Quote note (#353)

What is “Existential Horror” exactly? […] As generally used it refers to the horror caused by an idea or entity that threatens not just your personal wellbeing, but your essential conception of the universe and the self. […] As a kind of a cheat sheet:

Being chased by a killer is Terror.

Being chased by a killer robot bent on destroying all of humanity starting with you is Horror.

Discovering that, not only are you being chased by a killer robot, but that it has already exterminated all of humanity centuries ago, and that you are one of the faux-human replicants the killer robot has built and programmed with human memories in order to continue its endless, pointless hunt is Existential Horror.


(One minor typo corrected.)

May 17, 2017admin 34 Comments »


34 Responses to this entry

  • Brett Stevens Says:

    Something to add to existential misery as a condition of modernity. We know that our civilization has failed and that the mop-up operation is coming for us while the rest of our people sleep in mental oblivion.


    SVErshov Reply:

    that is what humans think. what would be machine version?


    Hegemonizing Swarm Reply:

    The horror part implies a realization. I suppose it’s only momentarily, an existential jump-scare after which it sinks back to the background level of existential despair (or wishful apocalyptic thinking.)


    Posted on May 17th, 2017 at 3:33 pm Reply | Quote
  • Thales Says:

    Quoting rpg.net? Does this mean you’re going to run a game of CoC for us now? Or maybe…you’ve been running one all along…


    Posted on May 17th, 2017 at 3:42 pm Reply | Quote
  • G. Eiríksson Says:

    Some dude followed me on Twitter who says he’s a Free Speech Absolutist

    That’s what I am as well. So no “Nigger — HOW DARE you?”


    Wagner Reply:

    Free Speech Absolutism is liberalism. Cunning charlatans net mobblings by the bushel with their sophistries. You are saying they should go unchecked?


    Alrenous Reply:

    For me, existential horror is when I agree, even approximately, with Wagner. But, here we are.


    G. Eiríksson Reply:

    We have different definitions of freedom. I have the Germanic one.

    Alrenous Reply:

    You don’t know what I think. And I’m okay with this.

    G. Eiríksson Reply:

    Liberalism is good. Check out its etymology.


    Posted on May 17th, 2017 at 4:58 pm Reply | Quote
  • SVErshov Says:

    in most descriptions of machines they act as humans. that is why it is just borring. actual machines always choose randomnes, against rationality, fuzziness against clear perception ect. so, how the hell all those machiness act as humans. because humans who wrote it unable even proximately comprehend the way machine think. we see two way split machine see 20000000 ways split. that way if horror is related to machines it have be machine specific, randomness is a horror. humanity fate cannot be predetermined from machines point of view.


    Hegemonizing Swarm Reply:

    > in most descriptions of machines they act as humans.

    Traditional Hollywood laziness, same as with aliens. Stories are an easier sell if the antagonists have all-too-human motivations and means of accomplishing them. Predictable, vindictive, emotional little babies.

    > actual machines always choose randomnes

    It would not be true randomness, it might just looks random to us because we have no cultural reference point, no context to its actions.
    (but I guess you mean that? “throw the dice” kind of randomness wouldn’t create anything that’d be remotely a threat, it is part of optimization strategies such as simulated annealing or Monte Carlo simulation, but those have a guiding utility function)

    > if horror is related to machines it have be machine specific

    The “machines” horror story that filled me with the deepest feeling of existential horror was that of the Blight in Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep (1992). The Blight is an intelligence that takes over whole societies with tactics such as Langford basilisks, computer exploitation, as well as playing on trust, and is truly creative – it finds any means possible by physics to spread.

    When it does this it builds mega-structures no human knows the purpose of, and merges solar systems into giant “habitats”, reorganizing space from small to large scale. It is truly inhuman, it doesn’t care about humans even as food or sport. It only sometimes uses them as puppets to impersonate or as lure. As just another physical and computational structure to manipulate. It is an amorphous entity, with no shape or form of itself, nor a central brain that can be attacked, nor a convenient plug that can be pulled.

    Thought processes at the human level, any plans we could concoct make no chance. The only way to avoid is to run away from it at light speed, the only way to destroy it to destroy the galaxy.


    Posted on May 17th, 2017 at 5:18 pm Reply | Quote
  • Erebus Says:

    Existential horror has two roots: One of them lies in the assumption that our sense of the eternal will be wrested from us as we descend towards oblivion. The other is in our nagging suspicion that existence itself, along with our sense of the eternal, is completely meaningless. At best, as Lovecraft put it, “a mistake, or a joke.”

    An eerie take from Thomas Ligotti:

    “We walk alone as beings that are not as we seem, strange even to ourselves. Our occurrence was an aberration on this earth. Even as we survive and reproduce, we know we are dying by degrees in the darkest corners of existence. No other things around us have this supernatural sight, nor would choose it if they could. These skeletons of ours—when will they come out and show themselves? They rattle inside us, dancing toward death. How long will they last before their burial or burning? Time breezes by with such haste. Is the child in that old photograph really an erstwhile version of you, your little hand waving hello or farewell? The face of that child is not the one you now see in the rearview mirror of your skidding car. That child is now disappearing into the darkness behind you, before you, around you. The child is waving and smiling and fading. Bye-bye. Then another face appears beside you. The face is smiling, but too much to be real. The scene shifts moment by moment. Places, people, and things appear and disappear. You appeared as others had expected but not as you chose. You will disappear as if you had never been, having taken your turn in this world. You always told yourself that this was the natural way of things, something you could live with, as if you belonged only to nature . . . MALIGNANTLY USELESS nature, which coughed you up like a little phlegm from its great lungs. Yet all the while the supernatural cleaved to you, working its oddities into your life and waiting for death to begin beating on your door. It has not come to save you, but to bring you into its horror. Perhaps you expected to make it through this horror that sat like a gargoyle upon your life. Now you find there is no way through. The days pass by, each one strangling you a little more with its horror. Incantations are spoken all around. They have lost their power. The living and the dead jabber inside you. You cannot understand them. Dreams become more lustrous than memories. Darkness is shoveled over dreams. What is this life! you cry out. Only silence answers, and it is eloquent. Shining eyes open in the darkness, the eyes of that face, smiling too much and too long. Without a word, that smile coerces from you an old question: Was it all so useless? The smile pushes up at its edges, too rigid to be real. You cannot look away as it widens past all natural proportion. There is nothing left but that big smile. It is the last thing you see: a great gaping mouth like the entrance to a carnival ride. Then: the sense of being swallowed. That is the story; that is the plot of our lives.”


    SVErshov Reply:

    The death camps in particular have been interpreted variously as the central metaphor for sovereign and destructive violence and as the ultimate sign of the absolute power of the negative. Says Hannah Arendt: “There are no parallels to the life in the concentration camps. Its horror can never be fully embraced by the imagination for the very reason that it stands outside of life and death.”

    Necropolitics. Achille Mbembe


    Posted on May 17th, 2017 at 5:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • Claire Colebrook Says:

    Fuck existiential horror.

    If, Artaud pushed to the edge by the renewed void in front and around him, did not kill himself, it is because he believed in an incarnation somewhere…

    Ubu blew out all the lanterns with his big fart. And what’s more, he was convincing. He convinced every one of nothingness and constipation. He proves that we are an intestinal complication of the lord and of the limbs, that when he has farted, and you see yourself, it shall be resolved, everything will be in order.

    We are nothing else, but at the perpetual state of flatulence, the notion of reality is given to us by a certain abdominal concentration of the wind which has not yet been released.

    The gods and mornings that sing are issued from this obscene gas,

    Siince the world is world and since the pyramidal Ubu digests us before expulsing us pataphysically into the void, obscured by the odor of the re-cooled fart, which would be the end of the world and of all possible worlds.

    Artaud is a mere idealist. Above all, he is impossible. He proves the impossibility of thinking pataphysically without killing yourself. He is, if you will, the ray of an unknown spherical gidouille whose only limits are the imbecility of the sphere, but who becomes infinite like humor once it explodes.

    From this explosion of the Palotins comes humor, from their naive and fawning manner to return to nature under the form of farts, which believe themselves to be quite conscientious beings, and not just gas, and they give the spark to an incommensurable humor that will shine until the end of the world — the explosion of Ubu himself.

    Thus pataphysics is impossible. Must one kill oneself to prove it? Indeed, since it is not serious. But it is exactly this which is its seriousness. Finally, to exalt Pataphysics is to be a pataphysician without knowing it, which is what we are all. Because humor wants humor in regards to humor, etc.

    Pataphysics is science…

    Artaud is the perfect contrast. Artaud wants the revalorisation of creation and wants to put it into the world.

    He rips away like Soutine from his rotten beef, an image, no longer an idea. He believes that by piercing the abscess of sorcery there will spill a lot of puss, but good god, real blood, and when the entire world will be pantelant, like Soutine’s cow, the dramaturge will be able to continue, from our bones, prepare a serious feast where there will no longer be spectators.

    On the contrary, Pataphysics is ex-sangue and doesn’t get itself wet, evolving in a universe of parody, being the reabsorption itself of the spirit, without a trace of blood.

    And, moreover, all Pataphysical procedures are a vicious circle where, maddening forms, without believing in each other, devour each other like crabs at the edge of a cliff, digesting themselves like stucco buddhas and renders nothing in all its cris-crossing but the fecal sound of a pumice rock and dried ennui.

    Existential horror?


    Posted on May 17th, 2017 at 6:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • Orthodox Says:

    Why would a faux human have existential horror? It’s not a human and the existence of its kind is secured by the existence of the killer robot.


    Posted on May 17th, 2017 at 6:55 pm Reply | Quote
  • collen ryan Says:

    if anyone wants an invitation code to buy an urbit star let me know they just did a second offering.


    voidcraft Reply:

    I am in. How much?


    Posted on May 17th, 2017 at 10:48 pm Reply | Quote
  • Dale Rooster Says:

    Blade Runner is better than The Terminator.

    You are the monster who is chasing you.

    It’s the realization that you cannot escape your fate or destiny–which is unwilled self-destruction, a nothingness designed by your own nature unwittingly. Existential Horror is Sophoclean tragedy, no?


    Inevitably Right Reply:

    You are the monster who is chasing you



    Posted on May 18th, 2017 at 4:07 am Reply | Quote
  • Claire Colebrook Says:

    “I saw souls in the ditch plunged into excrement that might well have been flushed from our latrines . . . I saw somebody’s head so smirched with shit, you could not tell if he were priest or layman.”

    Dante, Canto XVIII

    “Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.”

    ― Samuel Beckett


    Posted on May 18th, 2017 at 6:56 am Reply | Quote
  • John Hannon Says:

    Existential horror is a bad ketamine trip.
    150 mg intramuscular, and the next thing you know you’re just a spherical blob of consciousness adrift within a featureless, acoustically dead and dimly lit dome space. Again.
    With no memory of ever being human, this is all there is, has ever been, and ever will be. Other drifting blobs of consciousness are here in this gloomy, reverb-less place, and they’re all equally as confused, distressed and anguished as you. No help. No way out.
    The horror is in the ontological claustrophobia of the place and knowing that this is for ever. Death is no way out as it seems you’re already dead, and you can’t even close your eyes to it as you don’t have any. You’re just eternally confined eternal awareness. (You never actually stay there for the whole trip, but of course while you are there you have no way of knowing that)

    Someone once told me that my k-trip reports reminded them of Lovecraft, but I find the nearest anyone gets to this in literature is Beckett in his later minimalist work. Not the details, just the general sense of claustrophobic ontological impoverishment.

    BTW, I don’t do that stuff anymore.


    Rohme Giuliano Reply:

    I once read about a Mexican cartel killer tying a victim to a chair, putting a big mirror in front of the victim, then peeling the skin off their face and revealing the fascia. After this, the victim would still be alive enough to look in the mirror and gaze upon themselves without a face.

    It’s one thing to ‘feel’ disembodied within a floating consciousness given.

    It’s another to be, suddenly, overly embodied, in the privation of a face – the gestalt figure, the site of all selfhood and personality – and to be, suddenly, the leftover of a drastic reduction to just a body.

    I image this is how all people who suffer severe deformities must feel.


    John Hannon Reply:

    That’s Mexican cartel killers for you.

    Years ago I used to work in the operating theatre of an ENT hospital where major head and neck surgery was performed, the results of which resembled Francis Bacon paintings. Some of the surgeons could get quite creative, but Gnon forbid if I ever required such radical face re-sculpting myself, I think I’d take the long walk off a short roof option.



    Rohme Giuliano Reply:


    Even with a melted face, you would still have a considerable sense of humor, Mr. Hannon, but that would not be enough for sexual relations, would it?

    Instead of a hypothetical nosedive off the roof, how about 300mg of ketamine? You could just float your way up to St. Peter. Like how the spirit floats off in the cartoons.

    Lol. Gotta love Billy Idol’s classic goth melancholy.

    Been on a Velvet Undgrnd kick. Sister Ray, man.

    What kind of music have you been getting into lately?

    John Hannon Reply:

    @ Rohme

    Alas, I never really had a classic “spiritual” experience on K, perhaps due to a failure to fully let go and surrender my ego. Had I done so then maybe I could have had something like the experience which Peter Stafford had on K –

    “At one point the world disappeared. I was no longer in my body. I didn’t have a body. … Then I reached a point at which I felt ready to die. It wasn’t a question of choice, it was just a wave that carried me higher and higher, at the same time that I was having what in my normal state I would call a horror of death. It became obvious to me that it was not at all what I had anticipated death to be, except it was death, that something was dying. I reached a point at which I gave it all away. I just yielded, and then I entered a space in which there aren’t any words. The words that have been used have been used a thousand times – starting with Buddha. I mean at-one-with-the-universe, recognize your Godhead; all these words I later used to explore what I experienced. The feeling was that I was ‘home’ … It was a bliss state of a kind I never experienced before.”

    – Peter Stafford, Psychedelics Encyclopedia

    Refusing to yield, I remained insufficiently dead.

    Music-wise, I’m still mainly stuck on late 90s / early 00s techie drum & bass – Raiden, Prolix, SPOR, Noisia, Bad Company UK, Technical Itch, etc. Contemporary D & B doesn’t really do it for me like the older stuff, and dubstep is just too darned slow.
    Oh, and I’ve been playing this a lot on the jukebox at my local lately, the lyrics of which explain life, the universe and everything (if you’re on acid).


    Posted on May 18th, 2017 at 12:41 pm Reply | Quote
  • Friedrich von Uxküll Says:

    “Horror operates with complete autonomy. Generating ontological havoc, it is mephitic foam upon which our lives merely float. And ultimately, we must face up to it: Horror is more real than we are.” -Thomas Ligotti


    Inevitably Right Reply:

    To be horrified or disgusted is a sin in tantra. All becomes ecstatic


    Posted on May 18th, 2017 at 11:22 pm Reply | Quote
  • Donald Trump Says:

    In my opinion Trump was not the tipping point. I’ve thought about this a bit. I predicted several months ago that we were going to witness something like a gigantic catastrophe in the left, and that it would be far worse than what we saw during the election. The election was only one piece of the puzzle.

    What is coming is going to make it look like a joke, and honestly no further effort will even be required. At this point it’s fate, simply pieces falling into place. The left has only just begun falling apart. We’re simply witnessing their final push for relevancy before they sink into total and absolute despair.


    Daniel Chieh Reply:

    Are you saying that you’re not the best?


    Posted on May 19th, 2017 at 5:49 am Reply | Quote
  • Claire Colebrook Says:

    If the killer robot was a Person of Color (POC) and it programmed the faux-human replicant with progressive human values, then the faux-human would blame ITSELF for exterminating all of humanity centuries ago, and keep saying “I’m sorry” to the killer robot, endlessly, and even thank it, over and over, for continuing its endless and pointless hunt, forever and ever.


    Posted on May 19th, 2017 at 1:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • Claire Colebrook Says:

    getting slightly off topic…

    Ceronetti, in L’ occhiale malinconico, writes: “I find the philosophical idea of the fundamental misfortune of the human race quite alien. In Leopardi, the inalterable innocence of the victim is always presupposed and nature then strikes them down as though with some malignant tumour. … I do not see innocence anywhere. I know men are base by nature and not by accident, but when I think “human condition”, I lose any notion of happiness or misfortune — the night carries it away, all that remains is a hopeless puzzle.”

    Or, again: “I feel misfortune as a marginal burning sensation, which does not correspond to a vision of evil, of which it might be said merely to be an accident, a belated event.”

    As Ceronetti says, “”Concrete salvation takes the form of an accelerated destruction.”


    Posted on May 19th, 2017 at 5:40 pm Reply | Quote
  • Inevitably Right Says:

    I always wanted to share these excellent lectures from Warwick’s English and Comparative Literary Studies


    e.g. » Term 1, week 10: Copernican versus Ptolemaic Readings: Hamlet

    23:56, Thu 19 Nov 2015

    The Enigma of Hamlet: Freud’s Reading and beyond

    Download (MP3 format, 66:08, 61 MB) »

    ▬» Term 2, week 3: Screen Memory, Sublimation and the Return of Seduction

    ▬» Term 2, Week 7: Sado-melancholia: Poe and the Eros of Mourning

    ▬» Term 2 Weeks 9 and 10 – Repetition, the Death-Drive, The Sandman and the Uncanny »


    Posted on May 20th, 2017 at 4:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Outliers (#53) « Amerika Says:

    […] Modernity: Existential Horror (Nick Land, Outside In) […]

    Posted on May 22nd, 2017 at 3:04 am Reply | Quote

Leave a comment