Where the Civilization Ends Horror Begins: Cultural Shaping of Fear in Simmons’ “Terror”

  • Bojan Žikić Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade
  • Danijel Sinani Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade
  • Miloš Milenković Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade
Keywords:
popular culture, horror, Dan Simmons, The Franklin Expedition, Inuit, Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, Arctic

Abstract

One of the most famous enterprises within the British search for the so-called Northwest Passage in the nineteenth century, the Franklin expedition, was described in the novel "Terror" (2007) by American writer Dan Simmons, as well as in the TV series based on the book (2018) of the same name. What the expedition became known for was its disappearance in the Arctic wastelands despite – for its time – the most modern technological equipment, as well as the fact that its command staff consisted of experienced researchers. Simmons' presentation of the circumstances that led to the collapse of the expedition was based, to a certain extent, on the scientific knowledge about it, collected from the first searches for the expedition to this day, but also on the cultural idea that was formed first in Great Britain, and then in Canada and the United States, during that time period. As the essence of cultural communication produced by the novel and the series, we see the inability of civilization as a source of fear – or horror – before the socially ontologically uncertain position that people are brought into, when they are displaced outside their original sociocultural context and find themselves in conditions in which norms of that context can be contrary to the measures that are taken for the sake of physical survival. This given fear is of cultural origin: its root is in a situationally generated idea that it is possible that the reality is different from the one which is being defined by the social order and cultural norms, namely the rules, that make our world known and subject to human control, are not fully applicable. The boundaries of this fear are permeable for those things which a person is not able to face successfully on the basis of his/her innate abilities and cultural development.

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Published
2019-06-27