Kage Baker was fond of monsters. There are 7 definitions of “monster” that I can think of off-hand, ranging from the ancient “omen” to the rather vulgarly modern “highly successful”; undoubtedly more when one starts peering into the darkened halls of the sciences. Kage found something interesting in all of them. And now, of course, it is their season once again.
The world of fantasy is replete, awash and in fact bursting with monsters these days. Kage had achieved a certain ennui in recent years – vampires had begun to rank right next to elves in the ranks of Self-Involved Annoying Prats. Anyway, Kage’s absolute favourites were always the monsters she grew up with. The neighbors. The ones who made good. The stars.
We grew up in Hollywood, and the Monsters of the Silver Screen lived where we lived. Especially the Universal Studios monsters – for one thing, Mama’s house was literally just across the Cahuenga Pass from Universal and you could see the sound stages from the roof.
For another, the Universal monsters were the uncontested Lords of the Monster World in the 50’s and 60’s: there could be no argument, unless about whether Dracula or the Frankestein creature or dear old Imhotep the Mummy was coolest. Poor Wolfman Larry Talbot just didn’t have the chops of the first three, and always had that look on his face like a guilty dog, anyway.
As for the “Giant Monsters” like Godzilla, Mothra, Garuda and Rodan – strictly parvenus.
But the Big Three were gods of our childhood. Kage, of course, the constant researcher and manic collector, bought Famous Monsters of Filmland. We’d all hang about the windows of hobby stores and the huge Hollywood Toy and Magic Shop, too, wistfully eyeing the Aurora model kits – but those cost money and were usually beyond us. I mean, some of them glowed in the dark!
God knows where all those magazines ended up, but we also all sought out real books about the films as well. Books about how the films were made, books about mythology and folklore, books about “real” monsters in history. Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker and the histories of the Pharaohs; before we realized it, all of us girls were deep into (gasp!) educating ourselves and it was too late to go back: the Curse of Information had us.
This is one of the ways people end up doing historical recreation, by the way. A lot of us were monster fans and grew up critiquing, say, the weird mixtures of modern and medieval dress in films like Bride of Frankestein. A fondness for monster movies leads a certain kind of kid straight into research, and ultimately she is dying wool with iron filings, woad and salt. (Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Believe me, it smells worse.) Or – as one of our brilliant friends did while still a beardless youth – embalming his sadly deceased parakeet and burying it in two or three gorgeously polychromed nesting sarcophagi …
These are some of the people who ended up as operatives, too. Many a beloved friend was gifted with immortality by Kage. She couldn’t bear to let them go. Lots of grieving artists or scientists have made their creatures for similar reasons … and “monster”, after all, has so many meanings. So I guess some of us are now deathless monsters, thanks to Kage.
At least she didn’t sew Rosie Greer’s head to anyone.
Tomorrow: more Scary Monsters. I think we are entering a Monster Marathon …