Written by a guy who won the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writer’s Association.

We’re all scared. That’s the truth. A billionaire in good health has no reason to be scared, in most cases. He won’t show fear, overtly. But he’s often protected by armed guards, security cameras and other devices. Because in the back of his mind, he’s scared.

A happily married woman living in a comfortable, well patrolled suburb has fun with her kids, loves her spouse, goes to church or temple or a mosque, gets much comfort at those places. But she’s scared. In the back of her mind, she’s scared.

We go cheerfully about our lives, yet in some part of ourselves we’re multiply scared. We’re socially scared when we encounter even people we trust. We’re scared of failure; we’re scared of home intruders, of cancer, of the depredations of serial killers and child abductors and the outbreak of chaos and war. We’re scared by the inevitability of death–even if it’s decades down the road…Now we’re scared of wildfires…

Some people are unconsciously drawn to discharge these fears, through horror movies and tales. The horror story doesn’t need to be specific to one’s personal fears. Fear builds up as tension; it builds like pressure in a water main. It must be controlled, sometimes discharged. Some find this release to be especially pleasurable. For some it’s even mildly addictive. Being harmlessly scared, via an art form, releases tension so it’s paradoxically relaxing–after the fact. One even feels a (ridiculous) sense of unreasoning triumph, after the book or movie, having come through what was fearful–untouched.

There is more to the psychological mechanism underlying the delight in horror stories. There are neuroses. There is rage acted out, subconsciously, on the screen. But essentially it comes down to this: we’re always scared. And when we say we’re not–we’re lying to ourselves. You see, we’re always more scared than we realize. In order to live with our fears, we buffer them, wall them off, look away from them. But they haven’t gone anywhere. Most people don’t have the self-knowledge to see themselves as they are; they’re unaware, on a conscious level, of the persistent presence of their own fears…


Is optimism possible in a time when democracy seems fragile; seems on the verge of being overthrown by neofascist, overt racist Trump clones? Is it possible in a time when we see legit headlines like, The world needs to cut its emissions seven times as fast to hit climate goals, U.N. report finds and Thousands of dead sea creatures are washing up on English beaches and so on…

Yes it’s possible. It requires far-seeing, and it requires the labor of comprehending complexity. But, admittedly--optimism, now, is hard work.

As for one *realistic* avenue to optimism, try THIS.

An off-the-cuff review of the new DUNE adaptation

We saw it on HBO Max, so perhaps there was cinematic power we were missing out on. But it seemed towering enough. The visual design of it seemed influenced by the old John Schoenherr covers. And that’s a good thing. He really had the heft and feel of Dune. It had the scope of Dune. Clearly it was “part one” but it worked very well for me–far better than the creative but hubris-choked movie, any cut, by David Lynch. This is Dune as I remembered it. When I open a copy nowadays, I find the dialogue to be…oh, much of it egregiously pompous and expository and just too much. But still the novel was a great science fiction conception, a wonderful vision, a classic of interplanetary dramas. I think it was influenced by The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence.  AKA Lawrence of Arabia, of course. Note that the movie Lawrence of Arabia came out before the publication of Dune. But it’s quite possible that Herbert read The Seven Pillars of Wisdom too. The novel came out before Star Wars and one is reminded of what Lucas swiped from Frank Herbert (as well as Lucas having ripped off from Jack Kirby comics and other sources) …I think Game of Thrones is also influenced by Dune…And Dune…was influenced by magic mushrooms. Psilocybin. So Frank Herbert told me when he was my teacher at Clarion.

I saw the first three episodes of the Foundation adaptation, based on the Asimov novels, and thought they were trying to be something like this…and the Foundation opening episodes of the series have their fine moments…but ultimately the adaptation of Foundation implodes, corroded by Hollywood hack plotting.

The David Lynch movie was really about David Lynch’s obsessions. This new Dune movie gives us Frank Herbert’s vision.

The Big Question of Our Age

Regarding the problem with the Big Lie spread by Trump. The problem with the Big Lie spread by anti-vaxxers. The problem with the Big Lies spread by racists. The problem with the countless lies spread by Qanon. Here’s the question:

How do we persuade someone they’re being lied to about the facts, when they believe the lie that we are liars?