Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Return of the Space Horrors

In space no can hear your spleen!

Watching Stargate Universe's opening two episodes I was struck by the thought once again how frightening space is. It's as dangerous as working underwater and because of the much greater distances involved help is that much further away if not entirely out of the question. This is just as a matter of the man versus nature plot, though it must be further extended to include machines as a part of nature, making it man versus his environment. The nature of your location is consistently deadly, but only failure of your safety devices, your ship included, can end your life in most situations. It can be debated back and forth whether the meteor punching a hole through your ship or the ship's then unsustainability is the cause of your death. There is also the matter of which is more likely to be dealt with, preventing the meteor strike or repairing the damage.

Back when Star Trek: Enterprise premiered the first season seemed to be very horror oriented with a lot of panicked what is that quickly followed by how many are dead now and look what it did to him/her. Space was a very scary place because of the aliens, so many of which were menacing, and well, alien--admittedly they could always go more alien and you would in your own setting. This is what it is all about after all. Back in the Anatomy of a Horror Setting when I covered science fiction horror pairings, options for your setting considerations, I covered how the horror of aliens works and relies on fear of the unknown. Nothing is more unknown that creatures that have never previously even come into contact with anything you know. Different biology, different outlook, different beliefs and the only similarity an expectation that the universe is dangerous.

Of course you don't have to go out into space to end up on the receiving end of its horror. Lots of times the aliens come to Earth and wreak havoc. This is one of the least well done kinds of horror for some reason. Too often they end up leaning too heavy toward the science fiction or worse they fall back on a deus ex machina to extricate the protagonists, and the entire planet, from the alien threat, which is entirely non-conducive to horror. These are not bad movies or novels, in some cases far from it, but they do not fit the horror mould. Consider how much more horror there is a hopeless situation, or better yet one with only a small glimmer of hope in the form of great determination and likely sacrifice, weighing your own morals versus the freedom or even survival of your species. That's not just great horror, that's exciting storytelling.

Mood: spacey.
Music: Isle Of Avalon by Iron Maiden and Headswitch by Bruce Dickinson.

Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier
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Bruce Dickinson: Skunkworks (2 CD)
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