Is this true? At first, I was pretty sure his definition applied to a significant portion of the horror genre, but not the whole thing. But as I read and considered the article, his case became more compelling. One potion in particular stood out to me.
Besides, even in stories where evil appears to triumph, the reality is anything but. Because the moment after “the end” happens, the reader proves those two words to be a lie. The reader closes the book. The reader turns off the Kindle. The story is done, but the reader… the reader does not end. For the reader has survived. The reader will continue and, hopefully, continue forward stronger.
I think Collings has an important insight, but it proves his point only given certain presuppositions. Before I discuss the presupposition he makes, I want to take a step back and discuss the nature of presuppositions.
I’ve been struggling with my faith a great deal as many of you know or have inferred from my story The Presumption of Darkness.
As part of this struggle, I’ve been studying a particular discipline called Presuppositional Apologetics. Briefly described, it is a field of study that attempts to show the rationality of the Christian faith by showing that all other world-views are based on certain basic axioms or presuppositions that lead to contradictions. Once this is shown, the apologist then explains how the Christian world-view is internally consistent – e.g., it is based on presuppositions that do not lead to contradictions.
Now, I’m not convinced that this is true, but it is certainly a lot more convincing than so-called classical apologetics.
(For those of you who are curious about how such an approach to showing the rationality of the Christian faith would play out in practice, you can listen to this debate between a presuppositional apologist and an atheist. The atheist doesn’t come out looking so good, but I think this is mostly due to his surprise at the approach that the Christian takes to the issue. And that is the problem with using live debates as a way of seeking truth. Often someone looks like they won not because their arguments are the strongest but because they have the element of surprise or they have superior debate skills, etc. A much more interesting, deeper, but lengthier exchange on the merits of the presuppositional approach can be found here.)
Anyway, Collings point jumped out at me because it seemed so similar to the type of thinking I found during my research into Presuppositional Apologetics. Is the reader of horror presupposing that goodness can and will win the day? Is that the only way to explain how we can go on after reading bleak reports about our place in the world and our destiny?
Well, maybe. Maybe if we really believed the bleak world view of Thomas Ligotti or Laird Barron, we’d find the only way out to be suicide. If there is no hope, what point is there in living? So, I think Collings would write, clearly we do believe in hope. And reading horror strengthens this hope since we show the lie of pessimism by putting down the book and going on with our lives. Every time we read a pessimistic book and continue living, we are proving that we don’t believe in pessimism.
But I also think that there may be another explanation. I think Collings is right on the money if we presuppose that people make their decisions based on beliefs, etc., which can, potentially, be brought into consciousness and reasoned about. But is this the case? Is it possible that we aren’t rational animals who are motivated by beliefs and thoughts? Maybe we are motivated by deep drives for, perhaps, survival. Or maybe we are just machines designed to propagate the species as a whole. Or maybe we are totally at the whims of early childhood traumas.
Honestly, I have no idea if any of these alternatives make sense. But I do see them as at least viable alternatives – research projects to be thought through and held up against the view that we are “belief driven creatures.”
And this also shows a weakness in Presuppositional Apologetics. The whole field of study is based on the presupposition that we are, to some extent, “belief driven creatures.”
Are we? What sayest thou, reader? Are we motivated by beliefs or deep drives or something else? Is horror a genre of hope? Is there any reason not to kill ourselves? If suicide is too hard to do given our deep drives, should we at least stop having children so that we slowly die out?