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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Monday, June 20, 2005

London as Heart of Darkness?

I have been looking at other links to Heart of Darkness. The reference to London/ Jack London is at 4 below.

1. T.S.Eliot's The Waste Land [Mistah Kurtz- he dead]

2. Film Apocalypse Now- fairly direct

3. J.G. Ballard - claims no direct influence:

PRINGLE: Conrad?BALLARD: It's a funny thing, but when The Drowned World was published people said it was heavily influenced by Conrad. Oddly enough, though I was 31 or 32, I'd never read a word of Conrad. I remember Victor Gollancz the publisher, taking me out to lunch after they'd bought The Drowned World, and turning to me jokingly, and saying: 'Well, you stole the whole thing from Conrad'. I thought 'oh, what's this?', and going away and actually reading some Conrad - which I found rather heavy going, though he's obviously a great writer, with a unique evocative style - I could see a resemblance. But that's partly because if you're going to try and build up the atmosphere of steaming jungles, there's only one way of doing it. PRINGLE: I think it was Graham Greene who compared The Crystal World with Heart of Darkness. Was there any influence there?BALLARD: I don't know whether I'd read Heart of Darkness at the time I wrote The Crystal World. I honestly don't think I was influenced by Conrad. I don't mind being influenced - after all, we're all influenced to some extent - but if you're talking about conscious imitation: certainly not.


4. Not so much an influence, more a parallel:

Jack London's 'The People of the Abyss' was published in 1903 and so is a near contemporary of Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' which was first published in book form in 1902. London's book describes his venture as an 'explorer' into the East End of London.

Jack London was a lifelong fantast. The first money he ever received as a professional writer was for the science fiction story "A Thousand Deaths" published by The Black Cat in 1899. Thirteen of his 188 published short stories and four of his twenty-two novels fall readily into the category, and other stories contain fantastic elements.

London explored numerous styles of science fiction: pre-history, apocalyptic catastrophe, future war, scientific dystopias, technocratic utopias. Running through most stories are the ideas of social evolution, racialism, and anti-capitalism. In some stories, London emphasizes "social science fiction," the problems of society, particularly the exploitation of workers and the materialism of capitalism. By positing extreme cases of social order or disorder, he hopes to convey how human suffering based in economic inequality may be eliminated. In other cases, his imaginary societies were meant to demonstrate the validity of Social Darwinism with its emphasis upon the rise of the superior Anglo-Saxon race.

London's science fiction shows the influence of such horror fantasy writers as Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe, and the popular science fiction writers of the late 19th century, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, and Stanley Waterloo. Themes already familiar to turn-of-the-century readers reoccur in London's stories: invisibility, humans turned into beasts, worldwide pestilence, cataclysmic war, indefinable terrors, ghosts, time travel, extra sensory perception (this, before the term was even in the vocabulary).
Yet to be studied are the possible influences London's writings had upon later fatasts. The clearest connection is to George Orwell, who produced programs on London when he worked for the BBC, and acknowledged his debt to such books as Before Adam,
The Iron Heel and The People of the Abyss upon his own writing. Did London's writings influence later creators of fictional alien worlds? Perhaps some readers of this page can do the research to answer that question!

From http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/London/Essays/scifi.html

I have found the whole of Jack London's book online at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/London/Writings/PeopleOfTheAbyss/

`BUT YOU can't do it, you know,' friends said, to whom I applied for assistance in the matter of sinking myself down into the East End of London. `You had better see the police for a guide,' they added, on second thought, painfully endeavoring to adjust themselves to the psychological processes of a madman who had come to them with better credentials than brains.
`But I don't want to see the police,' I protested. `What I wish to do, is to go down into the East End and see things for myself. I wish to know how those people are living there, and why they are living there, and what they are living for. In short, I am going to live there myself.'
`You don't want to live down there!' everybody said, with disapprobation writ large upon their faces. Why, it is said there places where a man's life isn't worth tu'pence.'

`The very places I wish to see,' I broke in.

5. Ursula Le Guin: The Word for World is Forest


This story was written during the height of the Vietnam War, as a parable of colonial exploitation. The native people, the Athsheans, of this planet have evolved into a Close relationship with the ecology of their world. Here they have dwelled in harmony, dwelling peacefully among the forests of their world, until human colonists arrive and start plundering the planet for its valuable timber. We are shown the conflicts which arise and the disruption and destruction of the Athsheans way of life.

In the introduction, Ursula Le Guin, speaking about Vietnam in 1968, gives an insight into the writing of this story:- The lies and hypocrisies redoubled, so did the killing. Moreover, it was becoming clear that the ethic which approved the defoliation of forests and grainlands and the murder of non-combatants in the name of 'peace' was only a corollary of the ethic which permits the despoliation of natural resources for private profit or the GNP, and the murder of the creatures of the Earth in the name of man.

We are shown that the Athsheans' culture places great emphasis on the importance of dreaming; the experiences while dreaming and awake are considered equally real and valid. The society which they have evolved is gentle, and peaceful; murder and war are unknown.

Again, in the introduction it is pointed out there is, or at least was in 1935, a real world corollary in the Senoi Tribe from Malaysia, who it appears have not had a war or a murder, for several hundred years.
The organisation of the Athshean society is that for the most part women run the cities and towns and men are the dreamers, with their roles portrayed as equal and compensatory.

From http://www.takver.com/me/odonian.htm

6. More? No doubt, but then in theory all texts connect...


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