Writing monsters isn’t easy. The best ones have all been done. Editors and anthologists are tired of the same old critters. I keep getting rejections letters that say things like, “Just another vampire story. Tell me how the vampire feels.” Oh wait – that’s been done. To death.
Supernatural horror has pretty much been mined out. When I, as a writer, want to open the Pandora’s box of evil creatures and pluck out something to horrify my readers with, all I see in there are some unidentifiable droppings and faint whiffs of wet dog and brimstone.
Vampires, werewolves, trolls, living nightmares (thank you Wes Craven for Freddy – you prick), succubi, skin-slippers, wights, ghosts, faeries (the bad kind, not the Tinkerbell cute ones – although if you remember your Peter Pan, you will also remember that Tink was a bit of a dink), zombies, reanimated corpses, which are not the same thing as zombies, zombies are mind controlled slaves, Re-Animated Corpses (RACs) are shuffling around seeking brains and flesh, usually as the result of some stupid general’s decision at Fort Detrick in Maryland. They have been labelled as zombies by North Americans who don’t understand voodoo like me and you do.
BTW – was Frankenstein’s monster a zombie? Or a RAC? I think he (it?) was the original RAC – at least in modern literature. But I digress.
These choices don’t even include old-world monsters from pre-christian mythos like basilisks, gryphons, dragons and the whole panoply of greco-roman monsters that we were exposed to by Sinbad and Aladin. Although there are overlaps and things from many mythic backgrounds that cross the bounds bearing different names but with similar characteristics.
Lovecraftian tentacled elder-gods are fodder for the “New Pagans” who somehow see them as cute and cuddly, and merely amusing for the rest of us who don’t believe in that mythos. (no- really – I don’t believe in Cthulu.. Stop chanting.)
Witches are their own category and are not, strictly speaking, supernatural. They are educated. Like wizards. Still, they dabble in the supernatural and that makes them dangerous. Dangerous and creepy. Note to all Wiccans and other followers of earth-goddesses or druidic peacekeepers: I am not talking about you lot – keep your curses and wishes for bad karma in your hand-crafted leather pouches. And I won’t talk to you about the chanting again either.
Even if you pick a cool monster or monster variant – i.e. all zombies are undead but not all undead are zombies – ask any vampire; setting plays a major part in how your monster story is genre-fied. That’s like gentrified for writers, keeps us in our place. Sorry digressed again. How does setting affect genre, you ask. I’ll tell you. If you have a vicious, flesh-eating soul-destroying monster in your neighbourhood it is a horror story. If you have a vicious, flesh-eating soul-destroying monster in your spaceship tug-boat, it is science fiction. If you have a vicious, flesh-eating soul-destroying monster in the government is is metaphor.
Speaking of aliens – don’t get me started on aliens. Visitors from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond mortal men. Wait – that is Superman! Still an alien though, and only the love of Martha and Jonathan Kent saved us from that alien invasion. All the other aliens are not so loveable. Chest bursters, predator-great-white-hunters, armadas of giants ships hovering over beloved downtown skylines, ray-guns, mind control, a taste for human flesh (acquired WHERE by the way? From the intergalactic broadcast version of the Twilight Zone’s “To Serve Man”?) We have to stop beaming stuff into outer space. But Wait! We already have stopped beaming stuff into outer space. Dedicated cable and private satellite TV pointing only earthward means no broadcast waves travelling for all time. No alien invasion for us. Whew – that’s a load off my mind. But if they DID invade would that mean they were only ready to deal with the weapons and technology we had developed when they got the transmissions?
Hmmm – I think there is another blog entry in that thought – stay tuned to this channel for further developments.
Part Two – Next Wednesday – May 21.