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Archive for September, 2011

Your Friday monster rec is musical: The prog-metal act Mastodon. Earlier albums featured lyrical obsessions with Moby Dick and Rasputin. While their newest isn’t a concept album, it does feature some creature-y fun.  Enjoy the riffing!

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F. Brett Cox’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including Century, North Carolina Literary Review, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Postscripts, and Phantom. With Andy Duncan, he co-edited Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (Tor, 2004). A native of North Carolina, Brett is Associate Professor of English at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, and lives in Roxbury, Vermont, with his wife, playwright Jeanne Beckwith. His story “The Serpent and the Hatchet Gang” appears in Creatures.

What was the first monster that scared/moved you?

Like many of my generation, my earliest memory of averting my eyes from the screen is the melting of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.  As for creatures, some of the more threatening images of aliens in the original incarnations of Star Trek and The Outer Limits made an impression—or maybe not, since I can’t single any of them out.  The classic monster figures—Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, etc.—were always fun but never particularly scary, at least in the movies.  I do recall some definite shivers when I first read Dracula at age eleven or so.  And although I first read it a bit later, let me declare mad love for Theodore Sturgeon’s  “It,” still one of the best monster stories ever.

Does a great monster have to evoke pity as well as fear?

Not necessarily.  Do we feel sorry for the alien in Alien?  The sea creature in The Host?  On the other hand, when I’ve taught Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, my students almost always respond best to the sections of the novel narrated by the monster.

King Kong, or Godzilla?

For the original movies, King Kong.  As an enduring character, Godzilla.

What are the challenges of writing about a monster, as opposed to showing it on film?

The challenges are in some ways much the same.  How much do you show/describe, and how much do you leave to the viewer’s/reader’s imagination?  Is the monster an individual who has motivations and suffers consequences, or is it a pure force?

Who are the new monsters of the 21st century? Recommend a monster story/book/movie from the past ten years.

The 2006 Korean film The Host (referenced above), directed and co-written by Joon-Ho Bong, is astonishingly good.  As for fiction, I dare not start for fear of what I might leave out.

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Sarah Langan is the author of the novels The Keeper and The Missing, and Audrey’s Door. She is currently finishing her fourth book, Empty Houses. Her work has garnered three Bram Stoker Awards, an ALA Award, a New York Times Book Review editor’s pick, a PW favorite book of the year selection, and been optioned by The Weinstein Company for film. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and rabbit. Her story “The Changeling” appears in Creatures.

What was the first monster that scared/moved you?

All varieties of spider, which by brother told me could eat me in my sleep. Also, I saw the preview for this movie where spiders get dropped into sleeping ladies’ mouths when I was three or four, and still remember it vividly.
Does a great monster have to evoke pity as well as fear?
Naw, I think a great story should have lots of dimensions, but a monster can be what’s most appropriate. Sometimes pure evil is scarier than a monster with a sob story. Or Hitchcock’s “Birds,” where bad stuff happens for no reason. Hollywood trends want us to explain the evil, but in truth, it can’t be explained, can it?
If you could be a monster, which one would you choose and why?
I’d be Monsanto’s CEO, because then I could be both rich and without conscience, which would make life very easy.
King Kong, or Godzilla?
Funny you should ask. Growing up, I was always King King; my brother always Godzilla. So I’d have to say King Kong.
What are the challenges of writing about a monster, as opposed to showing it on film?
As a writer of fiction I have absolute control. Filmmakers don’t have that luxury, so it’s apples and oranges.

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Wildcard: day 6

Monster librarian gives a scary book list for kids. Boo!

–More for the kids. It’s Scary Monsters for Kids.

–Tribute site to local Boston UHF channel 56’s CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE.

Saul Bass style THE THING poster.

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Jeff VanderMeer is a two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, with novels published in over twenty languages. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s SF Magazine, Black Clock, Conjunctions, Clarkesworld, and many anthologies. He reviews books for the New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and many others. His story “The Third Bear” appears in Creatures. MORD IS MORD.

What was the first monster that scared/moved you?

MORD SCARED BY MAN-FACED DOG IN 70s REMAKE OF INVASION OF THE BODYSNATCHERS

Does a great monster have to evoke pity as well as fear?

MORD RIP FACE OFF OF ANY PITIABLE MONSTER AND USE IT AS A SHAMWOW

If you could be a monster, which one would you choose and why?

MORD ONLY BE MORD. MORD IS MORD.

King Kong, or Godzilla?

MORD LIKE GODZILLA. GODZILLA UNCOMPLICATED. KING KONG A LITTLE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE.

What are the challenges of writing about a monster, as opposed to showing it on film?

HOW THE FUCK MORD KNOW? MORD FILMED NOT FILMMAKER.

Who are the new monsters of the 21st century? Recommend a monster story/book/movie from the past ten years.

MORD MOST TAKEN ABACK BY HUMAN BEINGS. MORD MOSTLY LIKE MOVIES LIKE BEACHES. MORD “LIVES” MONSTERS EVERYDAY.

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Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels, The Physiognomy, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, The Girl In the Glass, The Shadow Year, and the story collections, The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant, The Empire of Ice Cream, The Drowned Life. His short story “After Moreau,” appears in Creatures.

What was the first monster that scared/moved you?

When I was around  6 or 7, there was a show on TV, channel 9 or 11 out of New York City, called Chiller Theatre.  In the montage of monsters and creepy shit shown at the intro of the show, they always played that scene of Vampira and Tor Johnson, from Plan 9 From Outer Space, slow walking zombie-style across the fog shrouded graveyard.  Tor Johnson didn’t scare me.  I had relatives that resembled him, mostly my aunts.  Vampira, though, gave me the yips for some reason.  I mean, real, terror.  Later when I saw the actuality of how that scene was filmed in Burton’s Ed Wood, I was amazed at how cheesy the whole thing looked.  But way back when, that moving image with its intimations of mortality and a whole suitcase of other associations, Vampira was the realest thing in the room.

Does a great monster have to evoke pity as well as fear?

Not necessarily.  It seems to help more in literature than film if you can evoke a more varied response than just simply terror (Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein), but not all the time (I’m thinking of the incomprehensible monster of the kid in Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child.)  In film you can make a good monster by just scaring the crap out of people (Alien or the pursuing robot in Terminator 2)

If you could be a monster, which one would you choose and why?

I don’t think I’d want to be a monster.  It’s too much busyness and brutality.  A lot of late night shifts and sketchy associates.  Seems like too much hard work.

King Kong, or Godzilla?

King Kong.  I was more partial to Mothra, and I loved those twins that rode around in the bird cage and sang in unison.  They were mesmerizing.  My taste in Japanese monsters at the time I became aware of both Godzilla and Kong can be summed up by one film, Matango, which we knew as Attack of the Mushroom People.  Kong had such great facial expressions.  The monster in the original is a masterpiece.  The later versions, and even the most recent, fell flat for me in comparisons of both the figure of Kong and also the plots.  The screenplay for that original Kong was wonderfully economical for what it had to convey.  No seemingly endless scenes of Jack Black camping it up on Skull Island or Brody emoting.  What I found more attractive about Godzilla movies than the monster were those beautiful miniature cities, fishing villages, tanks and cars, etc. that the creature stomped on.

Who are the new monsters of the 21st century? Recommend a monster story/book/movie from the past ten years.

The 21st century is so fucking scary, people have basically skipped monsters and jumped right to the apocalypse.  Wishful thinking.  There are plenty of monsters around and unfortunately they’ve broken out of the page and the screen.  When you look at the results of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, that kind of devastation is like something wrought by Godzilla.  What distinguishes it as the act of a monster instead of just a natural disaster is the fact that there was not necessarily a conscience but a consciousness behind it.  Let’s face it, Sarah Palin, Bachman, etc. ad nauseam, could have walked out of the lab of some mad scientist, and the US economy wants to be fed.  Two of my favorite monster books of recent years are Cold Skin by Albert Sanchez Pinol and Cyclonopedia by Reza Negarestani.  Two very different kinds of monster novels.

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Yes, bigfeet in Calgary! Maybe.

Banff now has Bigfoot. Lots and lots of Bigfoots, in fact.

Yes, it’s an allegation that would have Ripley wondering whether to Believe it or Not, and P.T. Barnum reaching for his cheque book, but the mountains west of Calgary are a hotbed for the huge-footed primates.

That’s the assertion of a dedicated bigfoot research organization based near Calgary, which claims not only to have video and photo evidence of the mythical beast, but DNA proof as well.

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