You don’t need me to remind you that this coming Sunday is the 10th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on America. You know it. I know it. And if you don’t know it, you’ll be reminded of it on Sunday the moment that you login to any social network or tune in to any media outlet.
I’m always reminded on this date of how much more horrifying reality can be than anything even the most demented creator of fiction can conjure by typing words into a piece of software. Horror fiction, like most fiction, is an escape. We all know it is fantasy, that it is not really happening. We even enjoy the thrill of being scared.
All too often we want to live our real lives as if we were simply watching them through a lens, detached from the world by a technological or media barrier: the Web, social networks, television, books, magazines, and more. The rise of reality television throughout the past two decades is testament to that. Reality is no longer lessons learned through the process of living. It’s entertainment.
However, September 11, 2001, was not horror fiction, not entertainment. It was reality dealing a powerful upper-cut that knocked the majority of us American citizens off our feet. For a few short moments in my generation’s lifetime, the invisible barriers in which we shelter ourselves on a daily basis were shattered. The bubble burst, forcing us to briefly consider that we regularly live our lives in a state of passive receptivity, convincing ourselves that we are simply watching the events of our lives unfold before us rather than participating in them. We were reminded that we are human, that we are not here to simply be entertained, and that we truly can be hurt.
In all the years that I’ve entertained myself by reading horror fiction, I have never yet read any so terrifying that I had to look away.
I cannot say the same about the real world.