Spooktober is a 31 day event of coming up with original horror ideas based on prompts my writing group argues over. I have always liked the idea of creating iconic monsters, like the Silent Hill guys, or the Cenobites, etc. To that end, and as an additional challenge for myself, I came up with a way to break down the existing iconic monsters, to make sure I’m addressing different aspects of creature design. The idea is that if I’m not ignoring or forgetting any of the elements that can contribute to a monster’s success, I’m more likely to chance on a hot discovery. Putting that to the test this Spooktober, each of my entries include Themes, Motifs, Colors, Shapes, Textures, Powers, and Places, as ways of describing my starring monsters.
That was the idea, but shortly after the event began some jokers thought it would be cool to add another layer of challenge with optional additional themes for each day. Many of those optional themes were kind of facetious, and as I compulsively tried to include all of them, my ambition to do iconic monsters disintegrated. I still had the fields to fill out in my descriptions, but now what purpose are they serving? I dunno.
My posters this year are a little more epic because I finally caved to paying a few bucks for Midjourney. Midj can only very rarely do outputs that work for me unmodified; almost all of these are modified with web-based photoshop knockoff Photopea. A very few actually include elements from DALL-E 2 and even Artbreeder, which has some fun new features to help it keep up with the big boys. On posting it I haven’t done all the tags and alts, so inaccessible! I’ll try to get to that later.
SPOOKTOBER DAY #1 — Ghost
TITLE: Collecting Dust
PREMISE: Ghosts are usually mere phantoms of their former selves, with little will to survive, pantomiming the emotions of their own personal hells until they disintegrate after a few or a few hundred years. But some few are driven to survive, to rage against the dying of the light. They awaken to the realities of their new world – the world of the dead – and get by in the only ways possible there. Basically, you need to find the best hiding place ever, or you need to power up, by feeding on weaker ghosts.
A collector folds the ghost of a young lady into his essence, to use her trauma and her power to extend his own unlife, as he has done many times before. He feels like he should honor those victims by holding some of their memories and essence in reserve, not letting them be forgotten, but he keeps more of this particular ghost intact than usual. Is it love? How do you love somebody who has become part of yourself? Because you did the supernatural predator thing to them?
Collectors: Themes: Bowerbirds and Landsknechte; Motifs: Cloth, Sewing Materials, Junk Drawer Contents; Colors: Monochrome, Ivory White to Sepia Black; Shapes: Humans, Sometimes with Other Human Parts Grafted or Overlaid like Double Exposure, Renaissance-Baroque Cut in Clothing; Textures: Bone, Translucent Ectoplasm, Teeth, Thread, Lace, Pale Wood; Powers: Absorbing Ghosts, Classic Ghostly Distortions of Space, Time, and Life / Death Energies; Places: The world of the dead is smaller than the world of the living, consisting of places ghosts might dwell, with sludgy rotten chaos between them. Basically, there’s no equivalent of a place so remote no human would reach it, so everything is compressed.
HORROR ELEMENT: This is the afterlife. No heaven or hell, no way out, just a continuation of the dreary exploitation and emotional torments of being alive.
SPOOKTOBER DAY #2 — Subterranean (× Dance or Asian Horror or War)
TITLE: Conrad’s Sojourn in the Mausolean Deeps
PREMISE: An Alice in Wonderland type scenario, with a sexy young gothic man with long black hair (asian horror lol) finding a graveyard leads to a dreamworld of magic (subterranean). The creatures there are in eternal war (war) with each other. Are they real? Does any of this matter? Is this just some shit he is imagining as he lays dying in a crypt where nobody can find him?
The Dominant Faction, The Crystalline Empire: Themes: The Falsity of Romance, Performance (dance); Motifs: Imitation Nature; Colors: Pastel Rococo or Jewel Tones; Shapes: Humanoid and Artificial; Textures: Sculpted, Manufactured, Painted, Mineral, Wood, Metal; Powers: Industrialized Murder; Places: The lowest layers of the Mausolean Deeps are crystallized into pure artifice, an endless rococo mansion interspersed with garden caverns.
The Insurrection, The Worms of Wrath: Themes: Fury and Insanity; Motifs: Faerie Tales and Napoleonic War; Colors: Earth Tones to Black, Jewel Accents; Shapes: Humanoid and Chimerae, Plant and Animal Features; Textures: Fur, Leather, Felt, Rustica; Powers: Chaos; Places: The uppermost layers of the Mausolean Deeps are rootbound caverns, leading down to the warzone with the enemy.
HORROR ELEMENT: Obvious Alice in Wonderland scenario. But wouldn’t that suck to really be in an absurd situation with a bloodthirsty edge? Or is that too real to be compelling in fiction?
SPOOKTOBER DAY #3 — Cursed Object (× Chick Flick or Industrial or Paranoia)
TITLE: Holy Matrimony!
PREMISE: A Lebanese christian immigrant lady is getting married to an WASPy American dude, and her future sister-in-law wants everything to be perfect in the 21st century bridal industry sense (chick flick). She buys an antique middle eastern brass vase from a sweaty guy who is asking way below market value, and brings it to the bridal shower as a gift. It’s wrapped in papers covered in writing, and jammed up with a cruddy clay seal set in place with cruddy wax. A few glasses of wine in and the bride and future sis try to open the seal together.
Big mistake. ‘Twas the brazen vessel (cursed object) spoken of in The Sworn Testament of Solomon. Demons possess many party-goers and random peeps in the neighborhood. The clay seal contained Solomon’s ring and the wrapping paper had the Testament to explain its use for the ladies.
Solomonic Demons: Themes: Cravenness, Corruption, and Bullying; Motifs: Unnatural Light and Distortion, Like Iridescence and Rippling Heat Waves, Colors: Vivid Human and Animal Hues; Shapes: Mostly Human, Some Chimeric Elements; Textures: Scales, Fur, Coarse Hair, Beautiful Flesh – Like the Creatures in a Fundie End Times Pamphlet; Powers: Super Strength, Poisoning, Telekinesis, Summoning Insects, etc.; Places: Whitebread Suburbia and The Utility Facilities on the Other Side of the Hedges.
HORROR ELEMENT: Who is demon possessed and who is not? Unwilling to look bonkers from yelling “out, demon!” at friends and neighbors, it becomes a social puzzle (paranoia). The final confrontation with Lucifer takes place in the tunnels of a local waterworks (industrial).
SPOOKTOBER DAY #4 — Body Horror (× Medical or Road Trip or Kiddie Horror)
TITLE: Bobby Nelson Vs. The Zits
PREMISE: Bobby (kiddie horror) has bad acne (body horror) and tries an experimental medication on them (medical). The Zits leave his body as little homonculi that grow human-sized and murderous. Only he can defeat them, by shoving them back into his skin. Monster hunting uncles as thinly veiled parodies of the Supernatural boys take him in pursuit, in the back of their muscle car (road trip).
The Zits: Themes: Building Pressure and Release; Motifs: Corruption, Acne Gone Wild; Colors: Green, Amber, Pink; Shapes: Giant Fetuses; Textures: Slime; Powers: Endless Regeneration, Slime Bursts; Places: The Clinic, The Junior High, Route 666.
HORROR ELEMENT: Puberty sucks. Buff uncle mans make Bobby feel like a gross little nerd.
SPOOKTOBER DAY #5 — Aliens / Space (× Apocalypse or Victorian or Beach)
TITLE: Darwin’s Finches
PREMISE: The Galapagos Islands (beach). Charles Darwin (victorian) is studying the wildlife when alien spores (alien) get into the plant life. Finches eat the seeds, then get an appetite for human brains – and a high reproductive rate. When your brain is eaten by a finch, the bird pilots your body like a mech, makes you pull eggs out of your ears and stick them in other people. First the crew of The Beagle, next the world (apocalypse).
Alien Finches: Themes: Survival of the Fittest; Motifs: Eggs and Feathers; Colors: Yolk, Blood, Mottled Earth Tones of Feathers; Shapes: Birdy Profiles; Textures: Bristles and Fluff, Crystalline Shells and Slimy Drips; Powers: Get in the Fucking Robot Shinji (memes); Places: The Galapagos Islands.
HORROR ELEMENT: Bird-brains are coming to get you, Barbara.
SPOOKTOBER DAY #6 — Devils & Demons (× 1970s or Soap Opera or Gangster)
TITLE: Your Heart Belongs to Me
PREMISE: 1970s (1970s) TV show (soap opera) set in a hospital. Nurses, doctors, administrators, patients, security guards, janitors, etc… they’re all having hot, naked affairs. But you need other kinds of plots, so I guess La Cosa Nostra (gangster) is stealing organ donations or something.
The show was ordinary enough, but got cancelled on pressure from the Vatican when an attempt at moralizing backfired. The writers had been ordered to demonstrate that the sinful actions of the characters were wrong, and chose to do so by making it the influence of a hot succubus nurse (devils & demons). But the public loved the succubus and demanded they write her into more and more of the show.
Simonia Mefistofilli: Themes: Passion and Excitement, Delight in Decadence; Motifs: Sexy and Nurse; Colors: Olive Skin, Pale Green Eyes, Thick but Luscious Make-up; Shapes: Va Va Voom; Textures: Soft Skin; Powers: Stoke the Sinful Within; Places: Hell and Santa Maria’s Hospittali. Or however you spell that shit in Italiano. 🤌
HORROR ELEMENT: Don’t have hot naked affairs in piles of stolen organs. Jesus said.
SPOOKTOBER DAY #7 — Folklore (× Art House or Home Invasion or Teen)
Werner Herzog Sold Me to One Direction in The Purge um… Karasu Kiriyu
PREMISE: J-Pop star Kiriyu X Yama makes life weird for everyone around him (arthouse). Fumi, the daughter (teen) of his manager Mari, has a romance with him. But what happens when the manic pixie dream boy’s original band comes back for revenge, flapping down chimneys (home invasion) and battering the windows of their home in the mountains with feathered wings? Those mofos are crow goblins – karasu tengu – and so is Kiriyu.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Tengu (folklore): Themes: The Freedom of Rock, Savagery, and Transcendant Beauty; Motifs: Feathers of Course, and Other Birdy Details; Colors: Shiny Black and Pale Grey, Shapes: Punky Boys, Birdy Silhouettes; Textures: Taut Skin, Bristling Feathers; Powers: Shape Shifting, Flight, Illusion; Places: The Hip Parts of Osaka (do those exist?), Backstage, Skyscrapers, a Mountain Mansion.
HORROR ELEMENT: The concept of shapeshifters treated abstractly again, like in my previous spooktobers Touch Me I’m Sick and its sequel. Kiriyu himself could be seen with a single claw, with wings growing out of his eyes, with bird heads for fingers, whatever. His bandmates invade the home in a series of increasingly surreal horror events. At last, the horror is love lost, as Kiriyu just flies away with Fumi’s heart.
SPOOKTOBER DAY #8 — Witch / Wizard (× Grindhouse or 1980s or Video Game)
PREMISE: Scotty used to be physically active, but got into video games and ended up bumming around the house all the time, enfeebled. Even though his new pal Rico was long-haired, his parents were just glad the dude could convince him to get out of the la-Z-boy. Little did they know, Rico wanted to get Scotty involved in the IRL version of (video game) Sk8 or Die.
The world of extreme skate boys (1980s) was improbably sleazy and stereotypical (grindhouse). Greasy bookies, mobsters, fast girls with wall-o-bangs, boys with bare midriffs, spray-paint and cardboard and blood on the cement. But Rico isn’t just bringing Scotty into that world for funsies and moneys. It’s about the spiritual side of skating, man (witch/wizard). The place where you lose yourself and find yourself all over again.
Shredders: Themes: The Apollonian and The Dionysian; Motifs: Young Mens in Motion and Painfully Bright Skies; Colors: Black and Blue with Streaks of Red; Shapes: Skinny Bods with Scant but Baggy Clothes; Textures: Flesh and Bone; Powers: Touching the Godhead When They Should Be Seeing Stars, Places: Night and Day, School and Concrete Hell.
HORROR ELEMENT: How much skin are you willing to lose, how much of your body will you destroy, to free your soul? Scotty and Rico go all the way, and leave nothing but streaks of blood and broken decks on their way to Nirvana.
SPOOKTOBER DAY #9 — Southern Gothic (× Parody or Holiday or Virus)
TITLE: Columbus Day in Paradise
PREMISE: The US Virgin Islands (southern). Columbus Day (holiday) means not much more than a different theme in cocktail lounge decor. But a Taino descendant waitress catches a freaky fever (virus), and pressured into working through her illness (gothic), spends all day hallucinating the atrocities of Cristoforo Colombo, overlaying her day-to-day sights of tourists and tax scoundrels sleazing their time away.
Colonialism: Themes: Greed and Dehumanization; Motifs: Torture and Genocide; Colors: Blood; Shapes: Shackles; Textures: Wounds; Powers: “Manifest Destiny;” Places: The World That Was Lost and The World That Remains.
HORROR ELEMENT: I ain’t gonna reiterate the reasons Columbus’s name should be as hated as Hitler’s, but u can google it to see what our heroine was seeing. At the climax of the story a manager forced her to watch a remedial customer service video which, through her fever, became a very grim parody (parody).
SPOOKTOBER DAY #10 — Cyberpunk (× Caper/Heist or Lifetime/Mom Movie or Erotic Thriller)
TITLE: Love Heist
PREMISE: In the ’90s Cinemax used to air a few different genres of movies as the night wore on, all very low budget: softcore erotica, action adventure and horror films. On the one hand, movies with the ilk of Shannon Tweed and Julie Strain; on the other, Billy Blanks and Don “The Dragon” Wilson. For one golden moment, some crazy-ass producer crossed the streams, and Love Heist was born.
In a dystopian future (cyberpunk), minds are managed by corporations, emotions doled out for extortion prices to a desperate public. Billy Blanks and Shannon Tweed are regular joes (lifetime/mom movie), firefighters in the suburbs of NeoCyberVanCouver. But they are tired of their loveless marriage, and hatch a wild scheme to steal love (caper/heist) from EmoCo Inc’s DeathTower. With kickboxing and sex (erotic thriller).
EmoCo Inc’s DeathTower: Themes: Soulless Crapitalist Reselling of Basic Human Needs; Motifs: Stainless Steel and Vending Machine Interfaces; Colors: The Blue Light Omnipresent in These Genres; Shapes: Probably Those Generic Alien Knockoff Hallways; Textures: Cold Metal; Powers: Sell You Emotions; Places: DeathTower, a Tower of Death.
HORROR ELEMENT: OK, not exactly horror. I think their emotional control units are fried while fighting their way thru the tower, and feel love for each other even tho they lost. Aww! Queue five minute sex scene.