China Miéville is visiting the new ‘animatronics’ exhibit at Madame Tussauds in London. The new display features mechanised puppets and waxworks, all moving and walking and talking, each with their own true-to-life idiosyncrasies. Kenneth Branagh is soliloquizing, Thierry Henry is head-butting the other marionettes, Lady Gaga is rolling about on the floor and Mel Gibson is being kicked in the head by small children as he attempts to recite anti-Semitic epithets.
China is sizing-up an uncanny Ken Jeong when he hears a commotion from the other side of the exhibit. A woman screams; people start to run, and through a gap in the crowds China spies the source of the panic: Herman Melville has broken free of his display stand and is violently attacking the hysterical tourists. In a baffling act of literary misunderstanding and historical malapropism, the staff of Madame Tussauds have dressed Herman Melville as a 19th Century whaler, complete with harpoons and grappling hooks.
As Herman’s rampage continues, a Patrick Stuart is decapitated; so too a Tracey Emin. He throws a harpoon and skewers Al Gore, pinning him to a wall and in the same movement whips a grappling hook to eviscerate Daniel Day Lewis – spilling mechanical intestines and waxwork entrails everywhere.
Several mannequins attempt to fight back, but all are cut-down by the tempest of rage that is animatronic Herman Melville. He cleaves Jack Black in two, slaughters a writhing Kylie Minogue and pounds the head of John Voight into a disgusting waxy pulp. Well… even more so.
China Miéville realises that he has to stop this frenzy before Herman reaches the crowds outside. He calls out: “Melville!”
“Miéville!” replies the puppet, and launches a harpoon at the resilient novelist. But China is too fast, and catches the harpoon, throwing it back at his assailant, impaling him through the chest.
Yet Herman Melville is unperturbed, and launches more and more harpoons at China; all of which China intercepts and casts back, making a harpoon pin-cushion of the curiously misdressed dummy.
Unable to withstand China Miéville’s counter attacks any longer, Herman Melville collapses to the floor and begins a disturbing fit of mechanical spasms. China approaches, and lifting the final un-flung harpoon, stabs downwards, severing Herman’s head and ending the violent death throes of this anachronistic doppelgänger.
As China turns and leaves the museum, all is silent among the ruins of the exhibit.
WINNER: CHINA MIÉVILLE