The Six-headed Hydra enters the interview room, and tries to sit on the couch that Ceillie has prepared for her. After a couple of clumsy attempts, she decides not to sit, pretending that was her intention from the beginning. The Harpy arrives flying slowly and lands on the back of the armchair that has been assigned to her. Her claws make slightly disturbing noises when she adjusts the grip on the leather.
Ceillie approaches the Hydra, off record.
I just wanted to ask, before we start, if you have a designated speaker, or if I should ask the questions to all of you?
Head5: “All of us”
Head4: “It’s me”
Head3: “No, thanks”
Great. Let’s get started, all right?
[All the heads nod.]
We are delighted to interview today two very special guests, and to talk with them about the Making Monsters anthology, a mixed fiction and non-fiction publication about monsters of the Classical Past. Welcome Hydra and Harpy. So, Hydra, are you excited about this project?
Head2: “Very much!” [All heads nod heavily with enthusiasm]
Why did you feel we need more stories about Classical Monsters?
Head3: “To be fair, we were getting more and more upset by the roles we are usually confined in.”
Head1: “No one likes to be in a story only as something to find, or fight or kill!”
Head3: “We have much more to say!”
I am sure!
Head2: “All these heroes in arms travelling just to kill one of us in our own houses…”
Head3: “It’s not ok.”
Head4: “Maybe we didn’t like him either, you know?”
Head5: “But we didn’t go to his house to kill him.”
Head1: “We like you, though.” [Head1 smiles goofily]
Aww thank you! And you Harpy? What do you think about humans?
Harpy: “They are scum. Scuuuuuum…” [She shrieks. A feather falls slowly on the floor]
Do you think that the monsters have been misrepresented? That they are kinder than the classical tradition has led us to think?
Will you be selecting the stories, Hydra and Harpy?
Harpy: “No Djibril al-Ayad and Emma Bridges will. Djibril is the editor in chief of the SF magazine The Future Fire and he co-edited and published several SF themed anthologies. Emma is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies, with a special interest in the representation of women. We sort of trust them.”
Head1: “We will advise, though!”
Head3: “We will!”
Is there anything in particular you’d like to see in the stories that get picked?
Harpy: “We want stories that look at classical monsters like us, as creatures that are marginalised because they are different, but that are also empowered by their diversity. We are especially looking for stories of “monstrous women” like Medusa, Scylla, Lilith, Kiyohime or Krasue, that emphasise the transgressiveness and non-compliance to standards of these characters through their bodies, skills and behaviours. We would like to see stories that explore marginalisation of women, including intersections with other axes of oppression and violence such as race, gender identity, sexuality, disability, language and religion.”
And what do you really not want to see?
Head4: “Stories where the monsters are slaughtered or abused.”
Head3: “Stories where the monsters are only metaphorical.”
Head6: “Stories where ‘monster’ is a label for despicable human beings.”
Head1: “We are not only symbols.”
Head2: “We are real.”
Head5: “Don’t you see us?”
Do you think that classical monsters are still relevant to the contemporary audience? And what do you mean exactly with ‘classical’?
Harpy: “Monsters and humans have always been living together, crossing the same spaces, not always peacefully. We are part of each other’s history. Look around you: ancient monsters are still so present in the human public imagination. We are in movies, comics, video games, toys, artworks. Even in your languages. Of course we are relevant, we’ll always be. What is classic? Some of us has been living in this world for a very long time, although in different parts of it. This anthology is going to be about us, the older ones.”
But let’s get to know each other a little bit better. Hydra, you are a monster, but is there something that scares you?
Head1: “We tried to put on a jumper once.”
Head4: “Never again.”
Head2: “It was awful.”
Harpy, how would you describe your perfect date?
Harpy: “I like to surprise my men attacking them from behind. Then I devour their hearts. Can’t think of anything better. [The Hydra moves slightly away]
… Ok! Is there a human that you admire?
And you Hydra?
Head5: “We are great fans of the art of Leonora Carrington. Have you seen her monsters? They are amazing!”
Head2: “And Annie Lennox!”
Head4: “Oh, yes. We all love Annie. She’s fabulous.
Head3: [Hums “No more ‘I love you’s”]
Harpy, do you have a recurring dream?
Harpy: “I tend to be in them.”
Do you feel more woman or more bird?
Harpy: “I feel like myself. I am not a hybrid. I am a whole.”
Do you want to tell us more about the relationship with your sisters?
Harpy: “My sisters are everything to me. Alone we are oddities. Together, we become a menace.”
Hydra, Harpy, thank you for coming to visit with me and for not killing me, like I know you very well could. Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about the anthology you’re a part of?
Head6: “Yes! We have a call for stories and poems that is still open!”
Head2: “Send us your stories!”
Head1: “And poems!”
Head3: “Please, read the guidelines first, though!”
Harpy: “You only have until the 28th of February.”
Thanks again, I wish you best of luck with your anthology.
All heads: “Thank you!”
Head1: “It was great!”
Head3: “Soooo great!”
Harpy moves her head as a farewell, then flies away. The Hydra walks toward the door. The heads talk to each other inaudibly. She stops, hesitates. Then moves again and exits the door. After few seconds, one of the heads pops into the doorframe:
Head4: “We like your blog!”
[Head disappears, embarrassed.]
Valeria Vitale helped the Hydra and the Harpy to voice their thoughts. She is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies and an Associate Editor of The Future Fire magazine. She is one of the academic authors featured in the Making Monsters anthology. Hydra and Harpy can also be found in the Colouring Monsters booklet that is free to download. If you enjoyed this post, follow the #ICSmonsters on Twitter.
The art is “The Lonely Gorgon” by Robin Kaplan, and will be the cover art for the anthology!