The Psychology Behind Dark Science Fiction and Horror…


As a dark Sci-Fi author, I’m often asked exactly what dark science fiction is.

… well, I was asked yesterday and thought it was an interesting question.


The borders between horror and science fiction can seem a little hazy.

Typically, the works of Arthur C Clarke and HG Wells are not considered alongside those of Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and Shirley Jackson. If you ventured into a bookshop you would not expect to see them standing together as shelf buddies. And that is because they belong to two completely different worlds.

Or do they?

Do they have more in common than people give them credit for?

For anyone who has seen the film Alien (and the sequel, Aliens) there is still an ongoing debate as to whether we are watching a horror movie or a science fiction film:

  • It’s set in space, in the future.
  • There’s an android, advanced technology and a spaceship.
  • … Answering a distress call, the crew of the Nostromo discover a new lifeform onboard a new spaceship and on a distant planet… all sounds sci-fi to me.

But my horror friends would argue…

  • A group of innocents set forth, venturing into the unknown on a mission of mercy – only to find that they are being hunted by a ‘monster,’ helped along by a psychopathic android who seems only too happy to serve them up to the malevolent Alien, provided he can take one home with him.
  • The dark gothic imagery only helps to underline the horror roots from which this film has emerged.

So, who is right?

They both are. Alien would fit quite nicely into a sub-genre called ‘Dark Sci-Fi’ or ‘Sci-Fi- Horror.’

Dark Sci-Fi is where technology and horror meet, often with cataclysmic results. One of the main themes in Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel ‘Frankenstein’ was the danger inherent in knowledge and where the tireless pursuit of it can lead.

The trouble is humans are not androids – with knowledge comes greed and a greater lust for power and control. That has never changed and is probably why the works of William Shakespeare are still relevant today. He frequently spoke of human fallacies and their destructive emotions.

I’m pretty sure you could take any popular horror movie, replace some elements with technological equivalents and you would have the makings of a dark Sci-Fi novel or a Sci-Fi Horror story:

Take ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ reimagined, but without the supernatural element. Instead it was some form of technology that enabled Freddie Kruger to enter the dream realm of his soon to be victims.

As a writer I often consider these possibilities and take them to what I believe what would be their natural conclusion. That is what inspired my current Kindle and Audiobook Series ‘The Black Water Journals.’

A shameless plug? Maybe, but the point still stands. It is set in the future and explores what could happen when technology and human greed exponentially grow and co-exist, and what that would mean for the rest of us.

So, what kind of person chooses to read or watch Dark Sci-Fi?

Now, if you have read this far, the chances are you fall into one of three categories:

  1. You like either Sci-Fi OR Horror.
  2. You like Sci-Fi AND horror.
  3. You like neither but want to know more about the strange beings with which you share the planet.

If you picked option three, then you are a sci-fi geek at heart, but have yet to realise and embrace it.

If you call yourself a science fiction enthusiast, then psychologists have very publicly stated that you are seeking some form of escape from your current situation and have even called you (and therefore me) mentally disturbed.  However, if we look at the amount of self-help books and similar tv shows out there I can safely say that very few people are without psychological problems.

I’d go further than this – the ferocious curiosity that sci-fi fans have, probably mean that we are more willing and able to find the reasons why we act and think the way we do.

Science fiction geeks are also visionaries. They imagine the future and the authors of such, write about it. Did you know the trainers and hover board in ‘Back to the Future’ have actually been developed??

The other sad truth about many science fiction fans is that they are often introverted, that is until they meet another science fiction enthusiast of course. Then they are happy.

Now let’s combine those personality traits with those of a horror fan and see how much you can relate:

Are horror fans thrill seekers?

Watching a scary movie of reading a dark suspenseful book gives you what is known as a safe scare. A controlled rush of endorphins and a sense of accomplishment having emotionally survived a ‘life threatening’ situation.

Psychologists tend to disagree with the popular consensus that those who like to read horror novels or watch horror movies are more likely to commit horrific acts themselves. It is in fact, quite the opposite. Through not hiding their emotions and being open to accept and experience those darker sides of their personality (instead of shamefully sweeping under the metaphorical rug), they are more balanced in life and more likely to sustain happy and fruitful relationships both with themselves and with others.

Okay, now for the ultimate test. If you find yourself relating to the following statement then the chances are you belong, or could belong to the exclusive dark sci-fi family:

  1. You seek to be self-aware, forever questioning your own mind and the behaviours of others around you.
  2. You probably get bored quite easily and to keep your interest those with whom you form close relationships would have to be both stimulating and changeable.
  3. You have an insatiable curiosity and can be quite artistic and inventive.
  4. You are not generally outgoing unless you are happy in the company of those with similar interests and values.


How did you do? 4/4 and I’ll see you round my place later for a day of Stephen King, H.G Wells and of course, the Alien movies and audiobooks.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments section below.

And, if you are now a happily confirmed member of the dark sci-fi / sci-fi horror family, then please accept a completely FREE series available on Kindle and Audiobook:

Journey into the world of Dark Science Fiction with John Melek, A 300-year-old man whose dormant memories may hold the key to the survival of the human race.


Being a horror and Sci-Fi author, I am (as you might imagine) an avid reader, and when I’m on the move or doing mindless tasks like cleaning my house, doing admin or going for a drive, there’s nothing I love more than to pop an audio book on.

Fast forward to this morning, I had just finished another Audible original: ‘Alien, River of Pain’ and I thought – I really want to write about this audio story, to share my thoughts and inflict them upon the world!

If this goes well, and you enjoy reading the reviews as much I like writing them then I may turn this into a review series for other audiobooks that I’ve listened to.

I’ll make these reviews spoiler free also. Nothing worse than ‘some review’ giving away all the integral twists and turns of a story before you’d had a chance to hear it for yourself.

So, here goes, sound the klaxon and prepare the drumroll for…

Alien – River of Pain Audiobook.

This story picks up where the first Ridley Scott film ‘Alien’ stops, and ends where in the second movie Ellen Ripley meets Rebecca Jordan, otherwise known as Newt … mostly.

LV-426, the planet upon which the crew of the Nostromo first fell prey to the deadly xenomorphs — has been renamed Acheron, you know, the one Ripley is forced to back to in ‘Aliens.’

With the protection of the colonial marines, colonists have been trying to terraform the Acheron against overwhelming odds and fierce atmospheric living conditions.

Two of the colonists seeking their fortune are also parents to be, and the birth of their second child: Rebecca Jordan ‘Newt’ is cause for a brief celebration as the first off world (Earth) birth.


As we have come to expect in the Alien films there are some scientists with a sinister agenda, that being to capture a living alien at any cost and bring it back to Earth. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s a horror theme that goes right back to Shelley’s Frankenstein and one the Alien franchise could not survive without: The quest for knowledge is a dangerous one and often corrupts.

As an audience that has probably seen the Alien movie Franchise in its entirety, we know in general terms what is going to happen. Then again, knowing the general outcome of a story shouldn’t distract from enjoying the journey.

Alien, River of Pain fills in a few of the blanks left by the movies and presents us with believable characters that we can afford to become invested in and some old favourites – Carter Burke – that we can still love to hate.

I had to double check the cast list at one point, as Laurel Lefkow’s interpretation of Ellen Ripley was so close to Sigourney Weaver’s performance, that the transition from movie to audiobook was almost seamless.

Looking into the cast list of this audio dramatization I was, I must confess, a little star struck:

Alien River of Pain is directed by Dirk Maggs (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and stars Anna Friel (Limitless), Alexander Siddig (Star Trek Deep Space 9), Michelle Ryan (Bionic Woman, Doctor Who), Colin Salmon (Alien vs Predator) and guest star William Hope, returning as Lt. Gorman from James Cameron’s Aliens.

Review Score for Audiobook Alien River of Pain…

At the end of every review I’ll give a score out of 5 for the narration and the story, then an overall score out of 10

Alien -River of Pain Scores:

Story:         4
Narration: 5
Overall:      9 – This is an absolute MUST for any Alien fan out there.

If you’d like to download it the amazon link is below:


AND…. If you are a fan of Dark Science Fiction ‘The Black Water Journals’ series is also available as a FREE download.

Simply click on the image below:

Dark Sci-Fi fantasy Audio Series the Black Water Journals. FREE download here



You know I read a shocking statistic recently, 82% of young people in the UK don’t read for pleasure. It made me kind of sad to think that television, movies, Nintendo Wii and the PS3 are converting our future generation into couch potatoes devoid of imagination and purpose.

I have travelled quite a long and varied path before I realized I wanted to be a writer, doing seemingly unrelated jobs which usually had an artistic or writing element but through it all I have always read for fun.

As much as I enjoy computer games television and cinema (and I do) they will never be able to match the potential imagery your imagination can produce.

I read mostly fiction because that’s where my interest lies. When I pick up a book by Stephen King, James Herbert or Dean Koontz I very quickly find myself lost in the world they have created. The beauty is that once I am in that world it is no longer theirs, it is mine. They will describe the essential parts I need to know to highlight a particular character or to drive the plot forward but will leave ample breathing room so my imagination can fill in the blanks. Let’s take this section from Velocity By Dean Koontz…

Although he had the head reminiscent of a squash ball and the heavy rounded shoulders of a sumo wrestler, Ned was an athletic man only if you thought barroom jabber and grudge-holding qualified as sports. In those events, he was an Olympian.

After reading this for the first time I had a perfect complete mental image of Ned, any film or pictorial depiction of him presented to me after that point was almost guaranteed to be a disappointment. I can also guarantee to within a certain degree of accuracy that your own depiction of Ned will be equally as brilliant and completely unique to you.

Reading is to my mind essential to any writer. How many times have you wanted to describe something but couldn’t find the right words? The more I read the less that happens.

The correct grammar, how much of a character or plot to give to the reader, and at which point the many ways of depicting an emotion is delivered are all generously donated to the aspiring writer by their literary heroes.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post and my morning ramblings, all thoughts and comments as always very welcome x

Today I’d like to share what was a common business practice when I ran an advertising agency and is now an irreplaceable part of my writers toolkit.


As I once wrote ‘Without questions there can never be any answers’, they open your mind and your field of creation, they force you to remove the blinkers and write with absolute confidence.

When I start writing I am always very aware that my first draft is for me and me alone, it not written with a great emphasis on target audience I simply want to get the story out, to display the diamond in the rough.

After the first draft is complete I become a fictitious member of my potential audience and ask questions…

Is the plot line clear enough? Is there enough empathetic or emotional attachment? What unnecessary text is there? (Something that doesn’t drive plot forward or further define character and character relationships).

Questions don’t have to wait till you have finished your first draft. During my work on ‘The Trouble With Time Travel’ I was myself troubled, every one of my characters was well rounded and created with absolute precision save one, and this one was a constant irritation to me; What was his motivation? Where in fact did he come from? What exactly does he want and what will he do to get it?

It was only when I stopped writing the main story and allowed myself to answer these questions could I continue without these self imposed road blocks.

As a writer I am well aware that every time I type or pick up a pen I am potentially creating an amazing environment full of living breathing people, animals, buildings, trees, ghosts and as yet undiscovered entities.

How well defined this environment is depends entirely on the questions I ask myself.

I hope you found this helpful, As always all comments welcome x

Writers block is awful, you sit down eager to continue with your short story, manuscript or novel and all your brain produces is the odd piece of tumble-weed within a vast deserted landscape, the building that once housed the creative life force behind your work exists only as a mirage.

My initial way of responding to writers block was to simply stop go into a Zen state and simply wait for the inspiration for me to continue with my project.

The fear being that if I continued without the inspiration, whatever words were added at that point would serve only to infect what was up to now equivalent to a work of divine creation.

Thing is, you could wait forever for the right inspiration to come along, days, weeks even months and lets face it a writer who doesn’t write, well isn’t a writer.

I came up with two solutions one was to write every day, and that starts with free form which has been covered in my earlier posts, then pick up the manuscript (you know the divine document) and write, even if its terrible drudge, just write, and keep to a word count start with 1000 words per day.

Humans are habitual creatures and you’ll find once you start doing this it will be easier to keep going.

This helped me to write every day but I found the inspiration was still a problem you see my brain is constantly ticking over and whilst one section of my creative self was interested in swimming in deep rivers of shock and horror my other half was simply wanting to make people laugh.

I came up with a project that was the counter balance to all things dark and devious.

This meant I had two projects on the go at the same time, but you can’t do that can you???

I didn’t think so, but it seems to work for me. I tend to find that every day I’m in the mood for one or the other project and I seem to find absence make the heart grow fonder, once I leave one project I can’t wait to get back to it which makes my daily word count rather large.

I’d be very interested to learn from other writers, find out what different methods work for different people so please feel free to leave a comment.

Till next time x

Today’s post can be a little disturbing so turn away if you’re easily shocked.

I like to study psychology, always been fascinated by how the human mind works and why we think, feel and act the way we do at any given moment, which leaves me constantly asking questions.

Now questions are great, for without them there can never be any answers. For me, the exploration and expression of those answers is what gives writing its power.

I once asked myself …….What makes a killer kill?

I read a few books on the subject then like the actor that I am tried to emotionally live the part a bit, I tried to dive inside the mind of a killer.

I began to like the idea of a novel being written from the point of view of the killer, a novel where the killer is the unwanted yet necessary protagonist whom people reluctantly follow whilst every moral fibre in their body tells them to leave.

Some free form writing followed which then inspired one of the novels I’m working on at the moment ‘Melek’.

In time I’ll share some of the novel with you; but for now, some of the free form that inspired the book, remember free form is basically to write the first thing that comes into your head ignoring all rules of grammar and expression, all you are doing is filling your pallet:

Free Form…

They say everyone has dark thoughts, you know, flashes and moments of sheer terror which they keep locked away behind the smiles, handshakes, kisses and cocktail parties.

I do.

I can be having a perfectly sensible pleasant conversation with a close friend then just for a moment as he reaches down to pick his half empty coffee cup from the table my mind wanders to that other place.

The coffee becomes a highly corrosive acid, one the likes of which have only been seen in the land of Herbert and King. I smile slowly as he takes a sip, my heart rate races in giddy excitement as he gulps another, then his eyes are shocked open at the very same moment he asks for help, at least that’s what I think is happening I wonder if I have time to grab my video camera.

His internal organs are melting which means he no longer has the power of speech…


I wrote quite a bit more that day all of which was unusable in its raw form but what it did provide was a seed of inspiration and purpose from which I produced my main character and what I hope will be a highly engaging story.

Hope you enjoyed, all comments welcome x