For Module III, we read The Wake by Scott Snyder, The Colour out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft and Nightfall by Issac Asimov. These stories intertwine morality with a deadly, dystopian, alien theme. They also use death to play heavily on a sense of terror to give the feeling of unease to demonstrate more in-depth issues about humanity and their actual place in the heavens. These three stories also create monsters out of things that are usually not seen as sinister, which makes them surprisingly creative.
The theme of morality and the apocalypse is displayed heavily in all three stories. In The Wake, humanity is an alien species that goes throughout space seeding different planets, then killing off their own race once they become advanced enough to travel out of the world. They cry tears to forget their sins— which a sort of soul cleansing— to save themselves from suffering the guilt of remembering their evil deeds. The antagonists at the beginning are a race of beings that were on the Earth long before the humans called The Mer. They evolved independently, and they want to force humans to remember who they are and what they have done. Despite what the humans think, merpeople never caused the apocalyptic water-world. Humanity was the invasive species that caused their own self-induced, destruction because of their lack decency towards other sentient beings. Humans are the virus, jumping from world to world trying to plunder and rape planets. Snyder shows humanity's greed by pointing out the moral hypocrisy of their tears. These humans cry to forget on purpose, so they can continue to hurt the Earth and the Merpeople.
In The Colour Out of Space, a giant meteorite strikes near a well at Naham Gardner’s farm. Little by little a glowing fog, in a color that no one has ever seen before, starts taking over everything that lies within the radius of a few miles. When someone is covered by the haze or drinks the water in the contaminated well, they become insane and a few days later perish by turning into dust. The colors of the greenery was beautiful at first; then the crops started to rot and get ashy, the animals started having health problems and dying, the trees started moving on their own, and the family started becoming erratic and violent. Neighbor’s whispered that they must be cursed or have done something wrong, yet the Gardner’s were a good family. They were facing a personal apocalypse which ended in every single person in the family dying in the end. The town did not mourn them though; instead they concluded it was probably their fault, and they avoided the area and tried their hardest to forget they ever existed. It is never revealed exactly why these glowing particles only affected Gardner's family, but it was merely bad luck not some moral degradation.
In the final story Nightfall, the society has books that foretold an apocalypse. It said its six suns would stop shining one day when a mighty eclipse would come and hide all of them and then night would permanently fall upon the planet. People were foretold to have gone mad and burnt down their cities because they felt that facing perpetual darkness would be too horrible. The scientists found out with calculations that it would only be temporary. The suns would be hidden, but they would eventually all come back. They formulated a plan to leave behind this information for the survivors so they wouldn’t go mad, but a religious faction called The Cult decided to do whatever it took to prevent this from happening. They wanted to keep everyone ignorant by saying that daylight would never come again, so they could keep themselves in power. Asimov here was criticizing the morality of religions. He was pointing out how religious people seem to refuse to believe in scientific knowledge so they can keep the masses ignorant and faithful.
Another significant theme throughout the stories was death being used in combination with the subject of an apocalypse to give the reader a sense of horror and dread. In The Wake, it tells how humanity kills itself off because they had advanced too far. It shows how humans are no better than a disease; they come in, kill their host, then leave when they have sucked it dry. In The Colour Out of Space, death is used to create a sense of terror. Everything starts dying, but no one understands why. No one wants to speak or even acknowledge what happened on the farm. In comparison, Nightfall also uses death to create panic in the reader. If these suns go down, and the scientists don't reveal the information, the people will all go mad and die. It was just an eclipse, but the people were so afraid that they manifested their own destiny and killed each other and burned their city down.
One final comparison is that all of these stories feature monsters that are unconventional and bizarre. In Nightfall, Asimov uses an eclipse that masks daylight to create a monster out of the dark. The characters in this story have never experienced night, so to them it is a monster. Stars in the sky are sinister. In The Colour Out of Space, the monster is a strangely colored fog that kills everyone it touches. This description tricks the reader at first to think of it as harmless while heightening the mystery and anxiety. In The Wake, although merpeople are overused in storytelling, the twist ending here is was that the mer were not the villains. Human's created their own demise. The Mer were merely trying to protect their world.
These stories creatively find ways to make ordinary objects seem sinister so they can tell a broader story about humanity and our shortcomings. Through several plot themes they elaborate moral conflicts in a dystopian reality. They all leave you with a sense of who we really are in this vast universe.
Ps anyone else got the comparison from The Colour Out of Space and this story in the 1980's movie Creepshow?