Rick/Morty, Themes of Death, Suicide, Body Horror, Necrophillia & Existential Angst
Dedicated to Futagogo. Metamorphosis was inspired by their fic, Mycophillia
Spoilers!: I'm trying something new with this fic (Let's just see where this goes). I'll be listing the endnotes here instead of ao3. If there are linked through videos in this section, you will find them all on the YouTube playlist.
Don’t drop the acid: Nod to this RAM commercial
The Delicious Taste of Ice Cream: Nod to this RAM Fanwork
Nod to the Alien commercial:Rick's blood Alcohol level killed a facehugger, once. It’s cannon?
Nods to Little Shop of Horrors: In keeping with the plant horror themes and pop culture endings.
Lots of Nods to Auto Erotic Assimilation: Rick's Conversation with Unity in this Episode really captures the dynamic that I wanted to explore more in this fic.
Okay, David Cronenberg could play a live-action Rick Sanchez. Change My Mind.
Lots of nods to Rick Potion No 9/ David Cronenberg Can. I Just. Tell you about the shipping subtext in this episode? My favorite line is when Rick says “I really Cronenberged the world up, but at least they aren’t in love with you anymore.” It’s gold. A lot of Cronenberg's work offers commentary of societal constraints, which result in some kind of repressed, protesting physical manifestation. So this line is so fucking good because it can read, “I preserved the status quo by transforming humans into these grotesque inhuman forms.” which although a reversal of cronenberg-esque horror elements, is still very much in line with them. Rick creates characters of a genuinely terrible aspect of society and shows the consequences of it, and in this case the cost of preserving that status quo is living with the manifestations. This fic, a total love letter to Cronenberg, Carpenter and body horror elements, similarly explores the qualities of human nature that are found in an inhuman form.
Rick lives in Starline apartments: This is a nod to Cronenberg's first full length film, Shivers, (made 5 years before Ridley Scott’s alien) which introduced the idea of venereal disease as body horror. Residents of a high-rise building are infected with a parasite that turns them into sex-crazed and violent hosts, at the end of the movie, infected but liberated from societal structures, they re-integrate with society. Cronenberg, with Carpenter ( The Thing ) are considered the film pioneers of the body horror genre. There are also nods to The Fly and Videodrome in this fic.
Portal Fluid is a reference to Prince of Darkness: I wanted to bring a lot of the elements from David Cronenberg’s Prince of Darkness, (what I believe R&M’s trademark green portal fluid is a reference to), into the Starry AU headcanons about portal fluid’s ability to be a vector for disease spread or even a parasite itself. In Prince of Darkness, a priest finds an otherworldly vial filled with slime, sealed in the basement of a church. Frightened, he brings his discovery to a circle of top scholars and scientists, and working together, they learn that the strange liquid is the essence of Satan. The slime then begins to seep out, turning some of the academics and homeless into zombified killers. As the possessed battle the survivors, a student is infected by a large quantity of the liquid and becomes Satan personified.
Psychoplasmics: From David Cronenberg's 1979 film "The Brood". A renegade branch of psychology that deals in the physical manifestations of one's inner emotions, primarily, rage. One is encouraged to "go through their anger to the end." In the movie, one of the main characters express her rage in the form of giving birth to mutant children (the "brood" of the title) who exact her anger on those she feels have hurt her.
The Metamorphosis (German: Die Verwandlung) is a novella written by Franz Kafka which was first published in 1915. One of Kafka's best-known works, The Metamorphosis tells the story of salesman Gregor Samsa who wakes one morning to find himself inexplicably transformed into a huge insect. There are many references to the Metamorphosis throught this fic. (including the title). Cronenberg's "The Fly" drew a lot of inspiration from it as well.
Ulalume Virus: named after the musical poem by Edgar Allen Poe of the same name: Ulalume is one of Poe's more musical poems, and tells the story of a man who finds himself walking to the grave of his deceased love on the anniversary of her death. He follows a star, which he does not entirely trust, but decides to see where it is taking him. His suspicions were correct, and the star was leading him to the grave of his lost love, Ulalume. At this point, the narrator suddenly realizes that he buried her in this place on the same October night of the previous year. I thought the themes of this poem fit really well with Morty returning to Rick’s grave in the forest, and Halloween fic. There are also a few nods to Tell-tale Heart.
"From my rotting body, fungi shall grow and I am in them, and that is eternity." From Edward munch (you know the guy who painted the scream).
"Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same" Wuthering Heights Half-siblings Heathcliff and Catherine strive to transcend the boundaries of human subjectivity and physicality — to become something that is other and only them. After Catherine’s death, Heathcliff literally and desperately wants his body to be joined with hers, so they can decompose together. Shoutout for the problematic ships.
Rick, as the Cordyceps Zombie, was inspired by futagogo's fic, and the cordyceps zombies from The Last of Us, which are based on Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the zombie ant and ghost moth parasite. I also referenced the behaviour of a few other species:
The intermediate parasite seen in Unity and Morty was heavily based on Toxoplasma gondii:. I looked at a few other neural-paraites exploring ways that a Unity divergent parasite could subtly influence Rick Sanchez in the form of Morty:
Dinocampus coccinellae: Parasitic wasps that turn ladybugs into zombie babysittes.
Much of the plant behaviour in the Cordyceps forest is based on some real-world predatory, poisonous, and glow-in-the-dark plants. The bioluminescent headcanons are based on deep sea creatures, while many of the visual headcanons come from Ultraviolet Light in flowers, acting as a template for radioactivity and bioluminescence.
Glow in the Dark, UV Light, and Bioluminescent life:
Cool Plants & Places:
The Ulalume Virus is named in dedication to a friend, FiNR, and their love of Poe. FiNR helped out with a lot of the science in this fic.
About the Ulalume Virus: Ulalume is a fictional mycovirus, that is transmitted orally. The virus is coated in silica, hiding within isotope 322’s molecular structure, and is able to be ingested during processing.
Once ingested, Ulalume is similar to Rabies, where its primary goal is to reach the brain, ultimately serving the cordyceps’ sporulating function, in the meantime, the virus will work to compromise the immune system similar to Ebola. Ulalume hijacks the body’s immune cells, causing a cytokine cascade. Feeding off a Rick’s radioactive decay and body tissue, the virus replicates radioactive cells, utilizing the blood pathways for distribution. Because Ulalume uses radiation as a main food source, this primes the body to be more easily broken down and converted by the fungus, once it sporulates.
The incubation for this secondary goal is 24 hours. Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, dehydration, nausea and other immune responses.
Mycelium begins to thread through the respiratory system and the spinal column, resulting in blue blood. The mycelium rob the oxygen from the lungs. Symptoms at this stage are similar to mold poisoning, fatigue, spasming, headaches, craving for sugar/yeast/alcohol.
The compromised immune system allows for further bacterial, fungal and viral infections, either dormant or contracted. The body is no longer able to fight them off, which further contributes to the decomposition. The fungus will feed on body tissue, leaving organs until the host dies.
Symptoms at this stage include an array of other symptoms/diseases ranging from bacterial to other viruses, in addition to the earlier symptoms. Body will begin to actively decompose while host is still living.
Once Ulalume reaches the brain, the host will seek out an optimal location to sporulate, and the body will provide continued nutrition. During Rick’s death, the trace amounts of 322 are condensed into a newly infected ore at the center of a faire ring.
Some of the real-world pathogens that inspired the Ulalume Virus. PSA: Get your flu shot.
Rhinovirus: Rhinovirus (rhin means "nose") infections cause the common cold. Rhinoviruses may also cause some sore throats, ear infections, and infections of the sinuses (openings in the bone near the nose and eyes).
Mycotoxins: Mold poisoning:
Tuberculosis: (Bacterial - Transmission from I322) Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection (LTBI) and TB disease. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.
Rabies : (Physical symptoms) Rabies is a fatal but preventable viral disease. It can spread to people and pets if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal. In the United States, rabies is mostly found in wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. However, in many other countries dogs still carry rabies, and most rabies deaths in people around the world are caused by dog bites.
Ebola: (Hijacks the Immune System) Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a rare and deadly disease in people and nonhuman primates. The viruses that cause EVD are located mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. People can get EVD through direct contact with an infected animal (bat or nonhuman primate) or a sick or dead person infected with Ebola virus. There is no approved vaccine or treatment for EVD. Research on EVD focuses on finding the virus’ natural host, developing vaccines to protect at-risk populations, and discovering therapies to improve treatment of the disease.
CMV (Cytomegalovirus): (How it compromises the bodyìs ability to fight it off) Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that can infect almost anyone. Once infected, your body retains the virus for life. Most people don't know they have CMV because it rarely causes problems in healthy people.
HIV (How Rick’s body continues to compromise him) is a virus spread through certain body fluids that attack the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These special cells help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body. This damage to the immune system makes it harder and harder for the body to fight off infections and some other diseases. Opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS. Learn more about the stages of HIV and how to know whether you have HIV.
Malaria: Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. Left untreated, they may develop severe complications and die. In 2017 an estimated 219 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 435,000 people died, mostly children in the African Region. About 1,700 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year. The vast majority of cases in the United States are in travelers and immigrants returning from countries where malaria transmission occurs, many from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Dengue:Dengue viruses are spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species (Ae. aegypti or Ae. albopictus) mosquito. Dengue is common in more than 100 countries around the world. Forty percent of the world’s population, about 3 billion people, live in areas with a risk of dengue. Dengue is often a leading cause of illness in areas with risk.
Yellow Fever: The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. Yellow fever is a very rare cause of illness in U.S. travelers. Illness ranges from a fever with aches and pains to severe liver disease with bleeding and yellowing skin (jaundice). Yellow fever infection is diagnosed based on laboratory testing, a person’s symptoms, and travel history. There is no medicine to treat or cure infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Love is Strange & Ice Cream Is Evil: Mickey and Sylvia, were originally teacher and student ( but they didn't end up together, XD ). This song made the top 20 in the 50’s. Also, ice cream parlors were once considered places of Debauchery & Sin". It was a different time.
WYRD: Wyrd is a concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to fate or personal destiny. The word is ancestral to Modern English weird, which retains its original meaning only dialectically. Wyrd became the english word “weird”.
Beings unto Death: If our being is finite, then an authentic human life can only be found by confronting finitude and trying to make meaning out of the fact of our death. Heidegger subscribes to the ancient maxim that "to philosophise is to learn how to die". Mortality is that in relation to which we shape and fashion our selfhood.
By Supervert: This collection of essays about necrophillia inspired some of the meditations on the macabre beauty of death & the grotesque in this fic. It's out of print, but you can read/download the PDF on Supervert's site.
Starry AU Context about Isotope 322: Portal fluid is the resource that allows Ricks to travel interdimensionally. But even interdimensionally it is a limited resource. It is made of the glowing green rock of isotope 322 (I-322, 322 three two two), safer to find, but rare - insanely hard to make, which is to say it is not impossible, but the risks far outweigh the benefit of being a 6th dimensional being.
Portal Fluid as Strange Matter: Holy shit, guys. This is my headcannon for the properties of Portal Fluid.
Using Portal Juice from the Comics: In the R&M Comics, (Dan & Justin approved, so secondary cannon) Doofus Rick is able to synthesize portal fluid without a gun. According to the Oni Press comics, “traversing dimensions without a portal gun is pretty much impossible” But portal juice is the next best thing. It comes with some trial and error, and is not nearly as accurate as a portal gun, but it should pull the user “toward the dimension that they are vibrationally in tune with”. This fic springboards from that idea as a starting point.
Portal Fluid Processing: based on how Uranium Ore is made.
Megaseed Cytoplasm (and Rick’s alcoholism) as a vector for Neural-Parasite In cannon the only known property of the Megaseed is the ability to give temporary super-intelligence, but after a short period of time, the super-intelligence wears off and the seed instead causes loss of motor and brain function for several days. I springboarded off of this cannon element to use the neural manipulating properties already present in cannon, as something a parasitic virus could exploit.
In this fic, Ricks use megaseed cytoplasm, not for added intelligence, but to protect his body from the cannon radiation poisoning of uranium powered cellular matrices. in the pilot, having Morty rectally ingest the megaseed, could have potentially helped Morty build a natural resistance to Rick’s natural levels of radiation. Megaseeds could also be used as a necessary component of portal gun fluid manufacturing, which would explain why at the end of Ricklantis Mix Up, President Morty’s first move was to seize and control the megaseed farm (RIP after season 4 cannon explains all this, and kills these ideas)
Also, what’s in Rick’s Flask?: Here the Starry AU headcannon combines a few cannon and fan theory elements to explain the purpose of the Ionic Difibulizer. Dan Harmon answered in an AMA that just pure vodka was in the flask, but Roiland gave us a more cryptic response. Fan’s speculated that in the pilot, the liquid running down Rick’s lips is the same green tint that Morty drools once the Megaseeds start dissolving in his intestinal tract.