MAKING MONSTERS


I came across a work of prose written by Tim Pratt entitled ‘Making Monsters’.[i]

In a little workshop downtown, in a room without windows, a man sits at a workbench, making monsters.

He is just a man, not a monster himself, but fear is his family business. His ancestors invented the Cyclops, the werewolf, and the vampire. He has watched with dismay as these fine old commodities are slowly drained of their power, swallowed by culture, sapped of their strange, dark potency. Sea monsters and wolves and apes with straight razors—his ancestors conjured all these things. It often seems to him that all the best ideas were taken before he was born.

In his early days this monster-maker did his best with the possibilities left to him, creating escaped lunatics with hooks for hands, psychotic dentists with chrome drills, and spirits who appear when you say the right forbidden phrase while looking at a mirror in a darkened room. But in his old age he has begun to lose focus, his sense for appropriate subjects has begun to slip and fade. He makes monsters where monsters shouldn't be made.

He is the reason clowns so often seem sinister, the reason mannequins and dolls can be so unsettling, the reason a child's tricycle sitting unattended in a front yard can be an image suffused with dread. If he goes on this way, who knows what other objects will attain an aura of menace?

Imagine fearing a dessert spoon, or a spool of thread, or a plain white candle. Imagine looking at your sandals and seeing monsters, or turning back the covers on your bed and being shocked almost to death by the exquisite horror of a clean linen sheet.

Imagine the day when he can't think of anything to make monstrous beyond the perimeter of his own body, and he becomes a monster himself, and leaves his windowless workshop to knock on our doors at odd hours, to call our homes in the middle of the night, to whisper the secret words passed down by his ancestors, the words that will finally make monsters of us all.

© 2004 Tim Pratt


Are the most fearful monsters those of the past? Are we running out of horrific beings and dreadful symbols? Pratt concludes with the idea that fear mongering will eventually bring us to the monster within. It’s not the troll under the bridge that we need to fear. It’s the being within our skin.

Frederich Nietzsche said, ‘Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he doesn't become a monster.’ [ii]

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