Five Senses Art 228This is not your aver­age hor­ror anthol­ogy. In addi­tion to offer­ing twenty sto­ries (full dis­clo­sure: mine is one of them) that incor­po­rate one of the five senses, it also offers a wealth of sci­en­tific infor­ma­tion about the brain and just how we process sen­sory input.

The book is divided into five sec­tions of four sto­ries each devoted to the five senses. Among the con­trib­u­tors: authors John Far­ris, Ram­sey Camp­bell, Poppy Z. Brite, Dar­rell Schweitzer, and Richard Chris­t­ian Matheson.

An engross­ing Intro­duc­tion by Jes­sica Bayliss, PhD looks at “Why Do Hor­ror Sto­ries Work? The Psy­chobi­ol­ogy of Hor­ror,” in which she explores how the brain, par­tic­u­larly the amyg­dala, trig­gers our emo­tions and how mir­ror neu­rons aid in cre­at­ing expe­ri­ences. And how do these psy­cho­log­i­cal mech­a­nisms get their data to begin with? Through the senses, of course – which is what night­mares in real life and in hor­ror fic­tion are made of!

Bayliss opens each of the sec­tions with a dis­cus­sion of how that par­tic­u­lar sense relates to fic­tion, so that read­ers may expe­ri­ence fear or revul­sion vic­ar­i­ously through the brain’s recep­tors. This means, in other words, that we expe­ri­ence shiv­ers not just when we watch a cen­tipede crawl across the floor, but when we read about a char­ac­ter in a hor­ror story who watches one.

In addi­tion to Bayliess’s com­ments, the anthol­ogy includes a fas­ci­nat­ing essay by Eric J. Guig­nard “Under­stand­ing and Incor­po­rat­ing the Five Human Senses into Mod­ern Hor­ror Short Fic­tion” that will intrigue any­one who writes hor­ror or aspires to do so.

And in the After­word, “Sen­sa­tion and Per­cep­tion,” K.H.Vaughan PhD raises some thought-​provoking questions:

How dif­fer­ent are my per­cep­tions from yours?

Does a real­ity exist inde­pen­dently of our perceptions?

Can per­cep­tions be trusted at all? (And what hap­pens if the answer is no?)

In short, The Five Senses of Hor­ror offers an illu­mi­nat­ing look at how mod­ern hor­ror fic­tion man­ages to evoke fear through each of the senses – a must read for hor­ror writ­ers, read­ers, and stu­dents alike.

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