Tuesday, February 13, 2018

AT THE INTERSECTION OF HORROR AND SCIENCE: A GUEST POST BY ASHLEY DAVIS

Good morning everyone:

I'm pleased to introduce our next guest for Women in Horror Month (WIHM): Ashley Davis (Katherine Gethin). I had the pleasure of mentoring and getting to know Ashley a few months ago, and folks, this is one writer who you want to keep your eye on because she's doing some truly wonderful work in the horror genre.

In addition to being a brilliant dark poet, she's also an incredible woman with a background in astrophysics and a heart of gold. Her poetry is full of imagery that plays with the balance of light and dark, and in her essay below, she talks a little more about how pertinent this is to her and her academic pursuits. When I read her, I feel like I'm reading a mixture of Susan Hill's The Woman in Black and Richard Matheson's What Dreams May Come, and if you have a love of the Gothic and the beautiful grotesque, I think you'll find her work quite evocative. 

A Meditation on the Intersection of Science and Horror
By Ashley Davis (publishes under the pseudonym Katherine Gethin)

I’m not your average writer. I started winning writing awards around the age of 7, shortly after my parents, upon finding out that I’d read every book in their library, realized I had Savant Syndrome and could read as fast as I could turn the pages. English was always my best subject in school, and horror was always my focus. My first chapter book was Stephen King’s IT at age 6. I read it over the course of an afternoon and fell in love with the genre. Of course, in college I majored in liberal arts and started my editing company. Then the unexpected happened. A brilliant astrophysicist I had as an astronomy professor discovered that I had unusual talent in physics. From there, I threw my heart into science all the way to my PhD in astrophysics, which I’m months from finishing. It completed me; I had found my place. But I still had to write. I’ve been writing horror poetry regularly since I was a child, and I never stopped. Over time, the vastness of the universe and the great mysteries of existence captured my soul and began to weave their way into my writing. A deep understanding of life on a quantum subatomic level changes the way you see the world. Once you learn that darkness is only a place where all light is absorbed, a different darkness takes shape in the abstract, in the juxtaposition between the brilliant, delicate precision of the subatomic and the brash colors and world-moving interactions of the unending macroscopic. The brightest nebula is the death of a star. The smallest particle pairs communicate with each other in ways that defy the laws of science. The mathematics of reality can make your heart race and your blood burn as much as any horror film. The beauty and terror in nature are often simultaneously experienced, even if on different levels. Science is beautiful horror. It is horrific beauty. It encapsulates who we are and describes our existence, and it isn’t written about enough. Certainly not by women. My gender identity makes me unique in both of my professions. But it provides a perspective that I think can bridge the two, even if only briefly. What I do in the lab is no different from what I do with a pen and paper: I observe colossal forces of nature, watching our universe shift atom by atom and explode into beauty, death, and rebirth. And I’m there to pick up the pieces and discover their secrets.

Featured Poem:

//The Night is Full of Teeth//
The stars have teeth

Sharp ridges
Inside their fire
Beyond the wisps of dark matter
No moon or planet
Could ever master their gravitational pull. 

Author BioAshley Davis (publishes under the pseudonym Katherine Gethin) is a horror writer, poet, editor, ghostwriter, science consultant, and PhD astrophysicist living in central Texas. When she isn’t writing dark poetry or studying the universe, she enjoys bellydancing, Celtic history, Krav Maga, and teaching physics at an advanced-curriculum school. She was also the physics consultant on the Southern Reach Trilogy, of which the first film, Annihilation, is being released on February 23.

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