The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Existential horror

In 2011, OldKentuckyShark proposed a definition of existential horror: As generally used it refers to the horror caused by an idea or entity that threatens not just your personal wellbeing, but your essential conception of the universe and the self. He also provided a cheat-sheet [h/t Nick Land] - so here's my take: if your girl is on a raft, and you swim over there for some action, but get ambushed by a shoggoth, that's horror. If you and your girl explore a ruin looking for shoggoths, and you find one... and discover what a shoggoth really is and whence they came... that's existential horror.

You all do realise that this means that Asimov's Nightfall is existential horror.

It certainly cannot be science fiction. Its world of eternal day was always impossible, would have been known as impossible in 1941 or even in 1741. (Fuckin' Three Body Problem, how does it work?) Asimov's job was to wave off the physics, and to worldbuild on that assumption. His worldbuilding (in such a short space!) is what made the ending believable.

Because Nightfall, ultimately, was about mortal understanding faced with a sudden knowledge of reality that mortals cannot abide in sanity. Just like how Lovecraft based his stories. We don't care how the Necronomicon actually works.

UPDATE 5/20: My cheat-sheet.


posted by Zimri on 18:03 | link | 0 comments

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