A manifesto for the Fear Mythos in 2015 and beyond
by Jordan Dooling
First, there was the Slender Man Mythos. In 2011 that mythos was a bit of a wreck. To most people, it looked like you had to obey a strict canon with its strict interpretation of what the Slender Man is (or "Slenderman," his Jewish attorney brother-in-law), with true freedom determined only by how popular you were. Quality was not the focus, nor was freedom, but instead clique. Cliques drove the mythos, or at least outsiders' perceptions of it.
Enter Owen "CuteWithoutThe" Norris, a boy with a poor life who'd just turned sixteen on Valentine's Day '11. Enter Seann "LizardBite" Barbour, a nineteen-year-old with an idea for a Slenderblog that has an extra monster, an original one called The Archangel. Enter the man, the myth, the legend-- Adam "alliterator" Levine, somewhere in his twenties, a guy with a similar idea for a Slenderblog with different monsters (that we now know as The Cold Boy and The Quiet). CuteWithoutThe found these two on TVTropes and.. well, he'd had an idea just like that, making use of monsters called The Dying Man, The Wooden Girl, The Manufactured Newborn, and Thunderbirds. So he proposed the three of them make their blogs, uniting it under one flag, spinning off entirely from the Slender Man Mythos they thought had grown stale.
But they needed some consistency to their monster ideas. And they needed a name.
So on February 28th they started a thread on TVTropes asking for anyone's help fleshing out their ideas, giving feedback, maybe even writing stories to join in. The Visitor joined, whose Shadowgraphers became The Nightlanders, whose grey audio monsters became The Choir, whose ideas acted as a sort of glue to motivate everyone. Blancmange joined, whose contributions were never big but so plentiful that we'd be entirely different without them. Parakus joined, who wrote early blogs and fine-tuned other ideas. I myself joined, enlisted to create a monster with a water theme. Before long, we had a surprisingly lively group of collaboration, encouragement, and feedback. But their monsters were still missing something, no one could put their finger on it. That's when alliterator proposed that the monsters be embodiments, personifications, of fears. His exact words were "Monsters as metaphors, woo!"
The monsters are metaphors. Even beyond a tendency for horror, the one consistent link for the things this mythos's blogs would then be about is that they'd have a metaphorical centre.
CuteWithoutThe took the next step, casually referring to our monsters as "Fears." I saw that name and proposed we call ourselves the Fear Mythos. alliterator kept it going, giving a name for we the authors: The Fearbloggers.
Fears. Fear Mythos. Fearbloggers. Fear is our title, again not necessarily because of horror but because of metaphor. Just because a concept is rooted in a fear doesn't mean that concept has to be written for fear.
What happened next? Our stories continued. A user by the name of Allan Assiduity set up a forum. alliterator set up a Wiki. NearTheEnd set up a Facebook group. Our community grew, and when the Slender Man Mythos heard of us the people generally jumped over to our ship, finding our philosophies more refreshing. A big boost for morale was the addition of Sean "Omega" O'Neil, a radical Slenderblogger who attempted to keep track of their concepts through the blog Encyclopedia Slenderia. He's been with us ever since and even seeks to get his Fear work published in the long run. (And between you and me, his stuff's definitely good enough.)
But what were those philosophies that people found so refreshing?
Early on, shortly after our mythos had spawned out of the chaos, LizardBite made it clear that, while his Archangel may be open for other writers to play with, his blog Eccentrically Bored (and sequel Hidden in the Trees) would likely be its own separate canon. He had ideas for his Archangel that he didn't want to be compromised. Over time, as CuteWithoutThe's blogs stuck to their original plan, as LizardBite's blogs clearly had their own style, as alliterator wrote more and more blogs with their portrayals of Fears getting increasingly distinguished, and as my own blogs took liberties, we came to the mutual understanding that the Fear Mythos wasn't restricted by any canonical rules. The more risks people took with their blogs, the more our community seemed to flourish. Here, you could write whatever you wanted. We had floods of comedy blogs, waves of philosophical pieces, blogs rooted in anthropological study, blogs based in absurdism, and ample stories that were far more fantasy than could be called horror. And every one of them was its writer's own portrayal, their personal metaphor for something that meant a lot to them, and every one of them was accepted as a part of our mythos.
This is what we decided we should advertise above all: "We have no canon." Every writer is entitled to her or his own canon, and their stories will not be dismissed as fanfiction unless specified by authorial intent. This became our banner for a while until our series bible lost its domain name due to lack of funding. The series bible is still up on WordPress, but it's faded in focus, now obsolete.
We still had some growth to do. We'd flirted with true artistic freedom, but there was still an attitude that certain ways to write for the Fear Mythos were more right than others. Unfortunately, our community was already tapering away, so there was only so much that could be done.
And that's when the vloggers came in.
We'd had vlogs ever since March '11. CuteWithoutThe had originally intended his Dying Man blogs to be told through video, LizardBite made a now-deleted vlog titled Cryptid417 and occasionally supplanted his blogs with videos, and I myself made videos for Jordan Eats Normally Now where I could. However, those videos tended to take second-priority to the blogs we wrote. It wasn't until November, when NearTheEnd and Final introduced their vlog The Undecided Five, that we started to consider there might be a considerable potential for vlogs. They require different kinds of effort, though, so for a few years we didn't see too many of them until Salvatore Haran's Pavel Hall had reached a substantial level of popularity in 2014. Now lots of people were creating vlogs, and NearTheEnd's Facebook group built up an influx of members until suddenly we had a new community on our hands!
This was fantastic. This still is fantastic. People are still creating vlogs to this day, and when I made the chronological list of blogs it brought a lot of older blogs to a newer audience. The circulation keeps going strong. However, with the Fear beast raised back from the dead, it brings with it the same problems it originally had: An environment of "Some ways to write are better than others," perhaps even of "This is the only way to write." Awareness must be spread. Perceptions must be opened up. Art must prosper.
So that's what brings us to the present day. It's almost the fourth anniversary of our mythos's creation, and there are still many inherent misconceptions about what we exactly are. This is why we enacted the Wiki overhaul, this is why the chronological lists of blogs and vlogs were compiled, and this is why I am writing this manifesto.
To review, the Fear Mythos is a community of content creators who pull from and add to the same open-source (or Creative Commons) pool. We will explore that pool in a little while, but for now the distinction of what our mythos is must be elucidated.
We are the community. We began with a thread, and over the course of a few months we would log in sometimes every day, more often just a few times a week, to pitch in and collaborate on fleshing out ideas and posting what we'd written. It was that sense of collaboration that attracted new people at the time, and it is that sense of collaboration we've attempted to preserve. At present, the centre of our community is the Facebook group, and the spirit remains: We check in on the group periodically, not necessarily every day (though there are some who do just that) but whenever we have something to show or whenever there's something we want to see. The forum works the same way, though its activity has died down some. There is also a community on the Wiki which operates similarly, and some form of Fear Mythos community can be found elsewhere on the internet. This is the mythos: You can join just to post what you've made, you can join just to make friends, and you can do anything in between.
The individual people come and go, but as long as we have the pool we will always have some form of audience. So what is the pool?
Our mythos could be said to have been formed on a principle: "Why should a community of blog/vlog-writers restrict themselves to one monster?" So we thus we created the pool. In the early days when we tried to write for one canon, the pool was a simple list of our monsters. But as we expanded, adopted "Monsters as metaphors," grew outward, and allowed every artist her or his canon, that simple list evolved into a periodic table of Fear.
You see, when everyone is entitled to as many canons as they might want, the question of having one list of monsters becomes arbitrary. When we tried keeping one purely for reference purposes, it gave off the impression that this list was in some way "official." No matter how much we prefaced or clarified, the fact is that having any central list at all will give off this impression.
So here is what the pool is, as of January 8th, 2015: Nothing. There is no pool. There are only the stories. We will not restrict what an artist may choose to produce; we will only make an attempt to document their creations on our Wiki.
Then what links us? What is the common thread for our stories? As mentioned before, they are metaphors. Our stories take one crucial idea (fear) and explore it, document it, play with it, turn it into conventions and then break those, and altogether do so in the interest of art and supporting the community. I want to be thorough here: Fears do not have to be horror monsters. They can be humans in a drama, a couple of objects in a poem, a simple phrase in a video, or the story could even be paradoxically defined by their nonexistence in a philosophical twist. It's best not to assume. We only want to see your creativity.
If you go on the Wiki right now and look at its articles for the portrayals of Fears as they have been written, you will see a large number of horror monsters. But this is not the only way to write; the monsters have always been metaphorical, and over time they've tried to emphasize that. Our mythos has the potential to become something poignant, profound, perhaps even universal. The only way for that to happen would be to throw away our expectations of what a Fearblog or Fearvlog "should be" and let our influences guide us into epiphany.
In this mythos, we have an opportunity to write what we want, have our stories marketed equally to others', and to have an audience. We just need to take advantage of that.
That is what the Fear Mythos is.