When I studied biology in college, then graduate school, I took “hard” science classes in zoology, human biology, ecology and evolution. I took electives in the “soft” sciences and the arts, my favorites being psychology and (one glorious semester) Elements of Horror Fiction. The courses were very different. The arts and sciences were separate.
But one day looking through a microscope, I noticed the shades of rust on a cockroach’s leg and the graceful spines lined along it, shading from light to almost black. Despite my affection for insects, cockroaches were a holdout in my heart, but that day I saw how truly beautiful their exoskeleton was. It was transformative.
Writing horror fiction feels like that to me. Sometimes the details are horrific or unsettling, but there is an art to being able to describe a scene, an emotion, so richly that the reader feels it viscerally. If they can feel the dampness of the dead leaves beneath the character’s knees, sense the heaviness of the trees above that seem to press down on them, feel the tightness in their own chest as they look on the scene before them, then I’ve shared that dark beauty with them.