Words By Dani Hedlund, Art By Samantha Dow
Dear lovely reader,
Since the very first paintings were scrawled on cave walls, humans have been obsessed with monsters. These often gruesome, bloodthirsty creatures exist in every culture and historical period. Even in the modern day, where science and technology could vanquish these myths, our obsession with monsters has only increased. Every year, more than two million people travel to Scotland to try to catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster, thousands still dedicate their lives to capturing the Yeti, and there is even a subculture of “real-life vampires”—people who drink a dram of blood daily.
Why are we so obsessed with these mythical beasts? How has the concept evolved? And why, even beyond legend, are we so keen to toss the word “monster” around, describing everything from “a monstrous task” to a particularly dickish ex-boyfriend?
F(r)iction #16 seeks to explore these questions.
From the origins of some of the most famous monster myths, to the way we engage with the monstrous deeds in our daily lives, the following stories, poems, essays, and comics delve into all things that go bump in the night. As you might expect with a monsters-themed issue, there’s a good number of fantastical beasties within—but each piece also takes a new, daring look at what really scares us. From Benjamin Percy’s feature exploring “monster as place” to a gem told entirely through Yelp reviews, we see ancient fears played out in the modern landscape.
Very real monsters seep in as well. In these pages, you’ll read daring creative nonfiction exploring the people who victimize us, a gorgeous poetry feature with the Veterans Writing Project, and a flash fiction piece that has now made it impossible for me to hold any of my friends’ babies…
But what really surprised me about this issue were the hidden monsters. Many stories deliver us brutes we recognize—bloodthirsty dinosaurs, lying, cheating bastards, corpse-snatching gods—only to reveal darker truths. Because often, a subtler, more intimate and human monster is the real evil. These are the fiends that scare me the most, the truths I most want to hide from.
It makes it easy to see why, throughout the ages, we’ve turned to monster myths—from using werewolves to justify serial murder to blaming the bogeyman for taking missing kids—in an attempt to explain tragedies committed by human hands. So that we, as a society, don’t have to accept that we’re capable of that kind of darkness. But as these stories will illustrate, we’re also capable of overcoming monsters both real and imagined.
We hope you enjoy this little beast of a book. Like the monsters it holds, it’s another human attempt to explain the unexplainable. We hope these stories haunt you, challenge you, and change you, as they have done to us.