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Author Phobia

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Authors are people just like us, with likes and dislikes...and fears. Their dislikes may stem from an incident in their life, or, just a basic hatred, fear or phobia of something that will provide a genuine Berserk Button whenever it's mentioned in their presence.

Sometimes a creator draws upon their personal Nightmare Fuel in an attempt to make their villains more fearsome and intimidating. For instance, if the author as a child was bitten by a venomous spider and nearly died, they might make the Big Bad of their story a hideous Giant Spider. For them, it can be a way to overcome their fears or tensions or to at least give it a new meaning by using it as a trope in their work. Other times they just use their personal hatred of something to provide an Aesop to inform their audience why they too should dislike this particular thing. Can result in Propaganda Piece, Author Tract or Anviliciousness if treated too seriously or heavily. If audience members have no problems with the author's personal distastes it might result in Flame War, especially if it's treated irrationally or without much knowledge of the subject. For instance, if an author has a fear of gorillas, he may write a story in which his characters are attacked by a Killer Gorilla. As many biologists can tell you, gorillas really aren't vicious aggressive monsters who just randomly attack you. In such cases, the author may be accused of being an Unreliable Narrator who just acknowledges people's prejudices about a matter or even makes his audience more frightened of stuff they originally weren't that anxious about.

Contrast Author Appeal. See also Based on a Dream (if the dream is a nightmare the author had) and Single-Issue Wonk.


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    Anime & Manga 

  • H. R. Giger suffered from night terrors, recurring nightmares that are seen as a serious medical condition. He used these images in his artwork, working through his sleeplessness as a way of overcoming his fears. They inspired the Xenomorph aliens in the Alien franchise. Giger also had a phobia for worms and snakes.
  • Salvador Dalí once made a painting called Shirley Temple: the youngest canonized monster of our time, depicting her as a monstrous sphinx. He also included locusts as a motif in much of his work, precisely because he was terrified of them.

    Comic Books 
  • Creator Edgar P. Jacobs of Blake and Mortimer fell down a seven meters deep old well when he was two or three years old. It took half an hour before he was able to be brought back up. The experience resulted in a lot of scenes in his comic strip where characters fall into pits or are walking through underground locations.
  • Author Hergé of the Tintin series was forced to listen to his aunt singing opera arias when he was a child. It led to a strong dislike of opera music, exemplified in the character Bianca Castafiore, whose singing usually scares away everybody or makes glass break. He also suffered from recurring nightmares in which he was chased by a skeleton and everything turned white afterward. After psychiatric advice he decided to make an album that took place in a white environment: Tintin in Tibet. Not only did it become a highlight in his oeuvre, but his nightmares also went away afterward.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Peter Jackson used his own arachnophobia to measure the effectiveness of Shelob's design and animations for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
  • James Cameron wrote The Terminator based on a nightmare he had of a robotic skeleton emerging from a fiery explosion and coming after him. It's even referenced on the main Nightmare Fuel page quote. "From the director's nightmares to yours." However, Cameron was sued because the idea bore a resemblance to two Harlan Ellison-written The Outer Limits (1963) episodes, "Soldier" and "Demon with a Glass Hand". As part of the settlement, the credits of the movie now include the phrase "Acknowledgement to the works of Harlan Ellison."
  • Alfred Hitchcock had a fear of the police, due to an incident in his childhood where his father ordered a policeman to lock him up for ten minutes for being disobedient. As a result, Police Are Useless and Wrongly Accused were two of his favorite tropes.
  • Wes Craven named Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) fame after a bully who harassed him and based his appearance on a disfigured hobo who scared him as a child. Craven's earlier film The Last House on the Left has a villainous character named Krug after the same bully.
  • Stanley Kubrick felt very paranoid about institutions, ranging from the government, the army, companies and secret organizations, a fear that runs through his entire work.
  • Mel Brooks: As a Jew and World War II vet, he naturally hates Hitler. However, he used his hatred of the man by frequently lampooning him in his films, most centrally in The Producers.
  • Ken Loach is very critical and angry about the British government, especially concerning how they mistreat the lower class and their policies in Ireland. The rest of his work also shows a strong opposition to fascism, Nazism and other right-wing totalitarianism.
  • Brazilian actor and movie director José Mojica Marins also got the idea for his famous horror movie character Coffin Joe by dreaming about it: "In a dream saw a figure dragging me to a cemetery. Soon he left me in front of a headstone, there were two dates of my birth and my death. People at home were very frightened, called a priest because they thought I was possessed. I woke up screaming, and at that time decided to do a movie unlike anything I had done. He was born at that moment the character would become a legend: Coffin Joe. The character began to take shape in my mind and in my life. The cemetery gave me the name, completed the costume of Joe the cover of voodoo and black hat, which was the symbol of a classic brand of cigarettes. He would be a mortician."
  • David Lynch's daughter was born with a club foot around the time he made Eraserhead, which features the protagonist having a deformed child and being unable to help it.
    • Lynch has also spoken about growing up in "Middle America as it was supposed to be. But then on the cherry tree would be this pitch oozing out, some of it black, some of it yellow, and there were millions and millions of red ants racing all over the sticky pitch, all over the tree. So you see, there's this beautiful world and you just look a little bit closer and it's all red ants." This fascination with the dark underbelly of the apparently-idyllic American dream defines most of his work, and the image of marching insects as a representation of this idea has cropped up in a few of his projects, such the beetles under the lawn in Blue Velvet or the chorus line of singing ants in Dumbland.
    • When David Lynch was a boy, he went on a late night walk with his brother and came upon a naked woman, covered in bruises, who vanished before they could ask her if she needed help. The incident had a profound impact on him, and is recreated almost point-for-point in Blue Velvet, while a broader horror of (typically male) violence against women is present across a lot of his work.
  • Terry Gilliam's dislike of totalitarianism and bureaucracy frequently shines through in his films, most notably Brazil.
  • Andrés Muschietti was terrified in his childhood by his parents' collection of artwork by surrealist painter Amedeo Modigliani. The appearance of the title character in Mama was inspired by them, and his adaptation of Stephen King's It (2017) introduced an original form for shapeshifting Pennywise even more overtly based on them: Stan, one of the movie's Kid Heroes, is freaked out by a Modigliani-esque painting belonging to his dad, and Pennywise takes the form of the lady in the painting specifically to scare Stan.
  • Guillermo del Toro has said that he despises cows and horses, considering them "perverted creatures" and "evil motherfuckers". This rarely comes up in his movies because then he'd have to have the animals on set, but any character who is associated with either animal in his films is likely to be a villain. A good example would be the Falangist officers in Pan's Labyrinth, who are frequently seen on horseback. The evil troll Mr. Wink, featured in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, also has a rather bovine appearance.
    • Part of the reason Del Toro's family left Mexico was that his dad got kidnapped and held for ransom. The loss of a father is a big motif in his work - a lot of his protagonists are fatherless or lose their father over the course of the story. On the other hand, evil father figures show up pretty often as well - most overtly with the Wicked Stepfather Cpt. Vidal and the deconstructed Standard '50s Father that is Richard Strickland.

  • Despite it being a common myth, this trope is actually averted with J. R. R. Tolkien. According to this article, he was indeed bitten by a venomous spider during his childhood but mentions this event did not give him arachnophobia. He even said he saved spiders falling into his bath. While many of his works do feature giant, malevolent arachnids, including the spiders of Mirkwood, Shelob, and Ungoliant, this is not because of his own dislike for spiders. Tolkien frequently used spiders as antagonists, because his son Michael was the one who feared spiders and Tolkien mainly wrote his stories for his children.
  • C. S. Lewis was afraid of insects, largely due to a pop-up book that scared him as a child.
    • This is a phobia that he attributed to Lucy Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia. This phobia can also be inferred to be the reason why insects are rarely mentioned in Narnia, if at all.
    • Deconstructed in the Space Trilogy. The protagonist is pursued through caves by a diabolical enemy, accompanied by a giant centipede. But when the enemy is dispatched, the protagonist finds nothing horrible or even dangerous about the big bug. Or any other bug ever again. "All that he had felt from childhood about insects and reptiles died that moment: died utterly, as hideous music dies when you switch off the wireless. Apparently, it had all, even from the beginning, been a dark enchantment of the enemy's."
  • Much of what H. P. Lovecraft wrote was motivated by his own nightmares and personal phobias. Among the ones less likely to evoke similar feelings in readers nowadays were his fears of non-white Anglo-Saxon people and miscegenation. And fish. He also had a lifelong fear of cold temperatures, encouraged by his frail constitution. This is partly why the oppressive atmosphere of At the Mountains of Madness is so effective. He also was deeply afraid of the mental issues that plagued his family, leading to the themes of the horror of mental instability and one's family history coming back to haunt you, which ties into his racism to create a general fear of heredity itself.
  • Stephen King is known for writing about things that scare him personally.
    • In particular, Pet Sematary is based on a real incident where King stopped his son from almost getting run over by a truck. He couldn't shake thoughts of what would have happened if he failed and wrote a novel around it.
    • As with the Orwell example below, King's fear of rats appears again and again: "Nona," "Graveyard Shift," 'Salem's Lot and a section in It are just a few examples that contain very chilling descriptions of rats.
    • In 1999, King was struck by a car and has since turned it into a reoccurring theme, with one of his books (From a Buick 8) being based on it, and even making the incident a plot point in The Dark Tower.
  • Winston's fear of rats and its use against him in the Room 101 scene in Nineteen Eighty-Four was inspired by George Orwell's personal fear of rats. On a larger scale, the novel itself was also the sum of all his fears about totalitarianism and especially the way language was used in propaganda.
  • Terry Pratchett and horses. Several of his Discworld characters have had similar internal monologues about considering horses four-legged masses of barely-restrained insanity. Although he's not above including the odd heroic horse like Binky.
  • J. K. Rowling transferred her arachnophobia to Ron Weasley and features some truly frightening Giant Spiders as recurring minor villains. Her later book Troubled Blood - about a Creepy Crossdresser Serial Killer - was infamously informed by her fear of transgender people, and its follow-up, The Ink Black Heart, is about political correctness gone mad, and is usually read as a thinly-veiled metaphor for the backlash against Troubled Blood - though she has insisted that most of it was written before any of that happened.
  • Mary Shelley was inspired to write Frankenstein when she dreamt of a pale student who brought a hideous corpse to life. Later critics have pointed out that Shelley wrote Frankenstein shortly after giving birth and losing her baby, which also informs Victor Frankenstein's journey of creation and repulsion.
  • In the author's notes to Bloodchild, Octavia Butler mentions that one of the main inspirations for the story was reading about, and overcoming her fear of, botflies.
  • Edgar Allan Poe was afraid of being mistakenly Buried Alive, which features prominently in several of his stories (including "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Fall of the House of Usher"). He even poked some gentle fun at his phobias with the comedy "The Premature Burial", in which the main character gets worked up into a tizzy overhearing it happen to other people, then awakes to find that it's happened to him... and then realizes he's fallen asleep in a crowded bunkroom aboard a ship.
  • James Herbert did not like rats. At all. Not only do giant, smart, actively malevolent rats feature in an entire trilogy as the monsters, regular rats pop up as minor threats in many others, and frequently the protagonists react to them with revulsion.
  • Not so much a phobia as a pet peeve, but Roald Dahl did not like television (even though he himself hosted and wrote for a few TV shows).
    • Because Dahl was educated in a school environment long before corporal punishment was outlawed, he frequently featured sadistic authority figures, particularly teachers, in his works. In fact, a scene from Danny, the Champion of the World where the title character is caned by his teacher is based on Dahl's own punishment as a child.
  • Robert E. Howard may have had something against snakes, as snakes and snake-themed villains show up regularly in his works.
  • The sea, drowning and the loss of loved ones are common themes in John Ajvide Lindqvist's novels, most notably Handling the Undead, Harbour and Tjärven. Lindqvist has himself acknowledged that his writing is a way to handle his feelings caused by the loss of his own father, who drowned at sea.
  • Robert Jordan gave The Chosen One of The Wheel of Time a major guilt complex over women dying in his name. Jordan, a Vietnam veteran, also described being profoundly shaken by facing a woman in combat for the first time.
  • Wings of Fire: The scene in "The Dragonet Prophecy'' with Clay having to make it through an underground river of indeterminate length while not knowing if he'll end up drowning even with his ability to hold his breath for an hour is inspired by author Tui Sutherland’s own fear of swimming in enclosed spaces like this.
  • John Irving has said that his greatest fear in life is one of his children dying; the death of young children and the grief of their parents is a reoccurring element in his novels, particularly The World According to Garp and A Widow for One Year.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Stephen Colbert in The Colbert Report warns his viewers about how bears are godless killing machines. Inspired by a phobia he had as a child of bears attacking him in his room.
  • Babylon 5: Londo's dream about standing on his homeworld and watching the sky fill with black, spider-shaped spaceships was based on a nightmare of J.M.S., the series creator. (Of course, JMS's dream, unlike Londo's, wasn't prophetic. We hope.)
  • Doctor Who:
    • Dr. Kit Pedler, creator of the Cybermen, was terrified of the potential for medicine—specifically prosthetic medicine—to become dehumanizing.
    • The Third Doctor story "Planet of the Spiders" features Giant Spiders that jump up and latch onto people's backs, and they are horrible. Robert Sloman was a terrible arachnophobe.
    • The Fourth Doctor story "The Deadly Assassin", which the Fourth Doctor spends mostly being tortured, beaten to a pulp and drowned in a jungle has an added frisson when you remember that the writer Robert Holmes had fought in Burma while still a teenager. In addition, Tom Baker has a phobia of water (severe enough that he could only shower because he couldn't stand baths).
    • Robert Holmes hated filing his taxes - as his role on Who combined writer and script editor, he was stuck in a complicated and Kafkaesque financial situation where he had to pay tax on his earnings twice. This annoyed him so much that he wrote "The Sun Makers", a story about an Obstructive Bureaucrat civilization that taxes people to suicide before the Doctor inspires a populist revolt to murder them all and cheer about it.
    • The Eleventh Doctor story "A Christmas Carol" involves flying sharks and fish. As a child, Steven Moffat had nightmares about fish that could swim through the air. It should be noted that the fish in the story are actually rather friendly and the Doctor even rides the shark at one point.
    • Pretty much all of Moffat's monsters are based on things that scared him as a child, such as statues moving when you aren't looking (Weeping Angels), the darkness hiding carnivores (Vashta Nerada), and Edvard Munch's "The Scream" (the Silence). He even deconstructed his tendency to do this in "Listen", where the Doctor's attempt to prove a weird theory about the perfect camouflaged organism is revealed to be the product of a time-traveling Clara, his companion, scaring him as a child in the night.
  • Ultra Series:
    • Ultraman Ginga: Designer Masayuki Goto has a fear of clowns, which inspired Dark Lugiel's cross-shaped eyes evoking a clown's makeup.
    • Ultraman X: Series writer Takao Nakano based Greeza on his traumatic image of Zetton as a child.

  • Black Sabbath's titular song, about a guy who dies and goes to hell, was inspired by a nightmare one of the band members had. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was in turn inspired when they rented out a castle and spent time recording in the dungeons, which freaked them out.
  • Iron Maiden's Signature Song "The Number of the Beast" was inspired by a nightmare bassist and bandleader Steve Harris had after watching Damien: Omen II. "Fear Of The Dark" was also inspired by Harris's own - you guessed it - fear of the dark.
  • The Sex Pistols: The band has frequently stated in interviews that their main motivation was to piss off everyone and everything that had irritated them up to that point: hippies, rock 'n' roll, pop music, Moral Guardians, the Royal Family, the class system, conformity, squares, poseurs,... Just listen to Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.
  • Frank Zappa hated Country Music. Though he embraced most other musical genres, "cowboy music" (as he would call it) was one of the few genres he generally despised. He spoofed it twice with his songs "Lonesome Cowboy Burt" from 200 Motels and "Poofter's Wroth Wyoming Plans Ahead" from Bongo Fury. Other specific stuff he despised and mocked often in his work were hippies, love songs, the plastic people, Republicans, unions, Disco, Richard Nixon, the American government, American public schools, Ronald Reagan, drug users, televangelists, the Moral Majority, MTV, the PMRC, Pat Boone, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Michael Jackson... His song "Truck Driver Divorce" from the album Them Or Us is also a parody of Country Music, especially country breakup songs.
  • Thomas Dolby wrote "Flying North" about his fear of flying.
  • Eminem often uses his music to needle himself about his own anxieties, and stuff that winds him up.
    • A lot of his songs express his discomfort with his place in the pop establishment next to a lot of manufactured bands who aren't about what he's about, plus his discomfort with what he's had to become to fit in with them. The songs on this theme range from fuck-yous to pop stars ("The Real Slim Shady", "Marshall Mathers", "Without Me"), Self-Deprecation about his own identification with a pop world he hates ("Same Song And Dance", "My Band", "Ass Like That"), and blatant suicidal ideation ("Say Goodbye Hollywood", "Evil Deeds", "Rain Man", the skit at the end of Encore). He relaxed about this after incorporating more pop elements in his music in the 2010s (and stepping away more from the limelight), and even boastfully categorised his music as pop (fused with rock and shock-rap) in "Rap God".
    • Eminem's hatred of his annoying fans is also well documented in his songs. He often satirically brags about his role as a corruptor of children and celebrates his ability to free kids from their shitty lives, but he's also worried about his own influence on them. "Stan" is a Loony Fan Gothic Horror about how messed up his true believers are, and was inspired by letters Eminem was getting from "Nazis and Satanists" who thought he was like them. "The Way I Am" is a rant for his fans to leave him alone. "Elevator" is a fantasy about murdering the annoying fans who knock on the door of his mansion all day, and "So Far..." is a more friendly storytelling song about his annoying fans hassling him well into his middle age. Even in the Mid-Vid Skit in "Phenomenal", Eminem is shown irritatedly brushing off attention from fans in the middle of an action scene.
    • "Bad Guy" combines Eminem's fear of his negative influence and fear of his fans with his fear of his own declining relevance, bringing Stan's little brother back to get revenge on Eminem, who, in death, is taunted by the Monster about how his time is almost up.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In the past quite some religions have been misused to give people a reason to dislike, hate or fear someone based on a few lines that can be easily misinterpreted in the scripture. A historical example is the anti-Semitism that was rampant for many centuries because some priests and popes used the fact that Jesus had been arrested on commission of some Jewish elders that didn't like the guy to justify violent measures against the Jewish population. All that while Jesus was Jewish by birth. Another example is that several medieval monks used the story of Adam and Eve to "prove" that all women were seductresses and should be considered possible minions of Satan. Open the Malleus Maleficarum, a medieval book about witchcraft, and you'll read pages and pages of misogynistic commentary. This has also been misused against individual religions or to smear all religions by association.

    Puppet Shows 

  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: Mrs. Hawking's perception of her pregnancy and childbirth as a horrible experience draws from playwright Phoebe Roberts's own fears on the subject. Similarly, Mrs. Hawking's fears of the physical decline of growing older, beginning with part three, Base Instruments.

    Video Games 
  • BioShock Infinite: Ken Levine stated in an interview that childhood nightmares about a cracked porcelain doll belonging to his mother served as the inspiration for the Motorized Patriot enemies.
  • Super Mario Bros. 3's Chain Chomps came from an experience Shigeru Miyamoto had as a child, when a dog chased after him as he approached but stopped just inches from him because the dog was tied to a stake.
  • In EarthBound (1994), Final Boss Giygas is presented as an Eldritch Abomination, repeatedly spouting nonsensical things to main character Ness. According to Shigesato Itoi, the dialog Giygas says is based off a childhood memory of him watching what he interpreted to be a rape scene (actually sex-followed-by-murder scene) in a movie.
  • Mother 3 has Tanetane Island, in which the party hallucinates friends and family members attacking them and saying very disturbing things. Itoi said in an interview that his worst nightmare was his loved ones being evil.
  • Scott Cawthon, the creator of Five Nights at Freddy's, has admitted that out of the four animatronics in the game, he finds Bonnie the creepiest, to the point of having nightmares about him while making the game. This is probably why, after Freddy, Bonnie gets the most attention in promotional material (including the trailer) and in the game proper, there's a Random Event involving him making a Nightmare Face. Also possibly why Five Nights at Freddy's 3's sole animatronic is another rabbit named Springtrap, whose character design looks like a more gruesome Bonnie, to the point that people were calling it "Golden Bonnie" prior to release.
  • A subtle version in Winter Voices, and one that only comes into play during the later parts of the game. Rape is a very common element of many of the Heroine's nightmares, but it doesn't become glaringly obvious until Episode 4.
  • Accidentally applied in Rakenzarn Tales. The quest to recruit Cain Argol involves fighting a giant snake. Geminidrake, Cain's creator, is deeply afraid of snakes, a fact that did not come to light until after the quest had been completed.
  • Donkey Kong Country: Designer Steve Mayles admits to disliking wasps. He was kind of freaked out while working on the Zingers, gorilla-sized Wicked Wasps which are hard to defeat.

  • Played for Laughs in xkcd by creator Randall Munroe, who apparently has a morbid fear of raptors, an animal that has long since gone extinct.
  • Amber Williams of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures is afraid of horses, which is why Kria and Dark Pegasus are both demonic horses.
  • Dr. Knickerbockers of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja is based on a recurring nightmare of Kent Archer, then-inker of the comic. As such, Archer couldn't do the inking for pages featuring the character, forcing Chris Hastings to handle it.
  • Aqua Regia: Fluhor is terrified of dystopias and military repression, considering the story of his country and the hunt of artists, students and more who opposed the regimes, it's an understandable fear.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Failed biotech company Theranos based almost all of its publicity on the Edison, a device that was supposed to be able to perform numerous blood tests from a single drop of blood. While the Edison was plagued with plenty of issues on the mechanical side, its actual tests were also woefully inaccurate because one blood drop wasn't enough to test with. Although the engineers asked for the ability to use larger samples, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes refused to budge from her one-drop policy. Holmes has an immense fear of blood, which may have played a role in her desire to use as little as possible.