(Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over thirty novels and eighteen short story collections. His work has appeared in numerous markets here and abroad. His work has been recognized by numerous awards, including The Edgar and seven Bram Stokers. His novella, Bubba Hotep, was filmed by Don Coscarelli and has become a cult film. His short story “Godzilla’s Twelve Step Program” appears in Creatures.)
What was the first monster that scared/moved you?
The Wolf Man, Lon Chaney, Jr. I really liked the Wolf Man because he was scary, and someone who I pitied, and liked when he wasn’t a wolf. I can’t say there are that many great Werewolf books, least that I’ve read. There is a new one from Knopf that’s interesting, and I can’t think of the title right now, and one that I believe was called SHARP TEETH done in free verse. They are among the best. Lots of good werewolf short stories, however.
Does a great monster have to evoke pity as well as fear?
Not always. Sometimes just them being nasty and frightening and merciless is enough to make the characters fighting them seem more human. But, it can certainly strengthen characterization, and it’s never a bad idea. As I said, that’s why I liked The Wolf Man. But, I’ve read books and seen movies with merciless monsters that worked fine in that vein alone.
If you could be a monster, which one would you choose and why?
Wolf Man. Stay up late. Overeat, lay around and sleep late in the day and digest. Kind of like being a teenager again.
King Kong, or Godzilla?
Godzilla. Apes and humans are very similar. But, hey, I like Godzilla a lot. The character more than the movies.
What are the challenges of writing about a monster, as opposed to showing it on film?
You need to make people feel fear, not just show it to them on the screen. So you have to think of the monsters in the way you would humans, and then you have to consider what makes them different. My story GODZILLA’S TWELVE STEP PROGRAM is merely putting human concerns on classic monsters, so in some ways its easier, but it’s harder in the sense that it’s an absurdist story and therefore harder to make believable, and if you can’t make it believable, you want to at least invite the reader into the story and hope they’ll share in the conceit and have a good time.
Who are the new monsters of the 21st century? Recommend a monster story/book/movie from the past ten years.
Zombies seem to be it. I’ve worked in the field of zombies off and on, but already, I tire of them. I say this with a film coming out based on one of my zombie short stories. I don’t know what to recommend. I like to think a story of mine, the Folding Man, has some chops. But, hey, that’s promoting, and we aren’t going to do that. Or are we?
(oh, we are)