University of Western Ontario
“Nodding-Off from the Anthropocene: Picnolepsy and Rehearsing Disappearance in Space Exotica”
Following the Second World War, exotica as a popular musical genre flourished internationally. The genre concerned itself with escape to tropical paradise. These records were, however, more about inner space than other places and expressed complex pathologies. Shortly afterward, a subgenre of exotica emerged: space exotica. Rather than envisioning an exotic Earth, space exotica looks outwards to outer space. Yet, space exotica still expresses psychic inner space. As an eccentric take on popular mood music, space exotica at once prioritizes an optimistic escape from Earth while intimating a need to leave the planet. Central to space exotica is the hi-fi stereo system, La-Z-Boy, suburban living room, and the cocktail. The cocktail becomes metonymic of nodding-off from the worries of global catastrophe. Such techno-optimism dissociated from global catastrophe is dramatized by what Paul Virilio calls picnolepsy: those frequent transitory instances of nodding-off and withdrawal that make a cohesive understanding of supermodernity fathomable. This article argues that while climate fiction stresses the need for addressing global catastrophe, space exotica expresses a thanatotic pathological complacency: there are always other places (materially or imaginatively) to inhabit. Ultimately, the inebriation encouraged by space exotica reassures the listener to rehearse the disappearance of life here on Earth.