Worlds Without Us: The Horror of Indifference in The Southern Reach Trilogy
In Jeff VanderMeer's _Southern Reach Trilogy_ (_Annihilation_, _Authority_, _Acceptance_, all 2014), the style and language of H.P. Lovecraft's weird horror are updated for an age of ecological collapse and posthuman sensibilities. As Stephen Rust and Carter Soles argue in their introduction to a recent special issue of _ISLE_, "ecohorror" is a growing genre of cinema and literature in which ecological visions are used as fodder for horror narratives. VanderMeer's trilogy---involving the attempts to scientifically and bureaucratically manage an alien-created, pristine natural environment on the coast of the Southern US---clearly engages these tropes but, I argue, toward different ends. Rust and Soles argue that ecohorror---defined more capaciously than the popular definition as "revenge of nature" narratives---uses horror to foreground ecological politics and sensibilities. However, I argue that VanderMeer is focusing not on a notion of nature but on the human itself as a vector for producing horror: his unsettling descriptions of a seemingly pure natural world evoke a clear sense of our post-natural realities. Rather than produce an ecological awareness, VanderMeer's ecohorror produces an awareness of our own inability to produce an ecological vision in the Anthropocene. By creating an ecology that does not reference the human, and using this ecosystem as a vector for weird horror, VanderMeer's trilogy captures an inhuman vision of the natural, non-human world as, to use Eugene Thacker's term for the truly horrifying, a "world-without-us."
Pilsch, Andrew (2017). Worlds Without Us: The Horror of Indifference in The Southern Reach Trilogy. Available electronically from
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