The Big Idea: John Wiswell

“Normal” looks different on everyone. This can be especially true if you happen to be a shapeshifter. Come along with author John Wiswell as he shows you what normality is for the main character of his newest novel, Someone You Can Build A Nest In, as well as a bit about what normal looks like for himself.


How does a Fantasy adventure look from the point-of-view of the monster everyone wants to slay?

That’s something I’ve been thinking since I was a little kid. We all agree monsters are cool, right? We have art of them, read stories about them, and dress up as them for Halloween. You can only read so many stories about heroically killing off camps of vile goblins before you wonder. What was Medusa’s daily life like for all those years, before the day Perseus showed up with his sword and his destiny? Before Jonathan Harker visited, what was the emotional landscape of all the centuries inside Dracula’s dark castle?

To put it another way: what are the internal lives of all the creatures our stories pretend don’t have them?

Because wherever we deny empathy and internal life, we usually find the most interesting stories have been hidden. Monsters are often repositories of those things society wishes didn’t exist—hence all the disability-coding in ogres and queer-coding in vampires. When you turn a monster over in your hands and look at the different angles, you often find things you relate to. The things that make you feel unwanted. Fantasy is a special genre for exploring those parts of our lives.

Also? Tentacles are awesome. Wings, spiked tails, and shells harder than iron. Just the idea of living in a body where that sort of thing is normal is interesting. Any life you live long enough is normal to you. As a disabled guy living in a body that has tried to kill me numerous times, I love learning other people’s normality.

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Source: The Big Idea: John Wiswell

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