Neuroscience in Fiction: Stephen King’s The Jaunt
“Your mind can be your best friend; it can keep you amused even when there’s nothing to read, nothing to do. But it can turn on you when it’s left with no input for too long. It can turn on you, which means that it turns on itself, savages itself, perhaps consumes itself in an unthinkable act of auto-cannibalism.”
Stephen King – The Jaunt
Granted, Stephen King is not the first name that comes to mind when you think about neuroscience insights, but this week’s Neuroscience in Fiction pick will give you a lot to ponder.
The Jaunt is part of King’s Skeleton Crew short story collection, and one of the most engaging sci-fi tales I’ve read. In the not-too-distant future, humankind has achieved teleportation, or as they call it, jaunting. Unconscious bodies and cargo can travel from the Earth to Mars in a fraction of a second, unharmed and unchanged. But the effect of the Jaunt on a fully conscious, sentient being, is a different creature altogether.
The Jaunt explores the limits of sustained sensory deprivation on the mind, with just a little bit of gore thrown in for added effect. We’re talking about Stephen King, after all.
For extra credit, check out Sleights of Mind for our thoughts on the neuroscience of sensory deprivation.
The art featured in this post is the work of Darek Cokurek — visit his website for more wonderful examples, including many covers of books by Stephen King.
We hope you enjoy The Jaunt. If nothing else, the ending will stay with you for longer than you think.