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Banes at 12:00AM, Feb. 11, 2016

-a famous Star Trek episode that was an anvil-on-the-head racism allegory

Back in October, I took a little stab, if you will, at separating horror into various categories. Here's the link to that article:

What I didn't have a chance to discuss in that post was allegory. While stories about scary humans like kidnappers and serial killers might have a moral (watch your back! Don't trust strangers!), they are not generally allegories (though it could be done).

But stories of ghosts, monsters and “the other” (demonic or incomprehensible evils) can easily be allegorical. In fact, horror can often be powerful as metaphor or allegory, even when the writer doesn't try to create the double meaning. It just kind of happens. Or we can imagine it's there.

I did reasonably well as an English major, finding hidden or maybe nonexistent meanings everywhere. Perhaps there's more balogna than anything else to that whole thing…

whatever! That's not the point!

The Point
The Ghost story is often an exploration of mortality and our relationship to death. A way to process our feelings about the big D. It's the biggest question humanity faces: how to live, and how to deal with death. Seeing a ghost is seeing our own death.

Monster stories can be taken to be about dangerous people: which could mean outsiders, those who are different. In a more positive way, the Vampires, Zombies and Werewolves represent psychopaths and narcissists. People who seem to be like us, but are dangerous and destructive. And the worst fate we can suffer in a Vampire or Zombie movie is to be infected and become one of those creatures ourselves! These are warnings to avoid Pathologic Narcissists, and not to behave like that ourselves!

I think the fear of the Extradimensional or the Other can have something to do with the reality that we live in a HUGE, BEYOND HUGE Universe that is still largely not fully comprehended by humanity. The allegorical meaning to this subject is probably our ultimate insignificance. A scary thought when you're in a certain state of mind…

The horror, fantasy, and sci fi genres are fantastic vehicles for allegory.

Do you work with allegory in your own writing? What subjects have you tackled? What are you favorite allegorical tales and what do they mean to you?

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Genejoke at 5:32AM, Feb. 14, 2016

@Tupapayon, I remember being taught that all allegory was the intent of the author, something I disagree with and argued the point with the lord of the rings. Suffice to say the lecturer reluctantly conceded the point that the allegory wasn't intentional but the parallel was there, something Tolkien himself admitted. Much like used books does I suppose.

bravo1102 at 8:08AM, Feb. 12, 2016

Once. But I know a blogger who does it regularly. So much some authors started to send him the drafts to read.

KimLuster at 4:50AM, Feb. 12, 2016

Have you done that, Bravo? Made a suggestion an author heeded?

bravo1102 at 12:48AM, Feb. 12, 2016

Authors do react to fans interpretation of their work. Especially in this age of web forums. Its strangely satisfying of reading a sequel and finding the author using the explanation you suggested to fill a plot hole. There are also the thoughts of those who read the drafts and galleys before publication.

usedbooks at 5:05PM, Feb. 11, 2016

Sometimes I analyze my own writing like you'd analyze a dream. I find the metaphors after the story is written. I hadn't put them there consciously, but there they are. If I find metaphors in my own work where I didn't put them, of course people reading work they didn't write will find ways to interpret. I have heard of cases of fan theories swaying ongoing works. An author reads about fan interpretations and either thinks "No NO! I must clarify and squash this idea!" Or "That's brilliant! I'm changing my plans to build on this."

tupapayon at 3:46PM, Feb. 11, 2016

I remember a professor telling us that writing and reading stories is a game between the writer and the reader... Once I read (I think it was Isaac Asimov) that someone said that in The Lord of the Rings the ring represented technology, but Tolkien denied that was his intention but that didn't matter, after all he was only the author...

Ozoneocean at 9:41AM, Feb. 11, 2016

Just a note: It wasn't about simple immigration, it was full on colonialism.

Ozoneocean at 9:39AM, Feb. 11, 2016

The Grey Prince by Jack Vance is an allegory of racisim and Colonialism. What it's saying is that "we are all colonists really and what is 'native' or 'aboriginal' anyway? Only subjective terms." Which is technically true but troubling: we don't really know of any one people that have always been in a place and didn't supplant another that was there before them... It's simplified in the story to point out the truth of the idea, but reality is a lot more complex, and living in a place a few hundred years gives a people more rights to it than those that suplanted them through Colonialism or invasion more recently, no matter what people they kicked out when they settled there themselves- time means more than the process. The theme if the story was that colonialism can be a force for good. Which I disagree with and why that's my least favourite Vance story.

Ozoneocean at 8:25AM, Feb. 11, 2016

This is a spin off coming up... "Ghosts reminding us of our mortality" -That reminds me of the original purpose of the skull and cross bones as a symbol: These days it's meant to represent some sort of romantic pirate spirit of rebellion and prominent skulls are meant to represent evil, but originally that was never the intended purpose- Skulls only had one meaning: "remember that YOU are mortal". When soldiers first adopted them as their symbols centuries ago it was as symbols of their own mortality, to show loyalty unto death. Pirates used it as their flag later and changed the meaning a bit, but its original use for soldiers carried on(mainly to the death's head hussars which is why I know about it). But it's the same meaning that death and skeletons, and skulls in general have in plays and stories: "Remember YOU are mortal too, death comes to us all, these bones hide under your flesh too". The most famous is of course Yorrik from Hamlet.

usedbooks at 6:16AM, Feb. 11, 2016

Personally, I love fan theories finding allegories where writers hadn't intended. Interesting article, Banes!

KimLuster at 4:36AM, Feb. 11, 2016

Another great article Banes...! Movies like 'Invasion of the Bodysnachers', 'The Arrival' can be thought as allegories of the 'hidden threats' (Communists in the 50s, or the 'Jewish Conspiracy',... of even the hidden 'Radical Muslim' today...).

bravo1102 at 1:08AM, Feb. 11, 2016

I tend to find it where it wasn't intended. One favorite was the original version of Red Dawn as an allegory for Vietnam. Where the Russians are the US and the kids are the Viet Cong.

Gunwallace at 12:09AM, Feb. 11, 2016

Wait! Isn't that the Riddler? Is the Riddler racist? But seriously, a great post. Mary Shelly's Frankenstein is one of those things worth unpacking for the allegory; even beyond the obvious. Night of the Living Dead ... which could almost be an allegory for the current GOP contest.

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