I’ve been writing a lot about monsters lately:
About werewolves protesting the lockdown because it keeps their prey at home.
About ghosts intensifying their hauntings now that they have captive audiences.
About eldritch horrors lurking aboveground because of the lack of pollution.
About giant spiders ensnaring runners with tripwire webs.
These stories are my way of processing the pandemic without dealing with it head on. I did that once when I wrote a blog about having COVID-19 symptoms. In it I related a string of bad luck.
First I got sick. Then I got laid off. My boss used the lockdown as an opportunity to “right size” her business, despite the fact that our UPS Store had lines out the door. After two weeks of unemployment I was asked to come back. Another employee was showing COVID-19 symptoms and they needed the support. I was afraid I might still be contagious and I wasn’t eager to return to an unsafe environment. I was told “Now or never.” I went with never and lost my unemployment benefits.
That story was one of my most successful blog entries. It was off the cuff. But that kind of intimacy can’t be forced. You can’t reproduce it to increase your metrics. I considered journaling my depression throughout these turbulent times, but I didn’t want to overexpose myself. I ran the risk of sharing personal details that would made me unemployable or exhaust my readers’ empathy.
So I changed tactics. I wanted to write something topical, but I didn’t want to overwhelm people. I decided to come at the news from another angle. I’d address the pandemic, but I’d add monsters to it.
How Monsters are Helping My Sanity
I like stories with moral messages, but I tend to beat people over the head them. I get up on my soap box and give a ham-fisted speech that scares people off. I’ve been writing for twenty years and I still struggle with subtext. My best stories happen organically once I’ve abandon my commentary. They follow Stephen King’s adage: entertain first, enlighten second.
When I started writing news parodies I thought I was putting a creepy spin on what The Onion was doing. Then these pieces turned into thought experiments. The question, “How do I address the plight of essential workers during the pandemic?” became “What if people really did have to work through a zombie apocalypse?”
The question, “How do I take the OK Karen meme and apply it to witches?” became “What if magick was real and witches were subject to online harassment?”
The question, “Would people go out if there were giant spiders everywhere?” became “But what if there really were giant spiders everywhere?”
I became less interested in writing commentary and more interested in playing up the absurdity of these stories. These fantastic times pair well with fantasy creatures. Writing about these heightened realities makes this one bearable to me. My monsters have allowed me to reclaim my imagination from so much of what’s going on.
This pandemic is soul crushing. This lockdown is depressing and the state of the economy is demoralizing. Many of my favorite coffeehouses, bars, and restaurants are closing for good.
I have a friend who’s a nurse in New York. I have another friend whose care facility has had several deaths. I’m healthy and relatively young, but I got much sicker than I expected.
I’ve spent weeks trying to get through to the unemployment office. I’m still waiting on my stimulus check. I’ve been applying for every job I think might put a dent in my expenses, and yet I have too much free time. I’m single. I live alone. I haven’t seen any of my friends in months.
My monster stories are keeping me going. I know I ought to be better about sharing them, about building the old brand. I’ve been told to start a Patreon, but I don’t have that kind of following. Not yet.
I’m open to feedback. Please let me know if you’re digging what I’m doing.
Meet Noelle, a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving back into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print.
Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo. The Devil.
Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by a shadow figure with a taste for souls.
Desperate to make it Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again until she’s blurred the line between reality and what’s written. Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it a desperate author’s insanity, or something else entirely?