Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #3-6: Extraterrorestrials

Across the vast, nearly unfathomable stretches of space they come to deliver horror on the primitive, disorganised, backwater planet Earth. They are unknown, their intentions incomprehensible, and their arsenal of terror tools vast. As if that were not bad enough, watching the skies for their vessels and looking for little grey men may only leave the unsuspecting to fall prey to less intelligent but much more insidious incursions. This is just a general overview of the forms that science-fiction horror stories involving aliens may take. The first line of horror offence when dealing with extraterrestrials is as before, the unknown. Next comes the intimacy and scale of contact. Then there are the ramifications inherent at several different levels of depth.

Working with the unknown is a point that really deserves some belabouring. The first question to ask when starting the creation process is how apparent will it be that it is a story about aliens? UFOs immediately figure into this question even to the degree that mysterious lights in the sky will be an immediate tip-off unless obfuscation and misdirection are used, requiring that the audience not end up feeling cheated by it. The aliens--greys aside--are much easier to keep out of the spotlight by comparison. As with any inhuman personage aliens should remain unnamed-so until it is well obvious. Furtive figures with unnatural shapes in the shadows, seeing the results of their actions rather than them, and inexplicable events are the way to go when keeping to the strictest level of the unknown.

The big reveal, whenever it occurs in the timeline, begs the question of intimacy. Do one or more members of the main cast come directly into contact with the aliens? Is it at a distance or directly? Is it in a neutral location like a deserted road or something more frightening such as the science lab aboard their ship? Is it even worse than meeting aliens, and be experimented upon, than to be infected with an alien organism or virus? How many aliens are involved, or how many humans are affected or infected determines scale. The scale directly infers what kinds of ramifications will be a part of the author’s considerations. While a handful of people may be directly affected by the alien encounter an even greater number will be party to after effects. What of the bigger picture as well?

Music: Perfect by Alice Cooper and Dead Again by Type O Negative.

Alice Cooper: Dirty Diamonds
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Type O Negative: Dead Again

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