What does it take to make a monster?
The world is full of terrors: creatures that stalk and pounce and tear to pieces; perpetrators that prey on the weak and vulnerable; and all those other strange and unsettling things that lurk on the edge of our vision or whisper into our ears. Look back into history, and you’ll find man-eating beasts and ruthless killers and cruel tyrants around the world. And fiction has its own versions of these in its Draculas, dragons, Godzillas, and giant squids. They frighten us because of their seemingly randomness — the impression that anyone could fall victim.
But there’s another set of monsters as well: the ones that don’t choose their victims based on chance or opportunity, but whose victims are, in fact, the very ones responsible for their existence. These are the Frankensteins or the creatures of Doctor Moreau, killer robots or the superintelligent sharks of Deep Blue Sea. These are the monsters that are created through carelessness, through cruelty, and through the hubris of humanity. These are the monsters that never asked to be brought into this world or put into these situations and who, oftentimes, are just trying to survive the best they know how, even if it means destroying the ones who made them.
It’s this second type of monster we’re featuring in this month’s issue. Race against the clock and an experiment-gone-wrong in Andrew Kozma’s “The Ecology of the Engineered Oyster” (May 7). Become something new and powerful in Saswati Chatterjee’s “I Wrote to My Queen” (May 14). Balance the needs of the dead and living in Peter S. Drang’s “My Lakeside Graveyard” (May 21). And survive long enough to destroy it all in Steven Fischer’s “A List of Forty-Nine Lies” (May 28).
And ask yourself, as you read these tales: Who’s really the monster here, anyway?
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