Horror books and video games, not your usual link

Richard Burns Rally is a sim racing game that was released in 2004. Back then Richard Burns, who won the World Rally Championships in 2001, helped the programmers to recreate as accurately as possible the way actual cars behave on the road.

Now, fourteen years later Richard Burns Rally is still considered among the best rally simulators. This is so true that there are several communities of modders around the world who actively keep adding new material to the original game. They model new cars, design new stages, and fine tune new setups for the cars. Mostly for free.

Rally and Horror

I’m a rally fan. I’ve always been and always will.

I don’t know how it is, but when I watch some video clips like the one below I begin to behave like a Pavlovian dog.

I mean, I begin to turn an imaginary steering wheel and my feet moves on equally imaginary pedals. All this without having to resort to anything illegal. You know, no grass, no peyote, no ayahuascha.

Nothing at all.

In short, I’m nuts. That’s for damn sure.

But that doesn’t explain why I’m ranting about things like rally and racing games when I sort of should be writing a post about creative writing or books.

The reason is simple. I believe the above video, like many others you can find on the web, shares a common characteristic with horror books.

In fact, they both allow us to safely get a glimpse of what lies beyond the usual boundaries of our everyday existence.

Of course, in a horror book you can read about paranormal activities, about ghosts, and parallel universes. You can have demons, and satanic presences as well. In a book you get to choose among a never ending list of different types of psychological or physicals “monsters”–or a mix of the two.

After all, in fiction everyday constraints are a choice, and not inescapable aspects of reality.

Instead, when you watch a rally video you don’t have an infinite list to choose from. You are a virtual passenger in a rally car. Period.

From a certain point of view this might look like a limitation. But this hasn’t to be the case.

In fact, while in a book you ultimately know that, though perfectly crafted, those experiences are all fictional, in a rally video you know the opposite is true and that the danger is always there, lurking.

In the above clip Richard Burns pushes his car to the very limit. He dances with death all the time. Not because he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but because he knows perfectly well what he is doing. I mean, he is capable of getting right there, an inch from disaster, and then keeping the car from covering also that last fateful inch.

He shows us, rally enthusiasts and less so alike, the road from a perspective that we can only dream of, or have nightmares about–depending on our point of view about rallying and safe driving.

Not all metaphors are created equal

In the past I already wrote a post about the reasons I love horror books. In that post I used the metaphor of a dog to express the propensity that life has to bite us in the ass.

That’s certainly a useful metaphor. But sometimes metaphors work best when we have some quasi real life experience to relate to. In fact in that way we can more deeply appreciate the significance of the metaphor and its consequences.

That’s why the above mentioned video works so well for me. Because, when I was younger I loved driving fast on narrow and winding roads. So now I have at least a vague idea, a frame of reference of what it takes to get to those levels.

Of course this about rally is just an example. One that works for me. But you can find your own thing– maybe not gardening or knitting, maybe–and use it to heighten your ability to appreciate horror also on those not so metaphorical levels that are necessarily impossible to experience in real life.

I mean, I guess nobody is really eager to experience in first person being buried alive, or having their soul stolen by a demon.

Life and death

Tragically Richard Burns died in 2005, as a result of a brain tumor. But for me he will always be the man behind the steering wheel in videos like the one above. And one of the beautiful minds behind the realization of Richard Burns Rally.


Links: dimitrisvetsikas 1969 – Wikipedia – Richard Burns Foundation

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