Thursday 27 September 2018

Guest post: Ain't nobody here but us humans

Guest post by George Lockett.

I love monsters. Don’t get me wrong—they can be terrifying. Creatures who can rend our bodies with their teeth and claws and spines, driven by animalistic hunger. Beings who can subvert our wills, break our minds with their eldritch powers, or with the very substance of their being—wearing shapes more horrible than our minds can withstand. Spirits who promise to subject us to brutalities for our sins, for our mistakes, or for our unwitting transgressions.

It is comforting to believe in monsters.

I’ve been thinking a lot about monsters lately. You probably have too. We seem to be surrounded by them. You only need glance at the news or skim your social feeds to catch a glimpse of one. The unrelenting onslaught of this present moment—children gathered in cages, justice only for the few, men who would drag the world to the brink of destruction for their own selfish ends—it might have you telling yourself that monsters are real.

But they’re not. The ones who do these monstrous things are not monsters. They are people.

When you’re faced with a real, honest-to-God monster, there’s always something to be done. Run. Tie yourself to the mast. Show them a compassion they’ve never experienced. Turn their outer clothing inside out. Rub salt or crushed garlic on their entrails. Or, draw your sword; slay the beast (but watch out for his mother).

When dealing with a monster, knowledge will see you through. An anathema, arcane gesture, or the right word, softly spoken, will protect you. And you may well find that the so-called monsters aren’t so terrible as you’d thought. That they have their own stories, if you’re willing to listen.

But monsters aren’t real; there ain’t nobody here but us humans. People are complex, and they demand complex solutions. People who do monstrous things are still people, no matter how much we’d like to deny it, to say they’re a different breed, not like us.

It is comforting to believe in monsters, because we know how to fight them (and that fighting them is sometimes a sign of our own weakness). A stout heart, trusty blade, or, best of all, an exceptional sprint aren’t enough to save us from people. Reality is always more terrible.

Take vampires. They’ve stood for many things in their time, not least a fear of the rich and titled. Their powers make them almost unassailable. They are terrifying monsters who enslave and kill the less powerful with a mere extension of their will. They literally subsist by draining the life force of those under their power.

And what of the rich and powerful now, the ones for whom, in many stories, vampires were a proxy? They are far, far more powerful than their fictional analogues ever were, with the capacity (and, it seems, the will) to steer the world into ruin in the execution of that power.

Some even have their thralls on social media, a mere remark enough to unleash hordes of yipping Renfields to harass those unfavourable to them. Reality also has a sense of humour in its predilection for aping fiction. And sunlight, garlic, holy water, crosses? They offer us no help. The only thing that can really make a difference is much, much harder won: sweeping and radical social change.

It is a harder and more harrowing thing to accept that the people who do monstrous things are not monsters.

There is one thing I’ve found to help, though. An arcane gesture that can make us feel a better, at least in a small way. It’s a simple one. When all of this seems like too much, I roll up my sleeves. And I keep writing.

George Lockett (@mastergeorge) is a writer of fiction and video games, telling tales of flesh-hungry birds, mischievous ghosts, and technoanxiety.

George’s short story “The Last Siren Sings” can be found in the Making Monsters anthology.

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