Hey friends! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Digital Monsters by Vivian Asimos, and I am bringing you a guest post written by Vivian. Enjoy!
Digital Monsters by Vivian Asimos
Genre: Non Fiction
Published by: Clink Street Publishing
Release date: 06/10/2020
Where to find: Goodreads | Amazon
Summary: Horror storytelling online has a rich history as detailed and long as the internet itself. Digital Monsters explores many of these narratives and reads them to see what these stories tell us about the internet, about digital communities, and about ourselves. This book seeks to explore the monsters of the virtual world. It will not only detail the narratives but also explore the connections between these monsters and the world outside. It demonstrates what these monsters have to say about the people who write them and draw them, and what they show us about the communal and social words surrounding them.
The digital monsters in this book enjoy living in the middle ground between typically considered strict dichotomies. These monsters, which both are and aren’t simultaneously, reveal other categories the communities hold dear. These categories, as well as the destruction of categories, are what will be explored through the detailed study of these digital monsters. Studying these narratives will provide us with an understanding of how these narratives relate to the broader horror genre, and what it has to say about the social and cultural contexts it finds itself in.
Reality and the Possibilities of Horror – Vivian Asimos
When I was a child – possibly around 13 or so – I read a dark fantasy novel where goblin-like creatures could travel through mirrors to abduct and murder. In the first week of reading, I tried hanging sheets over the mirror in my bedroom, and for a month after I avoided looking into mirrors around the house. For me, what makes horror so fascinating is how it affects us, like how the dark fantasy novel affected me as a child. There are few genres which are defined by the way they emotionally impact us. It’s not defined by the contents, but by the way it makes us jump at every noise, or throw sheets over our mirrors, in fear of the fiction creeping toward us.
This is a genre only defined as successful when it impacts the direct emotions of the reader. If the story does not make you scared, it’s not exactly horror, now is it? Its one of the reasons I absolutely love horror – its unique in the way it manipulates its reader, wanting them to carry the emotion forward with them at all times.
My particular interest as of late has been how the horror genre has settled into the digital world. Online storytelling is just as important as Gothic novels, suspense films or urban legends. The internet is filled with people from a variety of locations, backgrounds, races, genders, and religions all swapping stories in such a way that communities sprout around these stories.
What’s interesting about this is that typically, prior to the internet, stories would grow from communities, rather than the other way around. This makes sense: communities were not as easily chosen as they are now; people were pretty much stuck where they were, and if they moved a great distance they were rarely considered as closely a part of the community as those who were originally from there. Communities were determined by geographical location, economic status, race, and even gender. The internet, on the other hand, is typically unbound by these preset ideas – to an extent. Obviously, some may not be able to afford levels of internet broadband, and geographical location tied to access to education may prohibit areas of the internet from those who cannot speak whatever commonly used language are on the sites of interest. Despite that, the internet still provides a way for those from very far away to community immediately, sharing both knowledge, news and cultural knowledge.
The variety of locations online means that a variety of communities grow – and wherever people are, stories are there too. Storytelling is a fundamentally human phenomenon, we are all just stories wrapped in flesh. We tell stories when we share the experiences of the day, when we explain who we are to new people, when we gossip, when we debate. We’re always telling stories, either short or long, sometimes past sometimes present. These stories tell us a lot about us, as individuals and as communities – what is important to us, what our history is, and what scares us.
Horror stories tell us what we hold dearly important as communities, because it’s horror that disrupts this. That’s why they’re so scary to us – they reveal where we feel most comfortable, because when the monster appears in these locations of comfort it ruins us even more.
So when we’re given a community that rose around a particular narrative, suddenly we see what really matters to them – what scares them reveals to us what they value most. For instance, the Slender Man’s intention to steal children away disrupts the innocence and protective nature felt for children. That we can be disembowelled for no reason other than accidently looking at the wrong being – no place of comfort, no action that can be purposely avoided – scares us, makes us jump at small noises in the woods on the way home late at night. It makes the branch tapping at our window while we read from our screens more nefarious.
And we connect to the stories because what we find scary allows us to form connections to the other people telling stories around us. We form bonds through the act of storytelling and storylistening, bonds formed through shivers and startled little jumps while we huddle – alone but not alone – around our computer screens with hot cocoa.
The most important and fascinating aspect about horror is how it shows us ourselves, in the deepest and most horrifying ways. It reveals to us what it is we hold dear, and it uncovers that by completely destroying it. It defines itself by what it does to us as readers – it has a growing and ever-present need to scare us, to horrify us, and to unite us as one community.
Vivian Asimos is an anthropologist who specialises in the study of popular culture, always loving all sorts of narratives. She’s the co-founder of alt-ac.uk, an organisation dedicated to breaking down the boundary between traditional institutionalised academia and the world outside it. You can follow her on twitter @vivianasimos, and find out more on her website god-mode.org