Do You Need Fear to Write Horror?



Do you think it would be possible to write a great love story if you’ve never been in love? I don’t. You’d never get the anger right. And you’d never capture how it changes over the years and oscillates between ever softening and calcifying extremes.

I think the same must be true for horror. You’d have to know real fear to capture it. I think this is why so many scary movies fail. The writers aren’t afraid of zombies or alien probing or slasher families. They probably adore all those things, I know I do. When it comes time to realize terror in words or some other media, the creators call the macabre muse with too much tinkle in the eye, two much sneer and smirk. It all becomes a funhouse. Thrills without risks.

In the old days there was plenty to fear. Wolves. Mustard gas. Spider hatchlings. Famine riots. The big fears got forged into monsters. Godzilla is nuclear annihilation. Rosemary’s Baby  is consumer modernity. I wonder what millenials are afraid of? I haven’t a clue. I guess they might be concerned with terrorism or any of a million other violent ends. All the awful consumer research I read to stay a high-tuned marketing assassin says the youngsters crave meaning, in their lives, in their work.

If they crave meaning, maybe the fear is for there to be no meaning. And possibly the fear of erasure. Shallow, unmarked graves and blood feuds ending bloodlines might be terror inducing. Or to find it really is nothing out there in the universe. What a trip if there wasn’t. Think about the consequences of there being no meaning. If you knew it for certain, what would you do? Would you try to create meaning? Maybe this is the aim of all the old stories. The thousand years old tales of how unearthly creatures formed the earth. Theology is the shield to cosmic bleakness.

Imagine a world where everyone was acutely aware of the meaninglessness of their existences. I think it would descend into mayhem quickly. I’m sure there would be pockets of experimental kindness, but blood and sharp steel would be ubiquitous until someone managed to put on a robe and talk better than the rest of the primates.


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