In the Christopher Fowler’s chilling new novel Nyctophobia he addresses one of humanity’s oldest, and most primeval fears: darkness.
“It’s a strange thing, nyctophobia. You’re not born with it. It can start at any time. It comes and goes, and it’s one of the only phobias you can transmit to other people.”
In anticipation of the book’s release I sat down with some of the Solaris publishing team and in a badly thought out form of group therapy got them to reveal what keeps them awake at night…
Jonathan Oliver, Editor-in-Chief
As with so many things, you can blame it on TV. Well, you can blame it on one specific TV show that I saw around Christmastime when I was 6 years old: The Box of Delights. Yes, The Box of Delights for a time gave me a phobia of wolves. I blame the opening title sequence with that grinning wolf’s head; that haunted my dreams for years afterward. I would wake from a nightmare where a man in a suit with a wolf’s head was standing in my bedroom doorway. It’s certainly a silly thing to be afraid of, especially living in the UK where there aren’t that many wolves around. But the surreality of the wolf imagery in that old BBC show probably exacerbated the fear. For a while I found werewolf movies scarier than they probably were intended to be, and even images of wolves in documentaries gave me a frisson of fear.
No longer, however; I’ve grown out of it. There are much more horrible things to be scared of as an adult. Ali – my wife – and I recently revisited The Box of Delights, watching the BBC adaptation. It’s still quite weird, but it’s showing its age, and it’s particularly sad to watch Robert Stephens put in a lacklustre performance, clearly unwell, clearly suffering from the ravages of addiction.
Children take images and turn them into something way more sinister thanks to the power of imagination, and in the winter of 1984, and for several years afterwards, for this young boy, the wolves were running.
Ben Smith, Publishing Manager
Who needs a phobia when you have experienced real, rational terror?
My brothers and I were going to see Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark at the cinema, but when we got there it was sold out. However my mum – normally a careful, caring woman – spotted another movie that had Spielberg’s name on the poster and got us tickets to that instead. The movie was Poltergeist. I was six years old.
I had nightmares FOR YEARS.
So no, I have no phobias.
But if a television set comes on by itself, let’s just say I’m not staying in the building.
David Moore, Editor
My phobias – although I’d hesitate to call either of them phobias, for different reasons – are spiders (sort of) and heights.
I hesitate to consider my discomfort with spiders a phobia, since phobias (phobiae?) are irrational, and – frankly – I grew up in Australia. Spiders over there will fuck your shit up. I don’t scream, scarper, freeze or any of that nonsense; my response can generally be classed under “unrestrained bloody carnage.” Man, fuck those things. I actually like spiders – they’re beautiful, fascinating, extraordinary creatures – but if I see one of the fuckers in my house it gets the shoe.
Vertigo is an odd one. As a kid, like most kids, I scampered up and down climbing frames, trees and all sorts left, right and centre. I don’t even have a trauma to refer to, or remember developing vertigo; it crept up on me over the years. I think when we stop climbing stuff, we lose the nerve to do it. The weird thing about vertigo is, it’s almost more physical than anything else. Rationally, I can look over a balcony or down from the London Eye very calmly, knowing I’m perfectly safe. But if whatever I’m standing on and holding onto isn’t obviously, visibly, very secure, my legs start to tense, my knees tingle, my back tenses – everything, in fact, starts to react except my mind. It’s weird.
So I guess my greatest fear would be falling from a great height into a nest of spiders. Or falling off a big spider or something, I dunno.
Lydia Gittins, Digital Promotions & PR Assistant
Needles. Even just writing the word makes me feel anxious.
In theory this is a totally logical fear; it’s letting someone deliberately insert a foreign object THROUGH YOUR SKIN.
Sadly though, as someone with multiple piercings when I present this phobia (normally in the context of a busy doctor’s surgery, to an over-worked nurse and via the medium of the ‘dead faint’) it somehow gets a little harder to rationalise to other people and a lot harder to sympathise with...
So basically, don’t come anywhere near me with a needle, unless you’re covered in poorly though-out tattoos and work in a dubious piercing salon.
Oh, also morph suits. I bloody hate morph suits.
Simon Parr, Head of Art and cover artist for Nyctophobia
I FEAR NO MAN
(except for Hulk Hogan)
Ed: The image used for Simon’s phobia is the one supplied by him with his statement. It has also directly contributed to a more general office-wide fear of the Hogan-infinity-beard. Thanks Simon.
Nyctophobia by Christopher Fowler is out October 2014
“It's wonderful to be in this beautifully created world where you know something very strange is going to happen, and as in all his work that astonishing sense of atmosphere, of being in Fowlerville.” – Jake Arnott
“Fowler demonstrates that the medium – as well as chilling the blood – can be a repository for some truly elegant writing” – Barry Forshaw, Crime Time
“A successful and highly recommended ghost story.” – Books, Brains & Beer
“This one keeps the pages turning and the night lights burning.” – Bloggabook
“Nyctophobia is the best horror book I’ve read in 2014, and I doubt I’ll find a better book any time soon. The writing was exquisite, rich in detail, atmospheric and haunting.” – I Heart Reading
“The most effective and chilling horror novel I've read since House of Leaves -- be prepared to sleep with the light on for a while once you've finished it.” – James, a bookseller
Netgalley reviewers: Request a review copy today
You can follow the Solaris team on twitter @solarisbooks - feel free to drop by and sympathise with our crippling fears. Or send pictures of spiders.