r/horrorlit discussion

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Horror and Science

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message 1: by William (new)

William Vann | 9 comments Mod
I’ve started The Deep and it’s led me to a question I have for the group. I’m an educator, college level, and consider myself, using an older term, “well read” in science. So much so that I recognize when an author’s science is, what’s a good word, let’s say stretched. So my question is this: Reading and enjoying horror requires one to somewhat suspend disbelief, but how does one strike a balance with that suspension and what we know to be true in the supporting reality of the physical world? For instance, for the sake of a good story, I can believe that a human being can shapeshift into another creature, but I wouldn’t want that creature to be able to run at the speed of light. I guess you might say, I want my science and my fantasy to mesh.


message 2: by Scott (last edited Jan 15, 2020 06:47PM) (new)

Scott (pixelbaron) | 2 comments Yeah, I feel like there has to be a level of grounding and familiarity in horror for the weird and otherworldly stuff to play and push against, and the author has to set it up for the readers.

The story has to ground me in the world to some degree, and in most cases that grounding is going to be solidified by the author being confident and knowledgeable about whatever they are bringing into the story. If they trip over themselves and fudge stuff and/or just don't do research, all so they can get where they want to go in their story, then it sucks.

However, I will say that I personally think a human being shapeshifting into something that can travel at the speed of light could be made into something worth reading. The author would have to do some worldbuilding, get me familiar and comfortable with how the world operates, and be confident in their storytelling for something crazy like that to work for me, though.

A good artist that knows the rules can bend them and still make it compelling, I think.

If that makes sense.

But yeah, if you're writing a story that is set in what people will recognize as the real world, and you decide to bring science into the narrative, you would think that you'd do some research and consult with people in the know so you don't mess it up and take people out of your story that may know more about the subject than you.


message 3: by Karmen (new)

Karmen Wells | 2 comments I love science-based horror, even if used loosely. I'm likely not as well read in science as you are, but I like to think I'm at least semi-competent in understanding what I follow. That said, it just get excited to see that people show an interest in science and are adding it to my favorite genre. There have definitely been times I've questioned the research of an author, which subsequently sends me into an internet hole to figure it out. But that just means I'm increasing my own knowledge, and I can still enjoy the novel. It's the creativity and thought-provoking use of science in the story-telling that's more important to me.

Although, I imagine for those in science related industries it might be like a lawyer trying to watch Suits...

Do you have any favorites that meshed well for you? Have you read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch?


message 4: by Sydney (new)

Sydney Carpenito | 1 comments I agree with Scott completely, proper world building saves the day. For me, when that isn't present(like in a short story or at the beginning of a series where you don't know the universe well yet) I just kind of try to accept the things that seem off as something I just don't know yet. Science is a living thing, growing and learning constantly. Maybe there is some creature that can run at the speed of light and we don't recognize it yet. Maybe there are people who can shape shift, just not in our evolutionary tree on this particular planet. Maybe, maybe, maybe.


message 5: by William (new)

William Vann | 9 comments Mod
Love to know I’m not alone! It’s funny Karmen, sometimes I learn a bunch when I’m reading fiction and I go, “Woah, wait a minute, that’s not right!” and then I spend hours learning about something new. For instance, in r/horrorlit, another reader mentioned a book based on the Dyatlov Pass Incident, of which I knew nothing. Guess what I did?


message 6: by Cj (new)

Cj Davis | 2 comments I feel like there’s a line that’s like too far? And once it’s crossed the story loses some of the horror to it because it like looses the “what if?” Factor, like a book is scariest to me when it’s half convincing me some unimaginable horror could be, it’s not but like, it COULD BE right around the corner. And once it loses that ever so slight possibility it’s like a tail spin.


message 7: by Dixon (new)

Dixon Reuel (dixonreuel) | 2 comments I think it comes down to the author's skill and adherence to rules in their world building. Tell a compelling story, too, and the reader will go along... until perhaps the author violates/backtracks on their story's rules, or uses them as a cheap Deus Ex Machina to tie up the story.


message 8: by Jay (new)

Jay (duowolf) | 1 comments I don't mind if the science is off compared to the real world as long as they stick to the rules they've made within the story if that makes sense


message 9: by Angie (new)

Angie | 3 comments I agree with a lot of the comments here. For me it comes down to this: if something is so implausible and unrealistic that it becomes silly, then it loses its ability to scare me. This threshold can be crossed by a couple things 1) something just being so downright unscientific as to blatantly not be possible and/or 2) the author does a poor job of convincing me that the impossible is possible in the world they have created.

A good example of a book that does the above “correctly” for me is The Shining Girls. There isn’t such a thing as time travel, and serials killers don’t time travel, and there aren’t magical houses. But there *are* such things as serial killers, and people who stalk you, and criminals who are quite difficult to track down, and criminals who hide in abandoned non-magical houses, and crimes that are difficult to solve. The time travel element was so believable in this book to me because the rest of the terrifying elements were all so plausible, and the time travel was presented so matter of factly, that it kept the book from becoming silly, and allowed me to suspend my disbelief. Furthermore, even if time travel isn’t possible, it *is* possible that a killer could be damn near impossible to track down, and so I believed the *challenge* the time travel presented (making the killer harder to find), even if I don’t believe in time travel.


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