e25: "I'm a Search and Rescue Officer for the US Forest Service..."
Writing & Fiction Research 23.10.20
A Picture of the Uncanny
>> click here for link to video <<
A Self-Imposed Experiment:
I rewatched an old favourite of mine - a video containing all the narrated entries to an anonymous Reddit thread about a Search and Rescue Officer which I found when I was in undergrad. I had intended to use it as white-noise to fall asleep to (as bizarre as that sounds), and instead found myself so thoroughly captivated by the uncanny stories - too strange to be ‘normal’ but not so outlandish as to be dismissed as pure fiction - that I stayed up, wide eyed and baited breath until the early hours of the morning. To this day, the combination of both the stories and the placeholder scary images placed overtop is too much for me to keep my nerve to, so I have to watch it scrolled down over the comments section or else I won’t make it through.
This time I listened to it with particular interest on my physical reactions (goosebumps, shivers, increasing paranoia/tension) to the stories and wrote the list bellow of some of the most uncanny and discomforting stories. I strongly feel as though all of them were pretty amazing, and worked together to build the overall uneasy atmosphere that would not have been possible if some of the slower ones were removed, but as I am somewhat biased on this topic, I only included the ones that had those previously mentioned reactions - unmistakeable as they rely on instinct rather than personal interest in the subject matter (1).
I found that most of my reactions were to references of uncanny audio - the Robotic Meow, the Screaming Mountain Lion, Looping Crying, and Gunshot Imitator (time stamps listed in the NOTES section) - with the added emphasis of humanoid dysphoria. I.e, noises that weren’t meant to or would otherwise be impossible to be performed by humans but that were either insinuated or outright expressly clarified to be the case. This is perhaps interesting for my previous sightless horror concept, but otherwise unhelpful in the concept art medium I’m currently exploring (2). At a push, if I did get the chance to write some notes as the character I may be able to include observations about such noises, but I still need more insight into still-image horror.
The reactions experienced that did strike my interest, however, occurred to dysphoria of anatomy. Any stories that involved the image of something moving in an unnatural or anatomically impossible way - Drowning with No Water, the Backflipping Stranger, the Deer Walking on Hind Legs, Snapping in Half, and even the ’impossibly long step’ mentioned in the Screaming Mountain Lion - were giving me all sorts of uncanny, discomforted reactions. Now, strictly speaking, movement is still slightly further out of my medium’s reach than I would like, seeing that I’m working with still images, however its much more like it. Though an extra challenge, movement can be captured in drawings, and has been done many times so definitely something I could potentially incorporate into my work, if necessary.
It stands to reason, then, that if I interweave impossible movements, anatomy, or potentially messed up geographical logic (Drowning with No Water) that I might achieve the teeth-grinding effect that I’m interested in.
In previous research on the last module, I read a book called The Uncanny Valley in Games & Animation by Angela Tinwell for which I wrote the following notes which briefly detail the relationship between humans, facial movement/anatomy, and the uncanny. I’ll make a mental note to review these notes, the book itself, and the other Tinwell-recommended sources listed there which will probably form some of the better reference information I can refer back to when drawing.
Retrospective Edit (29.10.20):
(1): It occurred to me that I have an opportunity to remove the personal bias and get quantitive data on what a great uncanny story should consist of on a more universal scale by asking some peers to review the same video and make their own notes on their favourite time stamps and what exactly appealed to them.
Whether I can convince my friends to take part in another multiple-hour experiment for a module after the events of my SNU submission (a mild-melting, combined 18 hours of total audio submitted), is another story...
I have pitched it as a fun Halloween-themed evening activity for them to conduct in isolation, with the added caveat that if they get bored (although I can’t imaging how they could) they can quit early and submit that as their feedback response. With an anonymity clause that (hopefully) voids the need for consent forms, it’s my best chance of getting any compliance from them at this stage. As an added potential avenue, I was thinking of posting a comment under the video itself, posing the same question and seeing if I get any responses.
Either way - fingers crossed.
(2): What if I include audio in my Polaroid AR features?? Interesting...
Robotic Meow (26:12)
Screaming Mountain Lion (52:47)
^^ both stories involve disconcerting audio and one involves an 'impossibly long step'. Both about humanoids
Looping Crying (??:??) ^^ similar concept
Drowning with No Water (1:43:44)
Backflipping Stranger (??:??)
Deer Walking on Hind Legs (??:??)
Roadkill (Gunshot) Imitator (2:16:22)
Snapping in Half (2:17:33)
- R Cipolletta