Friday, April 15, 2016
Top 10 Monsters in Fiction - Guest Blog: The Part That Doesn’t Burn by Sam Poling
Hello, my name is Sam Poling, I’m a novelist who falls into the trap of writing dark fantasy every time I open a blank document. Such was the case while writing my novel, THE PART THAT DOESN’T BURN, which featured a number of monsters, both in the flesh and in the mind. Writers and readers alike love our monsters because of the situations they put our heroes in, and what they have to say about our own humanity. With that in mind, I’d love to present a top ten list of monsters from fiction that left the most lasting impressions, whether from books, film, games, or otherwise. All genres are applicable, not just horror and fantasy. I’ll be all over the board on this one, so buckle down!
Top Ten Monsters with Lasting Impressions
10: The Darkness - Vanishing on 7th Street
While I wasn’t a fan of the movie in general, the monster itself spoke volumes about fear. The writer of the script stated that to frighten, “you don’t need to actually see the thing that goes bump in the night.” The faceless darkness in the film “takes” people who contact it without light to protect them. The fear was of the unknown, the characters terrified of facing their own non-existence.
9: Flagg – Eyes of the Dragon, Stephen King
I’m not normally a huge King fan, but this book was different from his others. His character Flagg deserves a spot on my list. Most regard him as a man, a wizard who helps the king rule with priceless council. But his council is poison, putting him in the same vein as Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings. However, Flagg is far more fleshed out as a character. He ruins generations, plants evidence to convict the innocent, and is ultimately revealed to be anything but a man.
8: Snake-Rat Quick Little Monster Thing – Tick Tock by Dean Koontz
Cloaked in mystery, constantly evolving, unstoppable, with a singular murderous goal. When it comes to monster evolution, this nightmare comes to mind. Always growing, always just a minute away.
7: The Monster – Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
Perhaps the most famous monster of them all was simply called “The Monster” in its original story. Its fictional creator was Victor Frankenstein, thus the monster became known, overtime, as “Frankenstein.” The original story remains shockingly deep with what is has to say about the human condition, the nature of fear and appearances, and what truly defines a monster.
6: Eugene Tooms – X-Files: “Squeeze”
The X-Files holds countless great monsters, often original and disturbing. Deciding among them is an impossible task, forcing me to pick the one who comes to mind the most often. The exploding boils, the parasitic slug or the fungus that bursts of your neck only to “enspore” those around you? All wonderful, but Eugene Tooms plagues the back of viewer’s minds most of all (in part because he never seems to age anyway). His ability to “squeeze” into or out of anywhere makes keeping him at bay is impossible. Something about his empty stare and inevitability to attack color his character.
5: The Reavers – Firefly
The Reavers are allegedly men who went mad in the emptiness of space, although in the film sequel to the series we learn of their more nefarious origin. Whatever their source, they are designed to be overwhelmingly violent and add that extra dimension, “flavor” if you will, to the Firefly series. They torcher their victims into insanity, making them the absolutely-must-avoid-by-any-means-necessary monsters. Even suicide is regarded as a highly favorable option compared to being taken alive.
4: The Reapers – The Mass Effect Franchise
When it comes to utter, complete, unavoidable impending doom, nothing tops the reapers from Mass Effect. They are cloaked in ancient mystery, think at levels unfathomable to man, and have obliterated countless, powerful, galaxy-wide civilizations since the beginning of time. Their aura of dread never lets up when you’re within the Mass Effect universe.
3: Diablo – Diablo Franchise
No other PC gaming franchise inspired me, and other fans of dark fantasy quite like Blizzard’s Diablo Franchise. The king of which is Diablo himself, the lord of terror. Fighting him is a never ending uphill battle bathed in suffering, sin, and blood. All the characters around have been slaughtered gruesomely, taken their own life, or gone insane. Diablo even “wins” at the beginning of the first installment, unable to be conquered. His reign can best be described by one of his few speaking roles: “Not even death can save you from me.”
2: The Borg – Star Trek Franchise
Being born in ’88, I was young when I first saw Star Trek: The Next Generation. I recall being deeply disturbed by the borg. Star Trek was, and still is, a wildly popular and well-known franchise because of its imaginative species. And out of hundreds of new, distant cultures, this half-biological machine race was the most terrifying. After all, they want to implant their devices inside of your tissue, and make you one with their collective. And resistant is futile.
1: Velociraptor – Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Most people know the velociraptor solely because of its presentation in the Jurassic Park novel, and the subsequent film adaptation. They reinvented how the world views dinosaur predators forever. Of course, real velociraptors were the size of chickens, not men, but authors are entitled to some creative liberties. What made velociraptors memorable was that they were the ultimate predators. They hunt in teams, are impossible to communicate with, have a variety of natural weapons, are swift as lightning, and, most alarming of all, they adapt with unsettling intelligence. Monsters everywhere envy the raptor’s place in fiction.
This list is by no-means comprehensive, as each slot contained what I felt personally impacted me the most as a dark fantasy author. Your own list would undoubtedly be different, but I believe many of the justifications would remain the same. We owe monsters a lot for how they’ve entertained us, taught us, and evolved us as creative people.
The Part That Doesn’t Burn
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Date of Publication: March 23rd, 2016
Number of pages: 319
Word Count: 97,000
Cover Artist: Cora Graphics
In an overpopulated city-state where technology and magic are forbidden by the corrupt church, young witch, Mirabel Fairfax, plots the creation of a deadly plague to cull the burdensome rabble.
That is, until she falls in love with the very alchemist she has been deceiving.
Now, with soul-hungry geists flooding the city, the church scrambling for their prey, and her own mind at war with itself, Mirabel must decide what she's fighting for before she loses everything to the evils of Autumnfall.
Mirabel waited in the darkness. Each passing second made it exponentially less likely the power would return.
“Mirabel? Did we lose power?” Felix’s voice quivered in the darkness.
“It should return momentarily.”
They waited. Mirabel could practically feel Felix’s demeanor evaporating.
“Unbelievable, the singular time I am protecting company on the geistlines, a train dies. We are not coal powered. We are coming to a stop. Perhaps your pessimism rang true. Sour fortune must have followed you from Haugen. We need to leave.”
“L-leave? As in, leave the train, and go out there?”
“Felix, without power the only thing stopping a geist from swooping in here and taking your face off is nothing. One hundred percent nothing. Essentially, we already have the cons of being outside, along with the narrow space of being inside. Not a survivable combination.”
Without hesitation Felix took to gathering his tools, and corralling them into his bags.
“No time for that.”
She tugged him out of their room and through the train car. One side of the car featured the cabins. Asleep and unaware, no one else left their rooms. Windows with their blinds drawn and a faint cyan shimmering through adorned the other side.
“They’re lining both sides of the tracks. How long do we have?” said Felix.
“Geist behavior is a constant mystery, even to me, but eventually some will strike. Even those with eternity run out of patience.”
They reached the door to the next car and Mirabel mashed on the panel. Nothing. No power, no doors. She tried the manual handle, but it wouldn’t budge. If only Miss Perfect-Priestess were here, then the door wouldn’t be able to fly open fast enough.
“Oh bother,” she said.
“Door haunted too?”
“Handle denies me. Seems rusted, and I wonder if they automatically power lock.”
She could barely make out Felix’s nervous wince. “I wouldn’t expect that, Mirabel. Emergency situations would turn fatalities.”
“That is not happening with us.” She put her weight on the lever. It didn’t amount to much, and the lever knew it.
“Let me try.”
Felix consisted of average build and height, if not a tad lanky. Certainly not the strong type. Petite Mirabel stood quite small, a whole head shorter, also not the strong type, but she expected she could generate more strength. The alchemist didn’t have the mind for it.
“Felix, darling, put your hands here.” She directed his hands next to hers. “Press down on three, yes?”
Violet light washed over the handle they gripped before she got to “one.” She didn’t have to turn around to know its source. It traveled up her arms and across the door. If another passenger had opened a blind, the light source wouldn’t be nearing them.
“Three-three-three,” she shouted.
Felix threw down on the handle alongside her. Perhaps he did have the mind for it when terrified. With a shriek the lever punched into the open position, and the partners threw their hands into the crevice at the door’s left.
“Get the blasted thing open. Pull, Felix, do not look back.”
She made a mistake. Everyone looks back when instructed not to. He turned his neck and got an eyeful of something that forced a spate foul language. Such words didn’t suit him. Pulling with whatever force her slender arms could muster, she joined his blunder and looked over her shoulder.
A geist, two-thirds down the corridor, drifted closer. Its face partially lifted from its head, hanging a few inches from where it belonged. The glowing wisp mimicked the body it used to have, but poorly. The translucent skin melted and slid ever downward. She knew the face would contort any moment: the precursor to assault. And it had the gut-wrenching violet hue. Of all the geists to enter first, it had to be a damned giftgeist. She had no hope of generating enough magic to destroy it before it reached them.
The broken door started to grind open. She fit her thin body part way into the opening. Her heels dug into the carpet and her back braced against the door’s narrow edge, with her hands pressing against the wall. “Felix, pull.”
The geist twisted into a monster far fiercer than before; its face warped into elongated grief and its jaw stretched to the side to give a dry, raspy howl. Passengers meandering into the hall heard it. They slung their own screams and ran the opposite way. The worst decision during a geistline incident: running toward the rear of the train. They wouldn’t live long.
She reached above her head and flicked her fingers. “You want electricity, you fromping door? H-have some.” More white flashes fluttered between her fingers with each flick. “Come on, I had this spell mastered yesterday.”
“Mirabel? Mirabel,” yelped Felix. “It’s-it’s coming.”
“Simmer. I am focusing.”
With a final flick, current rushed from the witch’s fingertips up into the door mechanisms. She had no idea what it accomplished, but the lights around the immediate vicinity flashed, including the door panel. Her left hand dropped and swatted it. The door grinded opened halfway before its lights died again. Halfway gave them more than enough space. The partners darted through into the next car. Glancing back, Mirabel saw the geist stop and turn to its side. Another passenger had peeked out of their cabin an arm’s length from the specter. It shot from Mirabel’s view before the rattled cries of a man and woman reached her ears.
Felix stopped as abruptly as the geist had. “It’s attacking someone.”
“Mirabel, you’ve got to do something, there are three cars full of people back there.”
“And we are the only valuable ones.”
About the Author:
Sam Poling has been writing fantasy and science fiction for the thrill of it his entire life, from short stories to screenplays. His love for each of the subgenres led to dedication to writing genre-skirting fiction with all the elements that make up the human condition. He holds a strong enthusiasm for medical studies and currently works as a medical assistant in a large clinic while taking classing for nursing. He also serves on a health and safety committee, including disaster preparedness and infection control. His interest in epidemiology and medical science tends to spill over into his writing endeavors.
Author’s site: www.samuelpoling.com