How Horror Brings Human Beings Together

Illustration for article titled How Horror Brings Human Beings Together

Horror stories can get our blood pumping and our hearts racing, but what is the social benefit of scary tales? In a roundtable on horror fiction for Mind Meld, Pretty Little Dead Girls author Mercedes M. Yardley shares an oddly sweet take on the positive side of fear.

I love to use fear as a bonding experience. I often say that fear brings us all together. There are people who don’t understand joy, love, or camaraderie, but everybody knows what it’s like to be afraid. It’s the most basic, primal emotion there is. When you have a group of people who just watched a scary movie together, for example, they walk out of that theater as a connected group who just shared something. I adore that.

Read the whole piece for more thoughts on fear by top horror writers, along with the books that scare them the most.

Cover image from Pretty Little Dead Girls.

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I’m going to borrow from the horror master Stephen King, on the subject.

“We had gotten talking about the bulge in popularity of books concerning themselves with the supernatural. Gault pointed out that in the forties Weird Tales had only been able to pay a pittance, and then in the fifties it went broke. When the machines fail, he had said (while his wife candled eggs and roosters crowed querulously outside), when the technologies fail, when the conventional religious systems fail, people have got to have something. Even a zombie lurching through the night can seem pretty cheerful compared to the existential comedy/horror of the ozone layer dissolving under the combined assault of a million fluorocarbon spray cans of deodorant.”

To paraphrase, we love horror because it’s simple. You see a zombie, you shoot it. You see a monster, you run. Suddenly the moment and you matters. Compared this to the horror of realizing all your career will not matter in a few decades, and you’ll probably die slowly and painfully due to the Twinkies you’ve been sneaking, the zombie is downright comforting.