Monster Blogs : Ernest Hogan

American Monsters Part 2 is available now. 

AZTLÁN: A NEXUS OF MONSTERS

by Ernest Hogan

Okay, I admit it, I cheated. Instead of picking a North America monster to write about, I wrote about a nexus of monsters. The subject is more of a densely populated Hieronymus Bosch triptych than a portrait of a lone specimen.

The region where I was born and lived all my life is full of all the bizarre creatures, beings, etc. I couldn’t pick just one. The Southwest of the United States of (North) America, also known as the Wild West, the Great American Desert, Aztlán, the Aztec homeland, is a land of monsters from Native beliefs, folklore of Anglo, Hispanic, and other immigrant folklore, tall tales, fiction, and various popular cultures, not to mention the bubbling cauldron of new cultures constantly being created that I call recomboculture. Just thinking about them sends my imagination soaring.

The problem with my imagination is that once it starts soaring, you never know where it will end up . . .

I was a monster kid in my childhood, but not at first. There was a time when they invaded my nightmares, and I did my best to avoid them, even though they were everywhere – TV, movies, comic books. It was a monster culture back then, in the Atomic Age. Then one night I dreamed that one had me cornered; I had no choice but to turn around and face it, throwing punches, and the beast-thing crumbled into black dust that blew away.

After that I couldn’t get enough of monsters. I identified more with them than the heroes who slayed them.

Growing up in California, the farthest edge of the Southwest, brought a lot of monsters into my life. Don’t let the popular image of fun in the sun fool you; just as the air is a cocktail of pollutants, monsters lurk everywhere. The beaches are the border to the icy Pacific Ocean, home to sea monsters, real and imagined. The fossil record tells us that much of the Southwest was once under an ocean populated by sea monsters that rival the tales of mariners.

Later, I met and married, Emily Devenport, author of Medusa Uploaded. Living with her helped me learn about Arizona, and its monster lore. Besides sharing our love of monsters, delivered by books and media, we had many hair-raising conversations that caused us to feel inhuman eyes staring at us from the dark, and we take road trips whenever we can, taking a lot of photos and notes.

You want to know where writers get their crazy ideas?

 Unlike California, which is new in the geological sense, Arizona is dinosaur country. There was even once an inland sea with swimming monsters. This is the land of the thunderbird, and even though the pterodactyl-looking photos from the Tombstone Epitath look fake, and are undocumented, they have a funky appeal, and link to the Native myth. Fossilized bones probably inspired many a monster. Recently, Emily and I found a Mexican restaurant where, among the vaquero scenes, was a painting of a dragon.

Some monsters were born here, others are immigrants.

All along the Rio Grande Valley, and beyond, La Llorona, the crying woman, whose origins can be traced to Aztec beliefs about the afterlife of women who died in childbirth – night-walking disease spirits. She is also related to the fancy-dressed, decorated sugar skull-faced Catrinas, a caricature of the middle class that has become a symbol of Latin womanhood and the Day of the Dead.

Also in the night is el Cucuy, the Mexican boogie man, eager to carry away children who wander after dark.

El Cucuy and La Llorona, because of decades of not being on the radar of mass media, have undergone interesting manifestations. In Phoenix, La Llorona is called Mano Loco, and dwells in canals and swimming pools instead of her usual rivers. My mother tells me that in riverless East Los Angeles, she was said to live in a row of trees in a nearby park.

This pre-internet folklore in isolation made the monsters personal, inspiring one of my cousins’ description of El Cucuy:

“He’s eyes – lots of eyes, all over his face. And legs – lots and lots of legs. He grabs you with these legs and takes you away . . .”

Hoodoos are eerie rock formations that seem to be alive, like the saguaro cactus that often has two arms, like a person. Some say that both were originally people, who were transformed by curses

cast by practitioners of witchcraft, both Native and brought over from Spain. I used to doubt Carlos Casteneda because the witchcraft he describes in his books can be found illustrated in Goya’s Los Caprichos etchings, but now I know that witches, as well as conquistadors, colonized Aztlán.

All the supernatural beings probably have not been as thoroughly catalogued as the Mogollon monster and other Sasquash/Yeti manifestations.

Native witches and sorcerers can become the local version of the werewolf – the skinwalker. Not long ago they were a taboo subject, but recently I bought a DVD of a documentary about them in a motel lobby, and had a Navajo taco at a restaurant where the waitress wore a t-shirt with a glyph known as The Wolfman. The monsters are going pro.

Fireballs streaking across the sky have been said to be sorcerers, flying long before the modern world created its own myths of flying saucers from outer space.

It all collides with the science fiction folklore of the modern world.

A lot the old monster movies were filmed here. The backdrop that Hollywood used for westerns also works as a home for monsters.

Like in my story “Cuca” the global, electronic world of corporate entertainment is colliding with the folklore. The issue of who owns these creatures – if indeed they can be owned – will arise.

There is a difference between the motivations of the entertainment industry and the cultures that create folklore. They may be able to coexist, but the monsters can never really be tamed. New fictions, and new realities – and new monsters – will be created. And it won’t be boring.

Makes me glad to live here.

Monsters and Minnesota Nice – A Monster Blog by Catherine Lundoff

“Monsters and Minnesota Nice”

            When I started working on ideas for my story for this anthology, I went looking for local monsters. By “local,” I mean monsters unique to Minnesota, which is where I live now. I’m a transplant from the East Coast, even though I actually moved here from the next state south. What matters from the perspective of living here now is that I didn’t grow up here.

            Growing up here is very important from a social standpoint, at least for white Minnesotans of mostly Scandinavian descent. It means you went to school here, share a common slang (“hot dish” = casserole), have an enthusiasm for the local sports teams and an affinity for cold weather activities. And it means you have a solid grasp on “Minnesota Nice.” The latter means that you are polite, friendly on the surface, adverse to conflict and not infrequently passive aggressive (people who grew up here will take polite umbrage at this). You also talk about the weather a lot because it can, in fact, kill you.

            Minnesota Nice does not lend itself to monsters. Sure, there are ghosts, the occasional serial killer and a fair number of historical atrocities to be found in Minnesota’s history, but monsters? Nope. There’s Paul Bunyan, the legendary lumberjack, and his beloved blue ox, Babe, performing legendary deeds in the northern woods. There are hoaxes, like the Minnesota Iceman, and possible hoaxes, like the Kensington Runestone. But nothing that speaks to the dark, primeval terrors that keep readers awake at night, ready to jump at any noise.

            For those, I had to go back further. The Native people of the Great Lakes region, the Anishinaabe, the Ottawa and other tribes, had a legend that grew out of the brutal winters (yes, they are often as bad as you’ve heard): a huge gaunt ice-coated monster, reeking of carrion, born of greed and selfishness. The windigo or wendigo is a cannibal: once human, it preys on other humans when turned. In some stories, they hunt and eat people, in others, they can also possess them, like a ghost or a spirit. It is nearly impossible to escape them, harder still to kill them.

            They are a lesson as much as they are a threat and a warning. Being selfish and not caring for others during a winter in this region can be a death sentence. In contemporary context, neighbors who won’t give you the time of day ordinarily will appear out of the frozen wasteland and help dig your car out.  You’ll wake up in the morning and someone has cleared the two feet of snow on the sidewalk in front of your house because it’s about survival and they were running the snow blower around the block anyway. We do not survive alone.

            Not too surprisingly, white colonists quickly absorbed the legend, adding elements of their own. From Algernon Blackwood to contemporary movies, comics and video games, the wendigo eternally stalks the north woods. This later version of the wendigo is often more like an animal than an altered person, but is no less deadly for all that.

            What would call to a being like this one? Greed, selfishness and cannibalism, certainly. And, perhaps, the kind of person who despises those who they considers weaker, who manipulates and bullies others into doing what they want, even against their own best interests. Someone who is controlling and petty, the center of their own universe. This is what I imagine in my story, “Hunger,” where the title refers to both monster and prey. Or are they both monsters, each in their own way? Food for thought as well as nightmare.

American Monsters Part 2 – The Final Countdown

This was supposed to be the exciting launch post for American Monsters Part 2. We are having some bugs with KDP. It’s kafkaesque frankly but we will get there. In the mean time, be excited about the book, it is imminent, it will be amazing, it will turn up shortly. 

Thank you all for your patience. I promise, this book rocks, worth waiting for.

 

A Carribean Bloodsucker – a monster blog

A Caribbean Bloodsucker

Pedro Cabiya

It all started in the seventies. At least, it all started being reported then. A special decade that one. It’s a miracle the news got any notice at all. At the time, only one kind of news lorded it over all the others: UFO sightings.

Puerto Ricans were seeing strange lights moving in the sky with non-ballistic behavior everywhere, but most especially near the town of Lares and all along the number 2 highway in the south coast. Also in El Yunque, the famous, numinous forest reserve in the northeast. It became something to do during the weekends: entire families would drive to places of past sightings, get out of their cars and gawk at the skies. Some of them got lucky. Most didn’t.

At first, the idea seemed too simple to be disturbing or even credible. Too banal. Some cows had been found dead, not a drop of blood in them, and no wounds or marks of any kind. Then chickens. Then sheep, goats… It was high time it got a name, and someone obliged: El vampiro de Moca, Moca’s Vampire, because it was in the western town of Moca that the mysterious bloodsucker hunted its prey.

The seventies died, the eighties’ joie de vivre came and went, and then the nineties arrived with their grungy nihilism. And with them the old bloodsucker, after a 20 year hiatus.

It made its reappearance in the northeastern town of Canóvanas, a town near the skirts of El Yunque. It got rechristened by political satirist and TV personality Silverio Pérez as El Chupacabras (Goatsucker), effectively robbed of the sinister persona its original name had granted it.

Farce followed tragedy diligently when this second time around the mayor of Canóvanas, José “Chemo” Soto took matters in his own hands and scoured the countryside of his municipality dressed in camouflage with a posse of heavily armed vigilantes. They carried around a classic zookeeper’s cage where they planned to trap the creature. It returned to base empty.

This second time around the creature hit other countries too, namely Mexico. While our plight had remained invisible to the rest of the world, Mexico’s injuries, backed by a multimillion dollar media machine, spread widely and quickly. And all of a sudden, the Chupacabras, a quintessential Puerto Rican monster, became Mexican.

Puerto Ricans didn’t take this lying down. Having the Chupacabras stolen from under our very noses hurt more than whatever the Chupacabras could have done to our livestock. News articles in the press and TV defended the Puerto Rican roots of the monster. Panels discussed the issue. Mexican and Puerto Rican specialists debated heatedly in conferences and roundtables. The colonial status of our island (occupied by the United States since 1898) makes Puerto Ricans very sensitive to cultural slights and feisty when it comes to protecting the symbols of Puerto Rican identity. As a result, the Chupacabras entered pop culture and was transformed into a mainstream staple as recognizable and profitable as the zombie, also a Caribbean invention. Curiously, both creatures are featured prominently in Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, a horror version of the popular western themed video game.

Though no one has ever laid eyes on the Chupacabras (the monster is known solely by the grisly victims it leaves behind), visual representations of it are more or less in accord: a small, thin, hairless dog-like wraith with a mouth full of teeth. The incoherence was never addressed: why does the monster have fangs, if it never uses them? The Chupacabras is a bloodsucker, yes, but a strange one in that it doesn’t bite its victims, whose bodies are sucked dry and yet remain unmarked. The story I’ve contributed to American Monsters Part 2, “Lay of the Land, Law of the Land,” finally resolves the mystery.

American Monsters 2 – Editors Post

American Monsters Part Two is here!

by Margret Helgadottir, editor

Another year has passed, and I am so happy to say that another monster book is born. In American Monsters Part Two we present you tales of beasties and monstrous terror from the North American countries of Canada, United States, Mexico, and a few of the Caribbean Islands, told by seventeen authors who are either from, have lived in, or have another strong connection to this region.

This is the sixth volume of the annually published Fox Spirit Books of Monsters. The book series is like a grand world tour exploring old myths, folklore and monster tales continent by continent. The journey started in Europe in 2014 before it continued to Africa, Asia, the Pacific region, and last year Central- and South America. I am currently working on the seventh and last volume in the series, Eurasian Monsters.

Six years ago, we demanded that something had to be done. We strongly felt that the monsters of this world are watered down and overused in the popular media and that only a few of them dominate the scene—vampires, werewolves, ghouls, demons, zombies—all from Western popular culture. We wanted to give the monsters a renaissance as real and scary monsters, a comeback so to speak, and we wanted to bring all the world’s glorious and terrifying creatures out in the open.

I feel very honoured – I have edited monster tales for several years now. It’s been an adventure. Not only have I had the opportunity to become acquainted with monsters and dark culture from all around the world, but I have met so many lovely people! It is a true blessing to be able to work with authors, artists, and translators from all kinds of cultures and backgrounds. I feel I have learned so enormously much when working on these books. Thanks so much to all for being part of this crazy but fun project. And thanks so much to Adele Wearing at Fox Spirit Books and her crew, for believing in this project and doing the magical work so the books look like the wonderful coffee table books they are to be.

You would think it should be easy to cover the North American part of the world and its culture—after all it consists only of a few countries. You’re wrong. I will mention three things that’s made this book a challenging editor task:

First, this region is not rich with cultures, it’s a cultural multimillionaire. Here you’ll find First Nation heritages stretching far back. There are the vast multitude of beliefs and ways of living brought from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean over several centuries by settlers seeking a new life in the New World, or refugees from wars or injustice, not to mention the languages and cuisine from immigrants from Central and South America, or the great history the slaves from Africa brought with them.

Secondly, what makes it even more complex, is not this enormous multitude of cultures but the way most of them have mixed and blended with each other throughout generations, creating new hybrids of cultures. There is also a huge span between the everyday life experienced in the far north near the Arctic, in Alaska or northern Canada, and the way of life south in Florida, California or Mexico, not to mention if you cross the sea to the Caribbean Islands.

One could of course argument that this is the case with many parts of the world, but I felt it was particularly challenging when putting together this book—there was no way I could include it all. Hopefully you’ll still find that the voices and stories I have selected, gives a cultural insight of this part of the world. You’ll see that several of the stories in this book portrait not only one monster but several, something I interpret as a result of the overwhelmingly cultural mix and diversity.

Thirdly, I am very proud to have so many different author voices in the monster books. Not only do I wish to scare people with monsters they probably have never heard about. I also want the books to give the readers a realistic insight into the continents and cultures we cover—it is a journey after all. I support strongly “own voices” in this kind of projects. So, one of the things I do, as anthology editor, is to actively seek out authors with an indigenous and First Nations background to contribute to the books. I think it’s important because I feel their folklore and history is a major part of a continent’s cultural history, but their voices are often neglected.

When I started working with American Monsters Part Two, it was obvious that I should spend time seeking out authors with such background. But several I contacted were sceptical. I could be wrong of course but I think that some felt that their culture has been misused, stolen and wrongly presented too much in popular culture, and that they perhaps felt that this was another attempt of this. I also think that the concept “monster” did not resonate with all. I have pondered much about this while editing this book and I am wondering if there are things I could have done differently. Hopefully I will figure it out for future projects. I did manage to include stories by authors with indigenous background, something I am very grateful for and something I think enriches this book.

Even though it feels like I have barely scratched the surface, I’m increasingly struck by how important monsters are. Humans of all times, regardless of geography, culture or demography, have created stories and myths about beasts, dark creatures, and monsters. The tales serve not only as entertainment, but often teach a lesson as well. Some monsters are universal. You will always find the shapeshifters, the flesh-eating walking dead and the great monsters of the lakes and sea. But what is important to one culture might not be so vital to another.

This is often something I don’t see until I have finished a book. I am not going to explain why, just observe that in American Monsters Part Two we have several vampiric creatures. There are many beasts and some spirits too. What is special in this book, however, is the amount of humanmade monsters, some hoaxes and cryptids, several with human-like attributes. As one of the authors says: “monsters can look like any man.”

Many of the stories question who really is the monster. In this volume you’ll find tales about loneliness, everyday struggle, and living in a harsh climate. You’ll find morality tales and/or stories with underlying critic of aspects of society, be it colonization and stolen cultures, gender roles, illicit activity, border conflict, indigenous issues, or the relationship between humans and the wilderness. All in all, I hope these tales will give you some new thoughts and insights about life in Northern America.

I hope you will like this volume as much as I have while working on it. Enjoy!

 

Monster Blog – by Teresa P. Mira de Echeverría

SOUTHERN MONSTERS

by Teresa P. Mira de Echeverría

About fifteen years ago, a group of paleontologists made a discovery (just one of many that often take place in Argentine territory) that caught my attention. It was the fossil of a mosasaur, a marine animal that lived on this planet seventy million years ago. The name that the Argentine paleontologists gave to that fossil and the place where they’d found it really impressed me.

It is common that the denomination of a dinosaur or other prehistoric animal is based on the name of the region where it was discovered or after its discoverer. However, this mosasaur, this particular species, received a different name: Lakumasaurus antarcticus.

Yes, the specimen had been discovered in the southernmost place on Earth and bore the name of a mythological animal.

I loved the idea of a dinosaur with the name of a mythical spirit belonging to the Yámana culture, the original inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego and a large number of islands that mark the end of the American continent. “The end of the world”, as Jules Verne called that region … except for Antarctica.

That animal had lived on a very different Earth. What today is composed entirely of perennial ice at that time was a tropical, fertile and warm land. A landscape gone millions of years ago that could well have been another world.

When I was still studying astrophysics (later I decided to change my career and got my PhD in philosophy), I used to spend many hours at the Museum of Natural Sciences of La Plata (which is inside the campus). And every day I used to admire the replicas of the prehistoric animals that had lived on a planet very different from mine and, even so, the same one.

When I heard the news of the discovery of Lakumasaurus antarcticus I was already studying philosophy, in Buenos Aires. I could not help but to join the memories of my hours with those ancestral and gigantic bones with the myths that I was investigating at the time for my thesis. Yámana myths among many others. And the myth of Lakuma, the Spirit of the Waters, especially.

I felt that many things in my life were being reconnected by de magic of a very distant creature and place.

When, a few months ago, I was asked to write a story about a South American monster, I had no doubt about what it would be. It would have been impossible to speak of another monster that was not Lakuma: a “monster” that, at the same time, is mythical and scientific (indirectly, of course). And a monster that, far from being “terrible” to me, is deeply evocative.

After years of studying astrophysics and visiting the dinosaur room of the museum, after a PhD in philosophy and research, one day I decided to dedicate myself completely to my passion: writing. It seemed that I had always been jumping from one island of reality to another, just as the Yámanas had lived moving from one south island to another in search of food and dreams.

As a writer, Lakuma became a symbol of my life, of what it was and what it is, of worlds as different as the Cretaceous Earth and the Earth of the present … or as Mars, Jupiter or the space between asteroids. A symbol of the possibility of living completely different experiences and, from a certain point of view, all of them “in solidarity” with each other.

Thus my story was born, one that unites very different times, that interweaves mythical and factual realities, and that ultimately seeks to portray the importance of dreaming and creating “better worlds” (as the writer or the artist does) in the midst of a society that constantly attacks human dignity (a society that often considers its members an statistic).

There was a time when there were not in the South Pole, as there are today, miles and miles of ice as vast and deep as the geological abysses. A time where those lands exuded a green and exuberant vegetation. Days in which immense fusiform reptiles dominated the life and death of its warm seas, as if they were the spirit of its waters.

For millions of years, day after day, this was so. And if there had been humans at that time, they would never have hesitated to consider those landscapes and that life as “inevitable” or “eternal”. But now we know that was not the case.

Probably (hopefully) there will be a future in which humans will populate the Solar System and beyond as if we had always belonged to space. And surely there will also be those who will think of that reality as something “eternal” and “immutable”.

If science fiction is the literary form that announces change (all change), it is also the literary form par excellence that announces the possibility of the different, of the other. The non-immutability.

In our human history, monsters have always been “the Others”, the different ones, those who do not conform, those who demand to be respected for who they are.

Science fiction talks about monsters to be able to talk about the different in a symbolic way and show the need for that difference. The beauty of the monster.

Society loves the status quo, of course, but life shouts with all its strength that change is not only necessary but inevitable. The “monsters” exist, but they are not what people should fear.

We are all monsters as we seek our originality and we separate ourselves from “the establishment”.

Lakuma is my monster, the symbol of what adapts to the sway of the times (just like its body adapts to the waves of the sea), but also of what is capable of anchoring itself to the ideals of a better world (ideals dreamed and put into practice, like those of the Yámana shamans).

And what are those dreams that give me roots but also wings? Those that imply that everything can and should change, but that it is necessary to work so that this change is for the better. Those of a world in which we see the end of inequality between genders, the freedom to be what we are and want to be (and yes, I speak of the right to be LGBTIQ +), and where there is a true human brotherhood (beyond of cultures, socioeconomical differences, skin colors, countries of origin, capacities, etc.).

The Lakumasaurus antarcticus teaches us that nothing is permanent. That the kings of the sea, like the retrograde and inhuman ideas that are dominant in an era, must evolve or perish within the framework of the long marathon of time.

Lakuma, the mythological being of a vanished people, teaches us that the best of a human group, the noblest of what the human being can be, remains beyond themselves in those ideas that prove to be “monsters” before the dead and cold eyes of ossified prejudices.

In my case, these monsters allowed me to see myself (accepting myself as the “good monster” I want to be, without the fear of being different), and to think, to dream and to create worlds where the landscape is wide enough to shelter each and every one of the people (wonderfully different from each other, as we are all) who want to read my stories.

Monster Blog – Gustavo Bondoni

The Story Behind My Choice of Gualicho

A quick google search will inform anyone interested that a Gualicho (or Gualichu) is a spirit from the mythology of the original people of Patagonia.  It’s the kind of evil spirit that every mythology has, and was often used to explain away every misfortune that befell the tribe. 

Now, I’ll be honest: I knew very little about the Mapuche people—the native population of parts of Patagonia—until very recently.  Argentina is a mainly European country and native populations represent a tiny percentage of the overall population.  The history and traditions of the original inhabitants of the country are only superficially studied in school.  When one encounters a person of evident native ethnicity, most assume that they are more recent immigrants from Bolivia or Paraguay.

These attitudes are the result of initial wars of conquest followed by a few centuries of assimilation—unlike in other areas, the original sparse native populations succumbed mainly to intermarriage with the much more numerous Europeans.

 Nevertheless, I’ve heard the word “gualicho” countless times in everyday conversation.  It has lost its original meaning to become synonymous of any kind of magic spell cast by a witch or shaman.

But it survived.

Somewhere in the wars of subjugation of a people who were far from most centers of commerce and population, one concept burned so strongly that not only was it understood by the conquerors, but it survived and entered the dominant Spanish language to live on in the vernacular.

Two hundred years later, an Argentine writer of mainly Italian ancestry (only a quarter of my forebears were from Spain) sat down to choose a traditional monster from South America. 

My research identified dozens of candidates, from legendary monsters to native gods and from spirits only a handful of indigenous people ever believed in to entities that frightened the superstitious colonists hundreds of years later.

The process ended as soon as I found the Gualicho.  I became fascinated with the fact that a word could morph and survive one of history’s truly definitive wars of annihilation.  It must have had some powerful mojo.

As a term that reaches us through an essentially oral evolution, the etymology is pretty confused, but in my imagination, I can see the Mapuches repeating it again and again every time they came into contact with those Europeans who, through firearms or disease, had become so intimately connected to the unimaginable evil befalling their people.

There was nothing else you could call them, was there?  Those pale-faced interlopers must have seemed to be perfect stand-ins for the evil spirit that haunted their people.

It must have been a powerful spirit indeed, powerful enough to find a way to survive.  But surely a spirit strong enough to be familiar to someone unconnected to the history of the region two hundred years after the people whose legends it had sprung from were gone would find a way to abide, to plan for the time when it could vanquish not only its original victims but also the new interlopers…

But who would it fight?  Would it attempt to ally itself with the Mapuche against the new enemy?  Would it continue to torment the Mapuche’s descendants? 

The answer, once I understood the spirit, was obvious.  This thing would fight agains everyone.

But how?

Well, to get that answer, you’ll have to read the story.

American Monsters – Christopher Kastensmidt

The Many Faces of Kalobo

Hello all! I’m Christopher Kastensmidt, author of The Elephant and Macaw Banner series and “A Parlous Battle”, a story in that series published in American Monsters.

The Kalobo (or “Capelobo”, as it’s known in Brazil) is a relatively unknown legend in Brazil. Dozens of people have told me over the years that they’d never heard of it before the Brazilian publication of “A Parlous Battle” way back in 2011. In fact, if you Google images with “Capelobo”, the most popular images of the creature are those related to my series. I’d like to share a few of those here.

Since it was one of the first creatures that appeared in the stories, it was also one of my first art commissions. Brazilian artist Paulo Ítalo produced two drawings of the creature for me. I worked very closely with him on these and they are the closest to my own personal concept of the creature:

After that, I allowed other artists liberty to create their own interpretations, without any interference from me. U.S. artist Jay Beard created two very different pieces inspired by the creature:

When Czech magazine Pevnost published the story, the artist Jan Štěpánek drew this amazing illustration:

Finally, one of the most well-known illustrations is this gorgeous painting by SulaMoon:

Many thanks to Margrét Helgadóttir for the chance to introduce this creature to readers around the world in the American Monsters anthology. For those looking for more stories from The Elephant and Macaw Banner, the complete series is now available in one volume from Guardbridge Books.

American Monsters – Editors blog

Editing American Monsters
By Margrét Helgadóttir

Five years ago, we demanded that something had to be done. We strongly felt that the monsters of this world are watered down and overused in the popular media and that only a few of them dominate the scene—vampires, werewolves, ghouls, demons, zombies—all from Western popular culture. We wanted to give the monsters a renaissance as real and scary monsters, a comeback so to speak, and we wanted to bring all of the world’s glorious and terrifying creatures out in the open.

On December 24th, Fox Spirit Books released the fifth volume of Fox Spirit Books of Monsters, a seven-volume series with titles published annually from 2014 to 2020. The series is like a grand world tour exploring old myths, folklore and monster tales continent by continent. The genres used span from horror, fantasy, science fiction, post-apocalyptic, YA, crime, and the more literary. The journey started in Europe in 2014 before it continued to Africa, Asia and the Pacific region. This year we stop in Central and South America.

In the latest book we present you tales of beasties and monstrous terror from Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Equador, Uruguay and Guatamala, told by fourteen authors who are either from, have lived in, or have another strong connection to this wide stretching region. This book is the first of two volumes covering the American continent. In American Monsters part two— out in November 2019—we will visit North America including Mexico and the Caribbean.

As editor for these books, it is always very exciting to start researching for a new volume and the most nerve-racking part is when I try to find contributors. I wish to give my thanks to the editors and authors who helped me out with the research and pointed me in direction of other talented authors. I regret to tell you that one challenge turned out to be too difficult to overcome; the search for authors able and willing to contribute from Central America has been extremely difficult. It is thus with sorrow that we can’t give you more stories from authors in Central America. I feel however that we are still bringing you enough stories to give you a small hint about the immense folklore and diversity of monster tales in the southern parts of America.
Language has been a barrier. Some of the authors in Central and South America don’t write fiction or even communicate in English, and I quickly realised that we needed to have several stories translated if I should be able to present this part of the American continent seriously. I am thus very pleased to tell you that we have five translated stories in this volume, four of these are translated (from Spanish) exclusively for this book. Thanks so much for the excellent translations from Fabio Fernandes and Mercedes Guilloux.

It’s been a steep learning curve. This is the first time I have been editing translated stories but even if the process on the translated stories stretched over more time than the other stories, we managed somehow—even though not all the authors communicate in English—to edit and polish these stories too. I have learned very much from this process, something I will use the next time I need translations.

So, language has been a demanding but a fun challenge. In general, I am struck by how language itself reveals an identity in storytelling. There is a certain poetic undercurrent in the voice in many of the stories, both translated and not. The stories feel dark yet oddly personal and honest. Also, I believe that the choice of words and sentence structuring give the tales a peculiar but mesmerising flow—you have no choice but to read them to the end without pause. I have been reflecting on this while editing: maybe it is the identity, the cultural identity of this geographical region that shines through? I don’t know but I hope you will like it as much as I have.

And then it’s the monsters. Humans of all times, regardless of geography, culture or demography, have created stories and myths about beasts and monsters. You can find traces of them in old texts and even in old sea maps. Monster folklore is passed down from generation to generation, and these stories are important in traditions and customs. The tales serve not only as entertainment, but often teach a lesson as well.

Some monsters are universal. You will always find the shape-shifters, the flesh-eating walking dead and the great monsters of the lakes and sea. But what is important to one culture might not be so vital to another.

In the Fox Spirit Books of Monsters I don’t just wish to scare people with monsters they have probably never heard of, but I also want the books to give their readers an insight into the continents we cover. The stories in American Monsters part one are dark and complex, several are a mixture of magic, realism and science. Most of the stories are tales about contemporary life set against a historical blend of the Catholic Church’s influence, indigenous questions, invasion and colonialism, dictatorships, and political struggles. Quite many of the stories tell tales about forbidden taboos or the struggle of minorities, be it indigenous, gender or sexuality.

The monsters portraited is also a complex mix. We have many shapeshifters, more than in previous volumes. There are beasts and spirits too. Then there are the weirder and mysterious creatures and creations, such as light, waves, mountains or even islands—all dark stories that will leave you in utter terror.

I wish to give my thanks to Adele Wearing at Fox Spirit Books and her wonderful crew, and all the artists and authors for making such a lovely book. I hope you will like this volume as much as I have while working on it. There are some monsters here I have truly fallen in love with, they are so hideous and horrible, they don’t sparkle or want to be our friend. They are the truest monsters. Enjoy!

Monster Tales : Margrét Helgadóttir

Links to the Pacific Monsters blog posts are available on the book’s page.

Pacific Monsters

by Margrét Helgadóttir

Pacific Monsters is out and one year of work is completed.

Pacific Monsters is the fourth volume of Fox Spirit Books of Monsters, a seven-volume series with titles published annually from 2014 to 2020. As editor it is a fun challenge to work on a book series stretching over so many years. At the same time as I have to concentrate on each book production – it takes about a year from when I start to research and plan the book until it is published – I need to bring out the word about the other volumes and work on the series as a whole. The to-do-list never seems to become shorter.

I love it!

It feels like I am on an adventurous journey around the world. I am so grateful to Adele Wearing and Fox Spirit Books for wanting to publish this series. The books is a world tour exploring old myths, folklore and monsters tales continent by continent. One of the greatest blessings with working on this series is the opportunity to meet authors and the artists from around the world, and to have glimpses of the multitude of cultures and monster folklore within and between all the continents.

For those not familiar with the book series, one of the goals is to show all the talented artists and authors from around the world, probably many you haven’t heard about. I spend much time researching each book. I strive to have diversity in the series and the voices and topics represented. I want to have a wide-stretched geographical representation, and I encourage the authors to tell their monster tales using many genres, like horror, fantasy, science fiction, post-apocalyptic, YA, crime, and the more literary. It is amazing to see how many of the authors challenge themselves and use genres new to them, and how many of them manage to put old myths and legends about ancient monsters into a contemporary setting.

This tells me that not all of the monsters have lost their meaning and place in this world.

I am fascinated by how humans of all times, regardless of geography, culture or demography, have created monsters. No matter where you are in the world, monsters have been something to blame when bad things happen or a way to explain things like thunder and lightning. Many monsters also challenge our thoughts and fears of what will happen when we die, or the relationship between humans and animals in the wilderness.

One mission with the book series is to give the monsters a renaissance as real and scary monsters, a comeback so to speak. I have started to think that despite all the monsters crawling around our world, all the important roles they fulfil, can’t they be allowed to be just scary monsters? Can’t we just allow them to put terror in our hearts?  Do we have to categorize them all and try to make meaning of them all? These are questions I will ponder further.

It might seem that the monsters today are either forgotten or watered down and overused in the popular media. Also, only a few of them dominate the scene—vampires, werewolves, ghouls, demons, zombies—and they are almost all from Western popular culture.  Another mission with the book series is to bring all of the world’s glorious and terrifying creatures out in the open.

Some monsters are universal. You will always find the shape-shifters, the flesh-eating walking dead and the great monsters of the lakes and sea. But what is important to one culture might not be so vital to another. A signifier in the third volume, Asian Monsters, is the close link between spirits and ghosts and Asian folklore. This is very different from the second volume, African Monsters, where the stories were more about place and origin, about immigration and going home—maybe a strong witness of how much soil means to the African authors.

In Pacific Monsters we present you 14 tales of beasties from Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, and Pacific islands like Hawaii and Guam, told by authors who are either from, have lived in, or have another strong connection to this wide stretching region. I had been warned and sadly it turned out they were right; the search for authors able and willing to contribute from the Pacific islands have been extremely difficult. It is thus with regret that we can’t give you more stories from authors on the islands. I feel however that we are still bringing you enough stories to give you a small hint about the immense folklore and diversity of monster tales in the Pacific region.

When I edited Pacific Monsters, I was struck by the strangest feeling of being at the end of the world, isolated, where the sun arrives first and you are surrounded by the vast ocean, the stars and the weirdest and breathtaking wildlife and fauna.

A large amount of the monsters the authors chose to write about, reside in water. One reason is of course the endless Pacific Ocean, being both a threat and a blessing from ancient times, and the Antarctic Ocean, a world of extremities. But, even a few of the stories from Australia, even though they take place in the bush, the monsters still dwell in fluid environments—billabongs, lakes, rivers, swamps. There are some monsters here I have truly fallen in love with, they are so hideous and horrible, they don’t sparkle or want to be our friend. They are the truest monsters.

I hope you will like this volume as much as I have while working on it.