Sunday, February 5, 2012

Horror and Characterization

So, since I'm apparently awake and not falling asleep any time soon, a few thoughts on horror literature again.

Let me get one thing set out there first: I like EAT. EAT is one of the Fears that I consider most interesting, and I'll explain why later in this post.

Now, that said, I don't think EAT is as scary as the rest of them.

Some of you might be wondering why. After all, EAT absorbs you into a hive mind and replaces all the water in your body with itself, turning you into an only-partially-human abomination whose personality has been obliterated and subsumed by The Camper. That's pretty terrifying, right?

Well, no. I don't think so. EAT is, essentially, the Borg. It assimilates you. And the Borg, while awesome, are not particularly scary. They're intimidating, yes, but there's a big difference between being intimidated and being terrified. EAT also runs on paranoia fuel, since, conceivably, any drop of water could be the one that turns you into a zombie, but still, I don't find that to be terrifying. Would it be absolutely nightmarish to be in a world where EAT exists? Oh yes, the same way that it would suck to be in a world where the Borg were actually flying around space in those giant cubes.

But I don't find it particularly nightmare-fuel-y when placed next to the rest of the Fears. Why? Well, because EAT opens the door.

Like I explained in my last post, "opening the door" means "revealing too much information to retain the aura of sinister mystery which enables the audience to fill in the gaps with their own fears". EAT opens the door. It infects you when you drink part of its "ichor". Once you're infected, you become obsessed with something; if that obsession isn't enough to keep you away from the ichor, you drown yourself and become part of The Camper. Even the process of creation and development for The Camper is fully explained. This really leaves only one question for the audience to answer in the privacy of their own heads: "what does EAT's 'true form' look like?" And there's really only so much terror the answer to that can produce, even given Lovecraftian levels of atmosphere.

Beyond that, EAT is a character. EAT has a personality, concrete goals and desires, and, most importantly, a voice. It's possible for a character that speaks to be frightening, of course, but it's always going to be a very different kind of fright than that engendered by a silent antagonist. Going back to the Borg analogy here, in Star Trek: First Contact, the crew of the Enterprise is attacked by a Borg cube. But this Borg cube has something else with it: the Borg Queen.

Until this point, the Borg (except Picard, when he was temporarily assimilated) have been largely voiceless, emotionless, and entirely lacking in personality. They're nothing more than mindless assimilators. They're intimidating because they can't be reasoned with, they can't be bargained with, and they're nearly impossible to stop. Once the Borg Queen shows up, the Borg have a voice and a personality behind them. They weren't particularly scary to begin with, but once the Borg Queen shows up, they're no longer scary at all. They're still intimidating, yeah, but they're not frightening.

Why? Because the Borg Queen is not a monster. The Borg Queen has a face, a personality, a voice. The Borg Queen has an identity. The door is fully open for the Borg Queen. Contrast this with Michael Myers. We know almost nothing about Michael. Therefore, he is frightening.

That's what EAT is. EAT is the Borg Queen. EAT has a personality. Thus, EAT is not as frightening as the other Fears.

You might recall, though, that I said at the beginning of this post that I like EAT. Why, if I don't think it's particularly frightening? Simple. That's not EAT's role in the story. That's not what EAT is meant to do.

Because EAT has a personality, we can do things with EAT that we can't do with any other Fear. EAT has an agenda, and it's been known to work with humans to achieve its ends. That's something no other Fear really does. The Blind Man does it in some adaptations, but not as often, and rarely does it work with actual protagonists (as opposed to the cult which comprises The Archive).

So no. EAT is not particularly frightening. But it is extremely useful, and that's something that shouldn't be overlooked. Because EAT exists, the mythos is open to a lot of stories that wouldn't otherwise be possible. That's why I like EAT. When it comes to scares, I'll look elsewhere. But EAT can fill roles in the story that nothing else can, and that is a priceless tool.


  1. I don't know... Jordan seems to be doing something new with EAT in his newer blogs. When it comes to Rapture, yeah, EAT can be used in that way, but then again so can Tiresias, and perhaps the Archangel as well. Hidden in the Trees had an EAT that talked, and had an agenda, but didn't hesitate to infect Steward when it got the chance.

    I agree with what you're saying, but I'm also noticing a shift Jordan is trying to bring about. Perhaps in a few months we'll have a "newer" EAT, one that doesn't necessarily conform to the role we've seen.

    1. It isn't about EAT not being antagonistic. I'm not saying that EAT isn't a threat to people, just that EAT doesn't engender the same type of horror that other Fears do (for me, at least; because this is horror, YMMV even more than in other genres). EAT is intimidating, but I don't find it to be particularly scary. And I'm not just talking about its interpretation in RAPTURE.

      Yes, other Fears can do this, particularly The Blind Man (though my own version of him doesn't, because I'm trying to evoke a different kind of reaction with him than other writers do when he's written as being willing to talk to people). But it isn't as common, and, when it IS done, it has the same effect on that Fear that it does on EAT. It's just that EAT is the one that does it most often, so I used it as the example.

  2. Hello, Foolamancer. This was an interesting read. Your ramblings amuse me.

    ..that's seriously my thoughts in a nutshell. xD I find your thoughts curious. You have one set definition of "scary," and I have a different one. To me, most of the Fears are creepy, though not very plausible, not very threatening. EAT may not be literally plausible-- water's not gonna do anything like that-- but The Camper is based on metaphor-- people out there behave just like The Camper; I actually based a lot of The Camper on real people, as well as my own fears of what I was turning into--, and to me, that is terrifying.

    There's really something about the concept of being lost in your obsessions, in escaping from the pain and never coming back, that makes me want to cry with fear. Then again, EAT is more than just that. EAT has many different sides to her, and falling into your little world is only one of them. There's also the hive mind aspect and the creature of knowledge aspect, all subjectively creepy things. But in my opinion, the stone-dead silence of the people you once loved as they stare into space, still alive but no longer the person you once loved? That's horror. And then they come out of it and start learning how to live again, but they're never the same. They feel almost like they're some completely different person now.

    That's horror to me. ...and then as Messer said, I am trying more fantastical things with EAT now. EAT's experimenting now, The Camper are evolving. But I can see what you meant.