Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Horror

I said something like this on a panel during ConDFW, and I think it merits repeating somewhere else.

Books and video games are uniquely positioned to be the best horror.

TV and films and comics have a separation in your mind that comes from the aspect of observation. By becoming an observer, the horror is not truly as horrifying, because it is always happening to someone else. The dread of what might happen is sympathetic.

In books, and in games, it is simulacratic dread. The veil of the real falls over the overmind, and the door at the end of the hall - you know the one - that you aren't supposed to open. Behind that door is something awful. It's going to try to hurt you. Annie, get your gun. Granny, say your prayers. There's that awful door. The sounds are coming from the other side of it. The washing machine-like sounds. The squishing noises. The strange moans. Or - worse - utter, and complete silence!

Don't open the door, you'd say in a movie theatre. That's what you'd say. You'd shout. You'd close your eyes. The event would happen whether you were looking or not.

In books, if you close your eyes, nothing happens. You can't wait for the bad parts to finish. You would only lose your place. In games, you can't just walk away. You need the silver key. You need the magic serum that's shimmering in the corner. You have to open the door.

Open the door.

Open the door.

Instead of shouting at someone else not to open the door, you have to shout at yourself to open the door.

(Bioshock is awesome! But, it's a little *too* awesome, and it's time for me to get my pulse down a little and read a while. Palimpsest is next. Then, I'll probably write a new story.

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