In cooperation with editors Kelsi Morris and Kaitlin Tremblay, I present Those Who Write Us, a series devoted to the authors in the new anthology Those Who Make Us: Canadian Creature, Myth, and Monster Stories.
And please note I am far from unbiased here, as my own fantastical creature “The Outside Monster” makes an appearance within the anthology’s pages.
Click here for information on how to purchase your very own copy of Those Who Make Us.
Today’s monster: Stephen Michell
Tell us of your story, “As Worlds Collide.”
On the surface, my story is about a newly married couple encountering a mythological force in the forest outside their home. It’s set in an alternate future in which the creatures from ancient western mythology like satyrs and Pegasus have appeared in our world. Along with the creatures, a series of mysterious structures called “Shrines” have sprung up around the globe. Why has this mythological world emerged? Well, that’s a good question, isn’t it?
What do you hope is unique about your particular monster?
I haven’t created a “monster” exactly. I suppose the world in which these characters live could be seen as monstrous, but I would lean towards saying it’s wondrous. I hope, however, that reader’s find unique the way the story engages with elements of Greek mythology and presents them within the context of the modern day. I was exposed to the stories of Greek mythology at an early age in school, the tales of gods and heroes inspiring me wholly, and so I guess they are the myths that have made me. I hope I’ve treated them with the respect I feel for them.
It was an interesting experience submitting a story to Those Who Makes Us because I got hung up on the ‘Canadian’ part. At first I thought the story should engage with the myths of this land, the myths of the First Nations. I’m from Cambridge, ON, along the Grand River, so I started reading some of the myths of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations, particularly the creation story of Sky Woman and the Twins, but I eventually found that it wasn’t my mythology to write. I wasn’t raised reading these stories. They hadn’t made me. Which is a shame, because they are wonderful stories and they are the earliest myths of this land, but the myths that made me were those of ancient Greece. I think things are changing with regard to how much students learn about Indigenous history and culture in school, at least I hope they are.
The story I ended up writing is actually inspired by the work of John Wyndham, and I’m sure it’ll be obvious to anyone who knows Wyndham’s writing. As an emerging writer, I’m still trying out different styles and story types to figure out what I really want to say as a writer and how. In other words, I’m trying to find my voice. So if the next story of mine you read is completely different, don’t be surprised.
What is your favourite monster?
That’s a tough one. I love them all. I think it’s easier to explain which kind of monster scares me the most.
The monster that scares me the most is the idea of parasites and infection. I think it’s because it’s a real horror, to a certain extent. Strange wormy bug things getting under your skin or in your blood and infecting you to either take control of your body, use you as a host, or simply kill the human race.
The first example that jumps to mind is Alien. Not only do they get inside you via the straggling grip of a giant, slimy, spider snake thing that literally leaps onto your face, they then burst out of your chest while you’re still alive. Not the most pleasurable experience. It’s like those flies that implant their eggs in the body of another, larger fly, and as the eggs grow and hatch they devour the host fly from the inside out. And that’s real. It’s probably happening right now.
Prometheus took the Alien stuff to another level. Although I think Prometheus was a poor movie overall, the scene with the snake thing getting into the guy’s space suit made my skin crawl, as well as the scene when the protagonist’s husband sees worms swimming in his eyes. No thanks!
The parasite idea overlaps a bit with zombies, because of the spread of infection. I like zombies a lot. I think 28 Days Later is my favourite “zombie” film because of how it treats the concept of infection. Like a parasite, the ‘rage virus’ spreads through our blood and affects people while they’re still alive, turning them into savage beasts. Amazing film!
I just now realized that all my examples are movies. I do read books, too. But I was raised on movies. My mind invents stories in light and music first before it creates thoughts and smells. Just another hurdle to over come as a writer, along with the soul-crushing meaninglessness of existence.