People Are the Worst – Charlotte Bond’s Monstrous

Reading Charlotte Bond’s Monstrous, I finally pinned down why humans are the scariest thing in horror.

I know that “people are the real horror” isn’t an original insight. It’s the central theme of The Walking Dead, and if it’s on big-budget TV then you know it’s not a new idea. But sometimes it’s hard to work out why something works.

Monstrous is all about this. The teenage protagonist Jenny is dragged off to join a commune by her mum. There’s something dangerous lurking in the woods around them, but the real unpleasantness comes from the people. It works incredibly well. One particular act of brutality (vagueness to avoid spoilers, go read the book), had me frozen with tension. It was just so awful and so real.

And that was when it hit me. In horror, the monsters can be more extreme, but the humans are more believable. What they do to each other has a sense of reality. That makes it scarier because it could actually happen.

Worst of all, we can imagine acting like that human more easily than we can imagine acting like the monster. Recognising a potential for darkness within ourselves is the perhaps the most terrifying thing of all.

Monstrous is about how humans are the real monsters. If you want to explore that particular brand of horror, I heartily recommend reading it. Just don’t expect to sleep well afterwards.

Some other reading

A friend of mine, who is far more lucid and well read than I am, recently started a blog about stories and her experiences of writing at . Almost every day she posts brief, intelligent snippets about stories and writing, and it’s well worth reading.

This reminded me that I know quite a few people who write stories. Unsurprisingly, they’re all writers of sci-fi, fantasy and horror. Most of the people I know socially live knee deep in Buffy box sets, ten-sided dice and dog-eared copies of Tolkien, and with that come particular literary tendencies. So, in no particular order, here are a few of them….

The aforementioned everwalker – ridiculously creative – poet, costume maker, crafter of epic fantasy, and the person who kept me sane during my brief, ill-fated career as a teacher.

Charlotte Bond – primarily a horror writer, her recent novella Hunter’s Moon is available from Screaming Dreams. Charlotte’s the one who inspired me to actually get on with writing, rather than just thinking about it.

Carl Barker – writer of dark tales and reviewer of books for the British Fantasy Society.

R. A. Smith – another dweller in the greater Manchester sprawl, I think there’s something about this place that inspires a particular sort of escapism. Has just started a facebook page, and has a blog as well.

Jennifer Kirk – sci-fi novelist and proof of what you can achieve through self publishing.

Zoë Robinson – writer, cartoonist, video blogger. How anyone finds the time for all that I’ll never know. I suspect she doesn’t sleep.