monster - (mon'-stur)
1. a. An imaginary or legendary creature that combines parts from various animal and human forms.
b. A creature having a strange or frightening appearance.
2. An animal, a plant, or other organism having structural defects or deformities.
3. One who inspires horror or disgust...
... or pure delight!
You had to know this one was coming.
Thank the Good Lord in Heaven for MONSTERS!
Monsters have always been my friends. I don't know why. In fact I'm pretty certain stopped asking why at a very early age.
Make no mistake... monsters have frightened me since I first opened my eyes. Some have terrified me silly. I am quite sure my parents and siblings remember numerous nights when I had to have a light on, or shouted for Mom to come sweep some hideous thing out of the closet or under the bed. I am no hypocrite!
But isn't that how we find ourselves attracted to some things? We experience a traumatic scare, and are immediately intrigued as much as we are terrified. For the rest of our lives we seek it. Think of young divers who get bitten by a shark or stung by a ray, and grow to become marine biologists, obsessed with the things that scared them once but now have become a beloved and integral part of their lives.
From a very early age, I would see a picture in a book on horror movies, or a horror film on TV, and be shivering all night, but the next day (bleary from lack of sleep) I'd beg Mom to get me another horror movie book or let me watch another scary movie on TV (they seemed to be on all the time in my childhood memories).
I am so very thankful that she rarely balked, and let me create my own nightmares with enthusiasm and a sigh of 'Well, here we go again..." She knew I was going to be shouting for her sometime during the night, especially when I was allowed to see this guy one too-late night on PBS:
Oh yeah. He was definitely at the end of the hallway that night.
But he rapidly became a friend, as did all the great classic monsters of my youth!
The gods of Monster Mt. Olympus: the classic Universal Monsters.
Their consistent 'presence' in my nighttime mind made them familiar, and comforting. Soon I was thinking of them as my monsters; they surely wouldn't hurt me because I loved them so much, and maybe our odd friendship would keep them from hurting anyone I loved.
Suddenly my monsters became empowering.
And speaking of monster power...
King Kong (1933)
Of all the classic monsters in my childhood, there were two who (which? that?) really captured my imagination. Kong, the King of Skull Island, and the hapless, helpless scientist-turned-buggy, The Fly!
The Fly (1958)
Truly educational horror films, these. Both terrifying, both helplessly caught up in circumstances beyond their control (the real difference between them: Andre Delambre's own experiments destroyed him, but Kong is a true innocent ripped from his home). The plight of these two imaginative beings speared my heart and stuck in my head, and began a lifelong search for an understanding of, and sympathy for, the monstrous.
I had masks, toys, models, books, magazines... you name it, if it was monsterish, I had it (or at least knew about it and wanted it).
As I grew older, some folks thought my monsters were childish, especially in light of the new (then) killer monsters like Jason, Michael, Freddy. And I defended my classic monster friends tenaciously. I became their protector.
But I also began to know and love some of the 'newer' monsters, notably these iconic beings:
The ghouls of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) were the first unique, new, from-whole-cloth monsters in a generation, and have become an obsession for filmmakers, video gamers, and horror geeks, including your author.
A decade after Romero's first zombie outing came the remarkable, just-as-unique Alien (1979) xenomorph. Sci-fi? Nah, sure it's in space and in a ship, but this is a monster chasing people in a remote, enclosed area. It's horror... think The Thing, or Jaws or Creature From The Black Lagoon in space!
Plus, y'know. Ripley.
Of course, I love monsters of all stripes, colors, and fuzzies...
See? Monsters are our friends.
I am so thankful I have monsters. They've helped inspire, enlighten, and inform my fantasy life, and that has real value.
They can also be very cute.
They can also be very cute.
We should all be thankful for them.
In their monstrosity, they remind us of our humanity. Their failings are ours, just magnified and covered in rubber and fur. Their relentlessness reminds us of our short time on this Earth, and in that knowledge of our mortality they let us look upon Death without dying; we come away shaking and smiling inside because sometimes the only way to know we're truly alive is to come close to death and walk away clean.
Monsters give us that extraordinary gift.
I am very thankful for all of them.
In a strange twist, I'm pretty sure they're thankful for me too.