I love monsters.
They are everything you fear and all that you hate, poured into vile-veined bodies, with skin and bone and tentacle. With slavering jaws, salacious with drool, and gouging, defiling claws.
Put your pent up angst into a judiciously described creature, and you have a monster on your hands.
But what should you do with it when you have it? And what about the monster’s point of view – has anyone asked them what they want?
You might subscribe to the view that monsters should fulfil many functions. They should scare the reader, they should drive protagonists onwards, they should mean nemesis to some and redemption to others. They should thin the herd of characters to a more manageable stable.
There are many notable examples within literature where the monster’s own story is explored. One of the earliest, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, is most noteworthy as an allegory for humanity’s responsibility towards its creations; think science, religion, civilisation. Once birthed into the world through a cataclysm of effort and a lightning bolt of inspiration, then begins the slow process of reconciling the monster into the world at large.
Frankenstein’s monster is naturally cast as the outsider. He will never be accepted because he shouldn’t be. He is the disruptive innovation, the genie that can’t be put back into the bottle, the paradigm shift that can’t be levelled. And there are others.
Three of the best outsiders that you hate to love.
From China Mieville’s classic, Perdido Street Station, the Slake Moth is a real handful. Huge and powerful in its own right, it is equipped with mesmerising wings designed to keep victims in thrall whilst it slips its proboscis down their throats to suck out all consciousness. Yet it is a fish out of water, a child sold into slavery who has slipped its shackles and found its way into a candy store. Yes, it eats the mind of Grimnebulin’s kephri-girlfriend, Lin, but you still can’t help feel that New Crobuzon would be a lot less colourful without it.
From black gothic dark towers, to the edge of civilisation, the outsider comes to wander amongst humanity, and provokes a singular reaction. We hear from the Outsider in first person, and whilst Lovecraft doesn’t entirely capture our sympathies for him, he paints an interesting and Poe-etic vignette.
The Outsider appears in Lovecraft’s short story of the same name.
He was a man once. Obsessed with chocolate bars, the blind old postmaster jealously guards them, his fat hands working like spiders as he gropes and fondles. We go back in time to see how as a younger man he artfully and charismatically manipulates future events, but to what end? Sympathise with him all you like, enjoy his company even, but do not, under any circumstances, play hide and seek with this man.
Frank appears in Recursion, by David J Harrison, released this Halloween.