One thing I've wanted to say for a while is how much I enjoy lurking here (and in a number of the slacktiverse-related worlds). Since I left undergrad, I'm no longer surrounded by people who care about fixing the state of the world, or the effect of our language on our perceptions, or that sort of thing. I'm surrounded by good people, but that part of my life is missing. And I don't really have the time or energy to devote to expanding my social network - a lot of the time, being social makes me tired.Lurking around all you wonderful people helps fill that. I love the stimulating discussions, and I love how much it expands my worldview. And I really appriciate the feeling that I can interact as much as I feel like on the day - I still feel like part of the conversation if I comment once a month.You're all great, is all I'm trying to say.
How open are we talking, here? "In life he'd never felt so alive as he did at these moments, stripping off his humanity and dressing for the night." A couple of things have me thinking about monsters right now - about monsters as antagonists, monsters as obstacles, monsters as protagonists, monsters as a metaphor for human experience and sometimes humanity itself. One of the things I loved about Cabal was that the monsters managed to be the protagonists... and still be monsters as well. It's a feat that I've rarely seen managed elsewhere; usually if the monsters are the good guys, that aren't all that monstrous or they aren't really that monstrous. (Bella, of Twilight - to pick a topical example - basically just falls in love with a Bad Boy version of a superhero: Clark Kent in a leather jacket.) And that's got me thinking about a couple of stories that I really ought to get back to writing - or, rather, try again to write.
Last week I did a practice run of the G1 driver's license written exam. I say "practice run" because my primary goal was to learn what it's like to take the test, with actually passing being a bonus. I didn't get the bonus, but now I know.I was going to try again today*, but I have a cold. (This is the point where I would put *sniffle*, but I haven't reached the sniffling stage. I don't think there's a noise for a sore throat.)*It seems Dad's thoroughly Had It with being the sole driver in the household and is going to take me back every week until I pass. Not that I can help much straight off: he still has to be in the passenger seat and I can't go on 7/8 (that's the Conestoga Parkway listed in the exceptions), which is pretty major.
Well, good luck when you do get back to it.
I think right now the luck would be put to better use with the illness. I thought it was a cold, but colds don't usually involve vomiting.
Oh dear. I hope you get well soon.
@Michael Mock, I'm interested in talking about monsters. :DI guess it depends on how you define a monster, though. I've seen definitions ranging from "any fantastical animal" to "a person who refuses to conform to norms out of self-identity, whose monstrousness is a part of their personhood." I don't think either covers the whole spectrum, but both have a part, so I get flummoxed trying to think about monsters-as-a-category because geez, that's a big category!
I just want to second this. That is all. :)
I guess it depends on how you define a monster, though. I've seen definitions ranging from "any fantastical animal" to "a person who refuses to conform to norms out of self-identity, whose monstrousness is a part of their personhood." I don't think either covers the whole spectrum, but both have a part, so I get flummoxed trying to think about monsters-as-a-category because geez, that's a big category!I think it's safe to say that the assumed basic meaning of 'monster' is meant to be of a thing so horrible that it does not count as a person - this is the starting point even for people telling stories about good 'monsters' (heroic werewolves, etc), since there's often an exchange of the self-loathing monster referring to themselves as such, and the sympathetic person trying to convince them otherwise.It's kind of fascinating that the whole idea that 'monster is a state of being, not a species' can be so widespread even while it is still used to refer to 'scary nonhumans' at the same time. I mean, "Who's the REAL monster, this gentle dragon or the immaculately-coiffed Baron Victor Von Nefarious?" is an eyeroll-worthy cliche, but if one were simply writing a story in which a murderous beast was straightforwardly malicious with no greater depth, people would still readily refer to it as 'the monster'. The instinctive reading of 'monster = nonperson beast' tends to remain intact.M'self, I have blogged about my fascination with heroic villains (people known for Evil who abruptly choose Good) and monster concepts are closely related. The problem with heroic villains, of course, is that they are an unstable, internally contradictory state - either the heroism or the villainy will continue afterwards, and they can only temporarily be this terrifying hybrid (the same is true in the other direction, heroes going bad). Monsters can be the same way, or they can be in a steady 'contradictory' state of having an evil nature and a pleasant appearance or be outwardly ugly and internally good. (Both of those things tend to play into other problems - evil monsters that look nice almost inevitably transform into something more 'monstrous' when they do evil things, and there's little guarantee that everyone will agree on a definition of ugly, either.)(One current story idea involves a 'found family' sort of scenario, in which the young boy is definitely a dragon (all dragons have an inborn capacity to shapeshift to human) and the young girl may be a multi-headed gargoyle demon under a temporary transmorph. I'm still playing around with that bit. The main villain is mold.)
@Redsixwing - yeah, the definition is problematic. On the one end of the spectrum, you have, say, Grover, and on the other end you have the Alien, or the thing from Cloverfield, or Dr. Frankenstein's creation, or... well, anyway, then you have the Ted Bundy sorts of monsters, who are biologically human. I'm not a big fan of slasher flicks. There's no element of the unknown, there. No matter how interesting the setting, or how well-explored the back-history, a guy with a knife, or an axe, or whatever, is still pretty much a known quantity. You get something like Jason, a revenant with supernaturally fast healing/regeneration and the ability to make short-range teleports, and you're closer to what I normally mean when I talk about a monster. Give me someone who has a human intelligence, but can change his shape and requires the blood of the living in order to continue living, and can only be killed in certain ways, and you've got a proper monster. Or give me a beast that slips out of the swamp to grasp unsuspecting travelers in its tentacles, paralyzes them and drags them back to its lair for future meals; that's a monster. So... intelligence isn't necessary for the way I use the word. But a monster should be strange, either in appearance or in capabilities; there should be an element of the unknown, or at the very least the inhuman.
When I think about applications of the word "monster" to a human character, the common thread seems to be that it refers to someone that the person describing it rejects the thought of having a kinship with - a variation on "No True Scotsman", if you will? Somebody who commits an atrocity so horrific that you don't want to believe it's possible for a human person to have done it, so there must be something fundamentally tainted and inhuman about them.By the same token, the de-monsterization of a werewolf/vampire/etc. seems to revolve around discovering something 'intrinsically human' (usually the capacity for love and/or self-sacrifice) in that character that makes them relatable and familiar, and acceptable as part of the observer's self-definition of 'human'.
I agree. It's probably why the Cullen family works so well - being vampires (traditionally monsters), they have to overcome their own personal nature to be human. If they were just normal humans, then not eating or killing people wouldn't seem nearly as wonderful. However, being powerful, perfect monsters makes it appear as though they're not bound by normal human conventions. The threshold is much lower.
does anybody here remember who was talking about creating a "new" archetypal triad for women (moving away from the biological determinism of Maiden/Mother/Crone)? Was that here or over at the Slacktiverse?I don't remember who said it, but I know it was at the Slacktiverse.-So, on the one hand, I don't really want to be the one who brings up Nietzsche because I've met that guy and he's not fun to be around (and being in the same class as him is as annoying as all hell) but on the other hand I think an observation Nietzsche made is kind of useful here. He looked at the roots of the Greek words for good and evil and while his moral and historical conclusions were extremely questionable at best, what he said about the formation of the words seemed (as dimly recalled by me) to be pretty defensible.It's been a while since I read it and my dictionary does not attempt to divide meanings into earlier and later uses, so this is from hazy memory.The Greek word for evil seemed to have it's roots in ugly or unlucky or poor or something like that. Something with a basic message of, "Sucks to be you." It did not have moral weight, that came later.The Greek word for good has its roots in beauty. Again, no moral weight, but then it gained meaning because if something is morally beautiful then it's good. And, obviously, something can be morally beautiful even if it does look like a horror from the 8th dimension.That formation though gives rise to some pretty strange possibilities (I have no idea if these things came up in the Greek, but I'd be surprised if they didn't simply because this is basically textbook poet-fodder) what if you had something that was beautiful and evil? It would be kalos and kakos, but what if you had something that was ugly and good, it would be kakos and kalos, and there's absolutely no reason why I couldn't switch the order of either of those phrases and have it mean exactly the same thing, meaning that there's a fair degree of ambiguity there.(We have similar things. "His name was Phillip the Fair," "So he was just?" "No, he was pretty.")Anyway, I think we have a similar thing happening with the word monster. It's meanings are clear enough, it's just that its meanings are at right angles to each other. Just like whether or not you're kalos (beautiful) has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you're kalos (good) whether or not you're a monster has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you're a monster.A giant cancerous amorphous mass that secretes slime like a hagfish and has a voice like a dying raven is a monster even if it does have an amicable personality and good ideas about how we should rework the tax code.Someone who wants to kill off all giant cancerous amorphous masses that secrete slime like hagfish and have a voices like a dying ravens, because ze thinks anything so ugly is a blight on existence and an affront to God, is a monster even if ze is physically and audibly beautiful.Actually that brings me back to what I said about the Greek word for good because somehow I managed to say this without realizing I was using a good English example in doing so. We get the same ambiguity with things like beautiful. Person described in the previous sentence may very well be a beautiful person, but anyone who would commit genocide simply due to their aesthetic sense is emphatically not a beautiful person. Both uses of the idea "beautiful person" use clear easy to understand, reasonably specific, definitions, they're just very, very different.I think I had a point at some point. No idea what was.
Huzzah, monster discussion! I go away for a few hours and lovely things happen. <3 And I would totally read that story, with the dragon boy and the girl who is maybe a gargoyle.I love love love the heroic villain. Many of my favorite books involve them. At least one of them (Hi, Vergere!) still sparks hours-long debates between SixSpouse and I, and that one is demonstrably inhuman in a variety of interesting ways. The overlap between Heroic Villain and Monster is certainly worth inspection, too, as the occasional Baron Victor Von Nefarious goes to show. (That name, by the way, is wonderful and I would like to borrow it if that doesn't bother you.) Or - to really get my nerd on - Onyx, from the Dragonlance series; she's a man-eating (literally) black dragon with her own moral compass, who eventually goes rogue because she can't abide the evil she's being asked to do. She eats people. Most fantasy has a hard time finding better shorthand for "utterly evil" than that, and yet here she is rebelling at the atrocities her side commits.Gelliebean, I like your point; do you think it's possible for a human character to relate to a monster without the influence of humanity? Spoilers: I do, but then, I tend to go the other way - where the human has an uncivilized, monstrous influence (for lack of a better term) that they don't often acknowledge, and they may have a sort of opposite of the usual conversation. Where the human may say to the monster, "I have these feelings/do these things and I think they're awful, I'm not sure that's good" and the monster says, "I know."But I have a fairly nonstandard take on monsters, and now I too have been reminded that I have writing to do.Also, chris the cynic, that is a really cool bit of etymology and something I will remember. That could be a lot of fun to play with - two (OK, more than two) of my favorite characters of all time are physically drop-dead gorgeous and very, very evil, so that surface contradiction has a lot of legs where I'm concerned.
I don't remember who said it, but I know it was at the Slacktiverse.Yes, it was there, in one of the troll threads. I made the suggestion, I think, and I'm definitely working up a post. ---Chris, I always love your posts on Greek language and how they've shaped our own culture. Thank you.
Can I just tell everyone I am so excited about tomorrow's Twilight (which I just now finished writing)? I am so excited about tomorrow's Twilight.
One of my professors one said that the word monster derived from a Latin root that was "to show" - a monster is meant to show us something, often something unpleasant. That would cover the spread of possibilities so far.And we're looking forward to Twilight tomorrow.
So I can add kalos and kakos to my list of Greek antonyms that are near-homonyms (other pairs on the list include endo and exo, hypo and hyper and a couple of others I've forgotten).TRiG.
We have an English word in which that root maintains that meaning:Demonstrate - from demonstro, from de monstro.de = means all sorts of things, most of them have roots in "from" or "about"monstro = I show, point out. (monstras = you show, monstrat = he/she/it shows, so on, so forth)The word monster itself comes from monstrum which is the noun version. it means a significant supernatural event, a wonder, a portent. But the word could also be used of living things, according to my dictionary the cyclops from the Odyssey was called at monstrum horrendum when it appeared in the Aeneid. That either means a horrible monster, or a wonder to be in awe of. (Depending on context.) Given he was a giant rock throwing person eater, probably the first. (Horreo means to stand on end or bristle. Presumably it's what the hair on the back of your neck* is supposed to do in the presence of a monstrum.)*Isn't that what everyone always talks about? Honestly I don't know that I've ever noticed that standing on end, but that's what I always hear.
Something I was thinking about earlier today that kind of ties into the monster discussion is the subject of alien (in the sense of unusual and different, not necessarily extraterrestrial) intelligences. I'm reading the Temeraire series (the Napoleonic Wars with dragons in them), and the main conflict at the beginning of the second book is primarily caused by the fact that the titular dragon, while smarter than most humans in many ways, is fundamentally incapable of prioritizing things like king and country and not causing a diplomatic incident with China over the well-being of his human partner. So that got me thinking about the tricky balancing act of having the intelligence unusual enough to seem appropriately alien, without being so strange that it's unrelatable. Then there's the complicating factors that two vanilla humans are perfectly capable of thought processes that strike each other as alien, and no matter what alien mode of thinking you come with, there's probably someone out there who thinks like that. You know, the issue of non-neurotypical aliens that think more like neurotypical humans than most of their people doesn't seem to come up that often. I'm not even going to pretend there was ever going to be a point in there.
'm not even going to pretend there was ever going to be a point in there.LOL! But I liked it anyway!
My brain is too fried by work to add anything useful to the fascinating discussion, so I'll just recommend the Monstrumologist books by Rick Yancy. They require a strong stomach-- lots of descriptions of viscera and bile and such-- but are darkly fun and play with the famous "the abyss looks back into you" theme.
I've started a ~new story~! Hopefully the first few chapters will be up soonish. I'm gonna post them on my poor, misused writing site: http://captainhaplo.wordpress.com/Three aborted introductions, but I'm totally serious this time...Anyway: the style of the story is thus. The setting is a late renaissance-era nation that's surrounded by mountains, except for a few narrow passes which are all heavily fortified. A hundred years ago, its neighbours besieged these forts- essentially locking down the entire country- and never left. Now those siege armies lay at the mouths of the passes, where they can't be seen, but no one inside the nation is allowed to leave.Over these hundred years, the entire nation's culture and mindset has slowly changed. The lands beyond the forts are called, collectively, the 'Outside', an uncivilized and dangerous wilderness. The only people they have contact with are the Beasts- a collection of mountain-dwelling animal-human (i.e. fancy magic hybrids) countries that barely tolerate the Inside humans, and vice versa. The siege mentality has made it so that all food is continually rationed, and from the age of 13-15, everyone is trained in combat and assigned to a militia.Enter this is William Redspring, the son of two mages, who is cajoled into becoming a mage himself, even though he's not really hot on the idea. But not everyone Inside has the same viewpoint on the Outside as he and the Inside majority do- he meets someone from a tiny minority who introduces him to different opinions and ideas- including some that the Outside is a place of wonder, worthy of exploration. He's filled with wanderlust, and when he learns that Mages are allowed to go outside, he's galvanised into his studies.
@chris the cynic - Thank you! I could not remember the right word, but I do remember the context - it was Frankenstein's Monster. Polyphemus does satisfy both ideas. And I think that dual meaning applies to a lot of well-written monsters (or the ones here in real life) - things that horrify us, and yet we are in awe of them. (Because they're huge or enticing, or really freaking rich, even if they did so by ruthless means.)
Temeraire! I have that on my list of things to read next, though it may be a while (I've been thinking of getting the first three books on my kobo as a set, and that won't happen until the kobo help team help me; it's an ongoing irritation).Also, yay upcoming Twilight!And on monsters: I, too, love monsters that are still sympathetic, or at least understandable. I find the kind of monsters that simply have no traceable motivation to be... sometimes scary, but mostly hollow. And monsters that are monstrous because they choose to be/stay that way are my favourites -- I've been watching a show called Once Upon a Time, and they seem to be edging into that territory with their villains. Their villains are now fascinating to me, or at least more so than their heroes, who seem to mostly wander around being wide-eyed and desperate and not knowing what the right thing to do is. (Ok, some of their villains are descending into cartoon-level silliness. Others are getting more backstory and I now desperately love at least one of them. I will stand by this point.) And their actions are... pretty monstrous. They're mostly very, very pretty (even Rumplestiltskin! Who is supposedly deformed by his curse! And thinks he's terribly ugly! He is so ridiculously not ugly!), and as we get more backstory I get the feeling that they'll get more and more sympathetic, but they are archetypal fairy-tale monsters given human natures, and I do not know how that will turn out in the end.
@hapax, I believe Literata and Lonespark also said they were thinking about that topic (of women archetype triads) - don't know if they meant to write about them or not. I myself have been giving it lots of thought, but I think what I'll actually write about, eventually, will only riff off of it, not directly address it.
@Brin: A day later, I hope you're feeling better.I'm not trying to one-up you, more to warn you: I had the stomach thing last week and the snivelly head cold this week, immediately on its heels. I don't know if they were phases of the same bug, or if I was lucky enough to meet two bugs at once, but there's a lot of nasty stuff going around right now. So take good care of yourself.-----Michael Mock: A couple of things have me thinking about monsters right nowYou mean, like... weresloths?(That was so cute.)------Will Wildman: One current story idea involves a 'found family' sort of scenario, in which the young boy is definitely a dragon (all dragons have an inborn capacity to shapeshift to human) and the young girl may be a multi-headed gargoyle demon under a temporary transmorph. I'm still playing around with that bit. The main villain is mold. Okay, I want to read this. And I'd believe mold to be capable of any villainy at all.Coincidentally I just finished a series of early novels by Barbara Hambly, in which the main antagonists are an entirely conventional species of fell beasts of the Dark, doing what the Dark does, killing humans, eating their souls, horror and dread, end of civilization, etc., etc. But the real problem, the thing that caused the Dark to rise in the first place? Climate change. (Global cooling, to be exact, wiping out their normal food sources.)And the Dark is actually pretty boring (or maybe we just don't get to meet them properly). The human villains, in all their petty human selfishness and shortsightedness and conflicting loyalties, are a lot more interesting.----------chris the cynic: I don't really want to be the one who brings up Nietzsche because I've met that guy and he's not fun to be around (and being in the same class as him is as annoying as all hell) "You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound."/Jeeves(Never gone anywhere near Nietzsche myself, but Jeeves knows all.)The Greek word for evil seemed to have its roots in ugly or unlucky or poor or something like that...The Greek word for good has its roots in beauty. Again, no moral weight, but then it gained meaning because if something is morally beautiful then it's good. TW: RACISMWhich, in more of What Amaryllis Is Reading, reminds me of the 17th- and 18th-century European scholars who tried to "scientifically" divide humanity into separate racial groups. And they'd admit that every group had its own standards of beauty, but they'd also try to come up with objective criteria, skull measurements and so on, to develop a single scale which applied to everybody. Which always ended with the Greeks at the top. (The ancient Greeks, that is, who apparently all looked liked Apollo Belvedere; German and French writers were not so impressed with the Greeks who were their contemporaries. )And then they started trying to measure intelligence... and somehow the most beautiful races also turned out to be the most intelligent... And now the whole enterprise strikes us as rather monstrous.---------------That either means a horrible monster, or a wonder to be in awe of. Because Dragons Are Too SeldomAnd if I knew that when I got there I could see Cyclops or Scylla and Charybdis or PegasusI would willingly walk on my hands from here to Dallas, Tegasus,Because I don’t mean to be satirical,But where there’s a monster there’s a miracle.----Huh. Hope that was not too ramblingly chatty for an open thread on a rambling blog.
You mean, like... weresloths?Wait, what? Where did this come from? Because I've had weresloths on my mind of late and I thought it just came up at random, but if someone else is also thinking of weresloths then that implies that there's probably some kind of common source because what are the odds that two people would think of weresloths at the same time via random chance alone?I don't see any other sloths in the thread.
Amaryllis: A day later, I hope you're feeling better.Better in comparison. The stomach problems stopped after an hour or two (well, stopped so far, hopefully for good) and the Standard Cold has resumed its normal course.(I don't know how standard the Standard Cold is for people who aren't me. Sore throat for 1 - 2 days, stuffy/runny nose for 2 - 3 days, coughing for 3 - 7 days. Symptoms usually don't overlap, and when they do it's only for a couple hours. This is Day 3 and the first nose day, so I expect to be on the mend in about three days (I don't feel the general ickiness for most of the coughing phase).)I hope you've been recovering well too.Chris: Wait, what? Where did this come from? Because I've had weresloths on my mind of lateMichael Mock recently posted a short story on his blog about a weresloth.
Sorry, I was committing the venial sin of cross-blogging.Michael Mock asks, Why are they always carnivores?As for the odds, I guess you'll have to ask Michael.
Heh. I beat you to the link by eight seconds.
I think wereswans are cool. There's some mythological basis for people turning into swans, and swans are pretty herbivores that can break your arms if you piss them off.
that can break your arms if you piss them off. What, really? *ponders Swan Lake novel*
Fast fingers! You must be feeling better!I'm much better myself, thank you. You know that magic moment when, you may still be having symptoms like coughing or sneezing or whatever, but you don't feel sick any more? That's me today.
From what I hear, swans are mean. You don't want to get on the wrong side of a swan. In fact, anyone caught in such a spot of bother is perfectly justified in feeling a sense of Impending Doom.I know about the Irish Children of Lir, and fairy tale of the Swan Princes-- was that one of the Grimms?OR Raven Princes: here's Emily Portman singing Rongue-Tied, based on that story.
What I was thinking of was the swan-maidens, Germany(and a couple other places in the general area)'s version of the "animal sheds its skin to become beautiful woman" thing that pops up all over the world. Seals do the same thing in Iceland and Ireland, buffalo do it somewhere in Africa, cranes do it in Japan, and so forth.
Beyond the obvious moral and morale related reasons, there are some other reasons why the other ducklings shouldn't have picked on the ugly one:1 He could kill them all with ease. If they surpassed a certain level of meanness and he surpassed a certain level of brokenness, the story would end up being the avian version of Carrie.2 With a swan as part of their group (be it on a barnyard or in the wild) they'll be the safest ducks ever.3 I don't know, but I'm sure there's something else.My experience with swans is that unlike most birds they'll come right up to you when you're feeding birds. Then they'll bite your hand so you'll drop the food. Jerks.Also I remember being at a park and seeing and interesting territorial dispute over an island in a small pond. First there were all sorts of birds there. Then the swans came in and claimed it for themselves, driving off all others. At first that seemed to be the end of it, but then someone called in the geese, the geese drove out the swans and in so doing allowed diversity to return to the island. (The geese didn't seem to have a problem with other birds being on the island, the just had a problem with birds like the swans saying they couldn't be on the island.)-So I guess weresloths did come up in two minds by coincidence. I was thinking about the other creatures that might be in attendance at Forks highschool. Lizard people was suggested, but not much beyond that. Weresloths seemed a logical choice.
The subject of written stuff was touched on here; I'll mention one thing.I'm sad. I lost a poem. It was freeform, and there's no way I'll remember it as I wrote it. It was sitting in a Notepad file, not yet saved, and my computer decided to go all Blue Screen of Death. So my poem is gone forever without my ever getting to show anyone.And I don't even know if it was any good, but it still saddens me to lose it.
Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. :( I had that happen once to med, a poem about Narnia, and I was so sad. So many hugs.
I tend to keep a notepad file open for quotes, things I want to share or post somewhere, and so on. Mostly it works out fine. It's just every now and then my computer decides to tell me "Lol, have fun losing everything!"At least I shared my poem on the Ride of the Rohirrim with a friend in time for it to be safely in a chatlog instead of lost, though.
I think it's safe to say that the assumed basic meaning of 'monster' is meant to be of a thing so horrible that it does not count as a person -One of the very very many reasons that I love Kristen Cashore's FIRE is that it posits a world in which the word "monster" is used for what the reader recognizes as "Extreme Mary Sue."To tangent even further, does anybody here remember who was talking about creating a "new" archetypal triad for women (moving away from the biological determinism of Maiden/Mother/Crone)? Was that here or over at the Slacktiverse? I just finished Cashore's trilogy a couple of weeks ago, and I have been obsessing about archetypal triads ever since. I may just have to write up some ideas meownself and post them somewhere.