SFF Song of the Week: Jennifer Rardin

Jennifer Rardin is the author of some of my favour kick-ass supernatural thrillers with attitude – featuring the inimitable Jaz Parks. Here’s her great choice of SFF Song of the Week with perhaps the wildest, most wonderful critical commentary I’ve ever read.

Jennifer Rardin writes:

Warning: If you are a fan of The Killers, or somebody who’s really into grammatical correctness, or even interpreting stuff the way artists say it should be done—you will be pissed off by the following. So don’t read it. At all. Go pick up a comic book. Preferably something by Bill Watterson because he’s hilarious and will make you feel better pretty much instantly. As for the rest of you? Strap in, baby. We are about to go alien hunting.

The Killers – Human
I did my best to notice
when the call came down the line
up to the platform of surrender
I was brought but I was kind
and sometimes I get nervous
when I see an open door
close your eyes, clear your heart
cut the cord
are we human or are we dancer
my sign is vital, my hands are cold
and I’m on my knees looking for the answer
are we human or are we dancer
pay my respects to grace and virtue
send my condolences to good
give my regards to soul and romance
they always did the best they could
and so long to devotion, you taught me everything I know
wave good bye, wish me well
you gotta let me go
are we human or are we dancer
my sign is vital, my hands are cold
and I’m on my knees looking for the answer
are we human or are we dancer
will your system be alright
when you dream of home tonight
there is no message we’re receiving
let me know is your heart still beating
are we human or are we dancer
my sign is vital, my hands are cold
and I’m on my knees looking for the answer

Are we human or are we dancer
my sign is vital, my hands are cold
and I’m on my knees looking for the answer
are we human
or are we dancer
are we human or are we dancer
are we human or are we dancer

As an English major I was brainwashed, uh, trained in the ways of interpretation. I could, by golly, read a buncha words and tell you exactly why the author mentioned shadows forty-seven times among all those other words. Which is why I’ve taken the liberty of becoming your expert in song interpretation for the next five minutes. After which you can burn me in effigy if you want. Just remember, because detail is always important (even in effigy-related projects) that my hair is red.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think Human is about how Americans have raised their kids to be manipulative shits, i.e. “dancers” at all. I don’t even buy the theory that the song is inspired by the work of Nietzsche, despite the fact that it would give us something fun to debate over coffee and scones (mmmm, scones) for the afternoon. I’m here to suggest that Human is actually about aliens.

First clue: One time I read this cool sci-fi short about an alien who came to earth and danced with a perfectly average woman, who then shot out of her shell and became a fabulous painter. He came back to dance with her the day she died. It wasn’t even sad, because you knew without his dance she never would’ve led such a momentous life. My point? The Killers get it. We are dancer—but only after we’ve been activated by the touch of our alien kin.

Second clue: Remember that old, awesome TV series, V? Holy crap I loved that show. Anyway, most of the lyrics reminded me of those moments when the aliens would peel off their human skin to reveal their true nature, riding just beneath the beautiful outer layer. I always knew, deep down, that people were a lot more like those lizards than they were the rebel heroes who fought them. Which is why neighbors of serial killers are always so surprised that awful smell wasn’t a gas leak but rotting corpse instead. “Because Bob was such a quiet, respectful man”—who kept his mask on nice and tight dontcha know. I bet his hands were cold all the damn time. Are we human? Do we even really know what that means anymore?

Third clue: Ghosts. Come on, my friends. You know they’re really shadows of people from parallel universes who’ve stepped into the thin air between our worlds. And who have already figured out that we’re actually the aliens. We are, as usual, the last to know.

And my final bit of proof? Here ya go:

Even stripped down to our essentials we can’t help but decorate ourselves. Because it’s too scary, too real, to look at what we are. But being human’s not scary. It’s freaking wonderful. So then, really, what are we?

My theory? It’s not complete yet. I’m not an old, wise woman. But no, I don’t think we’re human. We simply aspire to that calling. A rare few have made it. But generally we manage to assassinate them before they can force the rest of us peel off our skins and face the steady drumbeat of our own alien music. Maybe it’s best that way. I think The Killers, at least, have figured that out.

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