Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
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Sunday, August 25, 2013Part 4: Have you heard the one about the dead hooker?
Something that I’ve touched on but not addressed directly is the difference between fear and disgust. Is there a difference? And is one better than the other?
My readers will know that I’m certainly not one to shy away from blood and especially other bodily fluids! I’ll be discussing gore more directly in a later section.
Both achieve a reaction, if done well, and that reaction is very, very similar as our psychology treats them the same. You’re walking alone at night and hear footsteps behind you. Your brain, that beautiful piece of safety equipment, immediately screams DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! and you enter the ol’ fight or flight status. Your heart steps up, you breathe more, you sweat. Adrenaline surges through your veins. Your body is designed to get the hell away from danger, because danger is bad for you. Clearly. Danger has a bad track record for actually doing you well.
Now let’s look at disgust.
You’re walking down the same street but now it’s the afternoon of a fine day at the start of summer. Birds are singing and children are playing. It’s like a delightful scene in a Disney movie and nothing scary or shocking is going on at all.
But then you step into some dog crap. What’s your reaction?
You might cry out, jerk away from it, wipe it on a patch of clean grass as soon as possible. Should you get a good smell, you might even have a bit of a retch. Hehe. I can imagine some of you reading this with a wrinkled nose, being disgusted just by the thought of it.
On a base level, your mind is thinking aargh! Bacteria! Disease! Get it away! Like with a more immediate threat, the aim of your body is to get away from it as quickly as possible, so the reactions are very similar.
I stand by the belief that to write horror is to try your best to evoke this reaction by using any tools at your disposal. If you can shock, that’s fantastic. If you can disgust, that’s great too. Doing both at the same time has always had my vote!
Lionel Cosgrove: That’s my mum you’re pissing on.