The Monster's Corner:
Stories Through Inhuman Eyes edited by Christopher Golden
MONSTROSITY: AN INTRODUCTION
ANYONE WHO HAS EVER READ my work, or even glanced at my Website, will already know that I love monsters. Not in the manner of some passing fancy, the way teenagers express their — OMG — love for those shoes, that dress, this hat. Nor can my love for monsters be compared to your love of ice cream or pizza or pad thai or whatever makes you salivate. It is an enduring love. A love that comes with a deep and abiding connection, an understanding, a
One of my earliest childhood memories is of sitting on the back porch of my house on Fox Hill Road in Framingham, Massachusetts, with the little black-and-white TV my mother sometimes had on in the kitchen and watching
The moment terrified me and broke my heart, all at the same time. The monster didn’t know any better. He didn’t understand the world into which he had been thrust. He had been created with the power to do so much damage, to inflict so much brutality, and yet all he wanted was peace and laughter. When the monster is shown walking into the village with the dead girl in his arms and the villagers react with horror and hatred, the tragedy is complete.
I cried that day. I’m sure I cried in horror and in fear, but I know that my tears also sprang from my sadness for this creature whose monstrosity is no fault of his own.
In the years that followed, I developed a love for all kinds of monsters, thanks in large part to a television landscape that included
While there are monsters who are simply that and nothing more, who are truly evil and alien, there are so many more that inspired me to think and feel. The 1976 remake of
As my literary interests grew, I found myself gravitating toward such portrayals of monstrosity again and again. I read Mary Shelley’s
This epiphany opened up a whole new way for me to see these stories. Godzilla, of course, was widely misunderstood. Magneto might be the X-Men’s greatest nemesis, and his methods wrong, but he believed in his cause — believed he was doing the right thing for his people.
In college, I wrote more than one paper dissecting my favorite film,
Monsters and monstrosity. Both subjects fascinate me. So much of what we write on those topics is about how we view ourselves, and about the things we fear in ourselves and in others. We want understanding for our own behavior, for the ugliness or otherness we see in ourselves. Like H. P. Lovecraft’s outsider or Billy Joel’s stranger (not Camus’s stranger — that guy’s an asshole), we exist in a world that either does not notice us, or does not notice the
Monstrosity is about how we define each other and how we define ourselves. It’s about what we see in the mirror and what we fear others will see. And, at its most basic, it is also about the disturbing truth that we do not know what it is in the minds of others, that the woman next to you in line at the bank or the man dressed as Santa at the mall may view the world and humanity and morality very differently from the way that you do.
Now, let’s talk about reality for a moment. There are monsters, and then there are monsters. There are real killers who go on rampages that leave people dead and others wounded and destroy the lives and the hopes of so many. These are the real monsters, and there are others in our world. My understanding of and sympathy for monsters does not extend to these real-life horrors. It is reserved for the Beast who is misunderstood, whose noble intentions are wrongly perceived by so many, but who, if he is fortunate, finds understanding in the eyes of a Beauty.
Let’s be clear about the line between fiction and reality in my philosophy of monsters. Andrew Vachss, novelist and warrior for the rights of children, once wrote — and I paraphrase — that you can have sympathy for how the monster became the monster without having sympathy for the monster itself. You can sympathize with the child whose experiences forged him into a soulless killer, but once he becomes a monster, sympathy ends.
Got that? Good.
Back to fiction, and my love of fictional monsters.
When I conceived of this anthology, it was with the same love of monstrosity that I described above. I knew that many other writers shared my love for such stories. Once again, as in
Stephen King once wrote — and again I’m paraphrasing — that the way we identify monsters is by collective agreement. “I’m okay, you’re okay, but eww, look at that.” I’m fairly certain the thing we’re pointing to, the thing that makes us scowl in disgust, is pointing back with the same look of revulsion. It’s all a matter of perspective. Eew, look at that. Eew, look at
Which brings us right back to the outsider, and the mirror. What we hide. What we fear in others and ourselves. Monstrosity.
The contributors to this anthology took up the challenge admirably. I had only a few rules. Number one, no vampires and no zombies. You can find more than enough of that elsewhere, and they’re too easy as go-to monsters. Number two, I discouraged human monsters, although you’ll notice that a couple of them slipped in here. Number three, the stories had to be original, though I broke that rule, too. One of the stories was published in a small press anthology that sold about a hundred copies before it appeared here. If you’re one of the hundred people who’ve read it before … sshhh. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.
The results are wonderful. In the following pages there are stories of fear and stories of heartbreak. There