As a lifelong fan of science fiction, fantasy and horror, I’ve often wondered about the connections between pop culture monsters – Godzilla, Anne Rice’s vampire Lestat de Lioncourt, H.P. Lovecraft’s otherworldly Cthulhu, A Nightmare On Elm Street’s seemingly unstoppable mass murderer Freddy Krueger, The Hills’ man-eating succubus Kristin Cavallari, etc. – and the ancient predatory monstrosities of various mythologies around the world. The roots to most every monster that we read about in novels or watch on television begin in the shadowy folklore and myth of our past… (No, Stephenie Meyer didn’t invent vampires – and neither did Bram Stoker, for that matter!)
Any fantasy and/or horror fan with an iota of curiosity in their bodies will be doing the “Snoopy Happy Dance” when they lay their eyes upon They Bite: Endless Cravings of Supernatural Predators, a meticulously researched and lovingly produced reference guide by Jonathan Maberry and David F. Kramer (both Bram Stoker award winners) to literally hundreds of different monsters.
The introduction begins with this teaser:
“They’re out there. In the shadows. Moving out of sight in the darkness, or darting away from the corner of our eye. And yet we can feel them watching us with hungry eyes… supernatural predators that haunt our nightmares and even creep into our waking lives. What are they? What do they want? Where do they come from? Are they real or figments of our collective imagination?
These predators appear in all cultures and in many forms, from the seemingly beautiful and seductive to the hideous and repellent. We’ve always believed in monsters and they appear in all myths, all religions, and all kinds of folklore. Our holy books are as full of them as are epic poems and campfire tales. They fly on leathery wings or slither through the grass; they stalk the countryside on twisted goat legs or lope along through shadowy ruins on great clawed feet. But they’re all monsters, and they all want to take a bite...”
I have probably close to 100 assorted nonfiction books relating to SF and fantasy – compendiums, encyclopedias, reference guides, etc. – and I can honestly say that I have never run across anything quite like They Bite. Including an eight-page color insert and more than 100 black-and-white illustrations as well as insightful commentary from dozens of genre luminaries – John Carpenter, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Jeanne C. Stein, Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, Harry Shannon, Jack Ketchum, Fran Friel, Deborah LeBlanc, and even actress Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog, Swamp Thing, etc.) – this is one of the most unique and entertaining nonfiction works I’ve ever read.
And the diversity of information and enlightenment crammed into this guidebook. For example, I’ve been blabbing about the paranormal fantasy revolution for years – now I can pull quotes directly from They Bite to back up my statements: “In recent years the paranormal romance genre has grown from a tiny subgenre – either of horror or, more often, of the romance market – into a monster of a market share. By 2004 close to two hundred titles were being published per year, and that has grown steadily every year since, and sales of half a million copies per book have become fairly common.”
Broken down into sections – vampires, hell hounds and monster dogs, werewolves and wolf-men, cryptids and the science of cryptozoology, the unquiet dead, demons, tricksters and seducers, and lastly a 40-page bestiary – this reference guide should be in the personal libraries of anyone who calls themselves a fan of the dark side of fantasy. It’s that good….
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