Mythos has been a very pleasing discovery this week (airs on BBC R4), although, it does make me *really* wish the Beeb would sort out some kind of buy-on-demand service for radio…
It’s the brain child of writer-director extrordinaire Julian Simpson – who’s worked on Spooks, Dr. Who, and wrote the excellent Fugue State about neuroscience and multi-dimensional alien intelligences. Speculative weird-fic? Alien biologies? Conspiracies and psychology? Yes.
Mythos though, is a paranormal drama about folk-memories. And a secretive government agency. And ruptures in time. I wandered into it’s airwaves by accident yesterday, and was halfway through when I realized its really straight-up hauntology, right? But more directed at the past rather than the future.
[Personal Bonus: Mythos episode 1 is all about the Cunning Folk of Hadleigh, maybe some day I’ll tell you about that weird Hadleigh museum visit when I lived in that neck of the woods]
hauntology: ...the situation of temporal, historical, and ontological disjunction.
Hauntology is a piece of fascinating weird for SpecFic writers like myself. Originally mined from Derrida – who was talking about how concepts and beliefs can take on a ghostly aspect, haunting/influencing our present despite their perilous state between existence and non-existence. The famous example is the utopian dream, or [oft-quoted on this blog] “the possible utopian rupture of the everyday…” (sic). That utopian happiness, emancipatory freedom, is a phantasm that possesses and influences our actions, even though it is arguably not present – perhaps never even able to fully manifest.
But Hauntology broke out of its Marxist underpinnings, particularly among new wave artists, musicians, and SpecWriters. Our friends at Ghostwoods books produced Haunted Futures, an anthology about the intersection between the future, the ghosts and dreams of what future might have been, and the past. Arguably, Warren Ellis’s Injection series is all over Hauntology.
There’s a gloomy, surreal mood running through Mythos and the topic of Hauntology. The sudden strangeness of the present, the unpredictability of the past or the future to stay where it is.
That crossing-the-boundary finds it allies in the concept of Thin Places, said to be a Celtic Christian concept for (ye olde voice) “where the waaalls of this world become thiiin.”
Well, if you can look past the cultural stereotyping – it’s really a psychogeographical term for spaces which jolt you out of your everyday perceptions and offers a radically different view of behind the everyday. An example might be a sacred site that affords you a vision of transcendence. Or it might be an old street in London, where you suddenly get a visceral, psychical sense of the lives and history pregnant in that space.
What is intriguing to this specfic writer is that both hauntology and thin places have at their heart a radical idea about time and personhood. That if we could but see ourselves from another perspective, we would realize that we exist in continuum, that our actions in the past still have reverberations over the present. The same is true for landscape and culture. These vast thought-forms are not just dead and buried, but they continue to exude their influence through the marks left behind. Architecture that forces us to think in certain ways. Street lay-outs that are based on antiquated social structures. The question becomes – are we the ones using these spaces, or these spaces using us?
Turning then, back to the original meaning of hauntology: what of the ghosts of the future? That solar panel utopia? Moonbase 1? Floating sky cities? Deep-Blue SkyNet? What effects are those possible futures already having on our present?