Over at the Talking Squid, there’s a Squidsquatch running — that is, “A new interview (almost) every day. A single question. The subject one day becomes interviewer the next.” I’ve just posted an answer to the question (asked by Chris Lawson): “Rob, I may be over-simplifying, but it seems to me that witches are mediaeval, werewolves are late feudal, vampires are Victorian, and apocalyptic flesh-eating zombies are late 20th century consumerist. What new monsters are in store for this coming century?” Go check out my answer.
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Allow me to bliss out on the bit about werewolves :). As you said, the modern werewolf mythos (with its concerns about infection, loss of control/return to animality, etc) is very much a product of films like The Wolf Man. I remember translating a simple version of a Roman werewolf story from Apuleis’s ‘The Golden Ass’, which has a quite different “fantasy ecology”.
Possibly another modern monster (with its roots in Frankenstein, I guess) is the man-made mutant/science experiment Gone Wrong? Or maybe that’s too broad. It’s tempting to slot it in, just because it’s easy to line up with dis-ease with science/scientists.
Jess, I’d be interested in reading that werewolf story from “The Golden Ass” if you have it within easy reach…
I agree about the man-made mutant/science-gone-wrong monster. Though it is a subset of or an extension from the Frankenstein monster, it’s also different enough to warrant a chapter of its own. But somehow it doesn’t seem any more iconic of today than the others. In my mind, the ghost is the only “monster” that has been significantly influenced by contemporary issues enough to become emblematic of the present.
And I love your use of the term “dis-ease” to describe viral horror. Excellent!
Huh. Apparently yesterday I had the dumb – the story’s in The Satyricon by Petronius, not in Apuleius – Chapter 62 (English version here at Project Gutenberg; Latin here).
The science-gone-wrong monster does lack the emblematic quality that ghosts have recently gained – maybe because they can look like anything, and so lack a singular iconic image?
Thanks for the link, Jess. I think I’ll archive that on my site.
You may be right about the science-gone-wrong monster and its lack of a “singular iconic image”. A good point actually. What needs to happen is for a singular image to firm up in the zeitgeist — though I suppose that is what Frankenstein’s monster is. It’s been a trope in fiction in one form or other for many decades, so doesn’t seem to arise from a strong contemporary obsession. Ghosts have been around forever, too, of course, but in recent times have been transformed in significant metaphoric ways.
Here’s the Petronius werewolf story that Jess mentioned, if anyone is interested.
Hey, Jess, you might like to go over to the Talking Squid post and check out the comments — where I’m being criticised for my (I admit) ignorance regarding werewolves. 🙂