Where Do Monsters Come From

Monsters hide under the bed and jump at you from the shadows. When shades go down on quiet suburban streets they come out to play. They hide in the darkest part of the forest. They even come after you in the shower.

What happens when stories of monsters become entwined with religion, politics and conceptions of race and gender? How do tales of terror become historical memes, running through a culture like a virus? What happens when the monster lives at the heart of our history?

The book I’ve written explores these questions. It’s based on the idea that historical inquiry can examine what Americans have been afraid of and how its monsters have changed over time. History can explore the fearful creatures American society has been obsessed with, even desired on some level, and how the changing historical context influenced these fascinating horrors.

Modern writers and directors of horror are like shamans around the firelight, chanting up stories about what lies out there in the black. Horror auteurs often say that they don’t have nightmares because they give them away to other people.

I think I’m trying to do something similar in Monsters in America. The difference is that I’m not giving you only my own nightmares. I want you to meet America’s monsters and dream the culture’s bad dreams. Then just maybe, over coffee the next morning, you’ll think about American history in a way you’ve never thought about it before, watch movies with new eyes, think differently about politics and religion and sex and gender and race.

Or maybe I’ll just scare the hell out of you. I’m fine with that too.

Check back here a couple of times a week. I’ll be posting regularly and responding to your comments as much as possible.

I’m excited that in the next few months I’ll get to talk to lots of interesting people from Chicago to Boston to Atlanta. We’ll be posting a schedule of events, appearances and interviews and I hope you’ll come see me and introduce yourself if there is an event near you. Lets hang out and talk about monsters.

I’ll be telling you what I’m up to in other ways as well. I’m a serious historian and a serious consumer of pop culture so I’ll keep you updated about thing I want to turn you on to. Hopefully you’ll learn about some cool stuff you’ll want to spend some time on.

Thanks for reading. Buy my book. And to quote Buffy, “Wish me monsters”

What I’m Reading: Anne and Jeff VanderMeer’s Cabinet of Curiosities to review for PopMatters. Recently re-read William Gibson’s Neuromancer. I feel jacked in.

What I’m watching: Rise of the Planet of the Apes has triggered a massive ape obsession for me. I picked up the Blu-Ray set of the entire series. Its well put together, comes complete with a lavishly illustrated guide to all things Ape and lots of goodies.

What I’m listening to: Revisiting the Pixies…Surfer Rosa has been spinning a lot lately, cant get enough of “Bone Machine, “ “Gigantic” and “Cactus.”  Also, got the American Anthology of Folk Music on CD this summer and have been exploring “the old weird America.” Especially into all things Clarence Ashley, classic clawhammer banjo picker, right now.

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