TOD 048 Jesse Bullington: The Fiend with a Thousand Faces: Monsters as a Mirror of Humanity

In this podcast The Outer Dark presents The Fiend with a Thousand Faces: Monsters as a Mirror of Humanity, a lecture by author Jesse Bullington, also Alex Marshall and a guest at The Outer Dark Symposium 2019. This 25th Annual Adams Lecture in the Humanities was recorded live at San Diego State University (SDSU) in San Diego, California, on Thursday April 25, 2019.

Intro: Jesse Bullington

Jesse Bullington joins Scott to introduce the presentation which he delivered as part of a wider interdisciplinary lecture series titled Mapping Monstrosity Across, Time, Space, and Media at San Diego State University. A passionate conversation ensues about how to tackle a question our readers can relate to: ‘How do you ever stop talking about monsters?’

Show Notes

(00:27:30) Raechel Dumas, Assistant Professor in Humanities at SDSU, introduces writer Jesse Bullington
who presents the lecture The Fiend with a Thousand Faces: Monsters as a Mirror of Humanity. Jesse begins with posing the question ‘What was your first monster?’ and revealing his own childhood obsession with werewolves. This intro frames the thesis of his talk:  the roles monsters have played in our collective history and how he uses monsters in his own writing. He steps back in time to the roles that monsters played historically in storytelling and how our view of the monster evolved from enemy to protagonist in Renaissance Europe with Rabelais and Milton, reaching its full restructured potential in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He touches on Bram Stoker’s Dracula and then digs deep into the cosmic horror ‘monstrous’ of H.P. Lovecraft, both ‘everybody’s favorite cringe-inducing racist uncle’ and a catalyst (‘wild mutation!’) to reaffirm the agency of marginalized peoples for contemporary authors such as Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Victor LaValle, Junjo Ito, Livia Llewellyn, Nadia Bulkin, and more. Jesse then shifts to how he used monsters in his first two novels, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart and The Enterprise of Death. The talk turns to an exploration of how monsters cycle in our imagination and how even when markets are glutted by stories about a particular trope, some author will find a new approach, citing three recent werewolf books as examples: Indra Das’ The Devourers, Stephen Graham Jones’ Mongrels, and Emil Ferris’s graphic novel, My Favorite Thing is Monsters. Jesse then considers monsters and the stigma of mental illness, including a personal epiphany inspired by the achingly beautiful Kornwolf, by Tristan Egolf, culminating in his own reflective conclusion on why we need monsters.  A Q&A with the student audience ends the podcast.

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Additional Links

Swords v Cthulhu, Edited by Jesse Bullington & Molly Tanzer

Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

“The Outsider” by HP Lovecraft

Innsmouth Free Press

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James 

The Company of Wolves (1984) trailer

Ovid’s Metamorphosis (Werewolf transformation)

Rigor Mortis (2013) trailer & on Shudder

Let the Right One In (2008) trailer & on Shudder

Show Credits

Host/Executive Producer: Scott Nicolay

Co-Host, News From the Weird: Justin Steele

Producer/Show Notes: Anya Martin

Logo Design: Nick “The Hat” Gucker

Music: Michael Griffin

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