The Monster Factory Never Shuts Down

It’s tempting to picture a factory floor with MONSTERS hard at work at each station, manning (or monster-ing) heavy machinery, but this monster factory has one employee — me.

My cat pitches in, occasionally. His contributions are very cat-oriented. “Meow, you need a break, play with me.” “Purrrrrrr… that laptop computer is nice and warm. I shall sleep on it.” “No, you cannot use the printer right now. It is now mine.” His influence is apparent at odd moments in some of my stories, including the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired Monster-in-Progress. The movements of the mysterious black cat are drawn from his most devious moments. Most of the time he’s way too sweet and cuddly to be a menacing feline from a horror story. Of course he has his tiger side and he keeps me in line.

I’ve just completed the second draft of my Poe Monster, so I’m in research/sketching mode for my fourth in the Candy’s Monsters series. Right now I’m exploring the possibilities of an updated version of “The Strange Cast of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The Robert Louis Stevenson original is fantastic, but it’s dated. In some ways more dated than Bram Stoker’s Dracula and even Mary Shelley’s masterpiece. All three are timeless and yet set in specific eras with specific concerns and ideals.

The idea of taking the Jekyll/Hyde good & evil paradigm and placing it at a time of mood regulating psychopharmacology and when anti-heroes, bad guys and outlaws are admired in fiction, and real life, is intriguing.

What is GOOD & EVIL in the second decade of the 21st century? Is it as clear as it appeared to be in 1886 when Stevenson wrote his fabulous exploration of the dual nature of a man? In 1886 Sigmund Freud was just beginning his private medical practice with a specialty in “nervous disorders.” The unconscious, the subconscious, the id, ego and super ego were a long way off from common understanding — let alone pop-culture usage. We live in a post-Freud world. Stevenson did not.

The other thing that jumped out when I read “The Strange Case” last week was that it was entirely male-dominated. It’s about Dr. Jekyll and his circle of close friends — all men. The few women in the story are plot devices to forward actions in the storyline, but they are not true characters. There’s the maid admiring in the moon at her window who witnesses one of Hyde’s more grotesque acts of evil. She’s the most active of the women characters and she faints! I’m contemplating a contemporary Jekyll/Hyde story and yes, the women will act like 21st century women.

This is just in the first stages of MONSTER-making, but I have a good feeling about this strange case of good & evil. Have you ever read the original? Do you immediately think of the movies? There have been quite a few, including one with Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner from 1941. I have to see it again — it’s been years — but my recollections have almost nothing to do with the book.

What do you know about Dr. Jekyll and his dark side Mr. Hyde?


  1. My problems with the horror genre, and with most fantasy for that matter is that I don’t see either good or evil as absolutes. Even something as seemingly evil as killing someone requires context for it’s evilness. If you kill someone whilst defending your own life or the life of someone else is that evil? And if you’ve been abused from the cradle onwards and vent your emotions of betrayal, frustration and lack of worth by killing something or someone, is that truly evil or is it the response of someone who is broken?

    The closest I’ve ever come to defining evil is to postulate that there must be intent to do harm and some kind of enjoyment of the process of killing. That would cover serial killers but I still can’t help wondering if they are truly evil or at some level insane or genetically broken and therefore again not really accountable for their actions no matter how awful they may be.

    So… is Mr Hyde evil because he does bad things or is Mr Jekyll really the evil one for allowing pride? or curiosity? to overcome good judgement, thereby releasing the dark side of his own nature? Sorry, all I’ve got is a heap of questions.

    • Candy

      YES! That’s why a 21st Century Good/Evil discussion is never going to repeat the one Stevenson had in 1886.

      It’s funny, but while I was reading the original, I was thinking about how many fictional and theatrical riffs have rolled out of Jekyll & Hyde. One of my favorites is the episode of the original 1960s era Star Trek TV series. When good/evil splits are made the good are too weak — lacking in the decisive, aggressive, impulsive energy that is “not good” but is necessary for a good idea or man to prevail.

      You mentioned the context of killing and serial killers, have you seen the TV show Dexter? If not, maybe you can find it on the Internet. The backstory on the damaged killer and how/why he lives for murder is scary. Warning — sometimes there is simply too much blood for me.

      • Yes, I’ve watched Dexter and I really enjoyed it but I couldn’t help wondering why the rules put in place by Dexter’s father should carry so much weight. Perhaps I missed that bit or perhaps there is a continuum of psychopathy and not all psychopaths are the same.

        I agree that fictional good men often seem to come across as weak but I suspect that no real person would or could ever be /that/ good. 🙂

        • Candy

          It’s funny when a TV show (Star Trek) helps explain that pure good is not really good enough.

          As for Dexter, the “rules” his father set in place were not quite good enough as his father killed himself when he realized the full meaning of what he had done. Umm…. Nothing is ever easy — especially when speaking about GOOD & EVIL.

  2. I shan’t debate the merits of the original Star Trek Jekyll and Hydes or the various films depicting the pair ( though Spencer Tracy was best) . Nor will I try and debate the various excuses trotted out to re-define the reasons for killing like having had a deprived childhood or being made to grow a stupid toothbrush moustache.
    What I will say Candy is that you already touched on the very essence of Jekyll and Hyde, the charm followed by the hidden evil that is CAT! In fact I’m sure if R.L. Stevenson were only alive now I’d be asking if his story is based on mine, or maybe yours or maybe even Andrea’s since that’s one thing they seem to have in common.

    • Candy

      Hidden evil in the CAT. I will have to discuss it with him when he wakes up. He sleeps way too much to be good at being evil.

        • Candy

          I would dodge the whole argument and say that, although I don’t think cats are actually EVIL, I think they are more in touch with their evil side. I play with that in my Poe-inspried MONSTER when the subject of the Black Cat comes up. In Poe’s original, the black cat embodies the guilt of a man who strays and loses his way. It’s a difficult story to read, but it’s an object lesson in the way some people go off course and transform from “good” people to bad.

          As for the cat sharing my tiny apartment… he has his EVIL moments. He gets very angry at me when I chase him off the computer printer, but most of the time he’s a sweety-pie. Purrrrrrrrr…..

  3. Metan

    To me evil is all about intention. If a dreadful act is committed the intention behind it is the thing that makes it, or the person behind it, evil.
    As Andrea said, the same killing can be both justified or evil, depending on the intention behind it, in defence of your family or for a twisted pleasure.

    If only evil could be easily defined, narrowed down to a ‘thing’ we humans could eradicate!

    As for the evil of cat, hmmm… the intention there is purely selfish, does that mean acts committed by cat for self gratification, with no consideration for any other earthly beings, are the definition of evil? 😉

    • Candy

      In a fundamental way — you’re like the original character of Dr. Jekyll. You believe that evil could be defined and then eradicated. But you’ve added a 21st century idea of intention.
      Totally cool!

      I’m not so sure….

      And there’s the heart of my approach. Or, at least, the preliminary approach for the new book.