Friday, October 29, 2010

Monsters With Human Faces - A For-Real! Guest Post by Emmett Spain

4 Monsters & Andrea the Hollywood Agent

Ta da!

If you read the last entry you saw I had an awesome guest post lined from the even more awesome Urban Fantasy author Emmett Spain (see HERE for my previous intro), only to get slammed with computer gremlins that 'guanoed' ALL over my system (gulp!) and cut off my access to the interwebz! (faint!)

Turns out Emmett is a glutton for punishment really nice guy, who offered me ANOTHER post on a topic of my choosing. I jumped at the chance (whoops with happiness), mildly suggesting Monsters would be an awesome topic as it's the focus of our next #UFchat* - the day before Halloween! (Woot! My favorite holiday/non-holiday!)

Halloween is the holiday where we become monsters-by-choice. We deliberately put on masks and turn ourselves into monsters (among other things), scaring ourselves and each other, reveling in the double-takes we make in seeing 'creatures of the night' walking, not only our streets, but knocking on the doors of our homes and staring back at us in the mirror. But did you ever stop and realize that most of the classic monsters are rather human-like to start with? Exactly what does that say about us?

Turns out Emmett's brain has been churning on this very subject and...

Ta da!

(Oh - we already did that part. Never mind - it's worth two of them. ;)

...he's shared it with us right here on Inklings!

(that's right! You saw it here FIRST this time folks!)

Wolfman by Hector Casanova & Harold Sipe

Here is the amazing Emmett's post on:


A Guest Post by UF author Emmett Spain

(he swears he only used his original brain-in-residence on this one)

Love and Marriage.

A Horse and a Carriage.

Urban Fantasy and Monsters.

Some things just go together, don’t they?

In popular media the monsters tend to wear human faces these days, and there’s a lot of reasons for that. Most of them are marketing considerations. Studio head: “Why would we pay all this money to get this hot young actor and bury him behind all that monstery prosthesis? People don’t want to go and see ugly people at the cinema, they want beautiful people! No one wants to see Robert Pattinson covered in scales! Or maybe they do. Still, there’s not enough of them to warrant us funding this $60,000,000 film. Lose the scales. Pretty him up a bit. Have you thought about glitter?” Other considerations are decidedly more practical—it’s hard to get a good performance out of a bad CG wolf, which is something we now know for a fact.

But that’s where urban fantasy novels step in. There can be bog monsters in central park, fallen angels with scales and horns, and enormous tree monsters if we feel like it. But still the pre-eminent monsters in the modern UF novel have human faces. Vampires. Demons. Werewolves. They’re the Big 3 right now. All can have human faces at some point or another. But why? Why do authors tend to write monsters with human faces and guises if the name of the game is fantasy?

Wolfman by Hector Casanova & Harold Sipe

Again, like the movies, some considerations are practical. If your characters are the bad guys, having them “monster out” isn’t much of a problem, but what if you want to cast them as good guys, or at least anti-heroes? It’d be hard to feel an attraction to a vampire if he walked around yellow-eyed and bumpy foreheaded all the time. It’s also pretty tough to connect emotionally with a werewolf in its wolf form all day. And a demon without a human visage falls back into the category of "old school monster"—those which tend to spout arch dialogue and commit senseless acts of violence about the place at any given opportunity.

But still, strip the need for a writer to establish connections with these characters aside, why are the monsters with human faces so appealing? After all, there must be a reason they’re everywhere in UF, right? The main reasons I see are as follows (some already mentioned):

· It’s easier to relate to someone in a human visage

· It’s more natural to buy in to a romantic attachment between two characters if they both at least LOOK human

· These characters are a better metaphor for the darkness in our own natures than anything with spines or tentacles

Wolfman Wolfed Out by Hector Casanova & Harold Sipe

Vampires are metaphors for sex. The exchange of fluids, the deep drinking from the neck known as the embrace… if you read most UF stories you’ll find vampires will kill any gender for food, but most often they drink from the throats of the opposite sex. That embrace is about the thinnest metaphor for a sexual act there is. Similar concept with werewolves, though they are a more extreme manifestation of our inherent animalistic traits. They don’t share the magnetism that vampires do… maybe it’s a hair thing.

Demons I see more as metaphors for our own worst traits. A lack of loyalty, an interest in cruelty, an absence of that spark of goodness within—demons are the purest representation of our own worst traits. They are the absence, the darkness within.

With all this in mind, I see these monsters in Urban Fantasy as being created from ourselves—vampires from our sexual desires, werewolves from our animal side, demons from our darker tendencies. The details and specifics of whether a demon has black eyes or yellow or red are almost irrelevant—what matters here is that these monsters are reflections of us. They are us. The worst of what we might be. Extremes of our own psyches.

They are the most frightening aspects of us as human beings.

Which in turn, makes them kind of fascinating.

Still, I don’t think we should ignore the humble old school monster. Hook nosed hags with cauldrons, pumpkin-headed ogres and four-eyed fish creatures… read enough urban fantasy novels and you’ll be sure to get your fix of the above and much more. And whilst you're looking for new books to read, maybe give this one a look in.

I hear it makes an awesome Christmas present.


Thanks SO much Emmett! You're welcome to guest post any time. :)

*The topic for our next #UFchat - the day before Halloween!- is Why We Need Monsters! (& the Importance of Halloween) Join us for a little-lighter-than-usual chat with some hairy brain twisters (there's a visual for you!) thrown in!

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