Revelling in Vulnerability

Revelling in Vulnerability

posted Wednesday, 17 October 2007


Taken from earlier thoughts of mine:

Horror is an writer’s camera obscura* designed to allow revelling in vulnerability.

*complete perhaps with a ‘music mix’ of tripswitches labelled ‘reality’, ‘surreality’, ‘absurdity’, ‘weird’ and some that still need labelling…

There should be an academic discipline called Horror Philosophy, dealing with the Horror Arts: Horrorism? (You will notice I eschew the word ‘Terror’ for use in this context!)

Some initial thoughts brainstormed to kick off Horrorism:-

I feel Horror literature (that’s *called* Horror) is for being cheered up, because you want to be horrified by the act of reading it and, if it’s done well, it does horrify you. Mission accomplished.

This begs the question: books that are not labelled Horror or do not have a Horror cover, do they have the potential to horrify to a greater degree, by giving the reader a false sense of security? They are not so well primed for horror, so the horror becomes more effective?

And should Horror be ‘grim downers’ or ‘escapist supernatural grotesques’?

Are these alternatives (and the generalities for which I intend them as shorthand) mutually exclusive?

If the style of doing utter ‘grim’ is admirable, can this admiration cause ‘pleasure’ as well as ‘depression’ from the grimness expressed, and thus be stylistically counter-productive? A well-honed tale expressing Horror of utter grimness becomes less grim because the way the grimness is described so effectively is felicitous in itself?

And other extrapolative questions from that trend of thought – which I hope you can read into the above – that need to addressed & then answered.

There are many paradoxes and oxymorons like these along the way, I suggest, before nailing down what ‘Horror’ is or should be.

Is Horror, as one example of a paradox or oxymoron, entertainment?

Entertainment can be by various means. Horror seems to represent the one means to entertain that is most difficult, because it comes with so many mixed emotions.

But surely Horror’s purpose is not simply to horrify on an aesthetic level. Its purpose is to *truly* horrify, I suggest, without any *apparent* intervention of Art or Artifice in so doing. Otherwise, why call it Horror?

… but to *truly* horrify, I also suggest, does not necessarily entail using extreme horror. In fact, I find extreme horror counterproductive, quite often, in accomplishing the true horror effect, for various reasons of overdose or dulling the horror centres of the nerves.

So, Horrorism has a conundrum.


Do we want to be shown (a) our loved one dying in a pool of blood for real or (b) a believable fabrication that gives us a similar jolt of horror as (a)?

I agree we’d want (b), not (a).

It’s how to create (b) that is the conundrum. Or to reconcile why anyone would want it as entertainment.

Many would only be able to stomach a perceived fabrication of (b), ie. a fabrication of a fabrication?

Horrorism is, therefore, the study of fabrication levels in Horror Artifice, and how these levels interact with Horror’s purpose ((a)moral? cathartic? aesthetic?) or its purposelessness.

Purposelessness seems to me to be the ideal medium for Horror to work within, but a purposelessness paradoxically having margins and well-tempered effects that do not breach most readers’ own purpose in thus testing their optimal thresholds of disbelief and taste.

Just a few thoughts.

Appendix: Horror fiction, at its best, enters our individual territories and becomes part and parcel of a revolving realm with Death at its core: and, in this realm, all the flotsam and jetsam of life (and the richest life is one generated by the imagination as well as by the day-to-day interaction of our minds and bodies) spin round, some colliding only to ricochet off, others sticking together, some being swallowed whole or bit by bit…. Eventually, the various items are sucked into the core where they are minced up or refined into streams of sense (or apparent sense or, even, nonsense) which are then released from that realm into other revolving realms which create new collisions, fusions and spin-offs. This is using Death as a positive tool, as it surely is. Without Death, we’d be nothing.

Furthermore, horror fiction shares a bed with surrealism and humour as well as with the more usual ingredients of grim acts, monstrous creatures and ghostly visitations. Literature, indeed, uses all kinds of devices, tropes, figures of speech, call them what you will, to make the welding of reality and unreality as seamless as possible. But why make something seamless, when there are no seams in the first place? It only takes a few lateral thoughts or, as I have proposed here, spinning ones. Horror fiction can accomplish this feat with some degree of logic, because the realms actually created by it are indeed real – and perhaps that is because there is nothing more horrific than being real in reality as we know it.

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