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  • Writer's pictureblaine daigle

Here, There Be Monsters




I love the ocean.


I love everything about its vast depths. It's endless horizon. The slow and steady rocking atop waves that seem borne from nowhere and going nowhere, yet exist in that small second of time to affect whoever sits atop it.


I've always thought that had things worked out differently, had I not had a family and was left entirely to my own devices, I would have left the bayous of Louisiana and found some little seaside community to set my roots in. How amazing it would feel to walk outside every day to the salty breeze coming off the sea. To walk down an old street and see shops selling a day's catch.


Things haven't quite worked out that way, but I think you get a decent idea of why I've always wanted to write a story set out on the ocean. It's always just held my imagination in a vice. Growing up on the Gulf Coast, the ocean never seemed alien to me. We were around it constantly, and family vacations almost exclusively occurred along its shores.


And yet, despite that familiarity, there is still an air of mystery to the thing. And despite my love and affection for it, there is a terror there as well. A terror so deep with the collective consciousness of man that horror, like an evolutionary species itself, seems born from the waves.


Sea monsters have long been the stuff of nightmares for any culture that dared move in upon the sea's domain. The book of Revelation mentions part of man's end coming at the hands of the Leviathan emerging from the depths. Norse mythology talks about the world serpent Jörmungandr, whose final battle with Thor marked the theatre of Ragnarok. There are whales themselves, things so massive and intelligent they feel almost like gods. Moby Dick tells the fictionalized account of a very real story of one of those gods enacting its wrath upon those who attempted to kill it (seriously, if you haven't read In the Heart of the Sea, do it. Fascinating story). And that only scratches the surface, It all leads to a phrase only echoed across the endless waves of the open sea. A phrase coined by cartographers to explain what awaits beyond the scope of man's understanding and exploration.


"Here, there be monsters."


And so we populated the seas with our own monsters as well. HP Lovecraft slipped the ancient city of R'lyeh beneath its waves and housed a sleeping leviathan within its walls. John Carpenter rolled a fog off the edge of an island community and filled it with the reckoning of the dead. Sirens and mermaids established permanent and dark footholds in our cultural understanding of the sea.


And the very real horrors of flooding and tsunamis and hurricanes rear their ugly heads often enough to remind us that for every fictional monster, a real one exists as well and just as darkly.


When I first sat down to write A Dark and Endless Sea, I did so under the working title of Leviathan. I wanted there to be a sense of existential danger, of looming doom and destruction. Something epic. But as I wrote it, I found that these monsters, as massive and destructive as they are (both in fiction and reality) exist even more destructively inside the collective imagination and experiences of men who've come too close to the void. Men who've reached too far into depths to forget what they've seen within. Because the limited perspective of the human mind is fragile, and the vastness of the sea can only be partially understood. So, in the same way that Lovecraft honed a cosmic entity of unthinkable scale into a short story of something sleeping below the waves, or Carpenter unloaded the visual representation of betrayal and revenge into a thick fog, I felt as though the story were better told if the scale was smaller. More intimate.


And in the end, what is the human consciousness if not a dark and endless sea of possibilities only partially understood? Of terrors formed only by our innermost fears?


I love the ocean. But it terrifies me as well. And perhaps the most terrifying thing about it may not be what populates it at all. Maybe it's that feeling of floating in emptiness. That feeling when the sea doesn't house monsters, but rather the unrelenting pressure of water all around you. Even below the surface, in the calm and weightless space, might looking into the abyss and seeing only the black possibilities be worse than seeing something emerging from its depths? Feeling the cold press against your skin as you realize how alone you really are?


I wrote this book because I always wanted to write a story on the ocean. Now that it is here, I find myself drawn back to it again. New nautical horrors have already needled their way into my imagination, and I can feel them pulling me away from other story ideas more fleshed out and waiting for their chance. I would love to say no and continue down my planned path, but I don't know if I can.


The sea has a way of speaking. A voice somehow louder and quieter than the others, One that begs to be heard. And it's one I might be wise to listen to as well. Horror needs its baddies, and what better way to keep churning out those nightmares than to look to the sea for its endless supply? Or maybe the ideas will come from other places in my mind.


Because, here, there be monsters.





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