Battle of the Monsters Panel
October 8th, 2011
10/8/11 Event Recap:  Battle of the Monsters

Very cool and interesting discussion on the pros/cons of being
Frankenstein's creature, The Thing, and Dracula. I personally think
The Thing wins- it is the most adaptable and powerful.
Thanks to our panelists, the lovely Mary San Giovanni, the
super-knowledgeable Jonathan Maberry, and the wonderful Keith
DeCandido - they demonstrated and shared an enormous wealth of
information on the monsters and the horror genre.
And of course, once again a special thanks to our gracious hosts at
The Well Read Bookstore.
(Gene McGrath)

From guest Keith DeCandido:
Keith DeCandido shared his LiveJournal blog post on Facebook
today...

11:16 am October 9th, 2011
my Sunday feeling

Had an excellent night last night -- Mary SanGiovanni, Jonathan
Maberry, and myself were guests of the Science Fiction Society of
Northern New Jersey's "Face the Fiction" event. We had a "Battle of
the Monsters," in which we each picked a monster to defend as the
bestest monster EVAR! Jonathan went with Dracula (and vampires
generally), Mary went with the Thing (from John W. Campbell's
"Who Goes There?" as well as the two -- soon to be three -- screen
adaptations), and I went with the monster created by Victor
Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's novel. The best part was when I used
Peanuts as a metaphor for Frankenstein -- specifically in terms of
the monster's constantly coming just this close to redemption and
happiness, only to have it snatched away from him like Lucy's
football. This is why I love my life....

We didn't really come to any kind of conclusion about which monster
"won," but that wasn't really the point -- it was all about the
discussion, and we had a wonderful, wonderful time. I even sold
some copies of Dragon Precinct (I am now all out of the the 2004
mass-market edition, so now you can only get it on the Kindle until
we get the other eBook editions and the new trade out) and A
Burning House. Muchos thankos to Well Read Books in Hawthorne,
New Jersey, a most excellent little store, for hosting the event.

Last night, I was in an updating mood, so DeCandido.net and my
bibliography both got updated (the former including a page for
KRADitorial). Today I get to edit a lot, and also do tomorrow's TNG
Rewatch. Busy busy busy.......

What are y'all doing this lovely Sunday?

Recap by Todd Ehrenfels:
Well met at Well Read Books!  We had a great night this past
Saturday with a panel of imaginative, inventive, and illustrious
friends bent on total domination by proxy.  Their goal: choose a
Monster and successfully argue why their creature is far superior to
those of the other panelists by addressing questions from the
peanut gallery... er, I mean the audience.  So, let's take a look at
the lineup, shall we?

Keith R.A. DeCandido: It should be noted that I pronounced Keith's
name correctly ensuring that there would be no beatings and that
my Italianicity would remain intact.  Keith's creature feature was
Frankenstein's Creature from Frankenstein by Marry Shelly.  Here is
how he stacked up:
Weaknesses: Doesn't really have many.  The Creature is smart
(quoting Milton and others), strong, cunning, clever, and terribly
resistant to anything that could be thrown at it.  His only real
weakness seemed to be a desire to get back at Victor Frankenstein
for being a miserable failure as a dad.  Also, his uniqueness was
brought up as a weakness in that it was a primary motivator for
much of his behavior.
Strengths: As mentioned, the Creature has wit, will, and brawn
galore, but his primary strength lies in his ability to out-maneuver
his opponents and survive anything and everything in his path.
Best Version: Keith argued that outside of the book the best version
of the Creature was, believe it or not, the interpretation of the
Creature from the schlocktastic film Van Helsing.  Yup.  Better than
DeNiro or any of the rest, the only good thing to come out of that
terrible film (other than lots of bare-chested shots of Hugh Jackman
that is).
Ultimate Goal/Motivation: Be less alone.  Seriously, if the creature
wanted one thing it was to be accepted and cared for, either by its
creator or by a companion.

Redeption or Justification? The Creature doesn't really seek
redemption, but is also somewhat justified in some of his actions
from his point of view.  If anything, the Creature is very clear and
consistent in its warnings and statements, and really the character in
most need of redemption in the book is Victor himself.
Other Stuff: Keith had a lot of things to say about the creature and
its role as the ultimate monster, but perhaps the most interesting
was that, unlike many other creatures, there is nothing to say that
the Creature did not survive.  After all, it walked across the ice to
get to the ship to kill Victor in the first place, so the fact that it walks
away again is utterly meaningless (it didn't die of exposure once so
it is unlikely to have done so again).

Jonathan Maberry: Jon quickly jumped in with his selection of the
Folkloric Vampire.  Not the prissy-nancy Dracula version with his
sunlight aversion and other silliness, but the multiple and manifold
different cultural Vampires from around the world.  Amusingly there
seem to be almost as many Vampire myths as species of beetle in
the world.  Getting right down to the nitty-gritty, Jon let us have the
full force of his deceased alter-ego's knowledge on the Lords of the
Night.

Weaknesses: While the Bram Stoker Vampire does have more than
a few weaknesses, the traditional folkloric Vampire really only has
one: Garlic... Oh, and dismemberment and decapitation are
problems, though apparently not always insurmountable ones.

Strengths: Seduction is the Folkloric Vampire's greatest tool and
asset.  Strength is variable, as are various other attributes, but the
seduction part always seems to ring true.  Of course, I would tend to
think that curling up with a room temperature Lothario is a bit of a
turn-off, but what do I know.  Also, do you have any idea how hard
it is to jam a stake into something's chest?  Very!
Best Version: Frank Langella was OK, and Gary Oldman was
fantastic (in spite of the rest of the cast being bad in the Coppola
film), but hands down it was... Louis Jourdan in the 1977 BBC
production of Count Dracula?!  Yes I am serious, and Chris and I
both commented that Jourdan was a pretty awesome
Dracula.Ultimate Goal/Motivation: Not to get exterminated by the
villagers is pretty good, and led to a discussion about whether
Vampires can even be judged by human standards and laws.  
Interestingly, along with the idea of preserving and continuing their
species, came a discussion of the rationale of dominance from the
Vampire's point of view as demonstrated in the film Lifeforce and
the novel The Star Vampires is tantamount to the survival of the
fittest argument.
Redeption or Justification? The Vampire desires mostly to survive
and feed.  Really there is nothing more than that.  These monsters
have no remorse or desire for redemption, Angelus
notwithstanding.  Amoral sociopaths is probably the best way to
describe them, and considering that most of their time fresh out of
the dirt is spent trying to eat their former loved ones... let's just say
they are meanies and get it over with.

Other Stuff: There was a lot of Vampire Lore thrown around, from
different flavors of vampirism to why the vampire is the most
widespread of all creatures.  Another interesting tidbit was Jon's
explanation that Dracula did not die at the end of the book.  It had
been established earlier in the story that stabbing the Vampire with
a knife was useless, as was slicing its neck, and that Dracula could
turn into dust or mist at will.  Thus: not dead.  I think that this was
a very clever though, and would give extra points for it.

Mary San Giovanni: So, having squandered what was left of my brain
cells I totally got Mary's name wrong in my introduction.  To be fair,
I have a cousin Mary San Giacomo, but thankfully I caught myself
before I stuck my foot totally in my mouth, and at least I
pronounced both San Giacomo and San Giovanni correctly and
avoided being whipped for that.  At any rate, Mary chose a real
knock-out of a Monster, pulling no punches she launched the Thing
from Another World at the group.
Weaknesses: The simple fact of its incomprehensible alien-ness
was, to Mary, the greatest weakness of the Thing.  The John
Carpenter creature was trying to mimic and impersonate without any
real understanding of the creatures involved, making its behavior
sort of stilted and odd, a fact which is neatly covered up by the
paranoia running rampant through the base.

Strengths: As long as one cell survives, the Thing wins.  Not only is
it super strong and massively adaptable, the Thing can hide in plain
sight and pretend to be just a normal dog/person/gribbly bit.  All it
takes is a short contact with affected tissue and you are a goner.
Best Version: John Carpenter, hands down.  There were a lot of
awesome things in the James Arness version and the book, but
both seem dated and a bit out-moded.  The new version remains to
be seen, but to date the best all around version was the poorly
reviewed film from John Carpenter.  Also, Wilford Brimley was pretty
boss in there.Ultimate Goal/Motivation: Escape from Antarctic base,
find more people, conquer the Earth in 9 months.  Seems pretty
straightforward to me.Redeption or Justification? Like any Predatory
species, the Thing is only doing what nature and environment
demand.  Realistically, we are so far beyond its comprehension that
it is doubtful that it even understands the horror of what it is doing
to its host creatures.  So far as it knows we are just there for host
purposes, and really it does not seem to care about redepmtion as
that is about as foreign a concept as individuality to the Thing.

Other Stuff: A great deal of discussion centered around the base
crew, much as with Keith's creature and Victor Frankenstein.  The
telling point here is that the paranoia and horror of the crew of the
base has a lot to do with why the creature is so successful against
the people there.  Another interesting point was the makeup of the
base staff, and that Mary felt it was sort of disingenuous to go
putting female characters in places where they really ought not to be
(when the movies were filmed the Antarctic really was not a place
you saw very many women).  Also the fear that the new film might
have either an overly masculine female protagonist or a screaming
meemie type was discussed at length.

All told, we discussed the ins, outs, ups, and downs, of the various
and sundry creatures until Jon suddenly realized that "Hokey
Smokes, it's 9:30!"  The panel wrapped up with no actual vote, but
a whole lot of fun.  Guess what that means... that's right.  Using this
post I will make a poll for everyone to vote on.  It will be glorious!

Many of us headed over to the Land and Sea Diner in Fair Lawn
where we discussed Chairman Mao's cross dressing past, the
Transamerica Pyramid, Indian/Irish pubs, and much much more.  
The babbling strangeness continued even out into the parking lot!

Join us in November as our fantastic hosts at Well Read Books
present Alaya Dawn Johnson!  It is a night guaranteed to be fun :)
Saturday October 8th, 2011
Battle of the Monsters Panel

Well Read Books
425 Lafayette Avenue
Hawthorne, NJ 07506
973-949-3440

This group meets on the second Saturday of each month and
spotlights guest speakers from SF and genre related fields of
interest.

This month we welcome a panel of 'monster' experts.

Joining us will be:

Jonathan Maberry(http://jonathanmaberry.com, http:
//jonathanmaberry.com/media-2/biography) - New York
Times bestselling, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning
author, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator
and writing teacher/lecturer of more than 900 articles,
sixteen nonfiction books, novels, numerous short stories,
poetry, song lyrics, video scripts, and two plays.

Keith DeCandido (http://www.sff.net/people/Krad, http:
//www.sff.net/people/krad/kradbio.htm)- International best-
selling author Keith R.A. DeCandido was born, raised,
educated, and still lives in the Bronx. His Mom and Dad fed
him a steady diet of Robert A. Heinlein, Ursula K. Le Guin, J.R.
R. Tolkien, and P.G. Wodehouse, which corrupted him for life
& instilling in him a great love of science fiction, fantasy, and
silly British humor. Keith has published over thirty novels,
most in the realm of media tie-ins, the majority in the worlds
of Star Trek. Keith has written novels, novellas, comic books,
short stories, and eBooks, and also edited several
anthologies.

Mary San Giovanni (www.marysangiovanni.com): Bram
Stoker Award Nominated, Lavinia Kohl Award for Excellence
in Literature winner. She believes in God, the Devil, angels,
demons, ghosts, fairy folk, aliens, karma, ESP, telepathy,
worm holes, other dimensions, Atlantis, the Bermuda
Triangle, love at first sight, Roswell, monsters, and the
American Dream, because life’s too short and boring without
them.