I have thought for a while about what I could say on this topic because I don’t really consider myself a writer of monsters.
But when I dug a bit deeper, I immediately found something to say.
Monsters are always interesting because they are a typical representation of the Other, the foreign, the not-us. But in many stories we have to discover that we are the monsters. Not necessarily in the pessimistic, self-hating way although I have some of it in Life on Mars. (More on that later.) Realising that somewhere deep down we too are monsters can actually be a powerful and liberating moment.
One of the scenes that stayed with me the most from the ACOTAR trilogy is the one where Feyre has to look in a supposedly very dangerous mirror that had made people go mad before. To save her loved ones, Feyre takes on the challenge. What Feyre sees in the mirror is the truth, her monstrous self.
She accepts the monster. She looks it in the eye and says, yes, you are me.
We all have this monster-self and we spend so much time and energy trying to escape it, hide it, even kill it. Just because our monster usually comes out in the dark. We hate it because we associate it with pain and hopelessness.
I spent a considerable amount of time in the darkness in the past two years and the realisation I made was that in the loneliest moments, the monster was there for me.
And as we sat together in the depth of the well, I started to feel grateful that I wasn’t alone. We made peace.
I think life became easier from then on. If we dare to face the monster that lives inside us, much of its scariness goes away.
Let us now see the few monsters that prowl in my writing:
Life on Mars is a story where I was considering the question what it is to be human? What it is to be a monster?
This story is not really a part of the #FLU and it is the most atypical story I have ever worked on. It has nothing that I consider my trademarks and it low-key feels like an errant idea meant for someone else lost its way and decided to take up camp with me.
LOM is a sci-fi drama with a relatively large cast on a spaceship that is going to investigate what happened to the colony on Mars that has gone silent for a few month. Everything is going as planned under the leadership of Captain Aminata Robinson, but rumours of a monster on the ship start a panic. Her manipulative first officer starts a mutiny and takes over. In this unsettling atmosphere private tragedies also unfold: In a modern Scarlet Letter like drama, a woman whose husband is on the colony falls pregnant on the ship and she stubbornly keeps the name of the father to herself. Zen, the captain’s teenage daughter falls for a technician her mother doesn’t approve of. But real love comes at her from an unexpected direction; the one she forms a meaningful connection with is her AI interface. A relationship that can never fully bloom.
Arriving to Mars, they find the colony empty, and fears of the imagined monster are overshadowed by real terror. Is there something hostile on the Red Planet killing the colonists?
(Writing about it really makes me want to get back to it but to LOM but I still don’t feel strong enough to finish this story.)
Another story that has monsters is Our Best Friend’s Alien Boyfriend – and I’m not talking about the possible extraterrestrial lifeforms but an urban well rural legend that haunts the fields; the Corn Monster.
I don’t even know how I came up with it, probably started as an inside joke with myself 😀 but like many things in this story something that I first thought was just for the laughs waa actually much more serious and one of the most touching scenes in the book is connected to the Corn Monster.
Zen first saw the monster on All Hallow’s Eve.
It was no more than a flash of sterile grey and a squeaking sound. She saw the movement from the corner of her eye, but by the time she turned her head it was gone. Sig ran to the end of the corridor, but it was empty except for the pipes glimmering in the flickering light of fluorescent tubes. Her heart drummed in her ears, fear and adrenalin rushing through her veins, sending her pulse flying. She wiped her sweaty hands on her oversized black T-shirt whose melting white letters read “You’ll float too” in the company of a single red balloon. <LOM>
“I always found the concept of the New World funny,” David said, examining the leaves of plants. “Assuming a land is new and uninhabited because YOU have never been there, is the highest form of hubris.”
Zen nodded and swept the sweat of her forehead.
“It’s lucky Mars was uninhabited,” Zen pondered, continued her digging. “I wouldn’t have wanted the atrocities and massacres repeated.”
“Lucky indeed,” David agreed. “Do you know that the first book about traveling to Mars was written by a German prisoner of peace in the US? It was entitled Das Marsprojekt and he wrote about many things that were ahead of his time. He believed there was a species native to Mars who cultivated beautiful underground gardens.”
“I think I’d get along with them,” Zen said patting the first tree she had planted. “You, on the other hand, would definitely get along with them. You could trade seeds and gardening tips or whatever it is that you plant people do.”
“Are you mocking me?” David asked, crossing his arms.
“Just a little,” Zen said. “Promise that if you ever find those underground gardens you’ll let me know. I’ll ask the Martians for asylum.”
She laughed, but it didn’t come from the heart. <LOM>
Corn monster- Dorothea, Cornothea, appears at the top of the stairs, skin pale green, bumpy with seeds at the strangest places. Her normally luxurious auburn hair, hangs limp and pale on her shoulders. Only a fading echo of humanity lights up her eyes. She is wearing a beautiful crimson dress, but it just highlights her deformity.
Mr Aden gasps.
“This is who I am now,” she whispers, her voice merely more than the breeze stealing through the fields.
She takes a few steps down the stairs, but her knees keep buckling in and she stumbles. Mr Aden is there in a flash, he helps her down, holding her gently.
They exchange a look. In her eyes there is gratitude and fear. In his acceptance and love.
He runs his hand down a wispy pale green lock with such tenderness that it would break anyone’s heart. He leads her into the living room, sits her down in front of the fireplace and wraps her in a warm plaid blanket.
“Stay here,” he whispers. Then you hear the rattle of keys and a door closing.
Cornothea stays alone in the living room feeling warm and safe in her monster form for the first time. But as moments pass she starts wondering. What if he never comes back. Or what if he comes back with the army or scientists who will do horrible experiments on her.
She considers this. The cut of scalpels would hurt less than the fact that he’d abandoned her.
Tears trickle down her face and they taste not of salt but starch.
A door opens and closes. She stops crying and looks up to see Mr. Aden’s face peeping through the door.
“What’s wrong?” he asks and steps into the room with two plastic bags with the Golden Goose logo on them.
“I thought some takeaway would be nice tonight?”
She nods weakly, her mouth too full of emotions to speak.
By the time, they finish eating, she has turned back to her human form and she is even more beautiful than before. It might be because now she wears a soft smile instead of the constant frown or because of the twinkling in her eyes you only see with a woman truly in love.
They fall asleep in each other’s arms with a drop of soy sauce smeared on Mr Aden’s cheek. <OBFABF>