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!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Dark and Dirty Heroes of UF - an 'almost' guest post by author Emmett Spain

Harry Dresden by The Gryph
(Found here)

I had a guest post offered to me by urban fantasy writer Emmett Spain, author of Old Haunts! (cheers all round and excited hoots). Inspired by a #UFchat topic on Alpha males and dubious heroes of Urban Fantasy, we agreed on a topic - The Dark and Dirty Heroes of UF - (doesn't that sound just awesome?!), Emmett wrote at blinding speed and it was ready to post about 3 weeks ago, then ...
- kaput! -
The online access at #UFchat headquarters went down and stayed down. (gasps and sounds of bodies hitting floor in dead faint)

But look at me - I survived, here to tell the tale and all that (a weak little "yay!" from the back row)
I missed my opportunity to post the guest awesomeness by about 10 minutes. Literally.

I was doing the intro for my guest's excellent musings when - ta-da! - I saw an announcement about the post on Twitter by @oldhauntsauthor (Mr. Spain's Twitter moniker) and a note in my overflowing and sagging inbox (you didn't know they could do that, did you? It's a sad, sad sight) sending sympathies for the computer gremlin guano (chorus of "Eew!!"s) and that he would post it on his site in the meantime.

Literally. 10 minutes from posting. - le sigh -

So now that the post on Dark Heroes of UF has red-carpeted on its home turf at A London City Blog I will, instead, tell you a little of the awesome that is Emmet, give you a teaser of the Dark and Dirty post (now titled The Lure of the Anti-Hero), send you over to his blog to read the rest. Perhaps we'll be lucky enough to catch Emmett (or some other unsuspecting guest! Mwahahaha.. cough..cough gurgle) next time around.

(Gets net ready - or should that be Net?)

Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today I have the privilege of presenting urban fantasy author
Emmett Spain!
(wild cheering and neighing from the audience- yes, neighing)
who has graciously agreed to write a guest post for Inklings!

Emmett is the author of "Old Haunts: A London City Novel", a fellow Australian, a self-confessed writing junkie and a fellow Jim Butcher & Joss Whedon admirer. When someone mentions a love of action more than once in a sitting you can be certain their novel will be packing some too and Emmett's definitely does.

Here's the official blurb for his book (take note: lots of five star reviews for this one!):
Old Haunts: A London City Novel
Jack Worthington's life sucks. An old lady haunts him, his cash well is dry, and he's on the edge of losing all hope. So naturally, when he tries to do something good, fate rewards him by putting a bounty out on his life.

Knowing that his days--or hours--are numbered, he races to forestall his inevitable death sentence, but in his travels unwittingly stumbles upon a potential catastrophe in the making. Awesome.

Now he has to figure out why the ghosts of London City are sowing fear and paranoia into the minds of police and ordinary citizens, and what it all has to do with the anniversary of the infamous citywide riots that occurred one year ago to the day.

His search eventually leads him to a haven for the city's underworld denizens, where he must face a vampire with whom he shares a terrible link to the past, all while trying to stay alive just long enough to avert the apocalypse.

Some days saving the world kinda sucks.
But wait - before you rush out and get his book, first read his thoughts on the dark heroes of UF and why the word 'anti-hero' is usually a better fit when it comes to urban fantasy guys (and girls) who, despite having jobs and agendas such as assassins among other things, get our sympathy, (see the book -and tag line - below for example). Why? It may have something to do with these guys, and girls, getting lumped with saving the world. A lot.

Web of Lies by Jennifer Estep
Cover illustration by Tony Mauro
The Lure of the Anti-Hero by Emmett Spain (an excerpt)

Since I was a kid I’ve grown up on Superman. The Man of Steel. The Big Blue Boy Scout. The quintessential hero archetype. He does the right thing, he never lies, and he always comes through in the end. When people hear the word hero—we’re talking purely in terms of fiction here—this is the archetype that tends to spring to mind. Stalwart. True. Built of strong moral fibre. But could you imagine a hero of this nature popping up in an Urban Fantasy story?

I have a hard time trying to picture it. I admit, there are some characters in UF stories who fit the archetype from time to time—Michael Carpenter from the Dresden Files is the first that springs to my mind for his unshakable faith and unquestionable morality—but let me ask you… how many of these sorts of heroes tend to be the protagonists in UF stories? The answer is pretty much none. What we get more frequently are anti-hero protagonists—one of the most popular archetypes in the urban fantasy genre...

Continued at A London City Blog! Read the whole of Emmett's excellent and thought provoking post HERE.
Want to read more? There's another (nicely complimentary) guest post at Brian Rathbone's website where Emmett discusses the sorta-opposite-but-really-just-more-evil-twin end of the spectrum in "What Makes A Compelling Villain?"

And don't forget to check out the rest of his blog (great mining for UF enthusiasts and writers!) as well as his book "Old Haunts: A London City Novel".

You can also find out more of Emmett's secret thoughts HERE in an exclusive interview with (wiggles eyebrows conspiratorially) You may discover some veeeerry interesting things about our guest there..!