Andy Campbell, Stephen King, and the Unease in Uncertainty

While exploring both of Andy Campbell’s works for today’s class, Changed and Dim O’Gauble, I was simultaneously intrigued by their concepts and frustrated at their ambiguity. I wanted to know more information than the works seemed to be revealing (at least on the surface), and despite multiple playthroughs and repeated exploration of the texts, I eventually had to content myself with the knowledge that I wouldn’t fully understand the author’s intention or even the entire plotline of the works, because I wasn’t meant to. However, this uncertainty or lack of knowledge only served to add to the uncanniness of Campbell’s texts.

I don’t watch horror movies, but I do read horror novels, mostly Stephen King’s, and one of the tactics that King uses to instill the reader with fear is his descriptions…or rather, his lack of descriptions. It is a writing technique that I have noticed in other genres as well, but it seems to be most effective in horror stories. When the author purposefully dances around describing a supernatural being or strange person, it adds to our sense of uncanniness rather than detracts from it, because the imagination is limitless, and our brains begin to conjure up ideas that become worse and worse — perhaps even worse than the author themselves imagined.

His breath stopped in a gasp. An almost drowsy terror stole through his veins. Yes. Yes. There was something in here with him, some awful thing the Overlook had saved for just such a chance as this. Maybe a huge spider that had burrowed down under the dead leaves, or a rat… or maybe the corpse of some little kid that had died here on the playground. Had that ever happened? At the far end of the concrete ring, Danny heard the stealthy crackle of dead leaves, as something came for him on its hands and knees. (The Shining, Stephen King)

The above quote is an example of a passage where the author plays on the reader’s imagination in order to create more fear. The hedge animals passage in The Shining is so scary precisely because you don’t know exactly what’s going on. Is it simply a figment of Danny’s imagination or are the hedge animals really alive and coming to kill him?

Andy Campbell’s works, Changed and Dim O’Gauble, while not exactly being horror novels, use the same technique to create the uncanny sense the reader feels while exploring the texts. Changed especially made me uneasy because I didn’t know what traumatic event the protagonist had gone through, but it was obviously bad, and this not knowing made it worse.  It might not be quite as uncanny as some of the creations in the Uncanny Valley, but Campbell’s works provide a unique platform combining text and moving images to make the reader feel uneasy.

Screenshot of the description of “Changed” after you go through the work; I hoped it would provide some insight into what traumatic event the girl experienced, but it retains its mystery. (Source)

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