Non-mainstream, scary-as-shit Monsters of Literature

Ah, today is that epic Thanksgiving holiday of gluttony in the US where Americans do nothing more than shovel food into their mouths all day (or so that is what the holiday has turned into).

I am away spending the day with the family, but don’t want to leave you all short handed, so hyperlinking to an interesting post by JW McCormack of Electric Lit (electricliterature.com).

The posts lists his top 31 Obscure Literary Monsters.  Honestly, I don’t think I could have come up with a better list.  Job well done, JW!

31 Fairly Obscure Literary Monsters 

 

The Metamorphosis of Monsters

Yep, going to talk about monsters again and I am sure you are sick of hearing about this topic… but I don’t care.  IT’S MONSTER-MANIA 2014!

As I have said 100 times already, the horror genre is in the early stages of a new monster era.  Obviously I could not be happier.  These cryptids are again wreaking havoc on the Earth and infesting nightmares.  They are born from space, the depths of the ocean, the core of the Earth – and they cannot be stopped.

As the horror genre goes through cycles, the subject of monsters does the same.  Monster began as vicious, vile creatures that wanted nothing more than to tear apart every living thing.  They were used as fodder for the truest tales of horror.  From the earliest start of religious theologies (e.g.; Leviathan, Preta, Jormungand) to tales told by adventures who traversed the world (e.g.; Sea Serpents, Yetis, Loch Ness, Wendigos), monsters have existed in literature since the birth of humanity.

The majority of monsters in this particular horror cycle are not much different than the monsters of antiquity.  Stories of the earliest known

(c) chelle

I’m a good little monster who helps old ladies cross the street. (c) chelle

monsters were of intellectual beasts that were decisive and agile and enjoyed the taste of humans.  They were driven by the need to succeed the Earth.  During the Victorian era to the mid 20th centuries, monsters were more muted.  These creatures, while still frightening, were passive and easily defeated by the most minor of human defense.  Those monsters were bulky and clumsy and portrayed as unintelligent with only a driving force of  (primitive) primal instincts.   Maybe it was because people during this time were conservative with the blood and guts.  The true brutality of a cunning, stealthy, intelligent being would undoubtedly cause a mass epidemic of heart attacks.

Today, monsters are on the rampage.  They stop at nothing to reach their goal, and it doesn’t matter who or what stands in their way — they will crush it (and mostly likely eat it).  This new era of monsters are ruthless and see themselves as the Alpha creatures of this planet.  Not even nuclear power can stop them.  All other weapon systems are nearly meaningless.  Humanity is nothing but bunch of fleshy munchies.

However, there is one small factor that is changing with this cycle that more or less started in the 1970s / 1980s.  Some monsters turned into creatures that actually love humans — and I don’t mean the taste of people.  I remember as a child reading about Serendipity the Pink Dragon.  She saved me from the Jabberwocky that haunted my dreams (and bedroom mirror).  Serendipity showed me that not all monsters are bad, not all monsters wanted to eat little girls.  This was a major epiphany in my young life and one I took note of as I matured.  Before the 1970s, finding a “nice” monster was a rarity.  Honestly, I cannot think of one (if I am wrong, please comment below).  There was a shift in the late part of the 20th century that allowed monsters that were good to humanity to coexist with ones that wanted to destroy us.

This shift continues today and has become quite popular in mainstream culture.  For instance, Sasquatch is now belived to be a shy cryptid that really wants to avoid people at all costs.  Older legends tend to speak otherwise, painting these creatures as violent and cold.   The same with Nessie, the giant squid, and an assortment of other creatures.  Hell, even Godzilla is now trying to protect us from the other Kaijus (though he might step on a city here or there in the process of protection).

So are monsters becoming soft, loving creatures.  Not entirely and I don’t think that they will all fully descend to that level.  Scary, nasty, vicious, human-devouring monsters are needed and will always be needed.  The evil creatures fuel fear and teaches us how to stay safe.  We don’t go looking in dark shadows because we know that the bad monsters live there… Sadly, as we get older, we realize how true that is and that those monsters are really evil humans intent on doing us harm.  Those kinds of people are real living, breathing monsters — but that is for another post.

There will always be a need for predatory monsters.  That aspect will never go away.  However, the loving monster are here to stay.  And they serve a good purpose too.  With so much darkness in the world today, where everything seems to be evil, monsters who love humanity are a little spark of light.  A little start that maybe all that we perceive to be evil is not necessarily evil…  that maybe there is some good in this world after all.

10 Terrifying Monsters in Literature

While I am away, unplugged from the world to write my novel, you will all have to be satisfied with a video list of 10 terrifying monsters in literature.   The #1 monster is the one who shaped my obsession with these creatures of the unknown.  As a young child, I used to fear that if I walked past a mirror the Jabberwocky would reach out and pull me into the realm of his Wonderland.  The Jabberwocky’s version of Wonderland was much darker than Alice’s version in my imagination.   Needless to say that to this day I still have a little fear around mirrors…

I would like to point out that I argue #8 should be #2, just because the Wendigo has to be my favorite monster in existence and the current antagonist of my novels.  😉

Enjoy!

The Uprise of Monsters

Monster stories are tales as old as time.  They appear in countless works ranging from fiction to non-fiction to religious.  The number of monster movies is near infinite.  These creatures are the ones that go “bump” in the night.  And guess what?  They are evolving…

In other posts, I have noted that the horror genre has a cycle.  What goes around will come around again in the future.  The slasher movies and stories of the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s are snuffed out.  The ride of the Zombie-Vampire-Werewolf craze is on a downhill trend since its rebirth in the early 2000’s.  Ghosts and demons are about to hit a mid-life crisis before fading back into the Earth.  However, a new egg was laid about 5 years ago and the shell is starting to shatter.  Monsters are about to take over the horror genre scene.

Back in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, monsters were mainstream where much credit can be given to Godzilla and the other kaijus.  Dinosaurs were again roaming the Earth, King Kong was kicking it in Manhattan, and gargantuan aquatic creatures were wreaking havoc on all seafaring folk.  Audiences during this era craved cryptids!  Hollywood and the Toho company churned out monster movies as if these creatures were raining down on the world from the heavens.

What was the drive for these creatures?  Well, we can thank the influential H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) for setting the stage.  It is the epitome of cosmic horror that captivates an audience, and monsters exude cosmicism.  Monsters provide the factual terror that humanity has absolutely no power on the vastness of the cosmos.  We cannot command or contain the Universe.  We potentially have the power to destroy monsters, but lack the control over the creatures’ initial existence on Earth.  Humanity is at the mercy of the cosmos and whatever terrifying creatures it decides to hurl at our little terrestrial planet.

Monsters show the reality of humanity’s insignificance in comparison to the entirety of the cosmos.  – Me

Becoming aware of the human race’s meagerness in the grand scheme of it all is absolute horror.  If tomorrow dinosaurs should reappear and take control of the planet, humanity would be a micro-blip in the Earth’s history.  That is how, through literature, Lovecraft was able to terrify his readers.  His human characters regret gaining knowledge about the existence of monsters, because the characters learn “there is something bigger than I and I can’t control it”.  This  inevitably leads the characters to destroy themselves physically or emotionally because they cannot handle that kind of awakening.

Humanity, you are no match for Dino-Thunder! (c) Carl Jones  by-nc 2.0

Humanity, you are no match for Dino-Thunder! (c) Carl Jones by-nc 2.0

Back on the subject of monsters and the horror genre cycle, the heyday of these creatures was in the mid 20th century.  There was a shift in the 70’s and 80’s that caused the monster craze to die off.  The shift was the Devil, which is probably the one thing more terrifying than any monster in this universe. Movies like Evil Dead, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen were the horror kings of the 70’s.  Briefly, “modified humans” (Zombies-Vampires-Werewolves) grew rapidly during those later years and into the early 80’s, but ultimately failed to the slasher flicks of the 80’s and 90’s.  Demons and modified humans had a resurgence in the early 2000’s, but that craze is winding down and the cycle of the monsters is about to begin again.  Godzilla destroyed the movie scene this past summer.  Cthulhu and the other Elder Gods are oozing through literature and the Internet, while dinosaurs are just waiting to hatch.

Here’s hoping that this monster mania lasts a few decades, as it may bode well for the series that I am about to produce.  I can’t give a lot away, but I will let you in on a secret:  There is a vile monster that will stop at nothing to eat every human being on the face of this planet.

If you are keen on my love of monsters, check out this post: Here Be Monsters.

To Splatter Gore or Not To Splatter Gore?

To splatter gore or not to splatter gore?

This is the epic question that every Horror writer must ask themselves.  How bloody and gory should this work be?  What is the limit that I can push my readers to where they are disgusted, but not to the point of where they can no longer read?  There is a very fine line between keeping a reader’s attention with the “gross factor” and losing a reader from being inundated by excessive carnage.

I am neutral on the topic of splatter gore.  The level of splatter gore is determined by the subject matter of a story.  This dictates whether it is the right time or right story to contain this type of repugnant action.

For instance, when the story is about Zombies or some equally gruesome antagonist, I expect there to be blood and guts with bones cracking and

(c) psarahtonen

The walls shall run red with crimson blood (c) psarahtonen

flesh noshing.  If no one is being disemboweled or if entrails are not lying about, I feel like I have been cheated.  With this type of story, I need the gore to fly as a tool and the action.  This means that in a well written splatter gore story, the gore does not advance the plot.  The gore is only a prop.

In contrast to that, in Vampire stories I expect elegance and culture with slight references to blood, blood sucking, blood letting, or any kind of blood extraction methods.  The descriptions of the gory actions are not overly explained, which leaves the details of the gore up to the reader’s imagination.  My view on this may be because my first trip into vampirism was through Stroker, Le Fanu, and Polodori.  Their stories were filled with grace, not carnage.  Even Carmilla’s bathing in blood scene was described in pure elegance.  Any scenes of gore were merely light extras added in to cause a rumble of terror.

Then there is the medium grade gore level of “monster” stories with antagonists like the Wolf Man, Frankenstein, the Devil, etc.  I expect this level of gore to be more than Vampires but less than Zombies.  The carnage is added for additional terror and slight stomach queasiness, though the author still forces the reader’s imagination to run wild with medium gore descriptions.  These are the stories I like to call the “happy medium” in splatter gore.

I tend to lean toward stories of the “happy medium”.  It is not because gore disgusts me (as I rarely become “grossed out” – except when I see someone pick their nose and eat the boogers… ewwww), but it is that I prefer the carnage to not be the driving factor in a story.  The human mind is much more imaginative than any words written on paper or scene shown in a movie.  Leave some details up to your reader’s imagination, as that will take your stories further than telling your reader a scene in explicit detail.  Personally, the things that go on in my mind terrify me more than anything that I read.  When a reader is forced to imagine a scene, that stays with them longer than visually showing or explaining it to them.

Now, don’t get me wrong in all of this.  Heavy splatter gore has its place.  I use it on occasion in my writing.  There is also a genuine and viable market for the “Splatter” sub-genre (splatter gore, splatter punk, etc.).  A lot of books come out of that sub-genre that are extremely terrifying and well written.  However, the gore, while abundant, does not drive best of the “Splatter” stories.  The gruesome carnage is used as only a prop.

When the emphasis is placed for the gore to drive the story, the reader is going to close the cover.  It is a sensory overload for them.  If you have over 50,000 words of nothing but slice ’em, dice ’em, gut ’em —  it’s going to either (a) burn the reader out or (b) gross them out.  The effect from (a) or (b) is that the author’s book gets put down.

It is perfectly acceptable to use splatter gore, but only use it when the tone and the theme of your story calls for it.  And do not allow the gore to drive your story.