Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ted the Caver

Happy Halloween!

I was recently directed to Ted the Caver, a re-envisioning of Thomas Lera's "Fear of Darkness" (PDF Link). While I was unimpressed with Fear of Darkness in its entirety (it attempts to tell too much of the story, and resolves around ideas stretched for me too far beyond my willing suspension of disbelief [probably based on the quality of writing] for its conclusion).

Ted the Caver shares some similar short-comings. Purporting to be the annotated caving-journal entries of a hobbiest spelunker, much of the presentation is weak - critical elements to the story are built into the same way one would do when writing prose fiction, not the way personal experiences are typically conveyed. In my own journal writing, and what I've seen in limited reading of those of others, elements from experience deemed important are granted priority and emphasis: brought up early in the entry, with associated events or ideas splayed out conceptually from that one center and expressed in terms of their relationship to it. The chronological prose and persistent use of limited perspective, when such is limitation is purely artificial, comes across as disingenuous and interfered with my ability to fully immerse in the story.

But only with the full immersion: I was still able to get into it, and at times became frustrated at the pace - I was impatient with the process of reading itself as I wanted to move ahead in the story without having to bother with the intervening language, but knowing it would diminish the delivery to skip ahead and stuck with it anyway.

That's partially where I want to give props to how the story is being presented on the web. The forced pacing lends a certain degree of realism, and helps make the characters more believable. The limited coincidence with factual events (which I'm sure acted as the story's genesis) also helps lend a degree of credibility. The choice to omit the (far-fetched) ending leaves an unresolved suspense and contemplation with the reader, a mental itch in need of resolution not forthcoming (very 1950's-horror-flick).

The other part I wanted to commend was that, in editing out fingerprints of the incredible conclusion, the remaining content becomes almost completely plausible. Gravity, geothermal vents, sulfur dioxide or hydrogen sulfide, and post-traumatic-stress disorder (based on the stress and fear during oxygen deprivation and attendant effects of volcanic gas inhalation) are sufficient to explain away the mysterious events. None of this diminishes the humanity of fear in the described reactions, and in fact made me that much more sympathetic.

All in all it's a fun read, and for Halloween is definitely recommended.


Tristan Rhodes said...

I enjoyed reading this story. I thought it was real for most of the story. Here are the two points that made me think it was a story.

1. The strange way that Joe reacted - mainly the lack of explanation and the fact he left his job because of this encounter.

2. The fact that Dave met Joe at location simply because of an unexplained urge to go there.

BTW - I turned down my speakers while reading so that I would not be scared by a loud scream, like the pranks that have been going around.


Anonymous said...

This sums up my feelings about "Ted the Caver" exactly. By leaving out the crazy Lovecraftian ending, and presenting it on the web as a series of journal entries, whoever did this managed to greatly increase the plausibility of the story and make it much more compelling. Of course they couldn't completely mask the fact that it was originally written as a short story, but it's still quite an achievement. It's really made me think about how the internet can be used to open up new avenues for storytelling.

Shaun said...

I know this is an old thread, but just wanted to correct you. The "Ted" version is the original and the Lera version is a backdated hoax.

For more info go here ( and here (