REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #49 - January 2008 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton Saxon.Brenton at
Mon Mar 3 14:33:39 PST 2008

On Tues 4 March 2008 Greg Fishbone replied:
>>      One tidbit of information I recall from various roleplaying
>> is how to play the difference between terror and horror.  At its
>> simplest, terror tends to be based on the fear of immediate harm and
>> prompts the fight-or-flight response.  Horror tends to be more of a
>> visceral reaction of revulsion against something.  There are
>> of course, and the latter can certainly lead directly to the former.
>> Nevertheless, for the do-it-yourself activity of gamesmastering these
>> loose definitions tend to be more useful that the blanket description
>> of the 'horror genre' that we get from the mainstream media.
> Interesting...
> Are you saying that horror and terror are distinct genres or that
> horror and terror as story elements tend to be erroneously conflated?
> Or is there a spectrum from pure terror to pure horror with most
> stories falling somewhere in the middle?  Or should they be plotted
> with horror on the x-axis and terror on the y-axis on a grid divided
> into quadrants?
Hmm.  Good question.  I hadn't considered it in that manner.  As I said,

knowing the difference seems to be most useful in crafting a story, so 
that the author knows how to create specific effects from their box of 
writerly and/or cinematic tricks - just like any other literary tool 
for establishing mood or setting or pacing or whatever.  And there are 
many, many such tools that can be used in combination with each other.  
The horror and terror elements tends to go together, since they both 
produce intense reactions that are usually negative...  But as mentioned

the terror aspects can bleed off into the action/adventure areas.
I'm babbling.  Sorry.  I'm guess that in the first instance I'm saying 
that these things can be lumped together, erroneously, by people who 
don't know or don't care about what they do or how they work.  For most 
people who only read or watch stuff for casual entertainment, that's not

really something to worry about.  But for the people who are creating 
this stuff they need to know what their tools are. 
In the second instance, of *how* they relate to each other: yick.  I'm 
guessing that your last suggestion is closer to the truth, but the 
situation is in fact far more chaotic.  An x-axis and y-axis for horror 
and terror would mean something only if you restricted yourself to those

two story elements.  But in practice even if the overall point of the 
story is to create one or the other (ie, the story operates as horror 
or terror at a 'genre' level) there are often other storytelling 
elements that can be used (say, comic relief in a scary story; or the 
inverse that Pratchett has pointed out, tragic relief in a comedy).  
And then there are variations in genre and subgenre that evolve over 
time as tastes change or the cutting edge of the avante garde moves, 
eg the differences between a classic ghost story, a moralistic tale 
warning against things Man Was Not Meant To know, a slasher fic, and 
snuff porn.
> It hurts my head to think about this too much.
Sorry about that.
[on Jeanette LeBlanc]
> So it's not just waiting for her big hunch to unfold or not, she's
> also feeling that hunch developing into new sub-hunches and seeing
> frightening parts of the future-landscape that were previously hidden
> to her conscious mind.

It occurs to me that (as I understand her powers) Jeanette is limited by

knowing the broad outcomes or trends of something, without knowing the 
fine details.  This means that she can easily be surprised by the *how* 
of the outcome of events even if she's correct on the *what* of the 
outcome.  This is a problem that is compounded by the fact that she
in a superhero class universe, and worse, a comedic superhero class 
universe.  As someone who has never been a superguy herself, I suspect 
there are many aspects of the esoteric lifestyle of metahumans which
be counterintuitive and nonsensical to her.
Saxon Brenton
"These 'no-nonsense' solutions of yours just don't hold water in a
world of jet-powered apes and time-travel." - Superman, JLA Classified

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