Only writers would start a panel with a vocabulary lesson. Attendees of the panel “Horror in the new Millenium” learned that in modeling, “fessoning” is the art of flipping hair; “apocapee” is when the ‘g’ in song lyrics is dropped (Goin’ to California . . . ); “animorphisis” is the hidden images within a painting that can only be see through rearranging the layout or looking at the picture in the mirror; “crytophasia” is putting together a picture out of other little things; and “ex nihilis” is Latin for from nothing.
Our illustrious panel of Harlan Ellison, Laurell K. Hamilton, Caitlin R. Kiernan, John Shirley, and Craig Spector attempted to define horror. Hamilton waxed eloquent on behalf of Dante’s inferno as the making of Hell into cinema. Kiernan and Shirley continued the biblical meanderings by qualifying horror as “separation from God” and “eternal nothing.” Ellison launched into a long tirade about his brand of horror – nailing a doctor’s family’s clothing to a wall along with the family’s Golden Retriever in a successful attempt to buy the irreproachable doctor.
The panel then moved onto the realities of horror, not as portrayed in their stories, but true-life horrors vividly represented on the news next door. Hamilton, “Reality has always been horrific.” Spector understands from an in-depth perspective that “horror can’t keep up with reality.” He twisted a plot to examine the effects of murder on the surviving members of the crime, only to find himself in that position when his brother was murdered in a road rage incident. The perpetrator will be out of jail in two weeks.
Within our culture, however, horror is entertainment, disguised erotica, challenged to keep up with reality. Or as Keirnan quoted Ebert “horror requires an existential age and we live in an ironic age.” What our culture defines as horror is tongue-in-cheek compared to the realities “lying underneath the surface” of real life.
We were left with an observation from Spector: “Fear is a renewable resource.”