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From: "Alice Turner" <al@interport.net>
Subject: (urth) Re: Digest urth.v019.n026
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 20:05:52 

>Alga, your thesis that horror is inherently (will that do instead of
>"necessarily"?) dualistic is so thought-provoking that I hate to spoil
>things by finding fault with it. However, I would venture that if suburbia
>is the light that opposes the  Great Darkness, then we've got a pretty weak
>dualism. This light is a dim bulb, this divinity is one of communion by
>water and not wine. It is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
>illuminating this place. It's George Westinghouse.

No argument, but the "horror" world is not the real world. Since the
author's intent is to give frissons to the reader, everything, good and bad,
is exaggerated.

>>I will back-pedal a bit on "necessarily," but only a bit. Since the end of
>>the 19th century, the Dark is not necessarily a Christian dark, in fact
>>often it isn't. Despite the crucifix hocus-pocus, we do not think of
>>vampires as demons of Satan; they inhabit their own Dark. Werewolves are
>>folkloric, not Christian. Hyde, though a demon, is a metaphor for what
>>would call the id, not a damned soul. Dorian Grey hides Hyde's face behind
>>his own (sorry about that sentence), but again it's extra-Christian.
>"How about "pagan" instead of "extra-Christian"? I don't think this
>is anything new; perhaps after the 19th century it becomes "neo-paganism",
>that's all. I would argue that any work that doesn't have a Christian
>dimension but does deal with supernatural evil is pagan; any dualism is
>strictly secondary and quite uninteresting. (I'm not saying that pagan
>necessarily lack value or interest, of course.)

I think "pagan" is too specific. Besides, some horror writers (eg. Anne
Rice) are still using the Christian tropes of the early 19th century.
They're only set decoration, but the whole field is awfully stagey.

>Never having read King and having not the slightest desire to do so, I'll
>have to withold judgment. I do believe you're helping me  understand why
>I've always despised the horror genre. Since I do believe in the God of
>Abraham, this "supernatural evil" stuff seems a trifle silly to me; I just
>don't get it. I know that God permits evil in the world--but it's evil done
>by us humans--it is not supernatural. If Satan exists, he's void, in the
>sense of having no substance--I believe the common metaphor is say he is
>like a shadow. (Hmmm....shadows in Wolfe's works...not an uncommon theme.

Well, Sarge, there are volcanic eruptions, and being struck by lightning and
birth defects and hereditary diseases...um, to get back to the subject, in
the horror *genre* if Satan or a flunky shows up he generally does have
substance. You're arguing a sophisticated religious definition that goes all
the way back to the Church Fathers. I'm talking pop lit, or movies. But the
Shadow, yes, in context that is interesting.

>>But nevertheless, Dr. Talos and his play do represent apocalyptic dualism,
>>Armagedon, Ragnarok, whatever. And it may be a mess, Sarge, but it belongs
>I never meant to say it doesn't. Just that it's a mess, and maybe a bit of
>self-parody contained within the larger work.

Yes, self-parody is a good point. Somthing more could be made of that--one
of mantis's essays.

from Mark Milman:

>But I do very much like your observation on

Et moi.

>Alga wrote:
>> Alex, you can't say that there is only Dark in Lovecraft,
>> for opposed to that is the normal world, represented, in Hollywood
>> by pretty suburban streets. If you don't have a norm--Innsmouth or Arkham
>> before the horrors came--where's the scare? The Amurican Way of Life,
>> the Light. At least in novels.
>I'm on Alex's side. I don't think you can say that the normal world
>"opposes" the Dark, in a dualistic sense, because in Lovecraft's fiction
>the normal world _is_ the Dark. What we think of as normality is
>invariably revealed to be a delusion, or merely the narrowest slice of a
>much bigger, scarier universe. As for "Innsmouth or Arkham before the
>horrors came", it's another basic tenet of the stories that the horror
>was there _first_, inhabiting this world long before humanity turned up.
>Any pretty suburban streets are just a part of a transient blip in
>reality, cosmically speaking.

I don't pretend to be a Lovecraft expert (though I have a friend who is; I'm
not going to ask him about this, however) but still, you have to have a
Light that has beaten the Dark back for a while, don't you? During that
blip? It does seem to me that, as a generalization, Good v. Bad works pretty
well for horror. You start with a norm and discover that Things Are Not What
They Seem. Easy to parody. Jane Austen did it in -Mansfield Park- a long
time ago.


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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