Victor Lavalle’s latest novel, The Devil In Silver, is about a man in a psychiatric hospital who, along with the other patients, has to figure out a way to fight a terrifying creature that roams the hallways. He recently sat with the New York Times’s John Williams and here’s what he had to say about what makes for the best monsters:
The best monsters are our anxieties given form. They make sense on the level of a dream, or a nightmare. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was a story about the fear of immigration; the bad old bloodsucker swooping in from Eastern Europe and also preying upon “our” vulnerable women. The American zombie (from George Romero on) bubbled up because our country has no culture of ancestor worship. In America, when you’re dead you’re gone. Who else would find it so terrifying that the dead have returned?
My devil, I realize now, is my nightmare embodiment of our country as we suffer the convulsions of terrifying change. The bison is a fabled beast of our romanticized past. The withered, livid body bears a resemblance to our current moment. The creature is beautiful and horrifying. I’m afraid you could say the same about us.