Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

Well, we’re back to count down my top five villains of the past year. And what really surprised me about the top five was that while #10-6 came from ll sorts of different franchises and series, the top five came from only two franchises/series. That’s right, this year only two properties hold sway over the top five. And you can contribute that to a number of things, but I think with these franchises, they’ve been running a very long time and the writers and directors and other behind-the-scenes folks who run these franchises want to keep them running a very long time So what do they do? They come up with compelling storylines with great villains to set up against great heroes.

So what are they? Let’s find out. Remember, no villain of my creation is on this list, and no actual person is on this list either. It’s all fictional. And as always, SPOILERS!

#5: Kaecillius (Doctor Strange)

You know, this is the third time a Mads Mikkelsen character has appeared on this list (his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter were in the top five back in 2013 and 2014). Not surprising, considering that he’s not only a great actor, but he’s given great characters. Kaecillius is a former student of the Ancient One who finds out things about his master he doesn’t like and who falls under the sway of the demon-god Dormammu. His goal is to allow Dormammu’s Dark Dimension into this world, thus absorbing our universe into his. Why does he want to do this?

Well, the answer is much more sympathetic than you might expect: Kaecillius sees the world as an endless cycle of suffering and death, and wants to free the world of it, which he feels integrating our world into the Dark Dimension can do. And this is actually an admirable goal, to free the world of suffering and death. It’s the very notion that Buddhism, one of the world’s major religions, is founded upon! It’s just that Kaecillius believes wholeheartedly that by making us one with the Dark Dimension is the way to do that (believe me, it’s not), and that’s what makes him a villain. Add in his gravitas, stoic manner, and occasional one-liners, and you’ve got yourself an A-class villain with some aspects you can actually sympathize with.

#4: Lucifer (Supernatural)

Over the past two years, I’ve really become a huge fan of Supernatural, and over the past year, I’ve taken in the ten most recent seasons. And even when he’s not the main villain of a season, guess who’s a powerful influence over the series as a whole? Yep, Lucifer, the Devil himself. He’s powerful enough that even when he’s locked in a cage in Hell, he’s still capable of manipulating and directing events on Earth, which is how brothers Sam and Dean Winchester became wrapped up in monster hunting. And when he’s out of the cage, God help you. He could be following the script of the Apocalypse, or he could be making it up as he goes along, he doesn’t care. As long as he’s able to make a few quips, make someone’s life literal torture, and even kill a few people, he’s happy. The destruction he caused in Season 12 alone, and the events he set in motion with some of his actions, earn him a spot in the top five (though because most of his horrors are caused by his daddy issues, he’s a bit lower than he could be).

#3: Amara/The Darkness (Supernatural)

What’s scarier than one of God’s angelic sons? Why, God’s older sister, and the embodiment of destruction! Introduced in late Season 10 and the main villain of Season 11, The Darkness is a primordial force that God and the Archangels locked away so that the universe could exist. Freed at the end of Season 10, she possesses a baby named Amara and soon becomes a full-grown woman with a simple goal: to find her brother and settle some long overdue family business with him. That, and maybe entice Dean Winchester, with whom she shares a special connection, to join her at her side.

What puts her higher than Lucifer on this list? Well, she’s much more powerful, for one thing. And in a way, she actually caused Lucifer’s fall from grace. In her way, she’s the true cause of many of the horrors in Supernatural. Not to mention that she somehow makes fish out of water moments scary: having never lived in the human world, she’s uneducated about a lot of what goes on there, and it shows. And even when we’re laughing at how inept she is as a human, we know that she’s going to do something horrible soon. And then she does it.

If that’s not deserving of the Number 3 spot, then I’m Harry Potter (and I’m not).

#2: A.I.D.A. (Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD)

This time from the MCU’s TV universe, we have A.I.D.A, a cyborg originally designed by her creator Holden Radcliffe as a literal shield for SHIELD agents, and later a major part of Radcliffe’s plan to create a world free of suffering and death for humans…which she later subverts in order to gain freedom from her rigid programming and become a full human with emotions. And superpowers.

Honestly, watching A.I.D.A.’s arc from naive robot woman to calculating assistant, to calculating supervillainness, to a powerful human woman with strong powers and emotions like storms, was one of the most fascinating things in this season. It kept you on the edge of your seat, wondering what she was going to do next as she pursued her goals of humanity, freedom, and even the love of one of the main cast! That, and her ruthlessness in accomplishing those goals, whether she was doing so under programming driven by twisted logic or spurred on by her newfound feelings, made the story all the more gripping. She’s definitely one of the show’s best villains, and deserving of the second-highest spot on this list.

#1: The Leviathans (Supernatural)

The Leviathans were a thing introduced in Season 7 five years ago, but I just met them this past fall. And my God, were they the best villains on the show! Primordial beings that are older than most of the angels, they were God’s first creations in His new universe. Ultimately, they proved too hungry to be controlled and God put them away in Purgatory lest they eat the universe to bits. Released back into our world at the beginning of Season 7, they quickly possess humans in order to inhabit physical form again, with one goal in mind: feed. At first they’re just looking for a quick fix in the short term to get their sustenance, but as time goes on and their king possesses the body and memories of billionaire businessman Dick Roman, they start organizing. What’s their grand plan? Simply to feed.

There’s something kind of scary of an old and powerful race of beings whose sole goal is to satisfy their hunger, and the best way to do that is to feed on humanity. And they do it with businesslike precision, coming up with this whole five-year plan for turning America into their personal McDonald’s (I’m assuming the rest of the world would follow in time). It’s this precision, along with their difficulty in being killed, that made them stand out to me as villains not only on Supernatural, but through the whole year. Lucifer and Amara may be looking for revenge on their mutual family member, but when it comes to beasts that just want to feed, they just can’t be beat.

 

So that’s this year’s list, my Followers of Fear. But tell me, who were your favorite villains this past year? Do you have any critiques of my choices? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And expect another blog post from me either later today or at some point tomorrow, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a new review, and I hope you’ll want to read it.

Oh come on, did you think I wasn’t going to do this? It’s a tradition, and whether you like it or not, I’m doing it! So strap in, and let the villainous torture begin!

So if you don’t know, every June or so I like to rank the top ten villains in fiction that have really impressed/scared me. Villains are always a central part of horror stories, so it’s important to see what makes a villain memorable, or strong, or terrifying. What makes a good villain, in essence. Some years are easier than others to rank, but with each entry, there’s always something to notice with a villain.

Before we begin, let me remind all who read this that no villain from my own work, or any real life person, will make it on this list (otherwise this would just be political views and shout outs to my own characters). Also, SPOILERS!

Ready? Okay, here we go! #10-6!

#10: Tom Martin/Alex Whitman (Scream TV series)

Scream is a twisty slice of TV-horror awesomeness, and while not everyone loved its Halloween special, I certainly found it a fun break from the show’s normal format. One thing I really liked about the Halloween special was Alex Whitman, a rich young man whose parents died tragically when he was young and who strikes up a sweet romance with protagonist Emma Duvall. Or at least, that’s what we think at first. After a huge twist in which the suspect we thought is the new Brandon James Killer ends up dead, it’s revealed Alex Whitman is actually Tom Martin, a disturbed young man who witnessed his parents’ gruesome death as a child and was warped by all the attention relating to his survival. He sees Emma as a kindred soul, and tries to get close to her by any means, including murder.

What makes Tom a great villain is that he’s so sympathetic! Even after he’s revealed to be dangerous and out of his mind, we feel sorry for him, because his backstory is truly heartbreaking, and there was real chemistry between him and Emma. It’s very hard to make a despicable killer into a sympathetic character (believe me, I’ve experienced that struggle firsthand), and Scream did it really well. It’s a good character for the series to go out on.*

#9: Garrett Douglas (Teen Wolf season 6)

Teen Wolf has had many villains show up on this list, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they got one on this year’s list too. Garrett Douglas is a former captain in the SS–yes, the SS, as in the Nazis–who tried to control the ghostly Wild Hunt, supernatural beings who kidnap people and erase them from existence to replenish their numbers. His attempts to do that led to him being held captive for nearly seventy years by the Dread Doctors from season 5, but he escaped after the latter fell, and set out once again to put the Wild Hunt under his thumb. This time he very nearly succeeded, nearly turning the town of Beacon Hills into a ghost town in the process.

While the Wild Hunt were the main villains of the story arc, they were just an elemental force trying to replenish its numbers for survival. They looked scary and had terrifying powers, but they weren’t menacing or evil. Douglas, on the other hand, was a sadistic power-hungry madman, and he was willing to sacrifice whoever he needed to in order to accomplish his goals. That’s a villain right there. However, compared to other villains on this list and on the show, he’s not as intimidating, and he doesn’t rely on his own power, so he ranks rather low. Better luck next time, Teen Wolf. I have confidence in you.

#8: Amunet (The Mummy 2017 film)

I gave this movie a harsh rating in my review (read that HERE), but honestly Amunet was one of its saving graces. Played with convincing power by Sofia Boutella, Amunet is a powerful undead sorceress who made a deal with the god Set for power. Resurrected in the 21st century, she’s willing to sacrifice anyone in order to bring about an apocalypse and become Queen of the Damned (see what I did there?).

What makes her a great villain is that she’s so convincing! You really feel her rage, her lust, her desire for power. And then you see her power at work: she’s influencing Tom Cruise, using animals as weapons, turning people into obedient slaves with kisses or even just with an animal bite. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and proves that even if you have a bad movie, you can have a great villain.

#7: Kevin Wendell Crumb (Split)

I’m not sure if this is one villain or 23 villains or what, but either way, they’re all here. A man with disassociative identity disorder, some of Kevin’s personalities go rogue and take over his psyche in order to bring out a new personality known as the Beast, who causes pain and suffering in the belief that such horrors purify. Kevin and each personality is played with amazing skill by James McAvoy, making each feels real and fully formed. But it’s his darker personalities, the ones that set out to cause destruction by kidnapping three teenage girls from a mall parking lot, that really scare you. You can feel their belief in their godlike Beast, and then when you inevitably see the Beast, he’s a powerful force that makes your heart beat from start to finish. Kevin and his personalities’ place on this list is well-deserved. Cannot wait to see him again in two years in Glass.

#6: The Shadow Kin (Class TV series)

Give it to the Whoniverse to come up with memorable villains. In Doctor Who‘s new spin-off Class, the Shadow Kin are beings made of fire and brimstone, who believe their existence in the universe is a cosmic mistake, as they cannot stand bright light and must travel as gas and shadows. In revenge, their goal is to eliminate all life from the universe by infecting the shadows of their enemies and then killing them. These villains appear throughout the show’s first season, at first only to kill off the refugees of one of their battles, but when their king becomes biologically linked to one of the show’s protagonist, it sets off a literal shadow war as the Shadow Kin battle for control of their king’s power and the planet Earth. Definitely a dangerous villain who kept us on the edge of our seats, wondering what would happen and where the Shadow Kin would appear next.

 

And that’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’ll have #5-1 out soon. Until then, what did you think of the Top 10 so far? Do you have any favorite villains from this past year. Let’s discuss in the comments below.

*I’m not counting the upcoming third season, because they’re basically rebooting the story with new characters and setting. Um, WTF? You didn’t even wrap up the original story! You had loose threads leading up to the third season! And we know the third season is going to be the last season, so why change things up like that? Why not just wrap things up and let it be like that? TV execs! They’re sometimes the worst people to direct the courses of their own properties.

Life is rarely straightforward. That is a fact. People change, or their thoughts and feelings change, new paths open up in front of you, and your understanding of the world never fits in the box you want it to (that last one isn’t really relevant to what I’m going to talk about here, but I felt like stating it anyway). And my life and feelings have changed. I need a break from what I’m doing right now. I need to do something different if I’m to pursue my goals in life.

With that said, I need to shut down Rami Ungar the Writer. At least for a little while.

I’m kidding. But for a split second, you bought that. You did, and it worried you for a little bit.

No, what I really mean is that I need to take a break from Full Circle. A very long break.

You see, I’ve been working on that novel since November, eight months in total. And I’ve only taken some occasional breaks, each working on a couple of short stories, and then getting back into it. And you know what? I’m a little burnt out. Normally by this time, I’m already finished with the first draft, but I’m only a little over the halfway point. And when I think of getting into the next chapter, I’m filled with dread, because it’s likely going to be a long chapter, and I’ve been dealing with this story for eight months straight, and it has not been easy at times.

All writers get like this. Yeah, we do. There are times when we’ve devoted so much energy to a story, that we need a break if we’re to give it more and give it the energy it needs. And honestly, I’m at that point. It’s nothing I did wrong or anyone else did wrong. There’s nothing big in my life that’s making me super happy or super miserable, thus causing me to think, “I can’t work on finishing the Reborn City trilogy right now.” Nope, it’s just me needing some distance and the chance to work on something else. And I need a long something else. Because if I take on a project, and it only lasts a month at most, I won’t be ready to work on Full Circle again. I’d be ready to bang my head against a wall in frustration, but I wouldn’t be ready for FC again.

Which is why I have the perfect project:

Some of you may recall that during my last year of college, I wrote a novel called Rose as my thesis. The story was about a young woman with amnesia who starts transforming into a plant creature. And that may sound comical, but it’s actually pretty dark, exploring themes of dependence and abuse in romantic relationships, as well as how memory, truth, and falsehoods can shape not just our perceptions of others, but of ourselves. It was a challenging novel, to say the least, but I managed to get two drafts of it written between August 2014 and April 2015, and they turned out okay. I let it lie for a while when I was in Germany and during my job search, and tried working on it again after I moved into my new apartment and started my job. For a number of reasons, it didn’t go well. Mostly because I didn’t have a plan for editing it beyond, “Let’s sit down in front of the computer and see what happens.”

My new project: the third draft of Rose.

But since then, I figured out a plan to help me get along with editing in general (see my post on that on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. It has a similar opening to this blog post). I’ve also had plenty of time to think about changes I’d like to make to the story, and to the characters, and I’ve really been itching to take a crack at it again. And I’m pretty sure that, once I get another draft of Rose done, I’d be ready to send this story to an editor, and then maybe to an agent or publishing house.

So starting very soon, I’ll be taking another dive into Rose. It probably won’t happen until after I get back from Boston, but after that and I’ve done all the travelogues and checked my new digital recorder for ghost voices, you can bet that I’ll be working on my new project with gusto. Until then, Followers of Fear, wish me luck as I work on a couple new blog posts, and as I prepare myself mentally and emotionally for what will hopefully be a very successful third draft and a very refreshing break.

Pleasant nightmares!

Video Rage, Book 2 of the Reborn City series

I love a good surprise, and I got one last night! There’s a new review of Video Rage, the second book in the Reborn City series. It was posted June 2nd, the day after the one-year publishing anniversary of the book (not sure if that was intentional or not). I’m very happy to see this new review, because reviews come slowly to my books (this is the fourth for this one, and 366 days after publication, after all), and it always picks up my mood when people are willing to leave their thoughts on my work in places I can see.

Now if you don’t know what Reborn City or Video Rage are about, then you must be really new here. Okay, what they really are: they are the first two books in the Reborn City series, a science fiction trilogy I started writing back in high school. The series focuses on Zahara Bakur, a Muslim teenager in a dystopian future who is forced to join the Hydras, a street gang whose leaders have strange, preternatural powers, after her parents are murdered by a rival gang. The trilogy contains themes of prejudice vs reality, gang violence, drug addiction, and overcoming what others and what you yourself think about yourself. The first book, Reborn City, came out in November 2013, and the second one, Video Rage, came out in June 2016, just a little over a year ago.

And while the reviews I’ve been getting are slow in coming, they’ve been very positive. RC has an average of 4.6 out of 5 on Amazon based on 9 reviews, and with this latest four-star review, entitled Another good read, brings the average of VR to a 4.3 out of 5. Here’s what the reviewer, Gefilte63, had to say:

I enjoyed this sequel to Reborn City. This is not really my genre, but I think the story was well written and I’m definitely waiting to see what happens in the third installment. This book is a lot of fun to read with lots of twists and turns.

I can tell you, the third installment is coming along nicely. And this review matches what others have been saying about VR:

I was really looking forward to the continued journey of the Hydras and Rami was able to produce. Zahara is my favorite character and her development from an insecure girl into a strong woman came out clearly in this book. Some other character development was really unexpected but the book moves at such a fast pace that it didn’t hold me up at all. The story line is quite imaginative and, as usual, there isn’t much predictability there. I think that is what draws the reader in – you just need to keep going to find out what weird twists and turns happen next! Looking forward to continuing this journey with Rami and the Hydras.

–Michele

Reborn City, Book 1 of the Reborn City series.

From what I understand, this is book 2 in a series. That being said, I had expected a cliffhanger of an ending. I’m not a fan of cliffhangers, but in this particular book, I think the author did an excellent job of finding the balance between making the story stand complete within itself while ending the story on a note that let you know another book was coming. Personally, the ending was one of the most intriguing ones I’d read in a long time. It didn’t leave you to figure it out for yourself (which is something I hate). The author let you know what was happening and why while leaving enough to be answered in a future book.

That all being said, the overall book was an enjoyable read. I especially liked that a former bad guy turned things around and redeemed himself. Those types of characters are one of my favorites. I had hoped in Reborn City (Reborn City series Book 1) that he would, and it was very satisfying to see that fulfilled. I also liked the underlying theme in the novel that what the media tells people through the major outlets is slanted by government agendas. In this book, it was up to the main characters to find an alternative way of getting the truth out.

I think this book is best read after reading Reborn City (Book 1) because it really helped to have the background on the characters, and I think this book is far more effective if you have the foundation Book 1 gives you. The science fiction geek in me really loves the genetic aspect. And so that I don’t spoil anything, I will say the real bad guy in this series does a nice twist in this book along that line.

–Ruth Ann Nordin, author of The Reclusive Earl

People seem to like the books. And if any of this makes you want to read the books, you can check out the links for both RC and VR below. And if you decide to read the books, please make sure to let me know what you think, preferably in a review. Positive or negative, I love feedback from readers, and the more reviews I get, the more readers may come across the story.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Expect my next post this Saturday morning, if nothing else happens this week. Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

Reborn City: Available on Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Video Rage: Available from Amazon, Kindle, CreatespaceBarnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo.

Video Rage, Book 2 of the Reborn City series

Well after posting about the one-year anniversary of the publication of Video Rage–wouldn’t you know it?–I’m halfway through the first draft of Full Circle. Well, I say halfway, but I’m actually 19 chapters in, and there’s 35, so a bit over halfway. Either way, I’m dancing like this:

So yeah, either way it’s a milestone to celebrate.

So if you didn’t read my last post, Full Circle is the final book in my Reborn City series, which follows the Hydras, a street gang whose leaders have superpowers in a dystopian city-state in the near future. The story contains themes of prejudice, gang violence, drug addiction, and overcoming what you and others think of you. The first book is called Reborn City, and the second is called Video Rage (one year anniversary of publication was today!). Full Circle, as I said, is the final book.

Honestly, I’m a little disappointed that it took me this long to get this far writing a novel. I haven’t taken this long to write a book since Reborn City. Then again, like with Reborn City, I’m writing in my spare time. I work a full-time job. I’m actually less busy than when I wrote Reborn City in high school, when I had school and homework and an after-school job and lots of TV on DVD. I should be grateful that it only took me seven months to get this far, rather than a year or so. I also watch most of my TV with meals these days (two birds with one stone), and I use Dragon software these days, so that probably made a difference.

Reborn City, book 1 of the Reborn City series.

Anyway, onto page and word counts. In terms of pages (8.5″ x 11″, 12-point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced), I’m currently at a whopping 213 pages. Pretty decent for a halfway point, though it’s probably going to change between drafts and when it gets published, we’ll have an all-new page size to contend with. As to that more easily measured standard, word count, we’re at a truly staggering 60,656 words! I’ve mentioned that 60K words is where I consider a story a novel, so this is definitely novel range. I wonder what we’ll get when we reach the end of the first draft? Both RC and VR were between 80K and 100K, so I’m curious to see where FC ends. With only a few more chapters till we reach the final battle of the story, I think it might stay within that range, but you never know.

And how is the first draft? Well, I don’t want to say crap…but it’s crap. No, that’s fair. It’s a first draft, and they’re notable for being rough, poorly edited, and in need of a lot of work. The greatest novels always start out as poor first drafts. I’m not saying any of my work is considered that way, but I think that maybe I could someday produce work that great. Anything’s possible, after all.

Point is, I’m making progress on the first draft, and while it’s not the best quality it can be, someday it might be.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. The weekend is almost upon us, and I’m looking forward to some rest. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

 

Hard to believe it’s been a whole year. So much has happened since that early morning, but yes, it’s been 365 days. And Video Rage, published and out in the world, is a year-old.

Now if you don’t know, Video Rage is the second book in my Reborn City series, a science-fiction trilogy revolving around street gangs in a dystopian future, specifically the Hydras in West Reborn. The story is told from the point-of-view of Zahara Bakur, a Muslim teenager who is forced to join the Hydras after the deaths of her parents, and finds herself wrapped up in a world unlike anything she’s ever experienced before. It’s a story about prejudice and violence, drug addiction and loss, as well as how far we will go to take down an enemy and how we can overcome what others think of us and what we think of ourselves.

I released the first book, Reborn City, in college after working on it for several years starting in high school. And while it hasn’t gotten the same response as The Hunger Games (I blame my poor marketing skills), it has gotten some very decent reviews. Here are a few:

It’s a neat exercise in trying to see through the eyes of someone different from oneself. It incorporated a lot of fly comic-book-esque tropes. A good beginning effort of an up an coming new author who has some cool ideas to explore.

–Amazon Customer

This is an extremely commendable effort by a new young writer, whom I believe we will see much more of in the years ahead. Rami Ungar’s vision of a frightening dystopian future is peppered with those elements that make us all human. There are quite a few surprises in the book, and I am anxious for the next volume in the series to be released.

–Marc M. Neiwirth

As a reader who does not read books in this genre, I must admit that I could not put down the book. I attribute this to the talent of the author. I am looking forward to reading the next books published by Ungar. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy action with features of supernatural powers and sci-fi.

–ENJ

Reborn City

Very positive. And while it hasn’t receive that many reviews yet, Video Rage has received some good ones too:

I was really looking forward to the continued journey of the Hydras and Rami was able to produce. Zahara is my favorite character and her development from an insecure girl into a strong woman came out clearly in this book. Some other character development was really unexpected but the book moves at such a fast pace that it didn’t hold me up at all. The story line is quite imaginative and, as usual, there isn’t much predictability there. I think that is what draws the reader in – you just need to keep going to find out what weird twists and turns happen next! Looking forward to continuing this journey with Rami and the Hydras.

–Michael

From what I understand, this is book 2 in a series. That being said, I had expected a cliffhanger of an ending. I’m not a fan of cliffhangers, but in this particular book, I think the author did an excellent job of finding the balance between making the story stand complete within itself while ending the story on a note that let you know another book was coming. Personally, the ending was one of the most intriguing ones I’d read in a long time. It didn’t leave you to figure it out for yourself (which is something I hate). The author let you know what was happening and why while leaving enough to be answered in a future book.

That all being said, the overall book was an enjoyable read. I especially liked that a former bad guy turned things around and redeemed himself. Those types of characters are one of my favorites. I had hoped in Reborn City (Reborn City series Book 1) that he would, and it was very satisfying to see that fulfilled. I also liked the underlying theme in the novel that what the media tells people through the major outlets is slanted by government agendas. In this book, it was up to the main characters to find an alternative way of getting the truth out.

I think this book is best read after reading Reborn City (Book 1) because it really helped to have the background on the characters, and I think this book is far more effective if you have the foundation Book 1 gives you. The science fiction geek in me really loves the genetic aspect. And so that I don’t spoil anything, I will say the real bad guy in this series does a nice twist in this book along that line.

–Ruth Ann Nordin, author of  The Reclusive Earl

Own both books today!

So yeah, things are looking good for this series. And hopefully with time and a few plugs here and there, as well as continuing to publish stories, it might get a larger following. In the meantime I’m working on the final book in the series, Full Circle, and hope to have it done later this year. When will it be released? We’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, if any of this has piqued your interest in either book in the series, I’ll leave the links below so you can check them out. And if you do decide to read the books, make sure to leave a review to let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback and it’ll help me out in the long run. Plus, reviews allow others to find my books, and I would greatly appreciate you helping me do that.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got another anniversary coming up soon, so make sure to check that out. Until then, happy reading and happy June, everyone. It’s certainly one of my favorite months.

Reborn City: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Video Rage: Amazon, Kindle, CreatespaceBarnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo.

Think of every childhood monster you thought might be in your closet or under your bed or anywhere else a monster might hide during the day. What did your child-self know about the monster? Probably only that it was big, that it only came out at night and wanted to eat/kill you, and that maybe only the nightlight kept it away. Perhaps there were certain details, like fur or scales or whatever, but that was the extent of it. You didn’t know if the monster had any weaknesses, or where it came from, or why it chose your closet/bed/whatever. The monster just was, it wanted you, and you were only able to keep it away during the day. And it terrified you.

Now perhaps as a young child, you simply weren’t capable of thinking that any of that other stuff might exist for your monster. But if you confronted a creature like that as an adult, a monster where all you knew about it was its location, its active period, and its diet of humans, but nothing else, you’d be freaked. Because a monster is scary, but a monster that you don’t know how to fight is even scarier.

And that can be applied to nearly any antagonist in horror. The less is revealed about it, the scarier it is.

Case in point: vampires. When I first learned about vampires, my knowledge of what they were was limited to that they came out at night and didn’t like the sun, that they drank human blood (which could sometimes create other vampires), and that they could turn into bats. For a few years, that was all I knew about vampires, and they terrified me. If I ever came upon one, the only recourse I had was to try and survive till daylight, or I was dead! But when I found out that vampires were susceptible to stakes, garlic, crosses, and required invitations into private residences, they became a little less scary. Why? Because they were easier to deal with, and things that are easy to deal with are less terrifying than those that aren’t easy to deal with.

Contrast that with many of the works of the manga artist Junji Ito. I’ve had the opportunity to look at a bunch more of his work since reading his masterpiece Uzumaki (read my review of the manga here, as well as my review of the film adaptation here), and his works rarely tell us the hidden history or how to deal with the monsters featured within. He only gives us enough of a look to get the modus operandi of the monster, and then weaves the story around that. One of his works, Tomie, revolves around an immortal girl whose beauty often drives people to murder her/for her, and who keeps coming back to life no matter how much you kill her. We never get a full explanation of how she is able to do that. Is she some sort of genetic aberration? An undead creature brought back by a grudge? Ito doesn’t tell us, and forces the reader to wonder at the possibilities, as well as how much is being kept from us about these mysterious monsters.

Tomie, one of Junji Ito’s signature characters.

And that is terrifying. And Ito is well aware of that. He knows that the less you know about an antagonist, the more possibilities there are, and that makes the horror more effective. And not just Ito: HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, Adan Ranie, and other horror authors, including me, are well aware that adding a bit more mystery to our horror stories, and not letting the readers see beneath the proverbial hood of the monster, heightens the fear the reader will feel.

And this is the main reason why I was disappointed with Alien: Covenant this past weekend, as well as the catalyst for this post. Granted, that movie had a number of problems, but one thing that Covenant and its predecessor Prometheus both do is try to give an origin story to the films’ real stars, the Xenomorphs. When it comes to antagonists in horror getting origin stories, it’s on a case-by-case basis, and in the case of the Xenomorphs, I’ve actually come to dislike the idea of giving them an origin story. Part of their power is that, even for man-eating monsters, they’re so divorced from what humans perceive as normal. In fact, the name Xenomorph means “strange form,” and it’s that strangeness that makes them so terrifying and iconic.

So when Prometheus and Covenant try to explain them to us in origin stories, they put them in contexts that we can understand, robbing Xenomorphs of what makes them so amazing. Granted, it’s a question everyone who’s seen the original films has asked at some point: “Where do the Xenomorphs come from?” But it’s not a question that has to be answered. The fact that they had such a shady origin to them was part of their mystique, causing our minds to wander and wonder if maybe, somewhere in that until origin story, there’s a dark truth out there waiting to make us wet our pants. And now, that sense of wonder is gone, because these movies have given us an origin that, rather than being dark and terrifying, is at times confusing and at other times lame.

What I’m trying to get at is that sometimes–not all the time, but a significant portion of the time–you don’t need to reveal everything about your monster. Sometimes, keeping some mystery around adds more to the story, and keeps the source of our terror effective. And in a horror story, keeping things terrifying is one of the most important aspects of horror storytelling.