Tag Archives: monsters

Sexy paranormal creatures

If you read folklore or fairy tales, you will find that the paranormal creatures are more dangerous than they are sexy. If they seem sexy, it’s just as bait to lure you in so they can eat you. Mermaids, sirens, alluring maidens sat near ponds – they’re just hungry. Vampires, werewolves and zombies used to be grim, grotesque and horrifying. What happened? Somewhere in the 20th century, the dangerous supernatural creatures of our folklore turned into objects of desire.

For me, those paranormal creatures have always suggested the wild and the wilderness. They may be the un-tame hazard inside us all. They are the things we find monstrous about ourselves as well as the things we fear in the dark, in the woods and in the wilderness. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that sexy paranormal stories come at a time when we’ve pushed wildness to the margins. With deforestation, everything mapped, and wild places exploited for profit, where is there left for paranormal creatures to haunt your imagination? And so, just as the wild places are commodified and exploited, so the paranormal creatures become sex objects.

There may be social aspects too. We’ve broken down a lot of taboos around the world about who can love whom. There’s still a lot of work to do. It’s no longer comfortable to present people of a different ethnic background to your own as the exotic, desirable mystery. Romance depends on the beloved being difficult to obtain. As the barriers to human love come down, keeping the story shape alive calls for new challenges. The paranormal creatures slot neatly into our desires for certain story shapes.

As we become more alert to gender politics, the bad boy archetype of many a romance novel becomes less attractive. Women writers may be less keen now to sell us the aristocratic male with issues of authority and entitlement. He’s a bit old fashioned. Werewolves on the other hand have much better excuses for anger management issues, and are the ultimate bad boy you might want to tame.

For me, there’s a process here that goes along with a lot of other human processes. We see everything as existing for our use, benefit and amusement. We no longer imagine anything is more powerful than we are. The monsters of our old stories can’t continue as monsters any more. We turn them into sex toys. If I thought this was a case of replacing violence with love, I’d be a good deal more comfortable. To me, it seems like yet another expression of how we like to knock mystery and hazard out of the world in order to better own it, tame it and contain it.

Throwing girls to monsters

In European myths, folklore and fairytales, girls are given to monsters in order to appease them. They are offered as sacrifices. The girls themselves must be young – they are not adult women. They must be beautiful, and virginal. The monster will kill them and be satisfied and leave everyone else alone. I don’t know what, if anything happens in other traditions around this so if you have insights, do please share.

If the monster is assumed to be real (for the purposes of the story at least) then we have to ask why it wants a small, virgin girl to eat, and not a steady supply of cows. In terms of monster racketeering, you’d think ‘keep me in cows or I burn the village’ would make more sense. One small girl is hardly a decent meal for a dragon or sea monster. I refuse to believe it’s for the sex – small human virgin versus large monster… just no. Perhaps it’s for the pain this will cause the humans – going with Poe’s theory that there’s nothing more tragic than the death of a beautiful young woman. Except that groups of people sacrificing to monsters always seem a bit eager, for my liking.

Sometimes there is a sense that the girl might be being punished for being too beautiful. When the monster is human – and I’m thinking specifically of the Arabian Nights stories – the beauty of the girls being sacrificed is very much part of the issue. I wonder if this is the story that unlocks all the others. Each night, the human monster takes a virgin girl to his bed and in the morning has her beheaded. His lust is insatiable. His desire to kill girls is insatiable. Because he is at the top of the hierarchy, he is allowed to do this.

It is not dragons and sea monsters who crave young women to despoil, it is men with entitlement issues. It is also men who are fussed about human beauty standards. I think our stories of sacrificial virgins may be metaphorical ways of talking about how power imbalances corrupt relationships. When fear of those who hold power over you means you hand over your daughters to them, relationships are destroyed. It might be easier to talk about dragons, than to talk about comfort women, and what happens during wars, and what dictators do when they have the power to do what they like. It might be easier and safer to talk about a dragon than to talk about a president who feels confident describing in public how he sexually assaults women.

Marhime – a review

I do not come to this book as any kind of neutral reviewer – my name is mentioned in the dedication. I’ve read many of these stories and poems in parts and in whole as they were developing. One of them goes back to the collection that brought Lou Pulford into my life some years ago. Lou was a gift from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, who sent me an anthology to review. We got talking, we’ve kept talking, she’s a wonderful person to have in my life. For this book, she’s writing as Penny Blake.

So, here’s a confession that relates very much to Mahrime. I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a monster. I’m the intolerable, the excessive, frightening, unacceptable thing to be chased out of your village with pitchforks. When Lou came into my life, I’d not long escaped from a pitchfork incident, and was feeling awful about myself and unable to deal with people. And Lou said yes, I know what kind of monster you are. Let me dry those monstery tears and tell you a story. (Some poetic license has been taken in writing this for the blog, but only for brevity).

This is beautiful writing, haunting, soulful difficult, alive with feeling and incredibly powerful. It will be too much for some people; too difficult, too raw. But if you are too much, too difficult and too raw it will be a lot like coming home. There is solace here, and also hope.

Mahrime means outcast. This is a collection of stories and poems for a certain kind of monster. Those of us who are on fire. Those of us who have swallowed the dragon we should have cared for. Those of us who have written our stories in our own blood and used our finger bones as tools to carve what we had to say into the walls. This is a collection for people who have ached with wanting a tribe and never having found a tribe. It turns out it isn’t just me. If you are a person who needs to read these stories, and cry over them, and burn too much with empathy and recognition, then get this book now. Go.

Go here, in fact – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FLSRPVR

The dark side

We were walking, and I mentioned to my companion that he is one of the few people I really trust. He warned me, half-jokingly, that there is a much darker side to his nature, one that isn’t usually visible. I knew this. I asked him if he had considered the possibility that I trust him because I can see that in him.

We all have threads of darkness in our psyches. We all have impulses towards all manner of things that aren’t socially acceptable, aren’t good for us, or safe, tame, or clever. What I’ve found along the way is that a lot of people are totally in denial about this. It’s natural enough to want to present to the world as something made of goodness and loveliness, but the denial of the dark side tends to result in problems. I think much of the hypocrisy we see in both religious and secular hierarchies can be blamed on this refusal to recognise the dark.

When you don’t admit to those troubling impulses, they do not magically go away. What can happen instead, is layers of denial, justification, warping your view of the world to make it possible to keep believing that you are good and right. A person intent on denying the darkness within themselves can be tremendously damaging to encounter.

On the other hand, someone like my aforementioned friend, who knows their darkness, can be a lot safer to be round. They won’t be acting out of repressed impulses. Furthermore, if a person who owns their darkness messes up, it can be talked about, because they aren’t afraid to admit their capacity for that which is a problem. That way lies solutions.

I know my darkness. I’m obsessive. I have a huge capacity for rage and anger, which can manifest in really destructive ways. For the greater part, that tends to be turned against me, because that seems safer and more appropriate than unleashing it on the people who inspire it. I’ve mostly healed from what I did to myself the last time that happened. It is ok so long as I can keep it secret and hidden, but the problem with that method, is that if someone who cares for me sees the very literal damage my rage inflicts, that too is painful for them. There are no easy answers.

I know how to cause pain. I have an absolute knack for working out exactly where a person is vulnerable and where to hit them for maximum effect. I can hold resentment for years. I also have a dark and twisted imagination, allowing me to envisage hideous things. The inside of my head is full of monsters.

All of these things, if buried and left to fester would make me an absolute nightmare of a person. If I tried to pretend I did not do them, I could not guard against them or manage them. In owning them, I am able to work with them. Obsession can be unhealthy, but it also gives me a lot of power to harness for getting things done. The same is true of the rage, which I’m finding political outlets for. The tools that make a torturer can be used other ways, the desire to cut people up might make you into a good surgeon rather than a psychopath. That I can see how to hurt people can be turned around sometimes, allowing me to also see how to help. And that dark imagination, full of fear and horrors, is useful for being an author. I write stories, and nobody in the real world dies.