Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reflections on Traditional Monsters

We watched a horror movie last night, at my place. Claire was there, of course; and Billy and Crystal came to join us.

It was a good time - safe, predictable scares in a nice little package. Claire clung to me at the appropriate moments, which I certainly appreciated, and Crystal clung to Billy (and occasionally vice-versa). The best moment in the film came when the characters were venturing down a dark tunnel which might lead to freedom... or which might be a trap set by the Axe Wielding Maniac (tm). Claire leaned into me, clutched at her chest, and said in her best melodramatic fashion: “Hold me, I’m scared.”

Yeah, yeah, there was dialogue in the movie - possibly at the same time - but that was easily the best line of the evening.

Horror movies fascinate me. What is it about people, that we enjoy being scared? Why do we find that entertaining? Is it strictly a modern phenomenon, or was that true even back when all of human life was a savage struggle for survival? Is it because, on some level, we realize that the world we know is only a small, illusory bit of reality? Or is it part of the same mechanism that allows most people to ignore, deny, and explain away the horrible truths of the world when they intrude into our narrow, limited vision?

One of our games, as worshipers of the Ancients, is to watch monster movies and offer commentary on just how believable they really are. You might be surprised... a lot of those films are produced by people who share our knowledge, though they keep the critical details hidden. There’s money in it, after all, and money equates fairly directly to power and influence. And, of course, a lot of people approach the truth (or a workable facsimile) simply by accident. A few seem to recognize it, but refuse to admit that it might be anything other than a fiction.

Here’s the thing about monster films: a lot of the premises are actually fairly plausible, if you don’t mind changing their underlying assumptions. Ghosts, curses, and prophecies? Time is not as clear-cut as people like to think. Believe me.

Vampires and werewolves? Life and death are not as clear-cut as most people think, either. Things can be summoned from Outside, and cloaked in human seeming; this... How to explain? them enough compatibility with our world that they can sometimes have offspring by native species. Some of the older, hidden races deliberately create crossbreeds to serve their interests among humanity. A few can masquerade as human themselves, and - in apparent defiance of our understanding of genetics - actually reproduce with human partners. Any of these combinations can produce unusual abilities... but they may also carry strange appetites, odd weaknesses, or various insanities.

Or monstrous deformities, of course.

Unsurprisingly, many of these “tainted” bloodlines can be found among the people who worship the Ancients. Sometimes the effects are fairly obvious; several of the Elders can do things that modern science considers flatly impossible. Physical transformations - especially as one finishes the second century of life - are not uncommon. An unlucky few require strange (and sometimes illegal) diets from very early in life.

But sometimes the effects are subtle: Billy’s occasional dreams of the distant past or the far future. My family’s resistance to normal aging. Maybe even the tendency to dream of a place that isn’t really a place, but still affects the visible world... and even the ability to drag others into that dream with me.

Pardon me. I’m going to have to think about this. Maybe the archives isn’t the place to be looking. Or rather, maybe I’ve been doing the wrong sorts of searches. Maybe I need to be digging through the genealogies instead.

If this pans out, I may have some actual news next week.

1 comment:

  1. Not to diminish our life styles, but horror was a genre created largely by the Victorians. I find it merely emotional compensation for a ridiculously boring life.

    We're just animals, and we should be out risking our lives, confronting the frightening unknown... but we are cozy and informed in this modern world of ours.

    Even stories of monsters among the ancients were nothing approaching horror. They were tales warning: don't go far, there's dragons out that way. Don't go out at night, the vampires will get you.

    Victorian horror is characterized by fear and terror that cannot be escaped; it invades our comfortable zone, and we like it because it more closely resembles reality, not the artificial environment we have constructed for ourselves which dulls the senses and bores the conscience. The Ancients wouldn't have Dracula coming to London, they would end the story with, "So don't go to Transylvania!"


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