Guest post by Neil James Hudson.
My childhood was full of monsters. My favourite book was Usborne’s All About Monsters by Carey Miller. The cover showed the fiercest possible Loch Ness Monster, green-skinned, yellow-eyed, and possibly a little over-supplied with fangs. Inside were lurid paintings and descriptions of dinosaurs, Sirens, Cyclops, Grendels, dragons, krakens, abominable snowmen and Godzillas. If this wasn’t enough, a weekly dose of Doctor Who kept my imagination topped up with an ever-changing parade of new creations. My worst behind-the-sofa moment was the Krynoid, a space plant that infected humans, turning them into an enormous mass of vegetation that would eventually engulf the planet. It owed an enormous debt to The Quatermass Experiment, but I watched it again recently and found it just as terrifying as when I was six and had to leave the room, unable to resist watching through the kitchen door.
On the face of it, I didn’t need them. Real life was quite terrifying enough. I had so many school bullies that sometimes I had to stay behind to catch up on some of the bullying I hadn’t had time for. Teachers tended to blame the victims, and would add extra punishment for missing work because I’d been too busy being bullied. And I found everyday social interaction so baffling and difficult that I was occasionally grateful to the bullies for getting me out of it. And yet, my favourite leisure activity was to scare the hell out of myself.
The other great thing about monsters was that you seldom defeated them fairly and squarely through single combat. You used your brain, and beat them through cunning and trickery. You approached Medusa with a mirrored shield. You stabbed Polyphemus in the eye and hid under his sheep. You put spikes on your armour and fought the Lambton Worm in a river. You turned off the Daleks’ power supply. The bullies would be eaten in no time, but their bright but weedy victim could save the world—after the removal of a few undesirables. And of course, to the enormous gratitude of a few desirables.
Ultimately, monsters aren’t real. That’s what’s so great about them. If they were real, they’d just be beasts. Instead, they’re discrete chunks of imagination, superimposed on reality to wreak a bit of havoc on a smug world. When I was a child, reality wasn’t good enough; I had to live in a world of my imagination instead. I still do. Here be monsters; let’s have more of them.
Neil James Hudson has published forty short stories and a novel On Wings of Pity, about incubi and succubi. He has been fascinated by mythology since finding a stray copy of Pears' Cyclopedia as a child, and has a diploma in Classical Studies from the Open University. His website is at neiljameshudson.net.
Neil’s story “A Song of Sorrow” appears in the Making Monsters anthology, available now.