Richard Gavin on the numinous power of “Nightmare Horror”

Henry Fuseli, "The Changeling" [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Henry Fuseli, “The Changeling” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Teem member Richard Gavin has contributed a brand new and powerful entry for “The H Word,” the rotating column at Nightmare magazine, editor John Joseph Adam’s excellent online pro ‘zine  devoted to horror and dark fantasy.

Richard’s theme and thesis will be of pointed interest to Teeming Brain readers:

[What I call] Nightmare Horror is any work so steeped in the uncanny and the darksome that it manages to pierce through our logical safeguards, providing us with an experience akin to our most intense nightmares.

. . . If most horror truly is the literary equivalent of a roller coaster ride that ends with us being delivered to the same platform we departed from, Nightmare Horror is an elevator to Hades. Its creators offer no upward return. They simply seduce you inside, and once the doors are shut they cut the cable.

. . . In these stories even the most banal of objects radiate a numinous energy, and all the gauges we use to test a story’s believability (convincing dialogue, real-world locations, plausible character motivations, etc.) are insidiously turned against the reader. Everything sweats menace. We also find no moral-of-the-story. Nightmare Horror offers neither consolation nor closure. The normality we perpetuate has irretrievably sluiced through the sewer grates at the edges of sanity, washed away by a high tide of resurgent atavisms from a cellar of consciousness.

Perhaps one of the main distinguishing traits of Nightmare Horror is its willingness to meet the monstrous on its own terms, rather than employing the monstrous as a convenient metaphor for some all-too-human purpose. The armchair Freudian analyst sheds precious little light here. Any post-reading autopsies will not decipher the “meaning” behind the terrors. Some of our nightmares truly are nothing more than encrypted messages that, once decoded, provide personal insights that can make us better citizens. Other nightmares are simply . . . horrors. No point in trying to shoehorn one of these latter specimens into your self-improvement plan. Its teratisms have no regard for your ambitions. Their true value is simply the experience they offer: that rarefied state of shock and awe when the snug walls soften and the water spins the wrong way down the drain.

MORE: “Nightmare Horror” by Richard Gavin

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD and GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES.

Posted on August 22, 2013, in Arts & Entertainment, Psychology & Consciousness and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Such a synchronistic timed post for me. I just listened to HP Podcraft’s full reading of the Call of Cthulhu, in honor of HPLs birthday. It was such a different experience for me, than the countless times I have read it. But it really did leave me feeling like I had taken a one-way trip into a world where everything will not ever be OK again.

    • I really love their rendition of From Beyond. That’s probably my favourite story along with the Colour Out of Space and Shadow Out Of Time.

      there is also http://www.cthulhulives.org , they made two excellent Lovecraft films and a series of radio theatre dramas. I have their radio theatre box with all six that they’ve done so far. they just made a rendition of Colour Out Of Space that I am going to have to buy soon for my collection. they come in nice cd jewel cases with props.

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