I think I’ve mentioned before how I read a lot of Stephen King’s novels when I was a teenager. I worked at a bookshop from the age of 15 through to 22, and one of the perks was being able to take a book off the shelf and read it, provided you tried really hard not to bend the spine so that someone felt like they were buying a pre-read book when they eventually purchased it!
One of the Stephen King books I read at that time was called ‘The Dead Zone‘, a story about Johnny Smith, a school teacher who was involved in a car accident that resulted in him acquiring a brain injury that gave him the power of premonition. In it, he shakes the hand of an upcoming Senate nominee, Greg Stillson, and he sees him in the role of President ordering nuclear missiles to be fired. This lands him in the ethical dilemma of wondering if he can change the course of history if he stops him in his course to election.
I’m not sure if you’re making any parallels to events transpiring right now, but for weeks I’ve been wondering if Stephen King is thinking he may have written a prophetic novel with the rise of Donald Trump as he comes closer and closer to Republican party nomination for President.
It seems I’m not alone. Doing a Twitter search for ‘The Dead Zone’ this afternoon saw countless tweets from people thinking the same thing. Then I saw this.
I love it when I read something that introduces me to an idea and terminology that help me to articulate thinking. For years now, harking back to childhood really, I’ve been fascinated with things that creep me out. Yes, a strange thing to admit, but I spent a lot of time reading ghost stories as a child and went on to become a prolific reader of Stephen King novels as a young adult. I remember Moira Robinson (wife of Phil Robinson, my employer for many years at Robinson’s Bookshop) quizzing me as to my fascination with horror novels. I qualified my addiction by stating that Stephen King was an accomplished writer ( IT, The Stand and The Shining along with many of his short stories still hold up) and that it was easier to control the fear when you’re reading it and not viewing it.
I’ve never been comfortable viewing ‘creepy’ movies or images. I’ve always found the visuals stay with me for longer than the written word. Tonight I came across the idea of the ‘Uncanny Valley‘ and was amazed, given my information junkie disposition, that I’d never heard of it before. Here’s Wikipedia’s take on what it means;
The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. Examples can be found in the fields of robotics,3Dcomputer animation, and in medical fields such as burn reconstruction, infectious diseases, neurological conditions, and plastic surgery. The “valley” refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as subjects move toward a healthy, natural human likeness described in a functionof a subject’s aesthetic acceptability.
In my reading tonight about it (because yes, once I’d got wind of it I had to read everything I could find) sees many discussing animated films and how some of them dwell in the ‘Uncanny Valley’ with characters who suffer from the dead eyes effect and are almost zombie like. One that cops a lot of criticism is ‘The Polar Express‘. I have to admit, it’s an animated movie that has never sat well with me. The characters didn’t look quite right, and reading the theories behind the ‘Uncanny Valley’ seem to help explain why I found it unsettling.
Anyway, it’s certainly whiled a Friday night away for me. Off to bed now, and off to the polling booth in the morning for voting in the Australian Federal Election. Will we be in for a shock result, or the trouncing everyone’s expecting and Rupert Murdoch is hoping for. All will be apparent tomorrow night!