I have been a bit off of the radar this week, and it is just as well. If there was a way to hit the reset button beginning, oh, about 5:20 AM on last Sunday morning and moving forward up until about right now I would do it. There is a rock band named “We Were Promised Jetpacks;” we were also promised transporter beams and time travel too. Where’s my time travel? Regardless, one cannot drive forward with their eyes glued upon the rearview mirror so we are going to talk about something pleasant, like what scare the hell out of me. And you.
Dark genre fiction is driven by fear. Stephen King was motivated to write PET SEMATARY by the fear of losing a child to the grim reaper. Authors who write what I call “fish out of water” books (think A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT or, perhaps, THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, and keep reading from there) often are motivated by fear that they will find themselves suddenly thrust into a situation where they are powerless; maybe they feel that way all of the time. They are what they fear; they write what they fear.
I’m working on a project dealing with fear —watch this space later this year for more on that — but I thought I’d give you my three biggies and ask you for yours. Here are mine, in descending order:
Spiders: My earliest experience of spider-fear occurred when I was four years old on a Saturday morning. I woke up with my nose about an inch from the wall and a black widow spider was staring back at me. I screamed, jumped out of bed, and ran from the room. My dad came in and dispatched the evil thing, but the damage was done. Talk about your psychic imprints. In my house, a Taurus Public Defender is considered a defense de rigueur against arachnids.
Narrow, tight places (no, I don’t mean that): I was in kindergarten when I discovered that I was claustrophobic, though I didn’t know the word. I was with a couple of classmates building a fort out of oversized blocks when they thought it would be funny to wall me up, Edgar Allan Poe style. I went crazy. I was actually rescued from that entombment by a classmate named Beverly d’Angelo, who went on to become an actress, but that is a whole different story. Anyway, this one has gotten worse over the past several years. It’s ironic, given that I grow ever closer with each day to being placed into one of those small boxes and surrendered back to the earth. I wonder if one is related to the other.
Heights: I get a nosebleed on a stepladder. I actually am not as bad as I used to be, to the extent that last summer I was able to stand on the observation deck of the Louisiana State Office Tower without shutting shut my eyes once.
Strange? Yes. I’m not chicken-hearted. I have faced down evil people on the street with less fear than I experience when I catch a spider in the basement. Snakes and rats (of the two or four-legged variety) and the like hold no terror for me. I don’t have a significant gag reflex or a fear of choking or the like. But fears? Oh yeah. I’ve got more than my share.
I’ve bared my soul. Please bare yours. What scares you?