Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Shame on You, Dave Elliott!

Dave Elliott, you should be ashamed of yourself! You too, C.J. Henderson and R. Allen Leider! In case my normal readers are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, I’m speaking to the writers of a book I recently purchased. The title is A Field Guide to Monsters, and it is, well, exactly what the title implies it is. It talks about movie monsters, more familiar ones like Dracula, Godzilla, and Freddy Krueger, and more obscure ones like the Wasp Woman, (The Wasp Woman, 1960) the Crab Monsters, (Attack of the Crab Monsters, 1957) and the Melting Man. (The Incredible Melting Man, 1977)

I thought it would be a good “at a glance” guide, (the book is only 192 pages long) and it is. It’s a good starting point if you’re serious about researching monsters. However, a lot of the information in this guide is ar oh en gee WRONG.

Some of the misinformation in the guide is for humorous purposes. For instance, it states (page 160) the Abe Sapiens, a fish-man of Hellboy fame teaches swimming at the local Y. Not true, but funny. Comments like that are not only forgivable, but enjoyable.

However, there are many mistakes which are simply not funny. For example, the guide claims (page 143) that Lestat de Lioncourt, Anne Rice’s most famous vampire, can be killed with garlic, silver, and wooden stakes. Not true. According to Louis, the vampire played by Brad Pitt in the movie version of Interview with the Vampire, none of these things are effective. Sunlight, yes. Decapitation/dismemberment, yes. Fire, mostly effective. But none of the other things we humans tend to run to for vampire defense, including crosses and holy water, are effective against Anne Rice’s vampires. See, she chose to work outside of Bram Stoker’s model, that’s why she came up with the whole “dead blood” thing. Basically, if a vampire drinks blood from a dead person, they die too. It makes sense, seeing as they prolong their lives by drinking blood from living people. Besides, they need a weakness somewhere if the traditional ones are out.

And in the entry for the Master (page 147), the main villain from Buffy the Vampire Slayer season one, a picture of the Gentlemen is shown in place of the Master vampire himself. The Gentlemen are villains from season four, and they are not even vampires.

The Master (upper)

The Gentlemen (lower)

See the difference? Not only are the Gentlemen completely different monsters than vampires, (they like hearts better than blood) they don’t even look remotely like vampires. They have the same pale skin and inhuman eyes, but if you look at their teeth, (and how can’t you, they’re always smiling with a bright red rictus that would put the Joker to shame) you’ll note that they have blunt, useless, not to mention rotted, human teeth. How are they supposed to suck blood without their fangs?!

Another thing, the authors fail to credit the books many of these monsters first appear in. They only list the monster’s first appearance in a movie. And in the case of the Thing, (page 84) they credit its first appearance as John Carpenter’s 1982 film, when really, the Thing’s first film appearance was in 1951. Granted, the 1982 film was more faithful to the novella, but still, know your film history if your going to write about it. And don’t forget, that a lot of the monsters we enjoy wouldn’t be here if not for the creative minds of H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, H.P. Lovecraft, Anne Rice, and Stephan King. And many others. So the books deserve some credit.

Now, I understand that there are not so many people out there who are serious about the subject of monster research, but if you are going to write a book that children and impressionable adults may read, you should get your facts straight. And with the number of geeks and fanboys/fangirls out there on the internet, there’s really no excuse for getting certain details wrong.

So, I say, "Shame on you Dave Elliott." Especially since the book I purchased was a second edition.