Yesterday the raptor linked me to this very interesting article about monsters in fantasy, and the fact that there aren’t very many any more. It’s a very interesting point. I fell in love with stories through Greek mythology, which is full of gorgons, hydras, harpies and so on. The monsters were cool, and often had their own backstories (Medusa, for example). Over time fantasy writing seems to have first lost the backstory, and then lost the monster. Where did they go, and is it time for them to have a revival?
The challenge is to make them fit with the modern approach to fantasy writing, which has become more and more focused on realism. Economies have to work, histories have to have a clear evolution, and random monsters can’t rampage around the countryside because the local Neighbourhood Watch Militia would have done something about it. So where on the map should there be monsters?
The extreme wilderness is an obvious place, giving the yeti and the giant squid some company, but that’s a bit tricky to get your heroes to. And besides, there’s probably some kind of conservationist society trying to protect them. I’ll freely admit that, despite my Greek literary upbringing and devotion to Tolkien (balrog, dragon, oliphaunts) and LARP (balrog, dragons, sphinx, beholders, etc etc etc), I don’t write any monsters in my fantasy because I’m not sure where they’d fit.
Come back, monsters, all is forgiven.