Researching Monsters and THE BLUE GOLEM

Researching Monsters and THE BLUE GOLEM

I’ve been hammered by Resistance this week as I rewrite my golem detective prologue for the Nth time, trying to capture the essence of the book as quickly and as powerfully as I can. It’s been like sculpting marble, and the closer I get, the harder it gets.

But I found a secret weapon yesterday, research about what monsters are and how they work in literature, and it’s kind of blowing my mind.

I first stumbled on an article over on with this quote:

In his now-classic essay “Monster Theory (Seven Theses),” Jeffrey Jerome Cohen posits that monsters are cultural creations. They are “born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment—of a time, a feeling and a place. The monster’s body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy… A construct and a projection, the monster exists only to be read.”

That led me to the essay by Cohen, and it’s fascinating reading. (There’s also a slightly expanded version of this essay on Amazon 1. I bought it to support the author.)

  • Thesis I: The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body
  • Thesis II: The Monster Always Escapes
  • Thesis III: The Monster Is the Harbinger of Category Crisis
  • Thesis IV: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference
  • Thesis V: The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible
  • Thesis VI: Fear of the Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire
  • Thesis VII: The Monster Stands at the Threshold . …of Becoming – “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.”

As I’m chewing on the ramifications of this research, I’ve begun to add what I’ve learned into the prologue. This is the scene in the very beginning where Sylar, a Fixer, has been given a message from the evil Archmage to tell the mage Nel Philby to stop animating the golems. (He’s too late.) This is the moment when Philby reveals his creations to Sylar.

The mage flicked his fingers and the roiling black fog dissipated in seconds, black tendrils evaporating into the shadows, revealing two rows of hulking grey automatons, each standing seven feet tall, each a quiescent engine of death. “‘Behold the golem,’” Philby said, quoting the ancient text.

Sylar’s face went curiously still. “Golems,” he repeated woodenly. “They look like…”

“‘We live in a time of monsters,’” Philby said.

Sylar looked, uncharacteristically, like he was at a loss for words. He stroked his beard and thought. “Why are they here?” he asked with the studiously modulated voice of someone wrestling to contain abject terror.

Philby clasped his hands behind his back in the manner of an academic. “Monsters are portents sent to tell us something’s wrong with the world.”

Sylar turned and savagely stabbed the table next to him with two fingers, the sudden thump echoing in the small space. “Why are they /here/?” he hissed.

I didn’t go looking for this research, but it’s a potent weapon against Resistance and is helping me to better see the shape of my novel and make sure I’m staying on the right track.

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