Episode 04 – Creature, Limb, Tentacle

Abby and Kris talk about creature design, and creating iconic antagonists.

Referenced in this episode:

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  • Alexander McClelland

    Man you guys kept saying stuff I wanted to comment on and so I had to stop the player and go look up a link and then you just kept saying more interesting stuff so now I have like 4 different things I wanted to comment on.

    Thing #1: re: weird sea monsters/tentacles are overdone: I feel like there’s untapped potential for creature design from this kind of thing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siphonophorae There’s just so many different aspects to them that makes them more alien than a lot of fictional aliens. They look really bizarre, they aren’t actually a single organism but rather a colony working as a single unit, some of them glow, some of them have incredibly powerful venom, etc. etc.

    Thing #2: re: story about having to cake care of a parasite thing: I feel like you have to have seen Eraserhead, but then I also feel like you would have mentioned it if you had. Anyway if you haven’t, go watch Eraserhead.

    Thing #3: re: serial killers/”born evil” villains: I feel like you’re 90% right with the statement that in the villain’s mind, they’re doing the right thing, but I think that you’re discounting the human element a bit (hence that last 10%) – sometimes people do things they know are wrong, for selfish reasons or poor impulse control or whatever, and sometimes people do it often enough to make a habit or a lifestyle out of it. I feel like that kind of person can make for an interesting villain too. It just has to be done in a way that actually digs into their psychology rather than just being mustache twirling “evil for the sake of evil” which yeah, is dumb. It could even serve as a kind of tragic villain where even they know what they’re doing is wrong but they can’t help themselves in the moment – which is itself a good horror premise because nobody likes the idea that they might not be 100% in control of themselves.

    That’s all I can remember so I guess it was only three things.

  • I just find it really funny that the guy just randomly ran into Marc Summers who showed him his robot eye just to be a douche, i guess?

  • LB

    Loving this so far! Any plans to post to Google play Music?

  • Matthew

    I agree that weird sea creature type things with tentacles and fish eyes are overdone. If not in movies then DEFINITELY in games. I think part of the problem is that people become really huge nerds about a thing and then they just want to pay homage to their favorite things they are nerdy about. Like 90% of video games are just homages to Tolkien, Star Wars, Bladerunner, or Lovecraft. And I honestly think that Lovecraft nerds develop a predilection for tentacles just because it seems like shorthand for “this horror story/movie/game is paying homage to lovecraft” which is supposed to be some kind of high five to fellow nerds or something.

    I guess another way of looking at it is that sometimes creators feel like they are making a new thing when really they are just making fan fiction about their favorite things. If that makes sense.

    Different topic: I agree that the mustache-twirling “hee hee I am so evil” character is bad. But I also don’t much care for the kind of evil that believes it is doing good. I personally think NATURE is terrifying. That’s why non-human creatures can be so awesome, because animals are not good or evil. Animals are just doing what animals do. When The Thing is attacking you, it’s not because it is evil or thinks that it is doing something that is good. It’s just following its natural drives. Some animals have a drive that compels them to build a nest, some are compelled to spin webs, and SOME creatures are compelled to lay eggs in human chest cavities. There is no rationale for it. And that’s terrifying!

    I also like what you said about overexplaining. While people often hail Cthulhu as the classic Lovecraft creature of terror, I think sometimes people forget that Lovecraft’s favorite terrifying creature of all was the UNEXPLAINED. Cthulhu himself is not scary. The fact that Cthulhu has no explanation and cannot be understood is the terrifying part. I think Stephen King also wrote a thing once about horror does not need an explanation and should not have one. As soon as you understand something, it immediately stops being scary. You may still feel threatened by it, but you no longer feel horror.

  • Albedo12

    It may be clichéd now, but I will always remember the first (and scariest) time I encountered the faceless man trope. It was the 4th “Sapphire and Steel” serial (unofficial fan title “The Man Without A Face” – imaginative!): After exploring a junk shop and encountering weird sepia ghost-children, Sapphire and Steel (otherworldly agents of an unnamed “Higher Power”) head upstairs to the flat above the shop. There they encounter its tenant, a young woman, and ask her about the ghosts and her mysterious landlord. Meanwhile, downstairs the children greet the man himself and beg to be allowed to hurt the strange visitors…
    The final scenes of the first episode are viewable here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UC8Gb56X_p8&feature=youtu.be&t=1275
    The bowler-hatted Faceless Man (listed only as “Shape” in the credits) deliberately resembles René Magritte’s “Man in a Bowler Hat” (face obscured by a dove), although perhaps has most in common with Magritte’s “Social Construction of Reality”. In this painting a black-suited man, his back to the viewer, is reaching toward a row of hooks on which hang a bowler, umbrella, and two faces. Likewise, In “Sapphire & Steel” the Shape adopts two different faces when he communicates with the investigators.
    In the following episodes, the Shape’s truly unique nature is uncovered, and although it’s perhaps a little too bizarre for some, it creeped the F out of me back when I watched the show as a child. I’ll not spoil it, in case your appetite has been whetted and you want to watch the show for yourself.

  • Alex

    Love the idea of being given a writing task in each episode. I was tempted to ask if we could email attempts at (short) creepypasta in so you can give us pointers but that seems like it would be burdensome.

  • eli

    I really enjoy the podcast, but I do have a critique, which relates to the what Kris was saying about speaking ex tempore. One of the common issues with speaking off the cuff is that it can result in some rambling and repetition. The trouble is that sometimes this seems to crowd Abby out a little bit. If you’ve made a point once, you can leave it be, allow some breathing space. I would really love to hear Abby coming more to the fore here and taking up more room, because she’s done the prep and the research, and because her own work makes it so abundantly clear that she has done a lot of creative, thoughtful work in these areas. Again, I do really like the podcast, and I enjoy hearing what both of you have to say–I always come away with new stuff to think about.

    • rhomboFine

      Am -huge- Kris Straub fan across the years, and I generally painted the whole situation as Abby being less podcast-savvy (which is understandable, as the other party has tons of experience in the field), but from the moment I read this and then listened to the episode, I sadly had to agree. Maybe that, for balance, Abby should really have a better quality of audio equipment (which in my opinion possibly makes her sound more ‘amateur’ than her knowledge of the topic and general professional experience in the field of horror fiction should make her obviously qualified for.

      Basically: Kris, you’re amazing at podcasts, and you’re definitely at your best when you’re being natural and going right off the bat. But I think you should accomodate Abby’s lack of personal experience in the media and give her a better chance to shine, because she sure got some solid content and a perspective I would personally love to hear more in-depth.

  • Lauren!

    I can’t get enough of this podcast, and you two are knocking it out of the park. I’m learning a ton about writing and horror, especially bad guys’ motives, which has always been a fun playground to explore. Plus, until this episode, I was never able to nail down why I enjoy horror, but not slashers, and love cons but never felt the pull to attend a Horror Convention 😛

  • Joshua M Cutlan

    regarding Stranger Things (Spoiler)

    I never got the impression that the monster was local to the that area of the upsidedown. It seemed that it was from where ever El was when she was in that black reflective space.. and then sensed and followed her consciousness back to the lab.

  • Nick Grugin

    Dug this episode a lot. Gave me a couple of ideas for short horror stories if I ever get courageous enough to write them