-squid-shadow trash beings, it’s also about the trash things attacking our human-centric world, which is how we think of all reality. Humans as groups think of our existence in various ways, and more so when considering individual thought. “But one commonality all these positions have is that they articulate a basic relationship between the human being and the limit of its capacity to adequately comprehend the world in which it finds itself.” (pg. 19) No matter what you believe, or what your core group believes, your thought cannot encompass everything this world holds. You realize what you hold is a mere sliver of what actually is.
The only reason any of us gets up in the morning is that we believe in a sequence of events for the day, in ritualized behavior to reinforce predictions, and specific patterns to guide us away from the unknown. For anyone who has had a mental breakdown you know how fragile these mechanisms are despite being so valuable to a comfortable existence. These elements are limited in their capacity to help us understand reality. We are unable to take in the big picture. We don’t have the software or the hardware.
We see this as the characters in Trash Night grapple with the impossible reality of murderous garbage. Our heroes cannot take it in and end up fighting as best they can using what they know of reality, which is no longer a crutch or even their reality, as this reality now allows trash to become sentient. We would not allow this, yet here it is, devouring our loved ones and forcing us to think of a way out of a real fantasy, forcing us to use what we know against what we cannot compute. The only way to win against trash monsters is a rapid and radical shift in perception, in prejudice and assumption. The worst fear is realizing your perception is all wrong, that your assumptions were not your reality taken for granted, but rather windows into the reality that has been in front of you your whole life. Once your mind goes, your body will follow.
PART 2 – DEATH THROES
Instinct is your body reacting without the aid of complex thought. You act as seamlessly as breathing. This all depends on your brain perceiving a pattern or stimulus; but what if there’s a stimulus that has no mental registry? Thacker uses his second volume, Starry Speculative Corpse, to look at philosophy books as if they were works of horror. What I find interesting is the constant use of our presence in the world as examples to showcase these horrors. This second volume sees people acting on what they cannot fathom, how a body copes with the unattainable and inexplicable.
Misfortune is an event that threatens what you perceive as your life, its rules and boundaries. You take action to correct your trajectory, you deal with the problem. A solution is found when the problem is part of your world and you are able to rise above it using the tools you have, tools you were born with or ones you’ve honed over time. For instance, the problem of taking out the trash. You see the trash can is full, it’s an inconvenience but your mind sees this, knows a pattern to deal with it, and you take action. It’s simple, until the trash within the can moves, shoots out one or two exploratory antennae or fingers that stretch and seek your warmth. You knew how to deal with the trash before it came to life, and your plan was to tie up the bag and heft it out to the curb. Now, you’ve got nothing. Not only do you have the emergency of the thing that was not and cannot, but even after you slam the lid and run behind locked doors you still have to deal with this new entity and also figure out why the life you’ve enjoyed up to this point has allowed this to happen. “In Western tradition, nearly every philosophical position, every philosophical ‘decision,’ every assertion of being, identity, or oneness, relies on a minimal relation between thought and world, self and other, subject and object” (pg. 81). Everything we do every day is stake a claim on existence, our importance and physical presence feels necessary. Things that threaten our physicality are dealt with in two ways: one, the threat correlates with “our” reality and can be beaten through action, or two, the threat isn’t on our plane of understanding, so we run and hide or choose to ignore it if it’s not life-threatening (and sometimes even if it is). Some problems we perceive as annoying, like the buildup of dishes in the sink or the full trashcan you smell when you come home. Ignoring a problem is convenient when doing so reinforces your perception of reality. You don’t want to do the dishes or take out the trash because you have better things to do that are more important. You must be the center of your world if you are to be happy, and that is a severe flaw.
So, the trash is alive. What is alive can die, so maybe you can kill it, but you’re still frozen stiff in your hiding place. Your physical body suddenly has a reduced status in the world, if any place at all. Physics don’t change so radically, so you now get the uneasy feeling that this has always been the way of things. If this is real, then your importance, and resulting life expectancy, is meaningless. Everything you’ve done, everything you’ve been taught has been bolstered by only human perception of the world, by doing things with your body that build on human concepts, from playing sports to writing a paper about living trash, we can do anything as long as our actions reinforce our importance. Even negative actions, from murder to political corruption, make us believe we’re the only movers and shakers on Earth. “From a certain vantage point, the history of Western philosophy looks like a somewhat panicky, feverish attempt to cover up the suspicion that there may not be more.” (pg. 153) Trash Night isn’t about the meaninglessness of existence, it’s more urgent than that bullshit. It’s about how our lifestyles are based on fantasy, not reality. As we live we’re generating an equal and opposing reaction. There is more to our lives than we perceive, but it negates our lives. Starry Speculative Corpse lends the human psyche depression and pessimism as the body’s only source of solace in the face of such indifference. Life isn’t meaningless, it just isn’t about us. We make it about us as best we can, but it’s a lie. “[…] we forget that the world is not human.” (pg. 143)
By the way, the trash monster is still out there. If you’re in a room with trash, then that’s coming to life, too. You get the analogy, right? We make a lot of things, we do a lot of things, but the most we make and do is garbage. We do our best to avoid it for health reasons, but we also choose to forget about it. Our true legacy is trash. Pessimism, nihilism, these are perceptions of a human world, not the real world. “The tendency to take the worst view of things, or the tendency to always expect the worst, is about an interpretation of the world, not about the world itself.” (pg. 138) The world we live in doesn’t mind that we are suffocating in our wastes. It doesn’t need our life-support system to survive; we do.
Trash Night gets scary when you realize it’s not about vindictive monsters, it’s about our attempts to escape the consequence of life for the sake of lifestyle. The story revolves around monsters because that’s fun, but the monsters are actually here and they really don’t need to come to life to kill us. Just as the monsters are an allegory for real trash heaps, the characters are us. They take action by running away, by gathering weapons and more people to help, by attacking the monsters, and when all that fails the characters realize they must change their very foundations of thought and perception in order to combat what doesn’t care and yet will kill us if we continue being human. Will they survive? Sure, although why haven’t solutions for our global consumption problems worked yet? Is it because we are fixing human problems instead of the actual problems? We cart it off, send it away, flush it, bury it, recycle some, but none of that actually deals with it. It’s the equivalent of running away from the trash monster and trying to ignore it even as more spawn from other waste receptacles. You realize that biding your time in a world that isn’t yours doesn’t work. You’re surrounded by something that will kill you, but it’s not evil, it’s not like you are able to ignore the real world, it is of the world and you made it possible. It’s a weird paradox, but it’s true. As you back up into the corner of the room you thought was safe the trash monsters slither and squirm to get at you, breaking things in the way and making more trash to add to its shape-shifting body, you realize that this is your fault and that your place in the world is insignificant. The paradox is that this is a comfort, the only problem is that we waited too long to make simple changes in the way we live. We don’t need to save the planet; we only need to save ourselves from ourselves.
What the hell? What is he talking about? Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s meant you saw ad campaigns designed to get kids active in saving the environment. Our hearts were in the right place, but the perception of reality is all wrong and no one talks about this because most people don’t think of reality being like what Thacker projects in his volumes, and even if you do then it’s just that much harder to take action until you change your mind to change how you move. If your mind can adjust, your body will follow and you can actually do something. This requires that you see the paradox that negates your own existence. Trash Night makes its point with unidentifiable monsters made from our refuse and reminds us through dark comedy and absurd death that “[…] we have never been one with the planet, nor does the planet require our cleverness and technical ingenuity to save it – from ourselves.” (pg. 9) So, the literal solution is to save ourselves by changing our lives to align with sustainable function rather than consumption. We don’t need to consider the planet; it doesn’t care one way or the other.
PART 3 – DUSTING WITH A SHROUD
So, here we are. The last part of this journey. Part one explored frightening thoughts when alien stimuli make us witness the unknown, part two saw how our bodies, our muscles, and senses fail when faulty thoughts and selfish perception force us to deal with true horror using only human-world tools. It is clear we are inept when it comes to absorbing true reality, but my goodness, aren’t we good at absorbing high-grain alcohol? I’m not judging you here, this is a safe place. Whatever gets you through this paper, right? By the way, I joke about awful coping mechanisms, but I’m writing this thing on nothing more than coffee and snacks. If you are in a spiral of harmful coping, whether it’s addiction to substances or hapless behavior, there is help. Unfortunately, you will not find it here. Though, in a way I did help; you now know that your help isn’t here and you should go elsewhere. I’ve just narrowed your scope. It took several pages to get such solid advice. You’re welcome for that. This paper is feeling like a padded room, isn’t it? This is akin to my thesis, the world reveals itself in this inconvenient way, too, because we are too busy being human. “Tragically, we are most reminded of the world-in-itself when the world-in-itself is manifest in the form of natural disasters.” (pg.5) Inconvenient at best, deadly at worst, through natural disaster, climate change, and just plain physics the world reveals its true nature. It crushes, washes, shakes, burns, electrocutes, and blows away all of our glorified pretenses. Fasten your straightjackets, it’s going to be a batty ride!
Throughout all three volumes, Thacker pleads with his audience that in order to see things as they really are we need to forget that we are human. We need to drop all our beliefs, pretentions, attachments. He brings up nihilism and pessimism, the Western abrasive versions of these concepts and Eastern philosophies that embrace the void. All of which only reveal snippets of this “world in itself” as we live mostly in “a world for us.” Our perception of the world is limited, our ability to process the slick moments of truth are fleeting and fragile, and our ability to act according to the true physics of our world is pitiful. But why?
“[…] The problem is the very structure of belief, the very structure of meaning-making” (pg. 95, Speculative Corpse). Everything we do and think is human-centric. This is the best way for us to live and survive. We need to believe we are part of the world, we need to believe we control it and it shares in our successes and failures. That it supports our religions, governments, and societies. It’s hard to believe otherwise. It’s hard to believe that the pedestal we stand upon isn’t there for us to pontificate from, or that it’s not a pedestal at all. It’s also hard to believe that I’m discussing In the Dust of This Planet and I haven’t even used quotes from it yet. So, without further ado, allow me to draw your attention to The Kingdom of the Wicked by Anthony Burgess. This is the story about the clash between Roman Empire and Christianity. It’s a great novel, you’ve got the Apostles stirring up the people, Caligula in all his rancid glory, and a volcano that doesn’t take sides despite all the holy fervor of Paul et al. And the Roman Empire doesn’t hold a torch to Pompeii, either. The whole book has you witness atrocities committed both in the name of Emperor Little Boots (Caligula) and in the name of the new Christian god. Burgess builds so much meaning into the rise of Christianity you can’t help but root for those underdogs, such as the hilarious book-burning scene where “Silas and Luke, both bookish men, were uneasy about the incineration of some very fine volumes bound in leather with gold locks, but Paul said:
‘Look at that obscenity. And that. Dog predicating man. Man predicating dog.’
‘They could be sold.’
‘To other magical charlatans.’
‘But see the workmanship.’
‘On the fire with it, Luke.’ (Burgess, Wicked pg. 229)
Where some men see value others see the obscene. How can we see the true world when we can’t even agree on the value of things or ideas? It’s so ephemeral and shifting, yet from moment to moment it feels like that’s all there is, when really we only see an ozone of our creation that unintentionally hides the true nature of existence. This is the heart of everything Thacker exposes in his volumes, especially In the Dust of This Planet. At the end of The Kingdom of the Wicked, Pompeii erupts and casts molten lava and suffocating ash over an entire city and people who had spent their whole lives fighting for a just government and righteous beliefs. Both Christian and Roman loyalist meet the same fate. The world doesn’t care for us and is not against us. The world is indifferent to our wants and desires. The world does not recognize our pain. We exist here, but we are not part of the world.
And so can garbage. In multiple places in his volumes Thacker alludes to the dead as aligned with the real world, “the world in itself,” which we as living beings cannot see in total because of our sometimes overactive and sometimes underactive sensory perceptions and culturally/socially/religiously constructed biases. In a poem on page 150 of In the Dust of This Planet it states plainly, “A life form in dynamic, cosmic equilibrium/With its environment/Is dead.” Garbage is like a zombie, it once had “life” according to our perception of “things we use,” but at this point it is something cast aside and forgotten until it spills from its coffin of a waste bin, in which it inevitably is joined in force with other forgotten dregs of things deemed “useless,” spreading and making a mess in our lives as if it were sentient. Trash Night makes this apparent as it shrinks the time frame where garbage does its damage. Instead of taking geological time to see how garbage kills us, Keil’s story puts the damage on a human time scale, where the damage done is quick and violent. The garbage takes on life, and it literally would appear so if we were to see it from the real world’s perspective. In this way the garbage may appear evil as it rises from its grave in inhuman form and kills us, but it’s a simple statement of natural fact that we cannot live amongst garbage, so even in its indifferent dead form that is aligned with the real world it is perceived as evil because its indifference to our life is our death. The living cannot live in waste despite creating it on a regular basis. So, we throw it away hoping it never comes back, and if it does we call it some sort of “other” that gives it evil agency so we feel we need to fight it for our righteous existence instead of answering for our own mistakes.
We constantly see glimpses of this world-in-itself. It’s hard to define, but you get the concept, right? What Thacker dubs the world-in-itself is what he’s calling the actual world, the one we never see unless it’s killing us, the one that is the opposite of what he calls the “world for us.” It’s easier to explain the “world for us” and by contrast you’ll understand the difference and why Trash Night is profound. Thacker defines both concepts swiftly and with economy: “This is the world that we, as human beings, interpret and give meaning to, the world that we relate to or feel alienated from, the world that we are at once a part of and that is also separate from the human. But this world-for-us is not, of course, totally within the ambit of human wants and desires; the world often ‘bites back,’ resists, or ignores our attempts to mold it into the world-for-us. Let us call this the world-in-itself.” (pg.4-5)
Cute as a small-caliber bullet, Thacker’s words make a dainty hole in your forehead that appears to be a simple killshot but upon autopsy you see it’s done damage to your brain on a wholly supernatural level, ricocheting around inside your cranium, shredding and mutilating the gray matter within. The world we know and explore and study is merely the world-for-us. There’s another side to this planetary coin and its picture is bleak to us because it does not serve us. The sunrise you adore, the breeze that brings the smell of roses, the rain that tastes sweet, the cool surface of a water-washed stone. These are real sensations, but there is no meaning coming from the Earth with these sensations. The meaning comes from within ourselves, not Mother Nature. We feel happy with these sensations, terrified or disgusted by others. Some of these sensations are culturally modified and molded, others naturally dictate the essence of your survival and navigation of ourworld. The world-in-itself does not care one way or the other. It just is and will be so regardless of what you think of its physicality or how you interpret your sensory overload. Believing in its sanctity will not save you from a natural disaster or curry its favor. Remember Pompeii? Katrina? Going in the opposite direction, destroying the environment, will not incur the Earth’s wrath. Doing so will only make it harder for us to live because we need a healthy environment, the Earth doesn’t have will or agency of its own.
The Earth, by a series of cosmic events, somehow changed into an orb of life. It didn’t allow this to happen, it didn’t want this and (at the risk of the dreaded double negative), the Earth did not not want life to inhabit its surfaces. It seems we are trapped and terrorized by our own senses and our own perception of agency. We define the world in our terms and believe this is real. “The human is always relating either to itself or to the world. And these two types of relations overlap with each other: the human can only understand the human by transforming it into an object to relate to (psychology, sociology), while the human can only relate to the objective world itself by transforming the world into something familiar, accessible, or intuited in human terms (biology, geology, cosmology).” (pg.30)
This is why the world can get scary, and why we gravitate to horror even when we see the humor of affairs. Even when we define the world, and even while defining ourselves in the process, sometimes events or things around us do not play by the rules. We forget that “the rules” are not actually true, they are merely our rules for a game we play on a board we cannot sense entirely. Trash Night embraces the horror and humor of playing this “game.” The characters struggle to define and understand the rules the trash entities are killing by, hoping to find the loophole that will save them. The characters haven’t read Thacker. If they had, they would have embraced the void knowing their attempts were futile. The entities are monsters to us, their actions horrible to us, but to the “world-in-itself” these monsters are as much a nothing as we are. And even more difficult to grasp is both monster and human alike don’t even register to this world-in-itself, the truth of the matter is there is no registry, no scale. The world will not save us from our trash. Keil’s story is profound because while it is a scary and funny tale about teens battling creepy trash monsters (and boy they are gonna look cool, like H.P. Lovecraft slippery, slithery, spiky!) the story takes into account this “world-in-itself”and ends up being unlike any monster or disaster flick you’ve ever seen. Unlike those Hollywood blockbusters and even awesome B-movies, Trash Night takes into account the cold, hard fact that the world doesn’t care if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is leading the way, or if Ed Wood is behind the camera. The world doesn’t care if Greenpeace endorses the film or if a vile corporation funds it for product placement that ends up subverting its hearty and terrible message.
It’s scary to think about monsters that kill because it’s their behavior simply by being, rather than a will that can be changed with force or diplomacy. It’s also scary to get suckered into a horror-comedy film that confronts futility. However, this isn’t the case if you obey your beautiful, inevitable human biases and give the void meaning. This is how the characters in Trash Night piece together a solution to their battle. But is it too late? Guess we’ll find out once I stop writing this damn essay and get on with the first-draft rewrite. And don’t be fooled, even if showing the “world-in-itself” as trash monsters is a clever way to glimpse what our trash is doing to us, it’s still not a reveal of the secret world in which we dwell. But that’s ok, we don’t need that world, we have ours. Allow me a few more moments to draw this weird concept out.
“[…] the world is indifferent to us as human beings. Indeed, the core problematic in the climate change discourse is the extent to which human beings are at issue at all. On the one hand we as human beings are the problem; on the other hand at the planetary level of the Earth’s deep time, nothing could be more insignificant than the human.” (pg.158) I will argue that it does matter what we do with our world, the “world for us” because it’s the vessel that allows us and other species to live—including some who, given time, might become what we call sapient and write more philosophy-horror tomes). The more we damage it, the less likely it will sustain our lives. Duh! But what I am getting at is that we don’t need to worry about the world as the world, we need a radical change in our perception of it. We need to stop thinking of the Earth as something that needs saving; at worst it doesn’t care and at best it’s still too big an operation for us to take on. What needs to happen is that we need to include waste in the conversation. It can no longer be an unmentionable or an alien concept we hide from because our garbage isn’t alien, and it can’t be unmentionable when it’s just hidden inside something in your own clean home. Garbage needs to be addressed with humor and simplicity and efficiency because doing otherwise is scary and will continue to be just that if we don’t see that our waste is a part of our lives and doesn’t go away like past gods or outdated science. Garbage is the most solid example of the “world-in-itself” in our “world for us”—it is dead, no longer an extension of our will or agency, and it has no desire to continue your life or end it—but the accumulation of garbage inside our zone of “pretending it goes away” tips the balance in favor of extinction.
So, we need to end our ignorance and deal with our trash if we want to escape the equivalent of Trash Night’s monsters coming back for us as we go about our fractured lives of fantasy, living as if the world was truly made for us.
Our garbage is already destroying people in many parts of the world. They are feeling the killing strokes of waste. We are merely feeling the annoying pokes, an unsavory smell or unsightly litter, the loud crash of a dumpster being emptied in the morning—but this is only a preview of the coming world. It will feel like revenge, but this is just the weight of existence.
This is the new world ordure.
By the way, until Friday night (6/15/18), you can help bring about the Trashpocalypse by donating to Trash Night’s campaign: https://www.seedandspark.com/fund/trashnight#story
Again, donating or not, making the film or not – the trash is still coming for you.
Burgess, A. (1985). The Kingdom of the Wicked.Franklin Center, Pennsylvania, USA: Arbor House Publishing Co.
Thacker, E. (2011). In the Dust of This Planet(Vol. 1). Alresford, United Kingdom: Zer0 Books.
Thacker, E. (2015). Starry Speculative Corpse(Vol. 2). Alresford, United Kingdom: Zer0 Books.
Thacker, E. (2015). Tentacles Longer Than Night(Vol. 3). Alresford, United Kingdom: Zer0 Books.
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