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Peter Grandbois

Peter Grandbois is the author of The Gravedigger, The Arsenic Lobster, Nahoonkara and the PEN nominated translator of San Juan: Memoir of a City. He is also the author of numerous short stories. He is a professor of creative writing and contemporary literature at California State University in Sacramento.

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"The monsters Peter Grandbois gives us here aren't just painfully wonderfully human, they're each of us, they're all of us. After reading this, you'll see that you've had scales all along."

– Stephen Graham Jones

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Wait Your Turn

Fear and Loathing in B-Horror Movies

10/28/14

Peter Grandbois has presented, in novella form, a double feature of B-horror-film-based stories. Wait Your Turn and The Stability of Large Systems are strung out from the movies The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Fly, respectively.

He takes these movies and creates stories from them. In the first story, he depicts an actual creature, not a man, who was cast in the movie. He shows a monster who desires, and fails, to be human.

When exploring stories structured around B horror films in his double monster feature novellas, Peter Grandbois pinpointed their motive to incite fear.

“What brings you here?”
“I wanted to be afraid.”

If horror movies cause fear, then the behind-the-scenes story is the absence of love. In both of his stories, Grandbois depicts monsters that approach humanity or depart from humanity on the hinge of love. They are monsters because of their failure.

The Creature falls in love and has a child, but he cannot become fully human despite reconstructive surgery in that direction because he has destroyed the ability to love within himself and the object of his love between his strong hands.

The Fly becomes less human as his wife observes a change inside of him. “’You’ve changed,’ she said. ‘You’re not the person you once were. Something about you is different.” Helene says these things to her husband before his change. And it is these words that cause him to transform. “I wanted to say I needed her to see me as I once had been, to tell me I was the man she’d fallen in love with, perhaps then all would go back to normal.”

“I didn’t know which was more frightening. The fact that one month ago she no longer loved me because she thought I’d changed, or the fact that now that I really had changed, she seemed to love me more than ever.”

There is this pull on each monster to love and be loved, and it is not necessarily that they are not capable of love, merely that they just don’t. They don’t love their wives and they don’t love their children, and this is frightening.

This is what the author wants the audience to take away from these stories, maybe, but I don’t know if he believes it. “Movie magic is all about illusion. How easy it is for us to deceive ourselves, to be deceived. . . . With time, we see clearly.”

“Love’s illusions are as powerful as any manufactured by movies.” (Wait Your Turn)

“It is difficult to see things clearly in the present… Only with distance can we understand.” (The Stability of Large Systems)

There is this sense of distancing, like how one writes fiction to get at certain truths that feel too close to be spoken of honestly. Love is an illusion, Grandbois writes, no matter how monstrous the opposite of love may be. Time and space are the antidotes, it seems, to both love and fear. Both fear and love are catalysts to keep the human species alive. But what if you don’t feel human? What if you want to do something other than merely survive?

In the end, both monsters have escaped from society, but they can’t escape from themselves. They each try to hurt what they have tried to love. It is an effort to bring that spectrum of love and fear together and make the distance between them negligible.

Grandbois has presented two excellently-crafted novellas, and they definitely made me want to read more of his work, especially the rest of this series.

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