I was recently asked how I managed to be so prolific. And at times I’ve hedged on this, but now I’ll tell it straight: there are few things as fascinating as being judged on reading the temperature of a room I’ve never seen, much less been in.
In Plato’s Cave, people are trying to see Reality based on shadows. We moderns don’t have that difficulty; there’s no light in here at all. Everything’s a shadow, and as long as we’re willing to have faith in the shadows that only other people can see, as long as we’re willing to lend credence to the reality of things which have never existed in physical form, creating monstrous ideas is easy.
It’s a form of divination. I get perpetual inspiration from something that’s not unlike trying to read echoes without having sonar: I will see, fourth-hand or fifth-hand, the effects of something my monster-self is said to have done, and all I need do is say, “I wonder what chain of events would need to happen in order for this stranger to be angry at me in such a deeply personal way”. Folklore makes for some good storytelling shapes. Paul Bunyan is very big; just find a way to make something more interesting if it were ten times its normal height, and you have a Paul Bunyan story. Johnny Appleseed goes everywhere, planting apples; in what unexpected place might an apple tree grow, and what strange thing does it cause to happen? The Dark Lord does villainy because causing harm is deep in his heart; how might the last thing he said be used as a weapon?
Eventually, as a mythological creature, you stop asking, “How is it possible that anyone believes this?” and start saying, “You know, with a good publicist, I think I could come out ahead of the Jersey Devil, cryptozoologically speaking.”
Werewolves wake up human, covered in blood, and scream, “What did I do?” I wake up as inhuman as ever, and if I think about it at all, I ponder: “I wonder what new stories are told about me today?”
All I ever wanted was to add more stories to the world; and now I do. I never really expected to be the villain in most of them, but since I am, I figure I’ll lean in.
It’s not difficult to be a villain factory in the modern world. There was a time when every little thing I said was scrutinized, to see if people could find fault in it. How primitive! How barbaric! Now it’s assumed that everything I say is, itself, an expression of pure villainy, and the only part to be deciphered is the “how” piece. And that’s the easiest bit of it.
Have others made you into a Villain, against your will and against your knowledge?
Join us. We are legion – or if we’re not, just yet, we will be. And soon.