Fear Itself

Drew ChapmanDrew Chapman was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in History. His early work history included: bike messenger, newspaper reporter, bootleg T-shirt salesman and knish vendor at Yankee Stadium. He wrote his first novel in fourth grade. It remains unpublished.

After college Drew moved to Los Angeles and began working in film production. He got an agent and took a position as a staff writer for Disney Animation. He has since written on projects for studios including Disney, Fox, Universal, Warner Brothers and Sony. He wrote and directed a feature film, “Stand Off”, starring Dennis Haysbert and Robert Sean Leonard.

Drew works extensively in television, where he writes under the name Andrew Chapman. He has sold pilots to ABC, Fox, Amazon, ABC Family, and Sony. In 2014 Drew wrote and produced an eight part limited series for ABC called “The Assets”, and this year wrote on and co-executive produced the second season of the spy show “Legends” for TNT.

His first novel, The Ascendant, was released by Simon & Schuster in 2014. The sequel, The King of Fear, was published as an eBook series starting November 3, 2015, and was released in paperback February 16, 2016.

My parents had this book on their shelves when I was a kid growing up in New York City called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It was written in the 19th century, and it’s considered the seminal work on mass hysteria. The book has always fascinated me, and I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe because I came of age through two blackouts and subsequent riots – moments when my hometown seemed to go completely nuts. Or maybe because I am the grandchild of a French Jew who fled the Holocaust – who was paranoid enough to see trouble coming early and ran fast, while others sat and waited. And didn’t make it.

Either way, I’ve always been amazed at the way fear and delusion can spread through a population of people like a virus. So for my second book, I researched fear. And one idea I found stuck with me.

Evolutionary biologists have this theory that fear is cooked into humanity’s DNA. The idea goes something like this: if you were an early human, a Cro-Magnon or Homo Erectus, living on the plains of Africa, and you spooked every night at the wind blowing, you might not get a lot of sleep, but you wouldn’t be eaten by a marauding lion either. You were fearful, and you ran, and you lived to fight another day. But if you were a more laid back early human, and you slept through that tree limb snapping in the darkness, well nine out of ten times it might be nothing – but that tenth time, when it was a saber toothed tiger? You were cat meat. And more importantly for the species, you didn’t get to pass your gene pool on to your descendants.

So the biologist’s theory is that we are all descended from surviving paranoids. Fear is hard-wired into our genes. Which means that people who see danger everywhere – be it overly anxious parents or tin-foil hat type conspiracy theorists – can’t really help themselves. They are just doing what their DNA is commanding them to do. And looked The King of Fearat in that light, fear becomes not a source of weakness, but a primitive well of strength. Fear helped our species survive all these millennia.

Of course primitive fears don’t help much when the wind blows outside our suburban windows. It’s not a lion out there. It’s just the wind. The problem arises when other humans exploit that hereditary reaction for their own purposes. People like conmen, politicians… and novelists.

What I’ve come to realize in researching my second novel is that I’m one of those exploiters of people’s deep dark fears. I look for what Americans are most afraid of, and then I turn it into a book. Fear of collapse, fear of contagion, fear of The Other. I’m a horror storyteller, masquerading as a thriller novelist. The masquerade is in part because I don’t like horror stories – they scare the hell out of me. I guess that’s ironic, but it also makes sense. I’m just another fearful human, turning and tossing all night long at the sound of the wind.

I can’t help myself – I’m not bad, I was just born this way.

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5 thoughts on “Fear Itself

  1. The author has an interesting background. The subject of that book he read as a child is fascinating along with his history in New York and the family background. This speaks well as to his reasons for writing what he does. The book grabbed my curiosity.

  2. Fascinating post and I agree on the fear concept. J ust look at any newspaper these days. Remove every item in the front section that’s derived/connected to fear and there’s very little remaining.

    • Some great comments so far. I gave this some thought and although I do understand, and in part, buy into the genetic aspect, I do believe many of us suffer with various types of fear. Embracing this notion, writing about it may be a way to overcome its results and stare it straight in the eye.

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