Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #3-4: Cybernetically Enhanced Horror

I have personal experience with cyberpunk horror. My first consideration was not deciding why put horror into a cyberpunk story. The base storyline was in place and the main characters were set. A strong sense of urgency was missing though. The story needed punch. Oddly enough the sense of overpowering dread was lost with the level of hopelessness and desperation that the story had. What it needed was a shot in the arm, something to kick the horror up a notch. That horror boost came from the sense of security mentioned last article. It came not just in shattering that greater security than a modern setting held. The danger, the fear in facing the horror of such a plot and antagonist was actually heightened by grounding it versus the best that science and ballistics could offer.

The science fiction nature of the cyberpunk milieu allows for the characters, and the reader, or viewer, with them to share a moment of dawning terror without stepping over the line into the usual impossible odds ethos of Lovecraftian horror for example. The horror is greater because it is less of a man vs. nature conflict. It takes away the resignation that the end is inevitable. It leaves room for hope. Hope that is then crushed. The horror is kept fresh and within arms length. It is much more satisfying to pit characters of skill and power against something that ultimately terrifies them than it is for the everyman. That which frightens the usually fearless, or appals the morally bankrupt, is something with which to be reckoned. At least this is true with the right set up and the right situations.

It is easy to slip away from the horror into a more action-oriented mode where the importance is placed on survival more than dealing with the cause and coping with the fear elicited by the situations. The conventions of cyberpunk can be used to add different layers of horror. The dystopian nature, moral grey areas, and the tough choices arrayed before the protagonist can be bent to psychological horror. Good and evil are strained and skewed. The cultural commentary brought to life by the dark science can be darkened further by the horror elements added. Greater depth, and nuance, is possible when adding cyberpunk’s essential layer of man vs. himself conflict, and setting that against or in contrast to the external conflict. Personal horror of oneself could even in itself be a goal.

Mood: retro.
Music: Better by Guns N' Roses and Toreador II by Apocalyptica.

Guns N' Roses: Chinese Democracy
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Apocalyptica: Reflections

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