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.