Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A few thoughts on James and fog


Few serious ghost story writers and afficandos are unfamiliar with the work of M.R. James, perhaps the most iconic of his fellow British supernatural scribes. His Oxbridge and Etonian associations vis a vis a largely solitary personal existence (he didn't marry, or have children) seem manifest by his common situating of male academics amidst the rural landscapes of their forgotten forebears. Unprepared for the spirits that haunt these places - places sidestepped by the growth of industry and establishment of the cosmopolitan - their penchant for curiosity unearths and exposes old presences that defy the scientific order of existence. All too often these entities emerge with malevolent desires, and seem either reluctant to let such a prying suggestion of company go unrewarded, or to forgive an intrusion into their self appropriated space.

The fog is an aid for those who are coming, whose appearance remains distorted by this weather veil until they venture into our personal spaces. Shadows in the mist represent a semblance of things approaching, a threat of the occult properties of hidden things of which we may sense but not fully see. John Carpenter's ghostly lepers came out of The Fog, which preceded their arrival with a swallowing of the bay and its surrounding familial landscape. The fog blurs the boundaries of the familiar, and as such is a useful metaphor for the arrival of those who are coming. We do not know their intentions until they are, quite literally, upon us - again, Carpenter's film demonstrated this in several scenes where a lack of recognition about what the fog brought costed characters their lives. The fog itself is an etheral time, a strange manifestation of the mysterious and uncontrollable aspects of the weather, a denial of our desire to be in control of our environment by its coveting of the landscape, its blurring of the definite lines of architecture and natural things that we rely on as our compass points for precisional location.