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Archive for the tag “monsters”

MONSTERS, Part Two: GIANTS

That's a human on the far left...

Human beings can get pretty big.  There’s actually a field of study on mammalian morphology, or some such, that includes us talking apes.  In fact, we humans have a very wide array of sizes to choose from, with the shortest adult male (verified) coming in at just 57 cm (that’s 22 inches).  On the other end of the spectrum, there are adult males over 2.29 m (7 & ½ feet) all over the place.  I’d even go so far as to say “just” being 7 feet and some odd inches isn’t quite gargantuan enough to merit wonder anymore.  The tallest ever verified was Robert Wadlow, who may have grown just a bit after his last measurement of 2.72 m (that’s 8 feet, 11 inches).  And the current, living, tallest human is Sultan Kösen of Turkey who is a whopping 2.51 m (8 feet, 3 inches).

Damn.  Those are some big people, no doubt.  If you measure those tall folks against the worldwide average (about 5 feet, 5 inches) they seem even larger.  Factor in the historical/genetic trends towards taller and taller humans and those record holders might seem downright inhuman.  But you’d be wrong to think so.  Even if Mr. Kösen is literally twice the height of my Great Aunt Dee, he’s still a human being.  He puts on his (gigantic) trousers one leg at time, like the rest of us.

Those very, very tall folks?  They aren’t monsters.  Not even close.

Monster, monster, monster

These are Monsters.  Formed in the prehistoric nightmares of our caveman ancestors, these titans tower over the diminutive, hairless apes.  Those same nervous hunter-gatherers created the myths and tales that served as the foundation for creation stories.  Giants walked the land.  In the wake of their passing was death, chaos and destruction.  Storms raged, the ocean surged and the very Earth rumbled, shook and cracked open.  Volcanos erupted and giants flung molten rock and burning ash.  Their footprints became lakes.  Where they dragged their spears in the dirt, rivers followed course.  When they grew weary, they laid down to rest; spines crooked over the horizon, slathered with dirt, rocks and scrawny trees.  Inhuman?  Oh my, yes.  Legendary.

I want those giants.  Where have they gone?  Banished, to Tartarus, by the upstart new gods?  Are they not needed anymore?  Once, the incarnation of a dangerous and uncertain world, they gave way to – less monstrous – more human deities.  Some kind of reverse entropy occurred, where the random forces of the universe settled down, were replaced by more ordered and logical avatars.  And in some of our cultures, that trend has continued.  There are fewer and fewer gods, in a more ordered and static mythology.  Is that the way of things now?

But the giants are still there.  Aren’t they?  I think they’re buried deep in our little monkey minds – a genetic bias against being crushed by some malevolent colossus.  We created them – back in the dark days – and we’re still at it.  We’ve made statues, carved them in the sides of hills and weaved them into our religions.  When we were babies we looked up out of our cribs and saw them carrying on.  When our ancestors huddled against the cold and dark tried to piece together the world around them, they must have been just over the treetops.  Now, when you look at the stars hanging about you in the night sky – when you feel so insignificant that you question your place in the universe – you know just how small you really are.

They aren’t my favorite monsters, these giants.  In some ways, they scare me more than any of the others.  But I still want some good, old fashioned, awe inspiring giants.  I want my teeth to chatter in mind-numbing fear of the inhuman enormity of the colossal menace.  Because the hum-drum, run of the mill vampire thrill isn’t doing the trick.  If I want a monster, I want to rock my senses and shatter my world view.  Bring it on.  I say, make it BIG, or don’t bother.  Honestly, I’d settle for more Trollhunter.  Especially if that meant a little less Village of the Giants.


This movie scared the piss out of me – this is what I’m talkin’ about.

.


Sadly, no one was squashed.

Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  Although he is more proficient with the Metric System than many of his countrymen, he doesn’t measure his height in meters anymore.  It only serves to make him feel smaller.  If you want to tell him how silly that is, drop him a line at patrick AT escapecollective DOT com.

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MONSTERS, Part One: ROBOTS

Robot Monsters get all the chicks

A robot reveals its true colors!

It might surprise some of the people who know me, but I have a stronger and more lasting affinity for robots than any other kind of “monster”.  Yes, even zombies.  Don’t be fooled, robots are monsters.  Whether it’s buckets of bolts, riveted together, cyborgs that are part human, or androids.  Whether you’re talking about old-school Cylons, with clanging metal parts, or the new breed that are indistinguishable from humans, they are the same:  cold-hearted, mechanical monstrosities.

Let’s be clear here.  Go back to the earliest ‘robot’ archetype I know of, the Golem.  What is it?  A living statue, made of clay.  It knows nothing but holy scriptures, which are written on paper and stuffed into its head.  Yeah, programmed, just like a robot.  You know what else is like a robot?  Robots.  The first mentions of them, as autonomous worker machines, describes them as being trained to do simple repetitive tasks.  By the time you get around to Robby the Robot, Gort and C3PO, robots are well established in the conventions of science fiction.  But, I maintain, their central characteristic is one of pure, inhuman horror.

What do you call a something that looks, acts and behaves like a human being, but has no feelings or emotions?  A sociopath?  A psychopath?  Serial killer?  A monster.  That’s what robots are really all about, to me.  The complete loss of identity, or fundamental humanity, dressed up in the appearance of a person.  It’s got more terrifying potential than zombies, if you ask me.  Robots don’t want to eat your brains, or steal your job at the factory.  They lack the lustful appeal of vampires.  We can’t identify with their primal nature, like we might with a werewolf.  No.  Robots just do whatever they were programed to do.  And they don’t care about a damn thing.

We just passed the 100th birthday of Jack Finney, the man who wrote The Body Snatchers – which later became Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  I can’t think of a better description of replicant replacements for humanity than “pod people”.  Go back and watch that original 1956 thriller again.  The fact that the villains are alien plants doesn’t change a thing for me.  They are automatons – robots strike again. 

From the days when I was a wee tot, the idea of robots has fascinated me.  Among my first recollections are live-action Japanese actors in rubber and metal costumes, fighting over the fate of the Earth on our black & white television.  Had that been the last or best impression the concept of artificial life-forms had on my still-forming mind, I doubt robots would have stuck with me.  But there were more – so many more – and much, much better.  They have become ubiquitous staples of science fiction and adventure tales, but as we move further into the 21st Century, the idea of robots is less and less ‘speculative’.

You can get toy robots to play with.  There are robots that can sweep or mop your floors.  Robots built your car.  They are real and no one seems to mind much at all.  Take a look at cartoons, comic books and movies.  Robots everywhere.  Wall-E?  Amazing movie, captivating and beautiful to look at and it’s all about robots.  Yeah.  It’s robot propaganda, that’s what it is.

You can call me crazy if you want.  I don’t mind.  I’m certainly not going to spend my days screaming out warnings, like Kevin McCarthy at the end of Invasion.  And maybe we’ll end up getting one of those fancy Roomba things.  But I’ll never trust ‘em, no way.

 

Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  Ever since he had his tonsils removed, he’s suspected that he, himself, was really a robot.  That’s a pretty deep rabbit hole, don’t you think?

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