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Liz Harmer

A World Filled With Demons: Satanic Panic in The X-Files’ “Die Hand Die Verletzt”

Welcome to Close Reads! In this series, Leah Schnelbach and guest authors will dig into the tiny, weird moments of pop culture—from books to theme songs to viral internet hits—that have burrowed into our minds, found rent-stabilized apartments, started community gardens, and refused to be forced out by corporate interests. This time out, author Liz Harmer looks back at a particularly unsettling episode of The X-Files, and muses on religious trauma.

The X-Files feels formative to me, in the same’ way Star Trek: the Next Generation does, in the way that TV still could in those pre-streaming days. Shows just came on—you didn’t choose them; they were bestowed upon you. But even though The X-Files was often unfurling in the background of my neighbourhood and in my own house, “Die Hand Die Verletzt,” a standalone episode from season 2, is the only episode I can remember with any specificity.

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Series: Close Reads

5 Works Involving Weird, Unsettling Isolation

I have long been chasing the thrill I first experienced in first grade over the story of Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis. Cain and Abel were, of course, two sons of Adam and Eve. Cain becomes jealous of Abel (the Lord’s favorite) and then murders him. As punishment he is banished to wander the earth, and Cain begs God to protect him from all the people he’ll encounter in his travels who will kill him. But Adam and Eve and family are the only people on Earth, right? So who are the people who will kill him? Who are those people?? This was creepiness and mystery and awe. These first-grade feelings have to do with an empty earth and a weird one, one in which not everything makes sense to its wanderers.

Other books have come close to provoking this reaction. Often these books are post-apocalyptic; often they feel Biblical. I realized I am fascinated by the way people put societies together—it’s my favorite thing about The Walking Dead, which I see as a series of political experiments. I am fascinated by a world that exists before or outside of civilization; I went through a real intrigued-by-Neanderthals stage because of this. Space movies, too, can inspire it.

Here are five books that have a strange “empty earth” quality and harken back to that young excited awe, the one I got again when I watched Lost, Snowpiercer, I Am Legend, and The Leftovers—a feeling I don’t exactly have a name for, except that it’s both awful and awesome.

[Read more]

Five Works Involving Weird, Unsettling Isolation

I have long been chasing the thrill I first experienced in first grade over the story of Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis. Cain and Abel were, of course, two sons of Adam and Eve. Cain becomes jealous of Abel (the Lord’s favorite) and then murders him. As punishment he is banished to wander the earth, and Cain begs God to protect him from all the people he’ll encounter in his travels who will kill him. But Adam and Eve and family are the only people on Earth, right? So who are the people who will kill him? Who are those people?? This was creepiness and mystery and awe. These first-grade feelings have to do with an empty earth and a weird one, one in which not everything makes sense to its wanderers.

Other books have come close to provoking this reaction. Often these books are post-apocalyptic; often they feel Biblical. I realized I am fascinated by the way people put societies together—it’s my favorite thing about The Walking Dead, which I see as a series of political experiments. I am fascinated by a world that exists before or outside of civilization; I went through a real intrigued-by-Neanderthals stage because of this. Space movies, too, can inspire it.

Here are five books that have a strange “empty earth” quality and harken back to that young excited awe, the one I got again when I watched Lost, Snowpiercer, I Am Legend, and The Leftovers—a feeling I don’t exactly have a name for, except that it’s both awful and awesome.

[Read more]

Series: Five Books About…

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