Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Morlocks


I've re-read Jeter's Morlock Night so as to write an afterword, to be included in a forthcoming Angry Robot edition of the novel. I do like a bit of Jeter. I like it more than a jot. Now, I'm not going to post my thoughts on that novel, and the literary representation of Morlocks more generally, here: if you're interested, you'll just have to buy the edition when it's published. But I have had a quick google for images of Morlocks, and a strange set it is. This, as I'm sure I don't need to remind you, is how Wells himself conceived them:
I turned ... and saw a queer little ape-like figure, its head held down in a peculiar manner, running across the sunlit space behind me. It blundered against a block of granite, staggered aside, and in a moment was hidden in a black shadow beneath another pile of ruined masonry. My impression of it is, of course, imperfect; but I know it was a dull white, and had strange large greyish-red eyes; also that there was flaxen hair on its head and down its back. But, as I say, it went too fast for me to see distinctly. I cannot even say whether it ran on all-fours, or only with its forearms held very low.
The cover to the Daw edition of Morlock Night, up there, renders the creature as a sort of blue-skinned troll ... in fact it makes the book look like a Discworld rip-off which (I can promise you) it isn't at all. The blue skin, though, comes from the George Pal Time Machine film.


Boris Johnson and his lovely wife, there.

This has had a longlasting influence on the cultural imagination. Look at this lovely chappie:

Half-yeti, this one; with a big-top-sized piece of fabric wrapped about his loins to preserve his shaggy modesty. Or this one:

Ahh! Or this, equally charming sort:

Apart from making me wonder what he could possibly do with two sets of teeth that, evidently, don't meet when he bites down, this image makes me think: 'Morlock', now, has moved away from the albino insectile or arachnid vision of Wells's novella ('It made me shudder. It was so like a human spider!') and become instead a white ape, a muscular, malevolent, hairy ape -- the white colonial man, rather than Wells's mutated proletarian subterranean underclass. Has become more racially conceptualised, as a superior, hyper-Aryan, cruel-eyed, kinkily-dressed Jeremy Irons:

Somebody paler than pale. Not that there's anything wrong with being pale, mind you.

A little peroxide in my hair, and I'm there.