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Archive for the ‘Contributor Interviews’ Category

–What was the first monster that scared/moved you?

First monster I can actually recall scaring me was probably Michael Myers from Halloween. Either him, or Linda Blair from The Exorcist. If not her, then it was probably the vampire kid scratching at the window in ‘Salem’s Lot. As you can tell, I have a bit of a shit memory.

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

I don’t think it has to, but it helps if you want the viewer/reader to feel for it, or for it to have a deeper impact on someone. I think pity in a monster matters less as a kid than it does as an adult. As a kid, fear is easier to develop; as we grow up, we become jaded and we know there aren’t any monsters in our closets or under our beds, so there needs to be something more to the monsters for them to have a lasting effect on us.

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

I like the idea of being massive and stomping on cities and shit. So I’d wanna be Godzilla or something along those lines. I’d actually love to be one of the towns in Clive Barker’s “In the Hills, the Cities.” I know they’re made up of a pile of people, but I want to be that pile of people.

–King Kong, or Godzilla?

No contest: Godzilla, hands down.

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

Writing about a monster is maybe more difficult ’cause you need to evoke fear in the reader—at least to a certain extent. And it can’t all be summed up in one glance, like it can be in film. You need to describe it on the page. You also need to decide (as you do in film) how much you’re going to show. I think monsters work best when we don’t see fully see them. Leaves it more to the imagination, which usually is worse than anything a writer/director could show you.

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

I don’t know about new monsters, per se, but the kind of human monster in Tony Burgess’s People Live Still in Cashtown Corners (blatant CZP plug, that’s right!) is one of the scariest to me: a serial killer whose mind just doesn’t work properly, so there’s no way to reason with it. You can’t convince a killer like that not to do what he does. There’s no empathy there. No compassion to appeal to. If he decides, for whatever bizarre reason, that he needs to kill you, then you’re dead. Unless you can kill him first. But there’s no middle ground in those situations. It’s you or him. And the trouble with people like that is that they appear to be human, so you afford them general human qualities and characteristics.

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What was the first monster that scared/moved you?

I think I had the same horrifying yet nebulous Dust Monster Under Your Bed fears as most kids with overactive imaginations do, so if we’re being sticklers, that’s probably first. But the first monster that really captured my imagination was the Red Bull from The Last Unicorn, specifically because it was both frightening and sympathetic. It was my first experience with a monster that was aware, that had troubles, that had an inner life and was monstrous half through nature and half through obligation, and it left a big impression.

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

I guess it depends what “great” means. From a character standpoint, many of the great monsters do have an aspect of pathos that stirs us. The Dracula-style vampire is faster and more powerful and more suave than you are (much, much more suave), but those vampires watch those around them grow old and die, and they pine over unattainable paramours just like the rest of us. Werewolves lose their humanity in animalistic rages and in the morning have to face the consequences of their violence; zombies are doomed to wither and fall even if they succeed in eating every last brain there is.

However, often the most terrifying monsters have absolutely no relatable traits, and their power lies in that unknown. The vengeful poltergeist, the black oil, the Fog – you can’t sympathize, you can’t bargain, you can’t reason with them, and there’s greatness in that, too.

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

As much as I’d like to be one of the fearsome murderers that stalks the night etc., it sounds like a lot of work and tends not to end well for anyone. I’ll settle for being one of the scaly yet benign monsters that groups of jilted suitors rarely try to track down; knowledgeable, protagonist-assisting sea serpent, maybe.

King Kong, or Godzilla?

Their recent remakes are equally horrifying. I guess Gozilla gets the edge. Barely.

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

Besides the conveniences of being able to skip monster description? I think the right actor will be able to convey chilling, gripping terror with facial expression and body language; it’s a shorthand that “Then I was so scared you can’t even imagine” just can’t compete with.

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

A lot of horror tropes are a dialogue with the surrounding social climate. Given a lot of the monsters in the horror stories of the 21st century so far (Teeth, Deadgirl, Jennifer’s Body, Splice, and if we’re stretching the definition to psychological horror, I Spit on Your Grave and The Last House on the Left), I’d say that a rapidly-emerging trope is the avenging woman whose supernatural capabilities allow her to take revenge on those who have belittled, objectified, or violated her. If this is in response to media saturation of the sexy-quirky-supportive archetype and a backslide in women’s rights in American politics in the last decade, I can’t say (except that it probably is).

And if that’s too political for you, you can always watch Priest, a horror movie that contains motorcycles with NITRO settings and a 200-mph train full of vampires on which it’s possible to casually stand and have a conversation at normal speaking volume, and which was one of the greatest horror comedies of the year. (By accident, but still, a laugh’s a laugh.)

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Nathan Ballingrud lives in Asheville, NC, with his daughter. His short stories have appeared in SCIFICTION, Inferno: New Tales of Terror, Lovecraft Unbound, Teeth, and other places. Several stories have been reprinted in various Year’s Best anthologies, and he won the Shirley Jackson Award for “The Monsters of Heaven.” He can be found online at nathanballingrud.wordpress.com. His “The Monsters of Heaven” appears in Creatures.

What was the first monster movie that scared you?

It was the Tobe Hooper-directed ‘Salem’s Lot, the tv miniseries starring David Soul. My brother and I watched it together, and I can’t remember ever having been more scared in my life. I remember, to this day, the chill of seeing that body underneath the sheet in the hospital slowly begin to rise as Soul’s character makes a cross out of two tongue depressors and recites the Lord’s prayer in a mounting panic; or that scene where the vampire is in the creaking rocking chair, his eyes glowing red in the twilight, saying, “Look at me, teacher!” Holy Christ, it still gives me goosebumps. My mother worked the night shift in the hospital in those days. She gave my brother and I each a cross so we could protect ourselves while she was gone. I think she felt fairly horrible for letting us watch that show when she knew she had to go to work, but my brother and I adored it. The fear was very, very sweet. I’ve been an addict ever since.

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

Not at all. It certainly can — Frankenstein’s monster and Lon Chaney’s werewolf are classic examples of this — but to me the most effective monsters evoke no pity at all. Their logic is too alien; it is impossible to feel pity for them because they are incapable of feeling pity for us. Once again, I think of Stephen King’s vampires in ‘Salem’s Lot: there’s nothing in there that will love us, or show us mercy. There is just this black hunger. This is why a real, well-conceived vampire can still terrify, despite the best efforts of contemporary culture to neuter them. Zombies can have the same effect. And this is in part due to the fact that they inhabit bodies we used to love: our parents, our children, our dearest friends. We want to feel pity, and even more importantly, we still expect them to feel pity for us. It’s inconceivable that they do not recognize us on some fundamental level. That some lingering love will not stay their hand. It’s that sudden absence of pity that makes them truly horrifying. It’s the horror of realizing that you mean nothing, after all. You’re just meat.

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

I would be a werewolf. That may not be very original, but I don’t care. Werewolves have always been my favorite monster. I think they’re terrifying, for one. I don’t see them as the furry-faced muppets of the old Universal horror movies; I see them as great, bristle-haired beasts, their fur matted and filthy, their breath rank, their muscles trembling with rage. I love the idea of surrendering to rage, of giving in to the violent dream. So much of life is repression. So many words bitten off before we can speak them, so many deserving necks left unthrottled. The idea of letting that rage run rampant, of feeling bones break between my teeth, is a little intoxicating.

King Kong or Godzilla?

Godzilla, no question. King Kong is innocent. He’s kidnapped and ill-treated and he fights back and he gets killed for it. Godzilla, though. Godzilla is retribution. Godzilla is alien, and strange. Godzilla is our own evil come back upon us. King Kong wants to be free, he wants to go home. Godzilla wants to burn us all.

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

Well, we don’t have the benefit of a good soundtrack! But actually I think the challenges are very similar; we just have to meet them with different tools. The one I spend the most time thinking about is not how to depict them, or make them scary, because that’s just done with language, and I trust myself enough with language that I usually just walk into a paragraph blind, and improvise; I spend the most time thinking about how to present them in a way that’s new, or new enough to maintain interest. And sometimes that means rejecting the modern interpretations of a monster and going back to its rougher origins. Sometimes that means telling a different kind of story about the monster, shifting the narrative angle just enough so that the sort of conclusion readers have become conditioned to expect, and which can bleed the life right out of a story, is not at all what they get. I like to leave them in a different place than they thought they were going. In the case of the monster in this story, “The Monsters of Heaven,” I decided not to spend any time trying to figure out the monster at all. It’s only role was to be something the people in the story react to; they impose their own ideas onto it, according to the fear and the guilt they already carry. The role it plays in the end is quite different than the role a monster traditionally plays.

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

I think it’s way too early to tell. So far we seem to be obsessed with taming the monsters of the last century: turning them into romantic heroes, or making them private detectives or whatever. It’s all very cynical and grossly unimaginative. And cowardly, to be frank. There’s still so much fuel in these monsters to do the jobs they were meant to do for us. I think zombies became popular as culturally we began to think of ourselves in terms of demographics, as units of a consumer- and advertising-driven economy, and as progressive movements of the latter half of the twentieth century forced cultures to engage with each other in new and disorienting ways. We began to think of mass populations in a new way. I think the monsters that will come to dominate the public consciousness in the future will also derive from geopolitical influences: water shortages, famine, pandemic, and the rabid nationalism that these things will catalyze.

As far as recommendations, the best monster story I’ve read recently is a new one from Livia Llewellyn, called “And Love Shall Have No Dominion.” It’s collected in John Skipp’s anthology, Demons. To give it a cruelly reductive summary, it’s essentially about a demon who falls in love with a human woman. The story is horrifyingly brutal, gorgeously written, and a genuinely nuanced look at what love might look like, and might feel like, to something that literally comes from Hell. I’ve read nothing else like it. Seek it out. It’s one of the best horror stories I’ve read in some time.

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Nadia Bulkin is a writer and political science student. Her short fiction has appeared in ChiZine, Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, the anthology Bewere The Night, and elsewhere; more information is available at nadiabulkin.wordpress.com. She spent her impressionable teen years in the suburban wilds of Nebraska. Her world view (and “Absolute Zero”) was greatly influ- enced by her environmental science minor and the 1982 movie about life out of balance, Koyaanisqatsi. Her original story “Absolute Zero” appears in Creatures.

What was the first monster that scared/moved you?

A talking, walking chair on Sesame Street.  It had a face in the cushions.  It horrified me so much that I actually don’t remember it at all — as in, I blocked it out of my mind – but my mother says I was deeply disturbed by it.  I do remember a similar talking, walking gloved hand – apparently I had a very rigid sense of “proper” and “improper” shapes.  Body horror’s been my weakness ever since.

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

Not pity, but for me, the best evoke empathy.

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

I’d probably be a will-o’-the-wisp.  A lost wanderer spirit stuck between two worlds who’s not all that malicious, but might still lead you down a dangerous path.  Also, seen all over the world!

King Kong, or Godzilla?

Godzilla.  Okay, I actually don’t know much about either, but having lived in Indonesia as a kid, I grew up with Godzilla.

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

Keeping the monster and all of its menace in the reader’s “frame.”  In great monster movies you can feel the monster’s presence even when it’s not on screen, and I think it’s much harder to create a sense of foreboding and suspense when you don’t have visuals and sound.

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

I think Larry Fessenden is doing really interesting work with wendigos, harsh conditions, and human violence (the movies The Last Winter and Wendigo, and the Fear Itself episode “Skin and Bones”).  I think we’ll have monsters of globalization: contagion, overpopulation, environmental hazards, communication breakdown (see Pontypool).  But that’s the poli sci student in me talking.

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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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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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