Tuesday, May 19, 2015

To coin a phrase: 'Uncanny Mountain.'

I've noticed in several reviews of Tuskers there is a criticism that a Wild Pig Apocalypse wasn't believable. 

At first, this criticism made no sense to me. So hyperintelligent pigs on the rampage is less believable than, what?  Vampires, werewolves, or zombies?

Not to mention, books like Watership Down or Duncton Wood.  I mean, would you write a review that said: "Intelligent bunnies?  How far fetched."

So why did this book face this criticism?

I think I've kind of figured it out.

There's a theory in robotics, and it applies to animation as well, called "The Uncanny Valley." Here's the Wikipedia definition:

"The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of aesthetics which holds that when features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some observers. The "valley" refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of beings as subjects move toward a healthy, natural likeness described in a function of a subject's aesthetic acceptability."

So we can give life and believability to stick figures, but have a harder time accepting figures that look almost like humans.  We can accept Invader Zim easier than Polar Express. 

We just notice what is wrong more...or if you will, what is far fetched.

So Charlotte's Web can be inhabited by talking pigs and spiders but it's understood that it is fantasy, it's a fable.

In other words, in a totally paradoxical way, you can accept Wilbur as real because you understand he isn't real.

But even try to explain why there are such things as "hyper-intelligent pigs" and suddenly the believability bar is raised.  Letting The Force be vague is preferable than going into Mitochondrial DNA.

I'm going to call this Uncanny Mountain....

I've written Tuskers and The Vampire Evolution Trilogy and The Virginia Reed Adventures as realistically as I know how.  I tried to have 'real' people interacting with make-believe creatures -- and by so doing, I've probably made things more difficult for myself. 

Personally, (of course) I think it works to the benefit of the books, but I realize I am asking people to set aside their demand that things be realistic in every way.  This is Dark Fantasy I'm writing.  Horror.  I just assume that if the readers are picking up a speculative genre, they've already shown their willingness to suspend disbelief.

 I've just tried to set it in the real world.  By doing so, I've created a Uncanny Mountain.



P. J. Grath said...

Uncanny Mountain -- great title, no?

Duncan McGeary said...

It is kind of great title isn't it?