What do you think of when you think about monsters? Maybe something like Dracula? Or perhaps something more ancient and ungodly like the Lovecraft abominations? Heck, maybe it's Elmo. Point is, there are a lot of ways to envision monsters, to the point that the term really needs defining. Today I want to talk a little bit about pure, classic, unadulterated monsters.
To help clear up my thought process, this means no humans that are terrifying or capable of incredible evil. The reverse, strange creatures that are aware of their role in life and somehow deft their nature. I'm talking about mindless, horror machines. Things that can be unequivocally called monsters. With all that in mind, what makes a good monster to you?
Honestly, the first thing I think about are dragons. There's a wonderful hypothesis about the genesis of dragons in human cultures, something that attempts to explain why varied people from across the globe with no really interaction with one another all dreamed up the same creature. It's not the lame explanations like "dragons were real" or "clearly they were dinosaurs."
Summing things up, we have some leftover parts in our brains from when our ancestors were simpler mammals. Stuff that helped us stay alive. Stuff that's still there and can mess with our perception. There's a part of our brain that triggers specifically for snakes. There's a different part that triggers for birds of prey. And there's one last part that triggers for large cats. These were all things our various ancestors had to deal with and avoid. Being afraid of them meant your stayed away and thus lived to spread those genes. And you know what happens when you mishmash those three fears together? A large cat, something with teeth and claws, a snake, long and venomous, and a bird of prey scouring the skies, looking down on your tiny mammalian ancestors? You get a freakin' dragon!
Dragons are perfect monsters. They draw on instinctual fears that reside within us. They represent something higher on the food chain than us. Something we can't hope to defeat with our natural skills and armaments. Now, this isn't to say I don't think there are other good monsters that are more modern or subtle. I'm big fan of Slenderman and half the stuff out of the SCP Foundation is pure gold. But these are designed monsters. Good monsters, but they took a long time to form in human consciousness and half their terror comes from the modern day interpretation of them, from how our world and society work and how disrupting that can lead to something terrifying. But dragons, no, they coalesced on their own from our most basic and primal fears. Creatures swooping down on us, fire burning us, snakes slithering through to envenomate us, and large predators stalking and eating us. It was a natural and inevitable monster. We didn't create them, our very biology did. Or so the theory goes.
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Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.