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Trying to Get Out of the Cold Water

One of the big mistakes in life I've made is defining what I want to do in terms of what I don't want to do. This is a problem for nearly everyone, and I think it's a folly of youth, meaning it's something that part of growing up is growing out of.

Last night, I had a pleasant, if sometimes intense, five-way conversation with A09 writing group members richbaldwin and cerealboxreader and new acquaintences who-do-not-lj-afaik. We were meeting up for dinner before I had to go back to tend the poor injured Cara Sposa after an afternoon at the Chizine SpecFic Colloquium in Toronto.

Somewhere in there I mentioned how some of my real-world colleagues, and to some degree myself, have spent their lives avoiding the evilstupid in life, only to be used for other people's careers, and have found, for all our efforts, that the evil they were fighting turned out to be untouchable by our milquetoast wall-flowery means. The only voonerable place on the oldest of dragons is in its belly. It must be stabbed from inside while you burn.

Join the system? Don't get me wrong: appeasement is not the answer either, nor the fancier version of "engagement" à-la-Nixon-in-Beijing. The third way, the subversion of the game that rewires those synapses towards the game that should be, not the winning of the round of shadow-boxing, calls for a new framework. To deny the systemic fault by rewiring it into a different gizmo entirely.

One reason for me to go to the Chizine Colloquium was to meet the staff and to sponge up a situation that's new to me, so that I can better do a job I'd volunteered to do back in July. That was interesting, helpful, but I realized I haven't put into words why I volunteered in the first place. And that won't do.

On the way to the restaurant yesterday, as luck would have it, conversation drifted in that direction, which let me put it into words. But first, the mistake. I've been defining what I DO like in horror in terms of what I don't like....

As you know, Bob, I've been speculating out loud about genre, and I have to re-assert this: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and Zombies are boring. BORING. Lovecraft is laughable, but we all get a warm fuzzy feeling about Lovecraft, don't we? He's such a card. Lovecraft's the geek's Abbott and Costello movie. He's comforting in a betentacled way. And mashups with these things are fun, and isn't it interesting how people want to put them all into mysteries and romance. Well, no. But it IS profitable, and it IS good TV material. I've seen Supernatural and True Blood, and even Twilight. The last one put me to sleep, granted, but I did bother to see it. When it didn't cost me anything...

Then richbaldwin put me onto the word I couldn't find like the pair of glasses on top of my head I've been looking for: the uncanny. It's not the tabloid-weird, not the weird tales, and not the twilight-zone-scary story. It's that cold, gut-wrenching moment you feel very rarely; sometimes only three or four times in your life, especially as a child, when the entire world changes because you have apprehended something that makes it permanently and obviously NOT WHAT YOU THOUGHT AT ALL.

For me, the uncanny is the ultimate burning of the apple pie statement. In the world of speculative fiction as the nonviolent subversion of normative lies, it is the cold moment of icewater purging, the de-worming of false hopes, the necessary opposite to spiritual epiphany. It sucks your blood, tears out your bowels, eats your brains, and tears your limbs off far more effectively than these boring monsters of the screens, both silver and wide.

But why? My theory: In a world of laws, hegemony, mass-communication, and well-tended lawns, we need a taste of the senseless terror in the heart of darkness. Otherwise, these creatures that once haunted the night move into the shadow we cast by the weight of our assumptions and become one with us. And one day, they'll stab us in the belly. From the inside.

So, yeah. That's what I see all the CZP-folks doing more and better than any other publishing house I know of, and that is why I volunteered to push bytes on occasion, but really, it's also why I feel compelled to write these stories about people discovering that not only are things not what they thought, but they are not the people they thought they were, and neither was the world. Maybe it's not horror, but it's a kind of uncanny.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
kmarkhoover
Oct. 25th, 2010 11:45 am (UTC)
"In a world of laws, hegemony, mass-communication, and well-tended lawns, we need a taste of the senseless terror in the heart of darkness."

I completely agree. We need a lot more of this.
barry_king
Oct. 26th, 2010 08:32 am (UTC)
Have you looked at what's going on at CZP these past few months? These guys got a groove on.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )