My Initial Thoughts from Danse Macabre

For the record, I’ve never read any of Steven King’s fiction. I have had an aversion to him since I started reading. He is just too prolific and popular. This is funny now, but that signaled “hack,” so I had no appreciation for the extraordinary accomplishment his career had been.
Now I look forward to having many books to consume. I know there is a legion of King fans who would love to experience those stories for the first time. I’m lucky. I can look forward to reading them someday. I have not added him to my formal reading list aside from Danse Macabre, but I own many of his books. Maybe I’ll start with The Running Man
Published in 1981, Danse Macabre is Stephen King’s survey of the horror genre from about 1950 to 1980.
It covers horror fiction, movies, and TV. It has a loose conversational tone. It’s an easy read, packed with nuggets of insight from an insightful writer who isn’t afraid to lay bare the inner workings of the craft. 
This essay is a breakdown of the first chapter only. I will do a second essay on the rest of the book, but I can summarize it by saying it’s a series of movie reviews from a knowledgeable guy.

My Thoughts on Chapter One

After explaining the book’s genesis, King begins with some back story. He details one of his earliest memories as a young horror fan at the movies.
He wastes no time before getting to what he believes is the power and pull of the horror genre—saying that horror works on two levels: the gross-out and the secret primal. 
I like King’s point of view of this. These concepts have been in question long before with gothic fiction. See the purposeful comparison Ann Radcliffe's The Italian and Matthew Gregory Lewis's The Monk. 
This is the dance macabre. 
Horror looks for you where you live on your most primitive level. 
He calls these phobic pressure points and later terminals of fear. 
These phobic pressure points, these terminals of fear are so deeply buried and yet so vital that we may tap them like artesian wells–saying one thing out loud while we express something else in a whisper. 
Adding to this, he mentions the moments when the creator can unite the conscious and subconscious mind with one potent idea. This is the call to action and the key takeaway from this chapter. If it is a dance, and the writer is leading, then to be successful, the goal is to bring the reader to these moments. This is not new. Closely related to Aristotle‘s Poetics. The use of logic and emotional appeal for persuasion works on us at these two base levels.  
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Night of the Living Dead (1968) Written by George A. Romero, co-written by John Russo
These are not limited to individuals. He points out that horror is a popular genre, often treading on social fears like mass political, economic, and psychological issues. He uses Invasion of the Body Snatchers as an example. 
A personal note from me: I remember seeing the remake with Donald Sutherland as a kid, and it was powerful. Possibly more disturbing than Hellraiser 1 and Hellraiser 2. I was too young to see any of those movies when I did.
King’s anecdote about his experience, learning about the launch of Sputnik in the middle of watching a space invasion movie, illustrates the points he makes about how the horror genre works as a whole. It also reminds me that we are products of our times. The culture we grow up in and make our way through- shapes us, our ideas, and our needs.
Within that culture are the important events. Big ones. King uses the Kennedy assassination as an example. Interestingly here, my mind was going internal, trying to connect the individual with these concepts. King was getting to a different point. 
Terror–what Hunter Thompson calls “fear and loathing”–often arises from a pervasive sense of disestablishment; that things are in the unmaking.
He finds it fascinating that for the first time in history, there can be such a mass consciousness united in shock, fear, empathy-creating a mass memory.  I’ll add that this is also tied to the zeitgeist and collective unconsciousness. 
He goes into some detail about his generation, known as the war babies. There is an interesting level of understanding here alone. The war babies are kind of a forgotten or overlooked generation similar to my generation. Generation X entered the world like a lion but are leaving it like lambs. Outdone by the truly digital-first millennials. But like the war babies, Gen X had a rare and significant impact. 
This connection reminds me of the cyclical nature of entertainment. Could an aspiring writer look to the trends that shaped the last cycle to predict the next? If there is truth to it, and my math is correct, we should be experiencing similar themes to the late 80’s. Stereotypically, greedy, selfish, conservative, yuppie consumerist? I’ll want to think deeper on this instead of relying on this caricature.
To finish the chapter, King describes the dual nature of the human condition. 
We are all ultimately alone and that deep and lasting human contact is nothing more nor less than a necessary illusion–but as lest the feelings which we think of as “positive” and “constructive” are a reaching-out, an effort to make contact and establish some sort of communication. 
He attributes these feelings as belonging to the light: listing love, kindness, the ability to care, and empathize as efforts to link and integrate. The word integrate struck me because of its use in Jungian psychology, with people advancing the idea of how to integrate your shadow-the other side of the human psyche. These ideas can be dismissed in life and still used to inform the writing to great effect.
He lists horror, terror, fear, and panic as feelings that drive us apart—presumably belonging to the dark to continue the two-sided argument.
He mentions that the melodies of the horror tale are simple and repetitive. Even more important to me, he adds that they are the melodies of disestablishment and disintegration. Calling back to his earlier definition of terror as a pervasive sense of disestablishment and setting up his final thoughts from his childhood anecdote about the final scene he watched in that movie theater. 
To answer the question of writing scary or terrible things, he offers the concept of reintegration. At the end of the story, the evil has been defeated. The characters can rest easy. The reader can delight in the safe conclusion to the intense vicarious experience. King puts forward this literary technique as the magic that gives the horror story its power.
This leads me to question if it can be that easy. All you have to do is slap on a happy ending and call it a success? I was following this chapter, invested and diligently noting my thoughts. Right at the end, I was let down by this last point. That’s fitting.
The concept of reintegration, and I’ll add reincorporation as another technique I’ve heard as similar or even the same, is still valid. It needs to be considered with all storytelling for maximum impact. It’s on my list. 
I’ll end with a note that reincorporation, as I understand it is when the story connects back to some earlier aspect. Reintegration has more to do with an emotional state or sense. If anything, this chapter left me with a long list of material to add to my researches.