Urban fantasy provides a host of mythological creatures, such as vampires or werewolves, because people enjoy the thought of a presence of “otherness” beyond human beings. We don’t want to think that we are alone in the cosmos. We want another intelligent species to join us in this plan of existence. This need drives some to look for demons and angels, others to search for life after death, and still more folks scanning the heavens for aliens.
Fear in Human Form
In terms of fiction writing, these legends and myths give us great fodder for bigger-than-life heroes and bone-shakingly scary monsters. In comparison, the most wicked character in thrillers, the amoral serial killer is fear inducing not because he/she is different from us but from the fact they look and act just like us. The people standing by your side could be terrorist bombers, gun-carrying mass murderers, or knife -wielding psychopath, but you can’t see it in their faces. The terror in thrillers comes down to the cat-and-mouse game of rooting the criminals out.
Fear of Otherness
Evil fantasy or science fiction creatures are different. The bad guys are potentially meaner, faster, stronger, or harder to kill than the average evil human is. This amps up the tensions since the odds of beating the bad guy becomes less. They often appear unusual in some manner. For example, a gray, ray-gun carrying aliens kidnaps lone travelers. In addition, pale skin for vampires or translucence for ghosts are dead (pun intended) giveaways. The character looks unfamiliar, which immediately has the average person guessing how that individual fits into their world. Fantasy creatures or aliens also think differently, perhaps in a manner so alien that we simply can’t comprehend their logic.
Nevertheless, people love brainteasers. It fit them into our reality, we ask things like “How do I interact with them? What cultural issues should I be aware of? Are they dangerous to me? How do they fit into my worldview? What should I do in order not to make an ass of myself?” Thus the thrill ride begins.
In addition, we look for patterns so that the strangers fit into our worldview. Otherworld creatures don’t react as expected. Because we can’t predict them, we place them into a dangerous category either subconsciously or not.
Your Personal Reactions with Otherness
If you have doubts about this, then consider how you react when faced with someone from a completely different culture than yourself. For example, a hijab-wearing woman is assigned to collaborate with you on a project. If you are a Caucasian, southern girl like me, some of these questions will run through your mind as you try to fit her presence into your worldview. Paranormal or fantasy characters take those same feelings and ramp them up a bit because suddenly you are dealing with an individual that is more, or less, than human.
Over time, I’ll explore this sense of otherness in reality and fiction writing, starting with ghosts and moving on to whatever hits my fancy. I’ll talk about TV shows, movies, books, my own writing, other groups, and real events as they come across my desk. The views presented here are all my own unless I state otherwise.
As ever, happy writing!