In March 2020 things got real. Most people were either in denial or shock… but there was a certain subset of people you could find wandering through the grocery stores calmly, carts full of canned chicken and bags of white beans.
These were horror and speculative fiction fans. They strolled through the grocery stores just to witness the current events. Fights over masks, toilet paper and hand sanitizer—everything was pretty much like we’d read about.
This isn’t anecdotal. The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health recently backed up what fans of the dark already know: frightening fiction prepares you for the terrifying what-ifs… because sometimes they become what is.
“One explanation for why people engage in frightening fictional experiences is that these experiences can act as simulations of actual experiences from which individuals can gather information and model possible worlds,” they write in their opening statement for (take a deep breath) Pandemic practice: Horror fans and morbidly curious individuals are more psychologically resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic written by Coltan Scrivner ,⁎John A. Johnson, Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen and Mathias Clasen.
It’s nice that science supports what we already knew. Later they elaborate between genres. “fans of horror films exhibited greater resilience during the pandemic and that fans of “prepper” genres (alien-invasion, apocalyptic, and zombie films) exhibited both greater resilience and preparedness,” the study goes on to say.
Fans of Dune, 1984, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Animal Farm… we aren’t worried. We have role played these possibilities all our lives. In my last (Autumn 2020 #138) Speculating column in Space and Time I said “We have been here before, a hundred times in a thousand pages.” You know what I’m talking about. They don’t know, but you know…!
I don’t think any horror fan is happy to see people suffer, but as a group I think we can all share a satisfying told-you-so moment. Don’t grudge us our moment.
We’ve spent our lives on the shadowy edge of polite society, or mastered the masquerade of normalcy to fit in. We’ve been counseled, advised and had well-meaning loved ones try to intervene to help us be more “wholesome.” Finally, this is our time to shine… and we may actually be of use to you.
As many watch the news in disbelief, we are pulling out our notes on the Thought Police. We see the consequences of totalitarianism, wide spread surveillance, and repressive regimentation of behaviors within society. We know what to expect. If you are friends with one of us, we told you in early March to be prepared for the apocalypse. We told you to buy toilet paper.
Now the ball is in your court. You choose how you want to proceed. Nothing is getting better fast and you may as well settle into the new norm. If it’s not nature after us with hurricanes, wildfires and brain eating amoebas… it’s us after ourselves. Contrary to popular belief, horror fans are not actually horrible. We just like to know who is.
Because we’re nice, we invite you into the fold. Read something spooky. Let yourself be terrified. Learn to be fearless. Come to the Dark Side. We really do have cookies. We stocked up in February.
Ready for more?
Hop on the Horror Train and visit the rest of the sites participating in A.F. Stewart’s October Frights Blog Hop.