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