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Haunted

My Dad's birthday is today! Happy Birthday, Pop! He probably won't see this, but he'll get a kick out of it anyway. While he wasn't supportive of my writing initially--he's extremely supportive now, and I appreciate that a great deal. I love my Dad very much. He taught me about cars, ships, fishing, computers, and SF. He's the reason I discovered Ray Bradbury at such an early age. He watched Star Trek with me too sometimes. While my mom read Peter Pan aloud to me, Pop read Something Wicked This Way Comes to me.[1] With that in mind, I thought we'd talk about Horror, and its influences on SF and Fantasy. Do you read Horror? Do you see its influences as a positive thing for SF and F?

For me, I don't only have Ray Bradbury to blame as an influence, but Stephen King and NI Irish Crime fiction as well. When I cut myself off of Fantasy I turned to Horror and King in particular. I started with The Stand. To this day, I adore almost everything about that book except for the end.[2] Then I moved to 'Salems Lot and Carrie. Stephen King taught me (among other things) that I was allowed to let music have an influence on my writing. Of course, so did Nancy A. Collins's Sonja Blue series.[3] Both use music to help with the setting. (King does even more so in Christine.) I didn't hit punk or goth until late in life and not necessarily with the first wave either. Nonetheless, the music is huge for me. I've a tremendous music collection. (And one day it'll be organized like my library.) Like many writers, I create soundtracks for my work. It's been said that my writing style has a punk music feel to it, and to tell you the truth, that makes me happy. Also from Horror (and King specifically) I learned that I enjoyed the psychological side of storytelling.[4] It's why I incorporate those aspects into character building. The psychology of a character is a science all its own. It provides logical motivation when you're writing about someone who is different from yourself and who makes very different choices from your own.

And then we have our host's work. Horror features a great deal in The Laundry series in particular. It's one of the many reasons I love it so much. Strangely, I'm not into Lovecraft. I find him dull. At the same time, give me a work based on Lovecraft (like Resume with Monsters by William Browning Spencer) and I'm all over that.

All in all, Horror is about psychology. It has to be at some level, or it falls flat. The moment you delve in the things that terrify us as human beings you're in Horror territory. I think this is why Horror and SF are such a good marriage -- Fantasy too. As we saw yesterday, so much of SF deals in darkness. The future is unknown, and we fear the unknown--or at the very least, are made uncomfortable by it. Still, the unknown is a very powerful place from which to work. Fantasy has surrealism as its base, and what could be more dreamlike than a nightmare? 

I've named a few of my favorites. What are yours? 

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[1] That was another huge moment that I neglected to bring up earlier. I reread that book every year at Halloween. Every year I notice something new. It's a masterpiece.

[2] I feel King painted himself into a corner. So, I don't really blame him there. Endings are tough enough when you don't have to deal with the baggage involved in using existing belief systems as part of a story. That's really easy to screw up. It's also really easy to wander into preachy-land. So, while The Stand is one of my favorite novels, I'll admit that it's flawed. Again, all things are. We're all human--even Stephen King. [gasp]

[3] For the record, vampires are not my favorite horror monster. They never have been. (That would be the werewolf.) I'm not big on zombies either. So, I'm super picky in both those departments for much the same reason that I'm finicky about Fantasy. I've read a lot of it. In the zombie fiction department, much less so. However, that doesn't change the picky.

[4] And this is why Liam demonstrates a severe case of PTSD. I researched PTSD too. Yes, I'm a touch OCD, but I suspect most authors are. You kind of have to be detail driven to write well. It's one of those things.

92 Comments

1:

Most horror ought to be rebranded as "mild anxiety". As for horror movies, there are very few that merit the title. The teen slashers just annoyed me with their witless victims: "Hey, it's dark and there a killer psycho out there - let's split up and have a look around".
IIRC the only stories that actually frightened me as a teenager were Lovecraft ones. Unfortunately AFAIK there is only one decent Lovecraftish movie worth watching, and that's Carpenter's Mouth of Madness:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA94fr7t0FI

As for King, he writes very well but lacks really interesting novel ideas IMHO. The best SF/Horror story I have ever read is "Colder War" by you know who...
http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/colderwar.htm

2:

Depending on your definitions of horror I have a rather soft spot for "Tales of the Unexpected" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tales_of_the_Unexpected_(TV_series) - a UK TV series of yesteryear that had many a chilling story. Many of the early ones based on Roald Dahl shorts.

Kinda sorta "The Twilight Zone" of UK telly in the 1980s.

The one with the guy raising his kid on royal jelly ;-)

I don't read much horror. Mostly because, like fantasy, I've not developed the cues to pick the stuff I like from the stuff I don't.

I do listen to a fair bit on the Pseudopod podcast - because their editorial picks seem to mesh fairly well with mine. Don't like everything but do like a lot.

3:

One UK classic was something I missed at the time (1972) - The Stone Tapes. Watched it recently on YouTube and it was excellent - hardly aged at all, which is remarkable in itself:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg_rrIMgGsc

4:

I'm going to pretty much agree with that's just been said in the ordinal post. Where I differ:-

1) Lots of "horror" cinema is actually "gross 'em out" and/or (more so recently) "torture p0rn". Rare, and notable for that, exceptions are "Alien" and "The Descent" (I know about the sequal; never seen it, not least because I liked the open-endedness of the 2 obvious interpretations of the ending; 'spoilers sweetie' if I describe the ending) and even then the film-maker has built tension rather than scared me. Making me jump with quiet quiet quiet VERY LOUD NOISE is not the same thing as instilling a sense of dread in me or scaring me.

2) Lovecraft (and other writing in the Cthulhu mythos sometimes) still can give me a sense of dread.

3) I've had no time for Stephen King since I read an interview with Clive Barker in which Barker claimed that "King once said 'if I can't scare you, I'll gross you out.' If I can't scare you, I'll re-write it."
I've also had no time for Barker since, because I'd felt that his "Books of Blood" were failing to gross me out and certainly weren't scaring me.

5:

I think the first 2 series (titled "Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected" IIRC) were based on Dahl's adult short fiction, but the later series definitely included adaptions from other authors, one I remember from having studied it in Eng Lit class at about the time it was broadcast was HE Bates' "The Verger".

6:

"Most horror ought to be rebranded as "mild anxiety"."

I can see that. I don't like torture porn either. You see, I had cancer once upon a time (am cured now,) and I've had an amputation (breast.) Subsequently, amputations in film make me extremely uncomfortable. In fact, when I went to see Sin City I almost threw up. It hit me that hard. I now avoid that kind of thing at all costs.

I liked In the Mouth of Madness too. You might consider seeing Cabin in the Woods if you haven't. I thought it was pretty great. And thanks for pointing me to that story.

7:

I get the feeling that Charles is slightly annoyed that some consider Colder War to be the best thing he's written.

8:

"Kinda sorta "The Twilight Zone" of UK telly in the 1980s."

I love it. Thanks for that. I used to watch "Night Gallery" quite a bit. Oh, and did you ever see "Five Million Years to Earth" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062168/)? I caught that as a kid, and it creeped me out. I need to rewatch it. It's probably laughable now.

9:

Ohhh, nice. I need to watch that.

10:

William Browning Spencer's 'Irrational Fears' is an underground favorite in Northern Virginia.

11:

"1) Making me jump with quiet quiet quiet VERY LOUD NOISE is not the same thing as instilling a sense of dread in me or scaring me."

Oh, yes. I agree.

"3) I've had no time for Stephen King since I read an interview with Clive Barker in which Barker claimed that "King once said 'if I can't scare you, I'll gross you out.' If I can't scare you, I'll re-write it."

Sometimes authors aren't the best judge of their own work. I know this from personal experience. When my agent got back to me regarding OB&H he told me it was very literary and serious. I couldn't believe him. I thought I'd written a light adventure-ish story. (This, because that's how it was first born. It grew up into something far different.)

I have a tough time with Barker too. But I figure it's a personal taste thing.

12:

Personally, I don't think William Browning Spencer gets as much attention as he should.

13:

Never have been a big fan of horror per se.
I like to at least read the very best in each genre, so I'd sure like to know what's good in horror, what piece typifies its essence so I can try it.

What defines horror? Is it that it uses fear as a way to engage the reader's attention and goad the characters? War stories can do that. So, the fear has to be of something beyond our knowledge, something we don't understand but still have to deal with. Dreamcatcher is scary, but it's also very clearly science fiction. Is it still horror? Then the Alien films are horror. What's the difference? Is it the way the characters deal with it?
Does the terror from beyond have to be something we can never figure out? Or can it be dealt with by learning about it? I think the former, because that's more scary.

Read a bunch of King and really liked it as fantasy. He gets you to really like his characters and identify with them so you care about them being devoured or whatever. Whee. I was making a list recategorizing each of his works as either Fantasy, Science Fantasy, or Science Fiction but then I realized that whatever Dark Tower is, the rest of them are that also, because it presumes to subsume them all.

Lovecraft had a great imagination but it seems to me like he just wrote longer and shorter vignettes, not really stories. Like the whole was one long work and he was setting the scene that others completed. Similarly, 1984 was incomplete in that it just perfected the establishment of dystopia without offering a solution, which others picked up on and finished in one way or another.

I hate vampires. Been done, sick of vampires, NO. I quit watching the sci fi channel when every other thing that had was vampire this and vampire that and that was BEFORE the reality shows, but the fad rolls on. Except I liked the "I Am Legend" novel, now that was vampires done right (as science fiction).

Ghosts are always scary, but you know that's just because it's so boring being dead they have to play pranks. Just leave the TV or radio on for them and they are happy. Forget and they act out like bad puppies. But seriously, the most really scary horror is the poltiergeist type stuff because you never know, it could do anything and strike you when and where you are most vulnerable. Having some mysterious essence that hints at being able to understand where it came from, but not how to do anything about it only makes matters worse. If its a category of known monster you can just look up the antidote and there's nothing to be afraid of here folks move along.

Zombies are the new orcs. I like it when they bleed.

14:

Happy Birthday to your father!
My father is certainly to blame for my love of books. He had his nose constantly in one, and worked at a bookstore when I was young and I used to hang out at it in the summer. Some of my first book were a few by Bradbury that he gave me, reading "A Sound of Thunder" had me hooked. "Something Wicked" came later on, but it is one of my absolute favorites.

Horror's not really something I'm into, at least not the modern version. In my 20s I was reading a lot of early Victorian Gothic novels, and particularly liked J.S. Le Fanu's writings. I suppose they'd more properly be called suspense novels, there's not necessarily much physical violence in them, the horror comes more from the dread the characters feel at the potential of violence. Then Bram Stoker came along and added some blood and gore. It's been quite a while since I've read them.

More recently I've tried reading Lovecraft (in large part because of "The Laundry" series) but really can't stand his writing--he seemed incapable of writing dialogue for one thing. But he was certainly imaginative, and influenced a lot of writers better than him.

Haven't read King yet--I'll get to "Salem's Lot" and "The Shining" one of these days, but for the most part having seen many of the movies based on is work hasn't made me want to read him. I know that's not really fair, but there you go.

I was going to say something about music and its influence, but that could go on too long, and I've already rambled a bit.

15:

Horror recommendations, books: Carrion Comfort, by Dan Simmons. A book that seriously got into my head in a wonderfully unpleasant way.

Horror recommendations, movies: Kill List, by Ben Wheatley -- a melon twisting nightmarish descent into ... something. Watch with caution, not for everyone. Or for more vintage classic horror, Night of the Demon is a terrific old fashioned horror about black magic and ancient superstition.

16:

Over here, "Quatermass and the Pit".
Still very good.

17:

When my agent got back to me regarding OB&H he told me it was very literary and serious. I couldn't believe him. I thought I'd written a light adventure-ish story.
Er, you are remembering that you're talking with UKians who mostly have some sort of understanding of The Troubles? The closest we come to "light adventureish" on the subject is a few episodes of "Ultimate Farce, er Force" with the funny SAS.

18:

I also agree that Lovecraft's imagination far outpaced his skill as a writer -- he created tremendous mythologies, but his prose style is pretty much uniformly terrible. This is a big reason I enjoy OGH's Laundry novels and "A Colder War" so much; they're Lovecraft's brilliant ideas as told and developed by a proper talented writer.

19:

Ooh! I almost forgot that! I love the Hammer movie with Andrew Keir in the title role as well as the original TV programme.

20:

Para 4 - I don't think anyone's claiming that Lovecraft is a great writer: certainly all I'm claiming is that he's capable of giving me a sense of dread.

Para 5 - May I refer you to "Harmony Bites" in Buffy Season 8; An MTV "reality" show starring a vampire!?

21:

I'm not sure how, but reading and replying to these comments reminded me of Dennis Wheatley. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Wheatley

As a specific recommendation I'd go with "The Haunting of Toby Jugg". The BBC did a Tv adaption as "The Haunted Airman" but I can't recommend that because I've never seen it.

22:

I think I have a hard time separating suspense from horror. Hitchcock was great at suspense. King writing as Bachman is the same thing, for me at any rate. The Running Man short story had me on the edge of my seat. The Ah-nold movie is a different sort of horror...

I suppose I relegate being "horrified" with events that are morally reprehensible to myself. Scare-tactics aren't really horror for me, suspense seems to linger on.

23:

I hate vampires. Been done, sick of vampires

It's just as well you qualify that with your liking of I Am Legend, 'cos as Charlie has now revealed, he's just finished the first draft of a Laundry Vampire novel.

It being the Laundry, expect quite a different take on it all. And since each story takes us ever closer to CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN and the screaming end of humanity, expect horror too.

(I've just read 5 horror novels in a row, all set in modern London, all but one by people I know, and I am now reading Joan Aiken as a unicorn chaser. The unicorn being named Candleberry.)

24:

There has only been one vampire book/movie I have liked and that's Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. The book itself was incredibly well written.

25:

"I like to at least read the very best in each genre, so I'd sure like to know what's good in horror, what piece typifies its essence so I can try it."

I would recommend Ringu based on what you've described as your requirements for Horror. The film alone is really scary. I haven't read the book... yet.

"Dreamcatcher is scary, but it's also very clearly science fiction. Is it still horror? Then the Alien films are horror. What's the difference? Is it the way the characters deal with it?"

I've a theory about aliens. They are actually fairy stories. Think about it. Alien abduction stories are changeling stories. Fairies used to be the big unknown that lived in the darkness. We have electricity and the big dark in the forest isn't in the forest any longer. Now, the big dark unknown is in space.

26:

Speaking of favourites, I should just note here that Nancy Collins' more recent fantasy is anything but as dark as the Sonja Blue books. (At least, as of 50% of the way into the first of them.)

My take on horror fiction: it's about catharsis. Either that, or it's about the just rewards of hubris. But it's not truly horrifying, for the most part. For true horror, think in terms of dealing with your parents' deaths -- usually a drawn-out, messy medical maze of ever-diminishing and unpleasant choices, these days. Or your own death, come to think of it. Or the shocking moment when your car stops moving after the accident and you realize you maimed somebody for life and if only you hadn't been reading that incoming text message ten seconds ago ...

27:

"Haven't read King yet--I'll get to "Salem's Lot" and "The Shining" one of these days, but for the most part having seen many of the movies based on is work hasn't made me want to read him."

The movies didn't do the books justice. Seriously. Not even close. I reread The Shining recently. Holy crap, it's amazing. It's a brilliant study in addiction. He gets deep into his characters. I admire his skill a great deal. Just forget the movies. Read the books.

28:

Happy Birthday to your father!

Oh, and thanks! I told him about today's post, and he was *so* happy.

29:

"Horror recommendations, books: Carrion Comfort, by Dan Simmons. A book that seriously got into my head in a wonderfully unpleasant way."

I read it and enjoyed it. I'll have to check out the others.

30:

I would recommend Ringu based on what you've described as your requirements for Horror.
I presume from the spelling that you mean the original Japanese film, not the Hellywood (sic) remake.

31:

"Over here, "Quatermass and the Pit"."

It was hard to tell which title to go with. So, I went with the link. Thanks!

32:

"Er, you are remembering that you're talking with UKians who mostly have some sort of understanding of The Troubles? The closest we come to "light adventureish" on the subject is a few episodes of "Ultimate Farce, er Force" with the funny SAS."

The original draft of OB&H was set in present day Austin, TX. I probably should've added that. A very small amount of the NI stuff was a different character's back story. It's nothng like what I ended up with.

33:

Thank you for saying this, Stina, and emphasizing it. There are a disturbing number of people out there who regard Kubrick's adaptation of THE SHINING as some sort of cinematic masterpiece. I won't deny it has some wonderfully creepy moments, but Jack Nicholson was horribly miscast. The real horror in King's novel is watching a loving but flawed husband and father go slowly insane. And Nicholson is gibbledygabbery nuts from the first shot.

34:

"I suppose I relegate being "horrified" with events that are morally reprehensible to myself. Scare-tactics aren't really horror for me, suspense seems to linger on."

I get them confused too. Suspense is something I enjoy so very much.

35:

"Quatermass and the Pit" was the 3rd of 3 BBC dramas, following "The Quatermass Experiment" and "Quatermass II". Despite them all having been made before I was born, I've actually seen them all; good scripts and acting but poor effects (well it was the 1950s).

36:

"(I've just read 5 horror novels in a row, all set in modern London, all but one by people I know, and I am now reading Joan Aiken as a unicorn chaser. The unicorn being named Candleberry.)"

OMG! I love Joan Aiken!!!

37:

The original draft of OB&H was set in present day Austin, TX. I probably should've added that. A very small amount of the NI stuff was a different character's back story. It's nothing like what I ended up with.
Ah, that makes a lot more sense thanks.

38:

"There has only been one vampire book/movie I have liked and that's Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. The book itself was incredibly well written."

That one is wonderful, isn't it?

39:

"Speaking of favourites, I should just note here that Nancy Collins' more recent fantasy is anything but as dark as the Sonja Blue books."

RATS. Oh, well.

And I like your take on Horror.

40:

I've not read the book (see early comments, about 1 through 6), but do regard the film as containing a classic portrayal of someone who was one short of a 6-pack to start with, then drank 3 of the others!

41:

I read that she polished that one for years, and it shows. The rest were just knockoffs riding the wave of its popularity.

42:

:)

I've got long black hair, and it's very thick and usually a bit wavy. Sometimes I straighten it. When I saw that movie I did just that. At the end of the film, I stooped over to get my purse. The folks on the row in front of us turned around and...

screamed. LOL.

43:

Oh, to have been there with a camera (ok and a flashgun). I just love that sort of thing.

44:

You are welcome. And I agree about Jack Nicholson. Still, I have a soft spot for the Kubric film.

45:

I wondered if those others were related. I need to see them all.

46:

Sorry to give you a fright. :)

47:

I strongly recommend Robin McKinley's Sunshine. One of my favourite world buildings.

48:

Well, like I said, it's not fair to compare movies to books I haven't read. I like the Kubrick version of "The Shining", and know it's quite different from the novel, which is one of the reasons I want to read. Also a lot of the movies are just plain bad. The film of "Dreamcatcher" was awful, but then the review I read of the book made it sound pretty bad.

If you liked "Ringu" the first book is definitely worth a read. The second book's not bad, but the third kind of discounts the others, so you might skip it.

49:

Meant to add that if you're into anime, you might try "Boogiepop Phantom", goofy title, but super creepy.

50:

I like Robin McKinley's work too. I'll look into that.

51:

My favorite horror story - the fact that the probability of any of us existing is less than one in 10^10^9.

52:

For a thorough (sometimes funny, sometimes scary, sometimes both at once) deconstruction of the teen slasher (aka "excuse me, I'm just going into this dark room by myself") genre, watch Cabin in the Woods.

And for a thorough (sometimes funny, sometimes scary, sometimes both at once) deconstruction of the zombie/survival horror genre (and the not entirely wholesome reasons why it's so popular), read David Wong's This Book is Full of Spiders.

53:

Neuropath
I'll re-read it again some day. Just not right now.

Early Michael Slade - Headhunter, Ghoul and Cutthroat.

54:

Personally, I think some of the most horrific books are parasitology and medical mycology textbooks, but that's just me. There's nothing like seeing a mycosis in the process of eating someone's face off to make you pay attention to proper hygiene.

As for Lovecraft, I enjoy his work, but I found it more fun than scary. I'm not a big fan of getting horrified.

Then again, I'm the kind of guy who will carefully chase a rattlesnake off a trail so that it doesn't get run over by the next mountain biker along, and I'll on occasion leave the spiders in the house alone when they're catching enough mosquitoes to earn their keep. I guess I'm a stereotypical weird kid all grown up.

56:

Stina: I'm absolutely with you on the psychological thing - shock and horror are two different things, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with either. But aiming for horror and delivering a series of short, sharp shocks is a little bit cheap, in my book :)

On your note [4], though, I suspect you're a touch obsessive, rather than OCD. I don't mean to hijack the thread, but saying you're OCD because you like some things ordered and correct is like saying you're dyslexic because there's are a single word you always spell wrong. It may also be true (and if it is in your case, I apologise), but invoking what can be a severely disabling disorder to describe a minor facet of one's self is a little disrespectful.

(for more information
http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/10/19/ableist-word-profile-youre-so-ocd/ )

57:

Cliches - the woman is being chased across an open field by some maniac. She loses sight of him while looking behind. Meanwhile, he has taken a shortcut and she runs into him.
http://my.spill.com/profiles/blog/show?id=947994:BlogPost:1373523

58:

All novelists have to be a little bit obsessive-compulsive! It's a prerequisite of being able to sit down and write 100,000 words on the same topic. (Consider that a basic thesis for a university degree runs to something in the range 2500-10,000 words, and a PhD is of similar size to a novel -- although the latter tends to require more research.)

60:

Watched "Kill List" and it's quite good, except for the nonsensical ending.

61:

Yes. "Kill List" did go a touch off the deep end, and while there are certainly ways to make sense of the ending (Googling throws up a number of theories), I did get the feeling that it was being too archly ambiguous and confusing. An excellent excerise in proper dread and horror up to that point though, and still worth a watch in my opinion.

62:

What pisses me off is that I could have written a better ending, even if forced to integrate all the weird stuff prior to the end scene.

63:

Having written both, I'd agree with the principle, if not the wording, of your reply. Three years of study, then four years of careful and meticulous data gathering and writing-up - it results in an obsessive desire to get the wording right, to get the meaning over to your audience, and it results in your writing and rewriting things at 3AM. I wouldn't call myself an author now (my business cards would disagree, but that's just a job title), but I agree that focus and discipline and tunnel-vision are often necessary when writing huge long texts (and result in awesome books, of course).

Even in the depths of my writing-up, I was never writing and rewriting at 3AM or delving ever deeper into mythology and background to distract myself from my deep-rooted and inexplicable desire to gouge out my own eye, or because I was certain that not doing so would cause the building to abruptly explode. That's the difference between obsessing over details (normal, common even) and actual obsessive-compulsive disorder. The compulsion is an attempt (not always successful) to override the destructive obsession, not a simple desire to see things Just So.

But I'll stop there, I think. More risks getting needlessly preachy, and starts looking (being?) disrespectful towards you and Stina, which is not my intent.

64:

I think computers have made things worse in that sense. It encourages endless revisions because they appear to be so cheap and easy.

65:

Agreed. I would have been happy if the ending had just been ambiguous, leaving a sort of fuzzy or incomplete resolution to the questions in the rest of the movies; but as it is, the ending offers absolutely nothing, just a blank canvas to project whatever answers you care to imagine. I actually think that if you press "stop" just before the final scenes, the movie is better for it.

66:

Mileage may vary on this topic, but most of the PhDs I know spent 3 or 4 years between being accepted for their higher degree and publishing their thesis.

67:

A fair point. That was three years of study for my BSc, followed by four years of research and writeup for my PhD, to be clear. A seven-year PhD would be pushing the boundaries a touch :)

68:

Ah right; 6 to 8 years depending on whether your Batchelor's was a 3 or 4 year degree and another 3 or 4 for research and writing for the Doctorate seems about typical.

69:

I do know someone who did spend about 7 years on the PhD bit alone.

As for elapsed time, there is the famous case of an astrophysicist who finally finished his PhD about 35 years after his initial papers on the subject. Admittedly, he may have been busy being a multi-millionaire rock guitarist in the meantime.

70:

Nothing beats classic Twilight Zone.

Without special effects or gore, TZ achieved levels of horror that are now part of the culture ("You're a bad man and you keep thinking bad thoughts about me!","'To Serve Man' is a cook book!", "That's not fair. That's not fair at all. There was time now. There was, was all the time I needed", etc.).

There were two types of TZ episodes. The first is where the bad guy gets his punishment as in "A Nice Place to Visit" or "Death's Head Revisited" (or more rarely, when a good guy gets his reward as in "Night of the Meek" and "A Pitch for the Angels").

The second provides existential horror where mankind's existence is meaningless, the universe and existence itself are pointless, there is no right or wrong, and the bad guys (like little Anthony Fremont) win and good is defeated or irrelevant.

The first assumes that there is a moral order in the universe and that existence has inherent meaning. The second is nihilistic with morality nonexistent. The first are merely morality plays. The second are true horror stories invoking nihilistic despair.

Because real horror has nothing to do with vampires or werewolves. Real horror is existential.

And you all better agree with me, or I'll wish you into the cornfield.

71:

I preferred the lesser known "One Step Beyond".
What was so unsettling about that, apart from the creepy music, was that the format was: Weird shit happens - no explanation - the end.

72:

In the spirit of the Twilight Zone style, has anyone else ever seen an 1972 Spanish short film called "The Phone Box"? I haven't seen it in years, but I remember it being a wonderful slide from comedy through mounting dread to outright horror at the end. A quick search reveals the it is available in several formats on You Tube.

73:

"Real horror is existential." Sounds good to me.
It has to be something like that. Because if there's a moral to the tale, a way to beat or at least resist the source of terror the piece becomes something else. Theres stuff that does just what you describe, so Horror is as good a thing to call it as anything. Maybe "Despair", but it wouldn't sell. So, using examples from what I know, "The Genocides" is horror, and Lovecraft is complete horror, not incomplete fantasy. And even 1984 is Horror. But Matheson's "I am Legend"(IAL) isn't horror, because while humanity and the protagonist don't have a chance, something post human does. IAL is about defeat of the familiar by the superior, whereas the others (Lovecraft, Orwell, Disch) are about defeat, or inevitable defeat, but at the hands of the unworthy. What should win cannot win, don't struggle and try to reason, that will only... Perhaps horror comes down to a judgement about the source of terror.
But our host said something up above about true horror being the realization that you have just maimed someone with your bad driving. If that is so, then horror is not so much defeat as helpless unworthiness, which puts IAL back in the camp. But that would throw "The Amityville Horror" out, because as I recall from the original film in the seventies, it was just an innocent family that moved into a house full of unreasonablly malevolent and powerful spirits. I guess the helplessness is the main thing.
So yeah.

74:

There is an excellent Spanish horror film called "Day of the Beast":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwEbKgj11LY

75:

Following on from your chain of thought, the other thing about Lovecraft is that his stuff is psychological; it's about things that you can't quite see.
So much so that I was scared by the story "At The Mountains of Madness", and bored by the graphic novelisation of it.

76:

"Nothing beats classic Twilight Zone. "

Yes, I agree. But then, you also have to consider The Night Gallery a bit.

This makes me think of horror music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehtCFe7ggbg

I find this opening theme more unsettling than those of the previous efforts by Rod Serling.

77:

I like "At the Mountains of Madness", but more for the ideas in it as I think that Lovecraft works too hard to build up the sense of dread, and winds up overdoing it in the early parts of the story.

I find "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" more unsettling and horrific, with a subtler apporach to the "things that you can't quite see" idea that you mention. Although still with my caveat from an earlier post, that Lovecraft's imagination far out-paced his skill as a writer.

78:

It's not "things that you can't quite see" idea that creates the horror of the Cthulu mythos.

It's the existential implications of the Lovecraftian universe that provides the horror.

If Cthulu is just another man eating monster, he would be nothing special - just a variation on Godzilla or Cloverfield. But in Lovecraft's universe "god" is a blind idiot, the Old Ones will eventually destroy us, all our works are for naught and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.

For a humorous take on this:

http://www.fredvanlente.com/downloads/WhyWeHere.pdf

Humorous or not, the point remains - nihilism is the source of all horror.

79:

The first year of NG was very good. But IIRC the episodes were alnmost all just morality plays, no real horror.

80:

I would say that it is loss of control that is the source of much horror -- nihilism is just the end-point for loss of control of your own destiny.

81:

"--watch Cabin in the Woods."

I hate teen slasher films. I loved Cabin in the Woods.

"--read David Wong's This Book is Full of Spiders."

I suspect I need to pick that up.

82:

Vampirism as a metaphor for psychopaths. Consider this report:

http://chronicle.com/article/The-Psychopath-Makeover/135160/

"The effects aren't entirely dissimilar. An easy, airy confidence. A transcendental loosening of inhibition. The inchoate stirrings of a subjective moral swagger: the encroaching, and somehow strangely spiritual, realization that hell, who gives a s---, anyway?

There is, however, one notable exception. One glaring, unmistakable difference between this and the effects of alcohol. That's the lack of attendant sluggishness. The enhancement of attentional acuity and sharpness. An insuperable feeling of heightened, polished awareness. Sure, my conscience certainly feels like it's on ice, and my anxieties drowned with a half-dozen shots of transcranial magnetic Jack Daniel's. But, at the same time, my whole way of being feels as if it's been sumptuously spring-cleaned with light. My soul, or whatever you want to call it, immersed in a spiritual dishwasher."

83:

"On your note [4], though, I suspect you're a touch obsessive, rather than OCD. I don't mean to hijack the thread, but saying you're OCD because you like some things ordered and correct is like saying you're dyslexic because there's are a single word you always spell wrong."

Thanks for that. It's a good thing to point out. However, I used it because a therapist told me I had OCD tendancies-not full on. Nonetheless, I'll try to be careful about that in the future.

84:

"And you all better agree with me, or I'll wish you into the cornfield."

LOL! Nice reference. Anyway, I agree Twilight Zone was really, really good. One day I'm going to watch all of it. As it is, I've only caught reruns when I could. Did you ever see Alfred Hitchcock Presents? That's another one (in addition to Night Gallery) that I liked. Although, my parents often tried to send me into another room when it was on due to nightmares. I've a vivid imagination.

85:

That's an interesting article. Although, I would say that this level of corporate abuse has happened before--at least in the US. (Ah, the Gilded Age.)

86:

I find the experiment worrying.
Possibly because I might, in real life, be tempted to make that state permanent. Socially... what would a society of psychopaths be like where instead of making up around 4% of the population that number soared to (say) 75%?
Currently we have some people in the Zero State biohack group doing similar stuff. Maybe I'll give it a try and report back sometime.

87:

Realise I'm a little late to the party, but if we're talking horror writers, I have to mention the wonderfully creepy and unsettling short stories of Robert Aickman. Currently out of print, but well worth tracking down.

88:

One of the older Stainless Steel Rat stories- the one where he meets Angelique and defeats the man who built himself a dreadnaught- addresses the implication of having a drug which turns one into a psychopath. It goes fine at first, until the time when the dose is supposed to wear off ...

89:

Here in Denmark we have guy who has a Phd in horror... He also lectures at universities (also in the US).
This homepage has quite a few links to his articles: http://www.horror.dk/mathias/
Most are in danish but there are plenty in english as well.

90:

Most of the horror I like is the Lovecraftian, reality bending variety. (Yes, this means I do like a certain set of novels from Mr. Stross. None of you are surprised by this...)

91:

"Realise I'm a little late to the party, but if we're talking horror writers, I have to mention the wonderfully creepy and unsettling short stories of Robert Aickman."

Also on my To Read List. :) He's been recommended to me a lot.

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