How disgusting should I be?

What is your threshold of horror? When does “entertainingly creepy” cross the line into “sick”?


Disgust and horror are central to the aesthetics of Buddhist Tantra, monster fiction, and my vampire novel. Spattering bodily fluids about is half the fun.

I hope to hook you into reading the whole of The Vetali’s Gift. Making it entertaining is part of my job.

For this to work, it has to be disgusting enough to make you deliciously queasy—but not so appalling that you stop reading.

Unfortunately, everyone has a different threshold. Whatever I do will drive some readers away in horror, and will seem tame and boring to others. I hope to find a middling level of abhorrence that works for the largest audience.

The episode “Love and death” could be a test case.

The death part is over the top. How did you react to it? Perhaps you thought:

  • It exploited, for shock value—and sexualized—the tragic death of a young girl; and that was morally reprehensible.
  • It was funny. The piling up of horrors became absurd; camp; melodrama. Maybe you laughed out loud.
  • It was sick. You wondered if I (the author) am sick. But you still enjoyed reading it. And that gave you a moment of wondering if you are sick yourself. [This is the effect I hope for.]
  • Sukhi’s death was so sad that the way she died was irrelevant.

Or… ?

I’d appreciate your feedback. What do you think?

Was this episode too disgusting? Or not horrible enough to leave you feeling interestingly queasy?

How do you think other readers will react?

Please leave a comment.

Related resources

By the way, you might be interested to know that I based my plague on Ebola virus. Ebola is one of the most lethal, contagious, and horrifying diseases. With the exception of exploding eyeballs, the symptoms I describe are pretty accurate. Basically the virus causes all your blood vessels to leak, so your insides are effectively liquefied, and are expelled through all orifices.

The closely related Marburg virus has been “enhanced” as a biological weapon.