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The Best Monsters


Raymond Coulombe

What makes a monster a monster? What makes it scary? Drawings were shown to small children. They ranged from normal looking people all the way to totally grotesque. The scientists were trying to find out what scares a kid. (Besides scientists, I would imagine.) Of course, the normal looking pictures didn't bother them. On the other end of the scale, the grotesque pictures didn't bother them either. What really frightened children were the not quite normal pictures. The drawings looked recognizably human, yet were obviously not. That, my writer friends, is the monster sweet spot.

The best classic monsters fit the criteria. The classic vampire. In the right light, could pass for human, as long as it didn't smile and reveal the fangs. The classic zombie. Human, yet altered. When first changed, a zombie could almost pass for human -the key here being "almost." Zombies start out in the scary zone, as they decay they get deeper into the zone, but then an odd thing happens. By the time they get totally grotesque, they aren't quite as horrifying. They may even get funny. The wolf-man? Man shaped, but with claws, sharp teeth, and badly in need of a shave. Fits the bill.

Modern monsters are losing their edge. Vampires that sparkle? Really? Come on now. The zombies in Will Smith's "I am Legend," were revealed in the end to be a people with love and a culture of their own. That changes things. Werewolves were pretty good before they did the total wolf change. Then they weren't scary anymore -at least no more scary than a big dog.

We need new monsters.

Some fiction writers have tried to cast the terrorist in that role. It sort of worked for a while. They look like us, but aren't really. They do horrible things we can't understand. Then most of us came to realize terrorism is not a thing but a war tactic. It's a military action for the militarily weak. The young terrorist doesn't come off so much like a monster as a deluded foot soldier in an irregular army. Lame.

One thing that makes a monster terrifying is when normal people can be transformed into the monster. It's usually with a bite. The vampire bites you in the neck and you can become a vampire. The zombie or werewolf bites you anywhere and you become a zombie or a werewolf. A terrorist bites you and . . . you might get need stitches and an antibiotic . . . lame.

So were are we going to get new monsters? Remember, they have to look mostly like us, but not quite. It should be possible for normal people to turn into the monster. Doing so by being bitten would be a real bonus.

Here's my bid for a new monster: The Cyborg. A human gets more and more human parts replaced by machine parts. At some point, the being is more machine than human. Then the cyborg begins to lose human desires and follows machine desires. The machine desires, of course, are incompatible with humanity. When a cyborg bites a person, nano machines are transferred into the victim. Working from the inside, the nanobots slowly transform flesh and blood into metal. A contaminated person suddenly desires to eat bits of iron as the nanobots require new materials. If no usable iron is available, they may try to get it from the hemoglobin in people's blood. It would take a lot of hemoglobin too. It is in a nice liquid form too.

That's my bid for a new monster. Feel free to come up with your own.

2010-10-01 06:41:36
I don't think I've ever seen a story where cyborgs go around biting people! Depending on how you write it, that could be more of a comedy than a horror piece. Maybe you should write the story and we'll see. Good points about monsters.

2010-10-01 05:04:01
But they need a really cool name, like, I don't know, the Borg maybe.

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