As I said in my author notes, when I was doing research for the story, A Partial Treatise on Love
(Symbrock, R), the rabbit hole I fell down was how love relates to aesthetics.
In particular, I found this fascinating article: Animal Aesthetics
by Wolfgang Welsch. The whole article is really great, and starts off with a discussion about transhumanism as a way of thinking about lived experiences such as aesthetics, and I highly recommend it.
However, the key contentions of relevance to Venom and the story I wrote are these:
Welsch attempts to answer the question of where our aesthetic sense came from, starting from an exploration of Darwin's theory of evolution, with a particular focus on what enabled the uncoupling of appreciation from utility. That is, when did we start to like things just because -- as in art -- rather than because they were useful to us or of evolutionary advantage?
He discusses the possible mechanism of how aesthetics works, relating it both to mating and food choices, in some depth, which I won't recap here. If you understand sexual selection, that's the key component which underlies the argument here. Welsch then concludes that a sense of aesthetics (that is, beauty) is dependent on a sense of pleasure
. To be able to choose what is beautiful, there must be an experience of pleasure in one choice over the other which is based on more than utility. In other words, it is not objective, but it is comparative -- aesthetic judgement is in picking the thing we think will maximise our pleasure, which means we judge other options lesser in comparison.
Welsch then brings in Neo-Darwinism to explain that this sense of pleasure gained through beauty is because beauty signals fitness, and therefore a greater chance of survival. This is not a direct causal chain -- a sense of beauty is not a direct mechanism of natural selection, but is correlated to it, according to Welsch.
And this is where his conclusions get really interesting:
The liberation of aesthetic estimation from this strict sexual bind [that is, the idea that all aesthetic choices are connected to mate selection] is dependent on the development of other capacities connected with aesthetic appreciation. Just consider the even simpler case where an animal familiar with good-tasting food sets up a store of it without actually being hungry. With the development of a sense of time and of memory, the possible distance between the awareness of agreeability and immediate desire grows. On a higher level, aesthetic estimation can detach itself in a similar way from the direct bind to desire. Here, too, a memory of previous experience and of its appreciation can play a role in forming current aesthetic attitudes. For example, both the display of beauty and the exercise of aesthetic sense can become ritualized and henceforth be practised in situations that are no longer directly situations of desire. In this way, a first decoupling can come about and the route be cleared to ever higher types. As the aesthetic sense as such already represents a special refinement of the general faculty of experiencing pleasure, it can continue to ascend to ever higher stages within its own sphere, with ever greater distance from sexual desire and more and more refinement taking place. [Section 3, Para 5]
Thinking about this idea in terms of Venom was fascinating, because it opens up a couple of different options:
- Venom could already have an aesthetic sense, which arose from something other than sex. The most obvious choices are hunger and finding a compatible host, but there could be others which are non-obvious from the perspective of Human drives -- great room for speculative extrapolation there, but hard to write and make convincing.
- Venom could have an aesthetic sense arising from their bond/s with their host/s, and in particular, Venom's sense of aesthetics could be influenced by Eddie's biology, personality and cultural programming.
There was one other paragraph of Welsch's article that really jumped out at me:
One last consideration: I have already pointed out that aesthetic judgment is tinged with pleasure. So being capable of pleasure is as elementary a condition for the aesthetic as are emotional and intellectual capacities. Pleasure in the most basic sense originates with sensation and so with the elementary property of animals; animals are by definition sentient beings, and being sentient implies the experiencing of pleasure and displeasure. [Section 4, Para 1]
And this is what I wanted to explore in the story, but I wanted to turn it on its head -- starting with Venom experiencing aesthetics within the text, which then
led to pleasure, and for them to be mutually beneficial experiences. That's why we have the TV show Virtue Falls
as well as the art gallery, and why I really felt a burn to write the second chapter of the story in which Venom makes art themself. It's why Vida had to hit on Eddie, and Venom experience it as displeasure
, and it's why the sex was inextricably linked with Eddie's experience of love
I still don't think I quite nailed what I wanted to say about Venom's sense of aesthetics, love, and pleasure in the story, but I got a lot closer to it when I finally finished the second chapter than I had in the original version of the story. Chapter 1 -- the original Choc Box submission -- stood alone okay and read as a finished story. But thematically, it wasn't done until Venom dunked his tentacle into paint and tried to render Eddie.
And that? Is how I wrote six and a half thousand word about Venom becoming an artist. Hahaha. And why I have so many plot bunnies that jump off from this point now I've got Venom there. :)
ETA: It's also why I chose the puns I used in the story title and chapter 2 title. They are bad puns, but they made me laugh a lot as I wrote them.
This entry was originally posted at https://cupidsbow.dreamwidth.org/447500.html.