Be Afraid!

So I’ve come across this fascinating study (thanks to a podcast I listen to, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe) that examined the frequency of emotional mood words in literature over the past century or so. They found that, generally speaking, use of emotional language has decreased since 1900.

My initial thought is that this is an artifact of the shift in writing styles – we use a lot less adjectives and adverbs than our predecessors. That’s usually where a searchable mood word would be, right? Today, when we see “he said angrily” we cringe and mentally delete the angrily. I don’t know if that’s something they accounted for, or if you even could efficiently account for it. I see there’s an email for the author. Maybe I’ll ask!

What struck me especially was that the mood of fear: “Notably, the mood of Fear, which declined throughout most of the early century, has increased markedly since the 1970’s, in contrast to the continued decline of other moods.”

There’s also this. A bunch of smart people talking about things they fear, and far too many of them are afraid of technology.

We are terrified! Mostly for no reason. Though, since we are currently living in a state of perpetual for-profit war, we’ll probably have quite a few legitimate fears coming up in the next few decades.

Anyway. Fear is something I think about a lot when I’m coming up with stories, particularly science fiction. The easiest sci fi story in the world to write is one where the science and technology backfires and everything goes wrong. But when I start to write one of those I stop and don’t have the heart to finish it. I don’t want to present science like that. I want to present science as what it is – simultaneously mundane and wonderous. It can be troubling, can raise ethical concerns and what not. But to just have every story be “Oh gods it’s turned on us and now we’re going to die what have we done?” is problematic. I love Terminator and Jurassic Park, but don’t want those to be the default setting for my science fiction.