Michael Kelly is the author of Scratching the Surface, and Undertow and Other Laments. His short fiction has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Best New Horror, Dark Arts, Nemonymous, PostScripts, Space & Time, Supernatural Tales, and Tesseracts 13. Michael edited the anthologies Apparitions (for which he was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist), and Chilling Tales. He also runs Undertow Publications, and its flagship publication, Shadows & Tall Trees.
What was the first monster that scared/moved you?
It was Kali, a Ray Harryhausen creation, from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Kali had 6 arms, and a wielded a wicked sword in each. Kali’s movements were hypnotic and deadly. Scary stuff to a 10-year-old.
Does a great monster have to evoke pity as well as fear?
Yes, I believe it does. Frankenstein is the perfect example. King Kong, as well. Once you empathize with the beast, once you’ve made that connection, that sense that ‘Hey, it isn’t so different than me,’ then its ultimate fate is shocking, sad, and moving.
If you could be a monster, which one would you choose and why?
Does the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters count? No? Cookie monster?
Okay, I’d love to be one of those Flying Monkeys from The Wizard of Oz.
King Kong, or Godzilla?
Godzilla! Oh, wait, he didn’t get the girl, did he?
What are the challenges of writing about a monster, as opposed to showing it on film?
Much of the monster’s appeal deals with its physical traits. When writing monsters you have to be exacting in your detail. Film can show minute facial and body movements. When writing, you still have to “Show don’t tell,” so, as with most descriptive writing, you just have to be as precise as possible. Put your humanity into the monster.
Who are the new monsters of the 21st century? Recommend a monster story/book/movie from the past ten years.
“The Pale Man” from Pan’s Labyrinth is truly scary. And, because the most frightening monsters are often human, the three masked strangers from the film “The Strangers” are completely unnerving.