Copyright 2010 by Gary L. Pullman
Rubens' Medusa: an image of both gynephobia and serpentephobia?
There seems little doubt that there are some real phobias. Plenty of people seem to be genuinely afraid of snakes, for example, and most people have met others who are terrified by just the thought of germs. However, it also seems clear that some “phobias” are products of little more than political correctness. Perhaps homophobia fits into the latter category.
Man-made phobias are a horror writer’s dream come true, because by inventing irrational fears, authors of such fiction have a means of creating an all-but-inexhaustible supply of fears, and, of course, fear (and disgust) is the mainstay of horror fiction.
Take technophobia--the irrational fear of technology. This phobia is the basis for all kinds of short stories, novels, and films. In fact, technophobia is the subject of an entire book, Technophobia!: Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology by Daniel Dinello.
Technophobia knows many forms. According to Dinello, it is evident in science fiction’s (and, one might add, to a lesser degree, horror’s) “obsession with mad scientists, rampaging robots, killer clones, cutthroat cyborgs, human-hating androids, satanic supercomputers, flesh-eating viruses, and genetically mutated monsters” (2).
The most extreme expression of technophobia--and one which may soon be not only feasible, but also “inevitable,” according to artificial intelligence expert Raymond Kurzweil,” Dinello says--is the transfer of “human minds into death-free robots” as what science fiction writer Vernor Vinge predicts may be “the next stage of evolution,” which could end in the “physical extinction of the human race,” Hans Moravec, a “robotics pioneer,” warns(4).
Some of the stories in which such transformations are portrayed include Terminator, I, Robot, Blade Runner, Robocop, and, of course, Matrix. Likewise, such novels as H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Food of the Gods, Dean Koontz’s Demon Seed, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, and Robin Cook’s Coma are based upon similar technophobic fears.
By adding “phobia” to the ends of other words that refer to basic human enterprises, scientific, cultural, social, or otherwise, might produce similar subgenres of science fiction and horror: biophobia (fear of life or maybe just biology), statuarophobia (fear of statues), cinematophobia (fear of motion pictures), gardenophobia (fear of gardens), meterophobia (fear of weather), androphobia (fear of men), gynophobia (fear of women), ephebiphobia (fear of children), serpentophobia (fear of snakes), and so on, ad infinitum.