Beyond the Horrorsphere
Xanther’s narrative seems to be mainly concerned with interiority: the suppression of impulses, storming thoughts, epilepsy, etc. As to be expected by such a level of suppression, her narrative, thus far, seems to be the most uneventful: a simple daughter-and-father walk on a rainy day. Even the subtitle of the volume, A Rainy Day in May, suggests tranquil, almost pastoral themes. This is highly contrasted the narratives of Jingjing, Luther, Ozgur, etc., which are splattered with violence, particularly Luther and its crude aggression and lewdness, and Jinjing’s, which while not violent in the conventional sense of the word, presents violence in its written form, by use of a plethora of dialects, slangs and different languages which make the narrative confusing and at times even borderline unintelligible.
Going back to Xanther, her discussion of the Horrorsphere seems to mirror the state of being of the other characters’ worlds: first and foremost, it’s free of taboo, an “anything goes” ordeal (as seen in social media sites like the infamous 4chan or certain corners of reddit, Tumblr, etc.), and given its name, it is a place of horror (the online OED returns an interesting definition of horror in its first result: that of “roughness” or “ruggedness,” both words that could easily go along with the view of life “out on the streets,” as the general public would call it). So what is the significance of suppression vs. release in the context of the world as a whole?
I’ll shift my focus now into a short account to further drive my point home (hopefully). There existed a Japanese horror flash animation in the 90s called “The Red Room,” known for breaking the fourth wall in a chilling fashion. In a brief summary, the story of the animation concerns a high school student who finds a pop up on his computer that reads “Do you like the red room?” As he closes it, he feels a presence behind him, and the next day news arrives that the same student has committed suicide and painted the walls of his room with his blood. The animation then breaks the fourth wall upon ending, actually sending the same pop-up of the story into the viewer’s computer. This animation gained notoriety when a young elementary school girl in Japan, who was a proclaimed fan of the story, committed a homicide in what became known as the Sasebo slashing. The relevance of this lies in where the horror is truly situated. The flash animation only truly becomes terrifying when it infiltrates the real world – when the pop up appears on your own (real) computer screen. Concern is not in regards to what the young elementary school student watched, but in what she did after watching it.
I feel Danielewski might be making the point that virtual or imaginary spaces subdue our definition of horror and violence. Xanther’s brief encounter with the Horrorsphere affects her because she cannot recognize the difference between this and reality because her entire narrative focuses on the interior – which is where the biggest horrors lie. Likewise, in our own real world, reading of Luther is not the same as witnessing it. The horrorsphere exists as a deposit for all horror – and only when it leaks out into real life does it truly damage us. But having a character like Xanther really lets the reader see how equally violent both realms of horror can be. Although it is but a Rainy Day in May, Xanther’s narrative can be disturbing and unsettling, because the imaginative is depicted with vast realism. In this sense, is the horrorsphere really contained, or can it affect us now, beyond the computer screen (think of Jingjing, whose narrative is violent in language)?