Familiar Monsters

Kage Baker  really, really never wanted to write monster stories.

She liked monster movies – preferably black and white, and soundless if possible. She liked the classic Universal monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Wolfman; she even liked some B-list but classic things like the Invisible Man, or that dynamic duo, Jekyll and Hyde. But what she liked to do was watch the old, old movies. She never really liked the more modern takes on any of these.

Mind you, she read the original novels – she was a fanatic about primary sources. But she didn’t really enjoy most of them, not in writing. She never liked the style that Stoker or Shelley used, though she applauded the ideas; she liked Stephenson, but she would have liked him if he’d written Hardy Boys books. Kage was more than half in love with Robert Louis Stevenson.

As later years provided more modern takes on the classic novels, Kage read those. She liked Saberhagen but was annoyed by the good man’s habit of forgetting to end the novels. She was, like half the world, totally dazzled by Rice’s first ventures into the vampiric universe: and then, like half the world, she gave up in disgust when it all got stereotyped and repetitive and simply too adoring a paean to the Beautiful People. She swore never to write a vampire story herself, because of that. There really were no good werewolf stories in Kage’s time. The one exception to that was the excellent Peter S. Beagle story, “Lila the Werewolf”; the current BDSM crop of violent wolfy romance would have appalled her.

Besides, Kage just hated participating in most fads. She would deliberately wait to read or watch most things until the rush was over It was a perverse sort of snobbery, to which she admitted with no embarrassment. And when she needed monsters in her stories – which happened from time to time – she would either make them up or choose obscure ones. It’s a weirdly carnivorous Celtic muse in “The Literary Agent” (no, not Joseph – the invisible creature who waits and watches from the branches of an oak, until RLS refuses Joseph’s temptations and sends him after Agatha Christie.) The Little Stupid Guys are basically a moronic version the denizens of the Hollow Hills. Operatives are mistaken for angels and demons and gods.

She wouldn’t have given the time of day to zombies. Too sticky and disgusting.

I have wondered by I am currently so fascinated with my zombie and ghoul stories. I have no answer, though. The WHY is beyond me, although the HOW has been obvious: I have had dreams that will not let me go. I suppose the why doesn’t really matter in that event, Dear Readers. Getting the story down is what matters.

Someone asked me in the comments if I was thinking of including vampires in my ventures. The answer is definitely NO. Not only have I no original ideas, the perfect vampire story – in my own opinion – has already been written: it is The Vampire Tapestry, by Suzy McKee Charnas. It’s years out of print (I have a paperback), though Ms. Charnas has adapted it into a play, Vampire Dreams. She is more famous for feminist dystopian novels, now. But that one is what I would have written, had I been capable in my 20’s: the vampire is an almost perfect predator, inhumanely intellectual and alone, a portrait drawn in spare pen and ink designs. What can I say? I find predators romantic.

Anyway, it has been done. It charms me so much I cannot turn my hand to it, myself.

I’m still working on getting a page or two, a thousand words or more, together for, Dear Readers. It’s  hard. I have plenty of ideas and am not blocked, but we are still in recovery here. It will be a very long time before it is all done, but we are doing our best right now: hence, my return to the blog. But I’m spending a lot of time binge watching gentle fantasies like Northern Exposure with Kimberly – it helps us both. For late night, there is Midsomer Murders; and if I still can’t sleep when Kimberly has given up and gone to bed – there is my Kindle. It’s actinic glow is soothing, since it lets me read in the dark. The unending flow of words – and Kindle’s most valuable aspect, to me, is the ability to never run out of books – has been my primary barricade against grief since I was 8 years old.

I can’t help remembering, right now and with acid sorrow, how I used to stay up late to read and watch strange television with Ray. He too was a night owl, and he and I explored shows on parasitic monsters, killer fish, alien visitors, and politics when the rest of the family was gone to sleep. They were all pretty much nonsense, and Ray’s ascerbic comments were wonderful.

I hope Kimberly feels a little better, when she wakes up and knows I am awake out in the living room, fighting off the visitation of Death.  That lean abhorred monster is the most familiar of all.  And the worst.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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