I’ve been knee-deep in revisions for months now, it seems like. The third Malevolent book, Malicious, is developing in all kinds of directions I didn’t foresee in the first draft. Heck, the first draft, I didn’t know what the plot was until I was almost finished. The plan is to release books 2 (Malcontent) and 3 (Malicious) a month apart, but I don’t know if I can do it.
So as I’m chewing on the various aspects of monsters and what makes them monstrous, I keep asking myself about what it means to be truly human. I’m beta-reading a book right now about a kid who turns into a vampire, and it raises the same question. What separates us from the monsters?
It’s interesting to see this definition of humanity:
“he praised them for their standards of humanity, care, and dignity”
synonyms: compassion, brotherly love, fraternity, fellow feeling, philanthropy, humaneness, kindness, consideration, understanding, sympathy, tolerance
Isn’t it interesting that the higher virtues are the pinnacle of being human? When you talk about “the vampire seemed so human”, you don’t mean that he had four limbs and a face. You refer to his benevolent nature.
On the flipside, we also have the word inhuman:
lacking human qualities of compassion and mercy; cruel and barbaric.
synonyms: cruel, harsh, inhumane, brutal, callous, sadistic, severe, savage, vicious, barbaric
This is where you get monsters–the werewolves and vampires, the evil kings and wizards of fantasy, the evil aliens of science fiction.
So, to be truly human, one must exercise the virtues. To be a monster, one exercises the base nature. And it’s WAY easier to be a monster than it is to be a human. That struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. The Apostle Paul’s cry of, “Why do I do the things I don’t want to do, and don’t do the things that I want to do?”
As I’m chewing through these books, they constantly raise questions like this. If a dangerous monster protects the girl he loves, is he humane? And if a human being whose job is to protect people from the monsters suddenly begins destroying the people she should protect, is she the true monster?
I think that’s one reason people like the paranormal romance genre. We love the contradiction of the all-powerful monster who gentles himself in the presence of the one he loves. We want to see the transformative power of love and redemption. I mean, think about how people adore anti-heroes. We just love the semi-bad guy and root for him to join the heroes.
So, really, our humanity (our virtues) is what makes us human. It’s possible to be a member of the human race and be utterly inhuman. It’s also possible to not be human (like with an alien) and yet be completely humane.
What do you think? Is this something you’ve ever wrestled with in your reading or writing?