Time for me to put up or shut up. Wanna know where the horror comes from in my book The Seraphim Protocol? Well read on if you dare.
Remember a while back that I mentioned horror is an emotion? Remember how I said scary monsters aren’t so scary anymore? Well, knowing this and that my grand argument was trying to consider how much suffering was too much, I knew I had to create a different world. This world would have to be so unsafe that nobody could ever feel comfortable.
I started by naming the planet Charon after the Greek ferryman of the dead. Charon took it’s inhabitants to their death. So the name of the planet was the first step. It had to invoke a less than subtle feeling of dread.
In addition, nothing on Charon could be static. The reader, as well as the inhabitants, could have nothing they could “count on” including the positions of objects, the ability to communicate through writing. Their minds would have to deal with a constant, shifting and dangerous chaos.
Next, if the inhabitants had a refuge, a safe place to go, then the suffering would stop momentarily. Ergo, I created the bestiary of the planet. It’s one thing to have bugs that lived out in the wilds, it’s entirely different to have monstrous gorehounds tearing their way out of the local banker. It was important that these creatures be more than normal animals, they had to be so insanely violent and dangerous that they couldn’t be dealt with by normal people. Frankly, if you met a gorehound, you wouldn’t stand a chance.
Speaking of refuge, another place many people find solace is in religion. And, as you can guess, I got rid of that as well. Not entirely though. No, I twisted it up. Buddhism is gone and only a few words remain of it. Christianity is gone, but in it’s place is a bigoted ideal. Everything else … gone.
But in a hopeless world, we have to find hope don’t we? Maybe? Enter our “heroes”, the bioweapons.
But Darin, if you’re trying to get rid of any hope, why include the bioweapons to save people?
They were introduced to demonstrate that people with extraordinary abilities couldn’t even be safe on Charon. To top it off, they had no memories of their past, no loved ones; they had sold themselves for money they would never see and no matter how strong they got, there was always something out there that could kill them.
Big deal Darin. You managed to reinvent Splatterpunk.
Not entirely. You see, all of that is just environment. I had to get rid of any amount of comfort zone before I could really start ripping things apart.
Horror comes from showing the reader the things they themselves are capable of doing. The revulsion people feel when they see the things that happen every day is where I got the horror from for The Seraphim Protocol. What are these things?
- Slavery – the concept that someone is entitled to “own” someone else
- Bigotry – I especially enjoy religious bigotry because it justifies itself
- Retaliation – the first two were too easy for people to divorce themselves from, but this one … we all want to hurt someone that has hurt us. We want to “hurt them back” and this comes out in a rather shocking way.
- Powerlessness – specifically, “I’m going to hurt this person you care about and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
Now let’s take a little walk through some of these concepts in The Seraphim Protocol. Don’t worry, I won’t post any spoilers.
In today’s world, especially in America, why would this affect anyone? Well, because of the nature of my Impact Character, Draghixa. We, as a people, are pushing for faster, smarter computers and my thoughts where, When computers become sentient, when does it become slavery? So I took that to the next step. Draghixa was created in a laboratory with the intentions of making her into a monster strong enough to kill the other monsters of Charon. Why would an “animal” grown in a laboratory not be considered anything but livestock.
And so the story pursues that question; is she anything other than livestock. What separates us from an animal? Is it the ability to speak? Is it our creativity? I think it’s important that we consider it and how better than with someone that seems just like us?
This one is actually pretty easy. All over the world we see people separating themselves from other with unfounded basis; especially religion. In the case of The Seraphim Protocol, this is expressed in the aspect of religious bigotry because it is believed that Draghixa doesn’t possess a soul and is therefore nothing but an animal.
The horror of these two aspects lies in the revolting way that a fractured young woman is treated; as an animal with no worth beyond her ability to kill.
How is retaliating against someone horror you might ask? Watching CNN during various legal battles lately has made me question just how far most people would go to get what they think is “justice”. A particular CNN opinion personality doesn’t seem to be happy unless someone is in jail … or worse. And how often are we, as a people, not satisfied until a person we believe committed a crime is dead? Pretty often I would argue.
On Charon, there aren’t any police to stop people from acting out this retaliation. Only the security that Biocorp keeps for themselves. A Bioweapon designed to fight insanely vicious monsters hell-bent on exacting revenge for any slight is capable of committing some truly awful acts of retribution.
In talking about the monsters on Charon, one would think that they would be where the feeling of powerlessness comes from, but that’s not entirely true. Powerlessness does not come from being overwhelmed. Heck, there’s all kinds of epic poetry about heroes facing certain death. Power comes from within. And powerlessness as well, especially when the suffering is inflicted on others.
We can take on suffering ourselves, martyring ourselves in our own minds, but the suffering of our loved ones, that’s another story. Many times throughout The Seraphim Protocol, Jacob is faced with feelings of powerlessness. He can kill gorehounds with his bare hands and while unarmed, destroy a pack of hackers. But he can’t do anything to help Draghixa endure the pain she feels, both physical and mental. That is powerless. It’s one thing to be able to fight and lose. It’s an entirely different thing to not even be able to fight.
By the definition of horror, an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting; The Seraphim Protocol is a futurist ride through Hell. It is violent, unapologetic and sometimes offensive … a thrill-ride into our own worst fear. Us.