Star Trek: Discovery’s season finale last week brought with it some major changes for the series, as well as the departure of Ethan Peck’s Spock and Anson Mount’s Captain Pike, their season-long stint as regulars on the show at an end. But the voyages of the Enterprise are far from over—and there’s still a bit more…
It’s not cold outside anymore, but anxiety is always in season. In addition to keeping you warm, a weighted blanket can work wonders for your anxiety, and several different models are on sale today, including a beefy 20 pounder for just $68 (with code X7GE5WHZ), the best price we’ve ever seen for a blanket that heavy.…
Maryland Sheep & Wool fans, I need your help!
I’m teaching at the show before the festival starts, and I hope to see some of you in my classes.
I’m staying an extra day, Saturday, because I have never been to Maryland Sheep & Wool.
Tell me please, what are the things, food, and vendors that I shouldn’t miss? Things that are unique to MDSW. Including great places to eat nearby.
I am excited to teach and excited to prowl the grounds of a new-to-me show, but with almost 300 vendors, it’s a little overwhelming.
Yes, I am customizing a map, with a checklist, and may even make a spreadsheet.
- In Pursuit of White: Porcelain in the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910
- Indian Textiles: Trade and Production [Interesting stuff on dyes and mordants here.]
- Interiors Imagined: Folding Screens, Garments, and Clothing Stands [Japanese screens. Note to self, the Portal talks about Korean folding screens and their conventions/social significance.]
- Internationalism in the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907) [Ha, they mention tributes of Korean hawks, which the Portal mentioned too from the other end.]
- Introduction to Prehistoric Art, 20,000 to 8000 B.C. [Very brief overview, given the scope of the topic!]
- The Japanese Blade: Technology and Manufacture [Could have sworn I had a book that touched on this in more depth, unless the flood took it.]
- Japanese Illustrated Handscrolls [cf. Korean handscrolls discussed in Portal]
- Japanese Incense
- The Japanese Tea Ceremony [Although once again I have a quasi-Asian character who is meh about tea because I'm so sick of the Asians = tea stereotype. BTW, did you know that my mom, in Korea, sends me Lipton tea?]
- Japanese Weddings in the Edo Period (1615-1868)
- Japanese Writing Boxes [Useful information on inksticks and inkstones.]
- Jane Portal. Korea: Art and Archaeology, report here.
- Michael D. Shin, ed. Korean History in Maps: From Prehistory to the Twenty-First Century.
- Jae-sik Suh. Korean Patterns.
I am getting so homesick looking at the food/노리개 (norigae)/etc. photos. The food photos are sumptuous.
Earlier this month I posted about Libyans in Egypt and their effect on the language (“As a result, official inscriptions of the Libyan Period show a marked preference for spoken forms, workaday grammar, and simple vocabulary, in contrast to the more refined formulations of the ruling class”); now I’ve reached the point in Wilkinson’s book where he talks about the later Kushite rulers, who had the opposite effect:
In another important respect, too, the Kushite monarchy represented a return to the past. With piety to Amun a central tenet of their claim to legitimacy, Piankhi and his successors set out to champion other indigenous Egyptian traditions that had been neglected or overturned by the country’s recent Libyan rulers. The Kushites saw it as their holy mission to restore Egypt’s cultural purity, just as they had saved the cult of Amun from foreign contamination. With active royal encouragement, therefore, priests and artists looked to earlier periods for inspiration, reviving and reinventing models from the classic periods of pharaonic history. An obsession with the past soon influenced every sphere of cultural endeavor.
Shabaqo gave a lead by adopting the throne name of Pepi II, to recall the glories of the Pyramid Age. His successor went one better, dusting off the titulary last used by the Fifth Dynasty king Isesi more than sixteen centuries earlier. High-ranking officials followed suit, adopting long-obsolete and often meaningless titles, just for the sake of their antiquity. The written language was deliberately “purified,” taking it back to the archaic form of the Old Kingdom, and scribes were trained to compose new texts in an antiquated idiom. A fine example was the Memphite Theology, a theological treatise on the role of the Memphite god Ptah. Commissioned by Shabaqo himself, the treatise was said to have been copied from an ancient worm-eaten papyrus, preserved in the temple archives for millennia. The authentically archaic language certainly fooled most scholars when the piece was first discovered. But, like much of the Kushite renaissance, the Memphite Theology was a product of the seventh century, cunningly designed to look like a relic of the past—an imagined past of cultural purity that existed only in the minds of the Kushite zealots.
I love stories like that, of artificially primitive writings that fooled later scholars.
This week, Loren, Radha, and Erin explore the world’s many recent elections – in Israel, India, Indonesia, and Ukraine. They then return to Northern Ireland, not to talk about Brexit, but to unpack resurgent sectarian violence. The recent coup in Sudan rounds out a very sporty Keeping up Foreign Relations. Radha notes we’re still waiting […]
Greetings and salutations, Tor.com! In tribute to your awesomeness, I give you: blackmail! Torture! Really bad parenting! Huzzah!
This blog series will be covering The Ruin of Kings, the first novel of a five-book series by Jenn Lyons. Previous entries can be found here in the series index.
Today’s post will be covering Chapter 30, “Family Reunion”, and Chapter 31, “Tyentso at the Beach.” Please note that from this point forward, these posts will likely contain spoilers for the entire novel, so it’s recommended that you read the whole thing first before continuing on.
Got that? Great! Click on for the rest!
Chapter 30: Family Reunion (Talon’s story)
[In which there is breakfast avec a side of torture, and the Father of the Year award goes to literally anyone other than Darzin D’Mon.]
“You son-of-a-bitch,” Kihrin screamed.
“No, that would be you, my son,” Darzin laughed. “Just remember every time you throw a tantrum I’ll make sure an innocent person dies. I think you’ll run out of sanity long before I run out of slaves.”
Just in case you ever thought you had the worst dad ever, for 99.99% of you, I submit that you don’t. Sheesh.
(As a side note, I try not to get too into nitpicking over stylistic choices, but: I really don’t care for the use of “screamed” as a dialogue tag here. It’s not that I think there shouldn’t have been a descriptive verb used, because a plain “said” would not have worked either, but “you son of a bitch” seems like something more likely to be “spat” or “hissed” than “screamed”, especially by a male character. But that’s just my subjective taste.)
I admit I was pretty startled by this chapter. And not so much at the casual brutality of Darzin’s behavior—“casual brutality” is what everyone’s wearing this spring in Quur, apparently—but at how very crude and unsubtle it was. For someone who just advised Kihrin that noble family members should play their cards close to the chest, Darzin certainly isn’t invested in following his own advice.
But then again, why should he, right? The kind of person who would torture and murder a slave just to blackmail his alleged son into toeing the line is exactly the kind of person who would believe that their power makes them invincible, or is enjoying it too much to care that it doesn’t.
God, but I hate bullies. And I hate even more how often bullies get exactly the power they should never be allowed to have—and not even because there’s no one willing to stand up to them, but because the system is, more often than not, rigged in their favor no matter who stands against them. As Kihrin just found out.
Of course, Kihrin was also being a hot-headed fool here. He (and the slave girl, frankly) would have been so much better served by Kihrin refraining from rising to Darzin’s taunts, by playing it cool until he got more of the lay of the land. But then again, it’s hard to lay that on Kihrin because the kid is fifteen, ffs. Most fifteen-year-olds I know couldn’t keep their cool over losing at Mario Kart; dealing with this level of shit? Yikes.
Granted, most fifteen-year-olds I know aren’t also experienced cat burglars who grew up in a brothel, but there’s some things no one would be prepared for no matter how tough their life was. We should probably be impressed that Kihrin isn’t curled into a whimpering ball in a corner somewhere.
Welp. But on the bright side (she says, brightly), eventually we find out that Darzin isn’t Kihrin’s father after all, anyway! Yay! Though probably being related to him in any way whatsoever is a net loss, at least he’s not Kihrin’s father. That’s just gross.
(I think he’s really… er, either his uncle or half-brother. I can’t remember which at this point. But hey, let’s not look a gift genetic distancing in the mouth, amirite?)
Chapter 31: Tyentso at the Beach (Talon’s story)
[In which Tyentso explains that sexism is bullshit, the Brotherhood is probably a front, and unexpected dragon is unexpected.]
Okay, that last part is literally just the last sentence of the chapter, but c’mon, I couldn’t resist.
[Thurvishar:] The definition of ‘witch’ is one of the most hotly contested words in the Guarem language. According to the Academy at Alevel, a ‘witch’ is “an uneducated magical adept who operates without official license from the Royal Houses” but since women are never given licenses and are forbidden to attend the Academy, the gender-neutral term is almost exclusively applied to women.
The fun thing about the misogyny of this world is that even in a place where magic is both commonplace and valued, the word “witch” still manages to be a slur on women. Figures.
In any case, that right there is a classic formation in the Oppress Yer Wimmin playbook: You won’t have to worry about women proving they can do X thing just as well as men can if you never allow them the education to try, now will you? Or, in Tyentso’s case (as in that of so many other women who were self-taught, or taught on the down low), by never allowing their education to mean anything. “Infuriating” isn’t even the word for that horseshit, and it’s still going on today in the real world.
But let’s not just limit our bigotry to education, now:
[Tyentso:] “The one nice thing about looking the way I do is that when a cute bit of something wants into your pants, you don’t have to guess whether they have an ulterior motive. The answer is yes.”
Ouch. But also, correct. Sadly. This is less gender-specific than the other thing, true, but if you think it doesn’t disproportionately affect ugly women over ugly men, you have not been paying attention. Kihrin and Tyentso’s snarky banter about cults they sleep with not respecting them in the morning was pretty cute, though.
Tyentso’s theory that the Brotherhood’s rep as fancy killers for hire is a cover is, I think, both true and misleading. I mean, you might as well turn a profit while you’re advancing the agenda of your very hands-on goddess, right? But yeah, I’m fairly sure we find out that she is in essence correct, so, nice head on your shoulders there, Tyentso.
[Kihrin:] “Specifically, there’s this sorcerer. I don’t know his name. I’ve always just called him Dead Man. He’s powerful. I’ve seen him melt the flesh off a person with a gesture.”
[Tyentso:] “Charming. He sounds just like my late husband.”
Yeah, uh, about that…
And then blah blah prophecies whoops a dragon. I was way more excited about this before I knew how horrific the dragon would turn out to be. Oh well.
But that’s for next time! For this time, I hope you had a lovely, possibly pastel-and-sugar-filled weekend, and invite you back next week for Moah!
The smaller and lighter electronics get, the more ways they can be used. A team of researchers has come up with a compact radar system the size of a matchbox that could be deployed in drones, guidance systems for people with vision problems, and other gadgets where portability and low cost are important... Continue Reading New matchbox-sized radar could make its way into drones and security systems
Shortly after completing the University of Massachusetts' Business Innovation Hub, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has gone back to school with another educational project named Glasir. The striking building hosts three different schools on a steep hillside plot overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the Faroe Islands.
.. Continue Reading BIG goes back to school with "vortex-shaped" hillside college
Two letters were published in the Sunday Times this week, responding to one Humanists UK co-organised the week before, which defended continuing religious discrimination by state schools. The first of the two responses was by Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, and peers Lord Pickles, Lord Polak, and Baroness Altmann. The second was by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
The letter which Humanists UK co-organised with the Accord Coalition was signed by over 180 politicians, academics, religious leaders, and humanists, and urged the Government to give up on plans to open new 100% selective religious schools.
In their response, Halfon, Pickles, Polak, and Altmann write:
At a time of polarisation across society, it is imperative that we promote acceptance for all. Critics assume faith schools work against this ideal. The opposite is true. Many community schools serve a far smaller catchment area than faith schools, meaning they are often less diverse and may educate a narrower socioeconomic cohort.
This is wrong. It is true that religious selection means that faith schools often serve a geographically larger catchment area than other schools. But this doesn’t mean that faith schools are more diverse – in fact they are not.
The evidence is very clear that faith schools are socially selective, because their religious admissions policies enable them to skim the richest pupils from their areas while the rest fail to meet their more complex admissions criteria. Overall, comprehensive secondaries with no religious character admit 5% more pupils eligible for free school meals than live in their local areas. But comprehensive Church of England secondaries admit 15% fewer; Roman Catholic secondaries 28% fewer; Jewish secondaries 63% fewer; and Muslim secondaries 29% fewer.
Similarly religious admissions policies also segregate along ethnic lines. Catholic schools take 4.4 percentage points fewer Asian pupils than would be expected given their local areas. And that is to say nothing of the religious segregation that is inherent to the exercise.
Though purporting to promote tolerance, the campaign by Humanists UK is in fact aimed at limiting access to state-funded education for parents of faith.
This is an ad hominem attack on Humanists UK – one which conveniently ignores the fact that the letter was signed by a mix of over 180 different religious and non-religious figures. The letter was co-organised with the Accord Coalition, which brings together religious and non-religious groups to campaign against faith-based discrimination in schools. Around 40 high-profile religious leaders and spokespeople put their name to the letter.
The Chief Rabbi, in his response, writes:
The belief that faith schools should be required to accommodate a variety of traditions within a single educational setting appears to be based on the misconception that “contact” with those of other backgrounds eliminates prejudice. It is the values we teach our children that determine how responsibly they interact with the rest of society.
This response fails to engage with the substance of the letter – and argues instead with a straw man, setting up a false dichotomy between two different positions. In any case, the Chief Rabbi is wrong to dismiss the benefits of mixed schools. Even the Department for Education on some levels knows this. In 2017 it published research showing that ‘Mixed schools do result in more social mixing between ethnic groups over time, and mixing is reliably associated with more positive views of the outgroup.’ A merger of two ethnically segregated schools in Oldham was found to mean that ‘over a four-year period, intergroup anxiety significant decreased, and liking and outgroup contact significantly increased for both Asian-British and White British pupils.’ It is not enough to say one’s religious education is sufficient to promote tolerance and understanding, while supporting policies – such as religious selection in schools – that fundamentally run counter to those aims.
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson added:
‘When the Government originally decided not to open up 100% selection in free schools after all, it did so because it accepted it had lost the argument on the impact of faith-based segregation in schools. All the evidence showed then, as it does now, that religious segregation in schools harms social mobility and promotes segregation by ethnicity.
‘The Government may have found a new route to introduce fully segregated schools, but this doesn’t change the underlying facts. We’d encourage these five individuals to pay heed to the harms caused by religious segregation in schools, rather than indulge in ad hominem or straw man attacks on faith-based admissions’ critics.’
For more information, contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at email@example.com or on 07815 589636.
Read Sunday’s responses: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/
For more information about our faith schools campaign work, visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.
I thought she was beautiful; she is so much herself that it shines through both her songs and her writing. Also, her voice up close is much richer than I would have expected (I was in the second row, probably about six feet away).
One thing that made me laugh is she started off with "Seven Year Ache," because the students she'd been working with earlier in the day had told her they were obsessed with the 1980s, before they were born.
I left smiling.
We were talking about how the remaining Avengers found Fury’s beeper.
Let me back up. The ending of Avengers: Infinity War draws on imagery from a rather surprising corner of popular culture, and I want to dig into it, but but I’ll need to get into very spoilery territory for the Avengers: Infinity War and Captain Marvel, so click through only if you’re caught up!
In the post credits scene of Captain Marvel, it’s revealed that someone found Nick Fury’s souped-up beeper and gave it to the Avengers, who are holding it at their HQ. They speculate about who—or what—the beeper is contacting. Then Carol Danvers walks into the room, and I don’t know what happened next because my theater erupted in so much noise I blacked out for a second.
But the next day, batting the movie around the Tor.com office, it occurred to us: who found the beeper? Or maybe more important: how did they know it was significant? Obviously the Avengers could find Fury’s car (presumably he and the other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have tracking elements installed) but he dropped the beeper a few feet away, so how did anyone know it was his? In the panic and confusion after the Snapture, how did someone happen to look down, notice a beeper, and realize it was important?
I joked that maybe Nick Fury’s eyepatch hadn’t dusted, and had wafted to ground on top of the beeper, thus giving the Avengers the clue they needed that this was Fury’s last message.
But that took us down a different rabbit hole entirely: why didn’t the beeper dust? When people dusted their clothes went with them, but T’Challa and Bucky were both holding weapons that stayed behind. Where’s the line? If you’re wearing gloves and driving, say, why would the gloves dust but the steering wheel wouldn’t? If the point is that Thanos is wiping out 50% of all life, is this implying that your clothing is alive in some way? I mean, Dr. Strange’s Cloak of Levitation is sentient, but Star-Lord’s pants?
This nagged at me for a while until I realized that was bothering me was a twist on the visual language of disappearance. Essentially, the MCU has created a secular Rapture movie.
When Glen Weldon coined the term “Snapture” in his NPR review of Infinity War, I was furious with myself for not thinking of it first. It’s such a perfect, succinct merging of two different pop cultures! And the more I thought about it the more intrigued I became by how the MCU used the imagery of disappearance. (And I’m summarily rejecting Feige’s preferred term of “Decimation” btw—a decimation is taking out a tenth of a population, not a whole-ass 50%.)
And thus I have come to explain the differences between the Snapture and the Rapture.
The Rapture is a very particular idea of the End Times, tied to a very particular branch of Christianity. It’s rooted in two passages in the New Testament, one from the Gospel of Matthew 24:37-40, NRSV :
For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.
The other is from Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians—1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, NRSV:
For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.
The paragraph in Matthew is doing a ton of work. First we get a callback to the story of Noah, grounding the listener/reader in history, and the Flood is invoked as a metaphor for how abrupt and shocking the end times will be. Finally, we get the line that a lot of people have spent the last couple millennia arguing about: “That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.”
And as for Thessalonians—the idea seems to be that Paul didn’t want currently-alive Christians to think that they would be reunited with Christ before the faithful dead? (Either to reassure them that their deceased loved ones wouldn’t be forgotten, or to keep them from thinking they were more worthy of meeting Christ than those who had already died—I’m not even sure how this would have come up, but here we are.) The thing that a lot of people got stuck on, however, was that phrase “we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” This led to the popular Rapture imagery of people being swept up into the air along with the souls of the dead.
This image captivated Christian theologians. As ideas about the End Times were debated and turned into art, people fixated on the starkness of these passages, creating an extremely dramatic idea of the end: people abruptly snatched out of their lives to join all of the faithful in the air, while everyone else is left on Earth.
Why the obsession with the end? Christianity began life as an apocalyptic cult, and people believed that the world was going to end any moment. A lot (like a lot) of early Christian writing is about living a pure life in order to be ready for the end. There were also (probably) at least a few waves of persecution, which led to writings like The Revelation of John, which was (probably) a coded account of the Emperor Domitian and/or Nero, and many of the earliest Church writings and oral culture in general revolving around public torture and executions. (I’m adding all of these ‘probablies’ because it’s extremely hard to confirm what really went on in those centuries, as the intervening histories have all been written by the winner, Christianity.) As the decades rolled on, though, the young religion had to find ways to fold itself into ordinary life, which necessarily meant losing some of its initial urgency. This in turn meant that every few years a reform movement would rise with the intention of taking Christianity back to its roots. Over the centuries this has happened on giant scales and tiny—the one you’ve probably heard of is the Protestant Reformation. But even that Reformation has since inspired wave after wave of groups who have decided that Protestantism needs to be reformed all over again—which is why if you look Protestantism up online you’ll find roughly 12 billion different denominations.
Quite a few would-be reformers have found that one of the easiest ways to bring Christianity back to its roots is to un-cancel the Apocalypse. In the early 1800s a Church of Ireland priest named John Nelson Darby quit the established church (believing that it had strayed too far from the Scriptures, just as Martin Luther previously believed about, well, all of Catholicism) and developed a particular view of the end of the world called Premillennial Dispensationalism.
- “Millennialism” = the belief that Jesus is, eventually, going to have a 1,000-year reign on Earth that will be pretty great (avocado toast, student debt cancellation, all the things Millennials love!)
- “Dispensationalism” = life on Earth is unfolding as a series of eras—or “dispensations”—that are telling a story.
(Sort of like how we’re coming to the end of Marvel’s Phase Three right now, but can make some predictions for Phase Four based on how the bigger story of Thanos has played out.)
Darby theorized that the Rapture would come before life got too terrible, but that things would go downhill fast immediately after it. This is Pre-Tribulation Premillennialism—the idea that the end of the world starts with the Rapture, continues through seven years of natural disasters, wars, and plagues called the “Tribulation,” and then ends with the Second Coming. The Second Coming starts a Millennium of peace, and marks the last “dispensation.”
This idea was appealing to Christians who felt that life on Earth was going pear-shaped, but who didn’t necessarily want to stick around for the worst of it. But where there is theology there is argument, so over the decades ministers and preachers hashed out several variations on the Rapture and the End Times, including:
- Mid-Tribulational Premillennialism and Prewrath Premillennialism: the Rapture will happen at some point during the Tribulation.
- Partial Pre-Tribulation Premillennialism: people will be raptured in groups, either based on the timing of their conversion to Christianity, or by the strength of their relationship with God.
- Post-Tribulational Premillennialism, in which the Rapture comes after the Tribulation, with everyone, faithful Christian or no, suffering through the crappiness of the End Times.
Another thing to keep in mind: at some point during the Tribulation the anti-Christ will appear and come into power, kicking off Armageddon, which ends when Jesus comes back and defeats the anti-Christ.
Casting Endgame through any one of these lenses would be fascinating—is the Age of Marvels a Tribulation? We’ve already had an Armageddon of sorts in Thor: Ragnarok, but the battle between good and evil the remaining Avengers and Thanos, looms on the horizon. But will that battle undo the Snapture? Will Phase Four last 1,000 years?
Rapture theories were a big part of evangelical culture in the early 20th Century, but it wasn’t until the end of the 1960s that Rapture imagery began hitting pop culture. Unsurprisingly, most of the examples fall on the Christian side of the entertainment world, but I’ll cover all the biggest hits.
In 1969, Larry Norman recorded what is considered the first real Christian rock album, Upon This Rock (which, just, I aspire to that level of pun) and included a song, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” that features a nod to Matthew:
A man and wife asleep in bed
She hears a noise and turns her head he’s gone
I wish we’d all been ready
Two men walking up a hill
One disappears and one’s left standing still
I wish we’d all been ready
You get the idea. The Rapture got even more coverage when Hal Lindsey’s book The Late, Great Planet Earth became a surprise bestseller in 1970. Lindsey theorized that the current dispensation was going to end in the 1980s, and that humanity was embarking on its last decade before the End Times. (While he stopped short of setting a date, he did imply that Jesus would probably come back by 1988.) The book was massively popular, becoming the first book of Christian prophecy to be published by a secular house when Bantam reissued it in 1973. Orson Welles even narrated the film adaptation, in what could be considered a sequel to his own Apocalyptic War of the Worlds broadcast.
In the meantime, the 1972 film A Thief in the Night took the next, most obvious step, and applied sci-fi and horror tropes to a Rapture story: A woman named Patty wakes up to find that her husband and family have all disappeared. She finds her husband’s electric razor buzzing in the sink, a lawnmower whirs on their Raptured neighbor’s yard, a Raptured kid’s stuffed animal rolls down an empty sidewalk. News announcers inexplicably read from the Matthew and Thessalonians passages rather than reporting on the numbers of disappeared.
The anti-Christ takes over the government immediately, and his army of Midwesterners roll out in minivans to hunt Patty down and tattoo her hand with “666” in binary. In the sequels to the film, the Tribulation worsens, the remaining humans are devastated by nuclear war, and the series culminates in a last stand by the anti-Christ before the final battle between the forces of good and evil.
A Thief in the Night became a giant cultural touchstone among the next two generations of Evangelical Christians, until it was largely replaced in the cultural consciousness by the next wave of Rapture fiction, the Left Behind series.
The first film adaptation of Left Behind created a far more dramatic visual language. In the opening scene, an elderly woman wakes during a night flight and realizes her husband is gone. She freaks out, which seems odd—as a fellow passenger points out, he probably just gone to the restroom. But we eventually see the reason for her dismay as the camera pans down to reveal her husband’s full suit lying empty on the seat. As the scene unfolds and the flight attendant finally turns the cabin lights on, we see that there are clothes left on about half the seats, often with glasses or crosses lying on top of them.
The movie then cuts to a scene of chaos that’s become a disaster movie standard as a shocked teen wanders through a pile-up on the highway, cars and buses on fire around her, drivers and passengers trying to make sense of suddenly driver-less vehicles veering out of control.
The Leftovers, a more secular approach to the topic based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, splits the difference, visually speaking. In the opening scene, we see a mother trying to do laundry as her baby cries in a bassinet. The camera follows her from the Laundromat to her car, where she tries to soothe the baby, the camera panning between her seat in the front and the baby’s in the back. When the cries stop it’s a relief, until the camera follows her eyes, pans back, and reveals the empty bassinet. She screams for her child, and is echoed by a child yelling for his disappeared dad as a shopping cart rolls away. Finally, as the camera pans all the way around, we see a driverless car skid into the parking lot and hit a wall.
The nature of other disappearances are revealed throughout the show, but they always involve the person simply going poof, taking their clothing with them, but not objects they were holding.
Infinity War created a fascinating mash up in its language of disappearance. People don’t simply vanish, instead the films draws on the dusting imagery more common to vampire media. Buffy the Vampire Slayer used dusting because the show couldn’t very well spend the last fifteen minutes of every episode following a teenage girl’s adventures in vampire corpse disposal. And the vampires in Blade dusted because, and I’m gonna go out on a limb here, it looked cool as shit. In this way both series followed the lead of video games, which tend to disappear the bodies of vanquished foes so they don’t clutter up the screen (and so you don’t realize that you’re kind of a murderer) with the occasional dramatic dusting or explosion to drag out the death of important characters.
Infinity War splits the difference in its language. People watched their heroes crumble into dust as in vampire fiction, but then lingered on the horror of those left behind, as in Rapture fiction. Some dusted without a word, while others had time for a last message. And finally, in the post-credits scene, we have a moment that calls back to both Left Behind and The Leftovers. Nick Fury and Maria Hill are on the road, discussing the alien ships over Wakanda, when a car goes out of control right in front of them. Hill runs to check on the driver, but finds an empty seat. Other cars ricochet into buildings. A helicopter spins into a high rise. We, the audience, know what’s going on, but none of these people on the ground know who Thanos is, or that the Avengers failed—even Fury and Hill are helpless as chaos erupts around them. And as Rapture fiction discovered decades ago, nothing shows this sort of terror like an ordinary fact of life: driving down a highway, mowing the lawn, doing laundry, becoming suddenly uncanny. And this visual language does its work: by the time Fury’s beeper is on the ground, we’ve accepted that life on Earth has been disrupted in an unprecedented way, and we’re primed to watch the aftermath in Endgame.
The emotional core of the Snapture is the same as its religious counterpart: people we love vanish because of the actions of an almighty being. Morally, however, things get far knottier. Where The Rapture is based solidly in a predetermined system of judgment, the Snapture is random. Thanos has no personal grudge or favor toward any of them, and they didn’t break any rules he set—that would be his minion Ronan’s bag. The Mad Titan just wants to dust 50% of the population, and in his mind it’s a benevolent act. Where the people of The Leftovers have no idea why the mass disappearance has happened (at least at first) we spend the entirety of the MCU’s arc watching the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and assorted other heroes work to hide the Infinity Stones from Thanos, knowing all the while exactly what will happen if they fail. Infinity War is a Rapture movie where we watch humanity fight against the god rather than accepting its will. And where in a Rapture film (and even in The Leftovers) there is some solace in the thought that those who have been Raptured are, or might be, better off, in Infinity War we have no idea what’s happened to them.
What I’m interested in is this: having merged these visuals and emotional arcs, will Endgame spend any of its nigh-three-hour running time giving us a superpowered version of The Leftovers? Will we be sitting with our characters’ grief? The sense of loss and shock that follows the Snap? Or will they charge ahead into full Avenging mode, to turn the clock back on the End Times?
Yay! Weki Meki, one of my favorite (if not my very favorite) K-pop groups, will be having a comeback in May! I can't wait to see and hear what they come up with this time! (I'd been thinking recently that they were due for a comeback soon, and apparently I was right on track.) Expect to see further updates on this here, as the agency teases us with photos and video clips to build up expectation before the big day.