When preparing dinner yesterday, my fingers parsed a vegetal fold between the crusty yellowing head and the fibrous green leaf of a cauliflower. In so doing I squidged against – something moist.
Only the firm discipline of academic enquiry let me press on and record the encounter. Which was short and brief.
I threw the slug out my window.
Recently I mentioned a forthcoming article on slugs (ok, my piece that is slowly crawling to the relative light of online early) to a ‘new person’ at a conference and they suggested – at an academic conference, I re-emphasise – that I look at Warhammer 40,000’s representation of the Tyranid ‘slug-like beasts’. Madness!
I was taken aback. The Tyranids are, admittedly, awesome. They are extragalactic baddies that come from the depths of space to destroy humanity, the orks, eldar, necrons and all other inhabitants of the Milky Way in the 41st millennium. They are inscrutable bugs – think Starship Troopers but slimier and spikier. Fear not, the Tyranids are not real. They are made up by Games Workshop geeks, although I grew up with them through all three of my adolescences.
The ‘Great Devourer’ has three terrors:
- They come from the void. Pesting their way here from beyond our galaxy, they share no evolutionary heritage with humanity, post-humanity or any other ‘local’ critters.
- They come from below. A bit like a pan-galactic sequel to the classic film Tremors, you can be shlurped down anywhere.
- They devour you from within. All ammunition/forms of attack involve parasitism, living bullets and appropriation of your genetic self. Eeech.
But the true horror of the Tyranid menace is not that they are moral-less villains intent on destruction, but rather that they show the vacuum of what passes for human civilisation in 40kA.D. By then, while still alive, (post)humanity hangs on by the thinnest of administrative and psychic threads (the lore of this particular universe is vast and complex). By the time these inscrutable villains arrive, the sprawling empire of post-Humanity has nothing left to survive for.
Actually, given that they are gaming models a few inches high, the really really true horror is that you can’t realistically beat an army with three Carnifexes and a couple of Hive Tyrants in a sub 3000-point game. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I’ve been cataloguing slug imagery for a while, and in particular these resonate: giant slugs parading around France, each made of tens of thousands of plastic bags.
According to the artist they represent the suffocating nature of consumer capital, the prismatic form of slow death, stuff like that.
They don’t show actual slugs being killed by Bayer chemicals, their bodies dehydrated ferociously as a matter of course on fields across our agricultural planet. After all, who cares about slugs?
Just another form of the banal, routine violence needed to bring me my cauliflowers.