Wednesday, February 3, 2016

'I saw something unspeakable and indescribable in the woodshed,' said Aunt Ada Doom, fretfully moving her great head from side to side

A Riddled Book Club report:

Clearly the authors are heavily indebted to H.P. Lovecraft. A once-flourishing dairy farm is struck by an inexplicable creeping malaise, a glacial moraine murrain, with the cows succumbing one by one to paresis and physical decay... the plot is essentially that of "The Color Out of Space" with "meteor-borne insubstantial, ultra-spectral life-draining entity" replaced throughout by "GMO maize".
Effects of Bt176 maize
Structurally it is also the same story, with a scholarly narrator piecing together the extant documents to reconstruct events in a faux-clinical style of feigned dispassion. In an echo of Lovecraft's pseudo-bibliographic inventions, a cryptic Annex fills the place of the Necronomicon and the Pnakotic Fragments, frequently cited but nowhere in evidence, leaving the reader to wonder whether it exists outside the narrator's fevered imagination.
The malaise spreads to the farmer himself. Increasingly truculent, he rejects generous offers of assistance from the feed supplier, sues them, loses, and is imprisoned after violence against his family.

One might also trace the influence of Gibbons' "Cold Comfort Farm" in all its rural squalor:

The story is not a great departure for second author Séralini, a recognised contributor in the field of "agricultural cosmic horror". His earlier works in a similar vein, published in small niche presses, are in many cases no longer in print. For this latest production, he has turned to a small Nigeria-based literary journal...

I have been apprised of the fact that this paper was not intended as fiction, and that Glöckner and Séralini were not knowingly influenced by Lovecraft or Gibbons, although of course Narrativium and morphogenetic fields work their magic behind the scenes as they shape our lives into recognisable tropes and plot arcs.

But if Séralini had done his homework in the workings of Narrative, he would have thought of magic shops, and leprechauns' gold, and the snows of yesterday, and in particular their proclivity for vanishing when you go back to look for them. He called a press conference to proclaim his findings, directing the GMO-phobic masses to the Scholarly Journal of Agricultural Science for the details... but the SJAS had folded its tents for a moonlight flit... leaving only a journal-shaped hole in the Interweb. And let me note in passing that if you entrap Michael O'Grady and he offers you a pot of Snows-of-Yesterday in exchange for his freedom, DO NOT TRUST HIM, for the green-clad wee gobshite has pissed in it, or so I hear from a friend.

Séralini assured Retraction Watch that he had conducted due diligence in his choice of vanity websites (it is not clear whether he consulted Jeffrey Beall's list of predatory publishers as a source of options), and spent his institution’s funds prudently, with Scholarly Journals impressing him with its professional standards and value for money:
Of course we could not know before this technical problem with the website of the Journal. I did not have problems with this Journal existing since a long time, being referenced, very efficient in corrections / proofs / editing. The price to publish color figures and raw data on line was really comparable to others.
He has convinced himself that if the site lapsed through non-renewal of the domain, that is only because the popularity of the paper and the storm of downloads broke the intertubes:
The papers are joined and are not retracted because a website is not available, possibly because of too many international openings of it.
In the ideal world Séralini would have been hoaxed by an international team of confidence tricksters operating a sophisticated sting worthy of a heist movie. Alas, our reality is as inadequate as ever, and the plot is more in keeping with the first act of a Coen-brothers film... the culprit being a young hustler working from an e-mail cafe, a teenager with dreams of escaping the poverty of the Nigerian Delta and building a better life for himself using money from gullible numpties.

It was educational to encounter Sylvester Idoge. Such is the level of other-worldly naivety that hold sway at Riddled, I was not previously aware of the Courier Delivery scam, one of his exercises in phishing fraud. Most of Idoge's Interweb presence consists of bogus bank websites for the "Log in to confirm your account details" spam.

By way of sophisticated web-forensic tools like "g**gle" and "whois", we find him (variously calling himself Slim Sly and Sleekee Sly) lurking behind the shabby painted canvas of BNP ParibasBanco de España, Royal Bank of Canada, Jordan International Bank and the Jordan Bank online, the banks of Texas and of Ghana, and the Cooperative Bank, and many more but BORED NOW. Not to forget the Bluegate Credit Union, also legal firms in Spain and the UK for the inevitable 419 scams.* As Slimsly123, Sylvester Idoge touts for work as a hacker and shares pr0n videos.

But he has other ventures into the wonderful world of high-end academic publishing -- notably Apex Journals and Science Journal Publication (as well as appearing on Beall's radar, the latter was featured in Bohannon's trawl for bottom-feeding trash). These two have a few months still to run on their domain lease, if Séralini is seeking a replacement showcase for his GMO opuscule. But they are exercises in phishing for passwords as well as publication-fee extraction vehicles, so he would be well-advised to check his institution's bank balance.
Mutant cow learning to surf


Smut Clyde said...

Damnit, now I want someone to rewrite "Cold Comfort Farm" in the style of "Color out of Space" (or possibly vice versa).

"'I saw something unspeakable and indescribable in the woodshed,' said Aunt Ada Doom, fretfully moving her great head from side to side."

Smut Clyde said...

In fact I like that quote so much, it is now becoming the title.

rhwombat said...

"Something nasty in the woodshed!"= Monsanto's Ba'al? You know it makes sense.

J— said...

a cryptic Annex fills the place… frequently cited but nowhere in evidence

You have go to the Independent modern farm to see the annex.

Smut Clyde said...

Good point. The important details could all be stored in the extension to the milking shed.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Good point. The important details could all be stored in the extension to the milking shed.

Isn't that where the other twin lives, the one who looks more like his father?

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Cthulhu-Monsanto, mutating your plant-oh.
Monsanto-Cthulhu, gonna mutate you-oo.

rhwombat said...

Gilles-Eric Jones and the Transposon of Doom.

Smut Clyde said...

Prof. Dr. Klaus-Dieter Jany, who was the head of the Molecular Biology Centre of the Federal Research Centre for Nutrition and Food in Germany from 1998-2008 and was asked at the time by the Ministry of Agriculture for an assessment, investigated the farm and the cows shortly after the tragedy.

In his expert opinion, the evidence for the cause of the cow’s deaths was most likely attributed to one of a few factors which all revolve around Glöckner’s use of inappropriate feeding practices. Jany says the farm was using, “inappropriate power feed and a wrong feed composition to increase the milk yield in a short time.” Furthermore, he notes that they found Glöckner was using, “inadequate and unsanitary corn silage with many undesired contaminations (plastics and dead rats) of the corn silage.” Finally, Jany says botulism also couldn’t be ruled out as at least a potential cause for at least some of the deaths.