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Foundations of Fear
Hard Core Conspiracy Horror
Conspiracy Horror is a combination of two genres that blend their seperate thema into myriad strands of rich texture and complexity. It takes Conspiracy: plots, secrets, wheels turning within wheels, and paranoia and combines them with Horror: monsters, gore, dark things lurking in the shadows. The increased complexity of thematic interaction between these two genres calls out for examination.
In this analysis, slanted towards Delta Green, Conspiracy has been subordinated to Horror. In essence, the Conspiracy becomes just another monster. But this is far from simplistic, As Kenneth Hite writes in Nightmares of Mine and GURPS Horror, monsters are deeply symbolic of the fears that lurk in our rapidly beating hearts.
The core of Conspiracy is Trust. Whom can you trust? What happens when trust is betrayed? Does the government betray it's citizens? Does the Conspiracy promote corruption? Related to Trust are Secrets. Secrets are kept by the Conspiracy because people cannot be trusted with them. Keeping Secrets requires Power. The barren wasteland of a world without trust creates conspiracies devoted to secrecy and power-mongering.
The Heart of Horror is Fear. What do people fear? What Phobos do the monsters represent? The Mythos itself represents Fear of the Universe, Fear of Infinity, Apeirophobia. As our finite knowledge grows, the vastness of the unknown engulfs us with it's immensity. The Gods of the Mythos are the hostile universe itself, brought into stark unreality to erode the limited contours of our sanity with their devouring limitlessness.
To a lesser degree, Mythos entities represent Fear of the Unnatural. But the ultimate horror is that Sanity is the aberreration in a chaotic universe. Our Fear of the Mythos is inverted into the Fear of Nature. Our own abnormality and unnatural essence becomes the source of our fear. We become afraid of our own reflection in the nocturnal mirror of the Mythos. No other Mythos entity symbolizes this Fear of Nature better than Shub-Niggurath, the devouring and fecund mother.
In horror, Conspiracies centralize the Fear of Betrayal. This is what Delta Green (and to a lesser degree Majestic-12) represents. Can ALPHONSE be trusted to act in your best interests, or will he sacrifice you for the greater good? Can you trust your Cellmates, or will they crack under pressure? Will their rapidly eroding sanity make them easier to corrupt and turn against you?
Majestic-12 gives a human face to the appalling lack of trust giving rise to Conspiracies. Our most secret guardians are in league with that which we most fear. They do not trust the public with their secret betrayals. These groups represent Fear of Authority. Authority which can be abused, authority gained by ruthless evil and brutality. This unjust authority turns our leaders into enemies.
The Fungi from Yuggoth are the monstrous alien species with the most contact with Humanity. The Mi-Go symbolize Fear of Science. Their sterile logic and unfeeling disregard of human suffering seems like the ultimate expression of the search for infinite knowledge with finite resources. The Mi-Go have used their science to create an elaborate fiction for humanity, the Greys.
The Greys are an alien mask created to shield the true face of the Fungi from Yuggoth. They are bland and colorless while the Mi-Go shine with brilliance vibrancy, communicating with auras. They are frail and physically unthreatening while the Mi-Go are all wings and claws and technology. The Greys are like us, only it is all a lie, a grand cosmic deception.
Fear intersects with the Greys from all directions: fear of the foreign, fear of authority, fear of betrayal, fear of science, fear of armageddon, fear of the universe. They are a formless reflection of our own hopes and fears. Whatever horror we wish can be projected upon their blank expressionless faces.
Contact with their alien technology has corrupted the most powerful nation on Earth. Their science is a window into insanity, it harms the minds of those who study it, renderering them less human and more like the Mi-Go. But the corruption of the United States by the Mi-Go is systematic and impersonal compared to what awaits in the United Kingdom.
The Insects from Shaggai, or Shan, represent the Fear of Corruption. They embody Physical Corruption with their insectoid alien parasitism. As they reside in the very brains of their tenants, they symbolize Mental Corruption by exposing their victims to the damaging concepts and bizarre ideation of the Mythos. The represent Spiritual Corruption with their decadence and sadism, forcing their human slaves into degenerate acts of cruelty and evil for the amusement of chitin-armored, mandible clacking, antennae waving fiends.
These insects have turned PISCES is a misshapen blend of fears. Fear of Authority, Fear of Corruption, Fear of Betrayal. The struggle between Delta Green and Majestic-12 is mirrored and intensified in the United Kingdom. The enemy is much closer, less human, and more personally involved. The paranoid labyrinth of British Intelligence has become a maze of twisty passages, all alike. Every darkened corridor in these mansions of power leads to a black and gruesome end.
The traditional foes of Mythos Investigators are Mythos Cults. These occult groups represent fear of Religion, and fear of Outsiders, and Strangers. Those who are different from us have different beliefs, beliefs that endanger our own. The foreign is to be avoided or destroyed, lest it destroy our ways and means. It is a deep fear that draws upon the primal instinct towards tribal warfare. The Tcho-Tcho perhaps best represent this fear of the savagery of outsiders.
Each Mythos cult is also tied to other fears through what they worship. The Fate worships naked power and Nyarlathotep. They seem to represent fear of Society, the dark underbelly of urban sprawl and the endemic corruption of crime. The Karotechia also worship Nyarlathotep under a different guise and represent fear of hatred, the irrational loathing that differing peoples have for each other.
Hastur and Carcosa hold an unusual place in the symbolism of fear. The Entropic erosion of Hastur and the inevitable doom of Carcosa represent the Fear of Madness. Insanity is something to be shunned or healed, but the nightmarish phrenical followers of Hastur embrace their mental disjoint as a liberating freedom.
Groups like Saucerwatch and Phenomen-X seem to represent the fear of ignorance. A supremely ironic position in the Mythos where the deadly light of knowledge withers human souls. Perhaps the greatest of horrors is that the truth destroys us. Seeking knowledge becomes a suicidal endeavor in the Frightful Universe.
There are many things to Fear in the hostile universe. Fear is a natural part of life, and exploring our fears may help us learn to control them. "I like to think that playing Dungeons and Dragons taught me a little about courage," said the nerd shortly after notorious MIB Jesse the Body Ventura gave him a BackBreaker. Bringing it all to a dramatic conclusion is Thomas Prengerdahast's famous call to arms: "COURAGE!"
Investigators are the counterpoint to fear. When they defeat the myriad horrors of the Mythos, they embody Courage; the conquest of fear. When investigators fail, they become Cowardice; rampant fear ascendant and triumphant. The external threats of the mythos are revealed in the final analysis to be nothing more than our own struggle with internal fears.
Can we face them?