It’s not as bad as it seems
Aliens, horror, and existentialism are perfect bed-fellows, and as a literary combination, they take some beating.
Existentialists believe that we’re born without purpose into a world that makes no sense, a world without meaning, where god herself is dead, and there’s generally not much fun to be had.
In other words, existentialism is the philosophists’ way to answer two short questions:
A) Why are we here, and
B) Should we have come?
But don’t worry, existentialist also tell us that individuals have the power to think and act for themselves. Even if it is initially senseless, the way we touch, feel and think about the world has the power to change it.
In short, we are all protagonists, and that’s surely a great way to approach storytelling.
Do you ever get the feeling that there is somewhere you absolutely need to be, but when you get there, you feel that you don’t belong?
At times I can feel dissociated from my surrounding, from friends, family and perhaps even from life itself, but at other times I can feel fully engaged, turned on, plugged in, and ready to go. There’s little I can do to account for the difference in how I feel from one day to the next, and it’s impossible to predict when I’m going to feel like this, but when I do, I know that tomorrow could be different.
And also on the bright side, such feelings of alienation fit right into my writing. The terror of social anxiety, the tension caused by the nagging feeling that I’ve forgotten or lost something important, or that I’m not where I’m supposed to be; this all creates a useful tension, pulling the storyline into a taut tightrope on which the characters can balance, moving forward slowly but surely.
Go fear-wardsays the writing teacher and mentor Barbara Turner-Vessalago.
Three of the best existential heroes who go fear-ward:
He’s the much maligned hero of the Stephen King epic. A child-like space farer who took the wrong turn and ended up in mid-town America. As he tried to make sense of his new home he struggles with his purpose and place in life. Yes, he eats a few kids, but only when he’s hungry, and if you read the story the right way you’ll see things from his point of view and understand that this is a clear case of the existence precedes essence idea that Sartre talked about.
- Travel Man
The Richard Ayoade character from the TV show of the same name invites famous guests to explore the intensity of the world’s greatest cities, and then refuses to join in properly. He exudes the absurdity that Kierkegaard mentioned, and shows us that riducule is the best antedote to chaos.
- Haruki Kenzagi
The protagonist of Recursion. He’s the painter who doesn’t paint, he’s the knife-man without a target. Nietzsche-like, he takes life and death into his hands in an attempt to create meaning out of a godless world. And if you want to know how that ends for him, so does he.
The persistant drumbeat of pervading horror infiltrates the Lake District in David J Harrison’s thoughtful thriller full of mystery and intrigue
Recursion is published by the Book Guild and is out on 28 October. Pre-order here.