G’morning, all. Coffee is where it’s needed, it’s a new week, and it’s time for a new article. First off, let’s get some news tidbits out of the way.
Mea culpa for not having a fresh slice for you all up on Friday. That was thanks to the fine tradition of this city where something blows in, and what I think it only going to be a bout of sinus nonsense blossoms into something sentient and insidious that has no love of me or my workflow at all. I largely spent Thursday and Friday consuming documentaries or horror movies on Netflix while my head was a whimsical pathogen playground.
Pictured: The “after” of Houston’s “before”.
But, I’m feeling better, so I’m back to work on the Lexicon Calopa, I’ve got wallpapers up for my Patreon supporters, and I’m working on another Poe recording for this year’s Halloween gift. You can check out my 2013 offering of “The Raven” right over here. This year, I’ll be tackling “Annabel Lee”, and I’ll be adding it as a video to my YouTube channel.
All right. Let’s get to it. Today I’m talking one of my favorite subjects, and the fodder for much of my binging during my illness: Horror.
I love it. I revel in it. Hell, one day I still plan to write up a horror novella, or full novel, just to get some skin in that game. One day. Let me clear the other stories crowding my brain out first, yeah?
Nevertheless, I dig me some Horror. One of my favorite directors in the genre, John Carpenter, has a great take where he boils down Horror to the only two stories one can really tell in this vein. There is the horror “out there”, which is to say outside of us, and the horror that comes from within ourselves. The dark parts of our psyche; our souls.
And, more recently, a return to the old standards across America.
I’d go one step further on both accounts. When one talks Horror, one is really talking about fear, and there is plenty that we fear that isn’t really featured in your average horror film, right? Wrong.
The parables, allusion, one-for-one metaphor, or outright display of our fears in Horror aside, both the internal and external threats that Mr. Carpenter speaks of share one unifying trait. It’s that lingering dread that tickles the spine of every one of we humble bipeds since the start of this whole show. It’s the foundation upon which we build our phobias, and burden them with grand estate names. Usher. Amityville. Haunted Hill. Camp Crystal Lake. 1428 Elm St.
So, what is it?
I submit that the root of all Horror is a loss of personal agency.
Once you can tap into that core, there’s a lot you can do to unnerve the audience; even the die-hard fans like yours truly. Because even the “mundane” things we fear—loss of a loved one, losing our jobs, getting sick, growing old, the dark, etc.—are terrifying because they are largely out of our hands.
We can’t exert absolute control over them. We can mitigate, we can accept, but there’s zero negotiation or reasoning to be had with your average nightmare, let alone the ones that frolic in the supernatural side of the ball-pit.
And, yes: there’s room for one more. Feel free to jump in, if you dare.
Horror is catharsis, sure. We can come out of a scary movie, or close the cover at the end of a spooky novel, and feel that we’ve “survived” the experience. We’ve tested our bravery in a controlled simulacra, and—hopefully—come out smiling.
But it’s also kind of a baked-in coping tutorial. It’s that acceptance that what’s about to happen, good or ill, is completely out of our wheelhouse. And that can be okay. You live, you learn, and if you come out on the other side you’re stronger for it. Because to give in, to truly lose control to it, and to sacrifice the last of your agency, is to let it somehow beat you. It’s the cardinal lesson so often imparted upon our neural-folds, but often proves the hardest to learn:
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
And spiders. Because fuck those things.
I’m not buying it. Go away.
There’s no Writober offering from me today as i’m playing catch-up for the time lost to the plague last week. Yep. Loss of agency. I and my work schedule certainly have a healthy fear of that. So instead I’m taking the time to conquer said fear and get ahead of my to-do list. I’ll have a new article and new Writober piece for you come Wednesday.
Until next time, Horns Up.