Writers: Are you a Face-hugger, a Grub, a Maggot, Godzilla, or What?

Jeff VanderMeer • September 7th, 2009 @ 6:53 pm • Writing Tips


(The writer Sir Tessa, in a contemplative moment, reciting Proust to a captive audience.)

The Emerging Writer interview I conducted for Clarkesworld had an unexpected side effect–putting writers in mind of how they emerged, or how they would like to emerge; similar in a way to the secret I revealed in this blog post, about how writers molt.

Sir Tessa instigated it, of course, with this interpretation of emerging: “I like the idea of ‘emerging’. It puts me in mind of the headhuggers in Alien. The egg peels open, I extend my creepy-arse legs over the lip, I emerge, and then I leap at you, shove my gonads in your face and ram my proboscis down your throat and lay eggs in your chest, and then those eggs hatch and a wee bebe alien emerges. From your chest. At velocity. I would like to one day write a story that has that sort of effect on the reader. It would probably put me in gaol. Oh well. Totally worth it. You suffer for my art!”

…which, after a chuckle between me and KJ Bishop led to Bishop’s observation that she “was more like something discovered under a rock–a colourful grub, perhaps, like one of those painting maggots.” (Although she added that now she’s done emerging, ‘I will be like a Japanese movie monster. I shall publish no more novels, in order to save Tokyo from destruction when I grow to be 100 feet tall with laser beams sizzling from my eyes.’” Don’t ask how we got to that point…)

When I think of how I “emerged,” I was a creature with a long gestation period, something that had a long juvenile stage or stages. Some slow-growing cephalopod, suddenly scooped out of the sea by Michael Moorcock and genetically altered to live on land. And then undergoing further mutations year after year. Steady evolution–or devolution, depending on your point of view.

But this metamorphosis through strange creatures, for fun or for keeps, isn’t new. A member of Kafka’s writing group saw him, prior to his fame, as a somewhat timid “moon-blue mouse.”

So, if you’re emerging, how do you see yourself? And if you’ve already emerged, looking back, how did you emerge?

17 Responses to “Writers: Are you a Face-hugger, a Grub, a Maggot, Godzilla, or What?”

  1. S.P. Miskowski says:

    I am the Thing–from The Thing. I take different forms depending on my environment and available host. I emerged in dog form in my early 20s, writing short stories, then I decided to be a fake man for a while and wrote plays that I had to shove down people’s throats to get produced. Now I have returned to sled dog form, writing short stories, dashing across the snow to find new territory.

  2. Tess @ Work says:

    Sir Tessa instigated it, of course…

    What do you mean ‘of course’? I am not always to blame!

  3. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Ha ha ha. Good one.

  4. John Ginsberg-Stevens says:

    I’m torn, since I am still emerging, more slowly than I would like. Mothra comes to mind first, with the lovely symbolism of a death-caterpillar that soon becomes a hurricane-generating kaiju that can also emit a rainbow of energies at opponents (depending on the film).

    But I’m more enchanted with the idea of being Richard Marsh’s Beetle, a creature of mystery who can change form and bend the imaginations of others to his liking. I like the undertone of obsession as well. Being a puppeteer manipulating the world to my liking has a lot of appeal! I could do without the cult back home though. . . .

  5. Timblynod says:

    A belch, that, achieving sentience, fears to be borne up and unmade by a gust of wind, so finds a cozy mausoleum and ferments, passing the years by toying with language, shaping characters, prying out metaphors.

  6. Adam says:

    I am like a baby whale, born bloody, huge, and buoyant. I will grow fast on the nurturing teat of the spec fic community, until I am too big, and it becomes awkward. Then I will go off on my own, unseen for an indeterminate amount of time, before I reemerge, more awe-inspiring and wise than ever, before being violently poached by the SS Hollywood, and their hackneyed screenwriters.

  7. Will Hindmarch says:

    I wrote a lot as a caterpillar, and I’m hoping to write more and better as a moth. Soon.

  8. Danny O'Dare says:

    I am a Rottweiler, savaging all before me.

  9. Hellbound Heart says:

    emerging? i feel like one of the 63 clowns that you sometimes see getting out of a mini minor on tv……totally absurd……

    peace and love…….

  10. Matt Cheney says:

    Pulled from an ammo can, stuck in a bolt-action rifle, shot into the dark, perhaps one day to hit a target or a tree or to become embedded in the flesh of a creature greater than myself…

  11. David Moles says:

    Mosasaur. Estuarine.

  12. Corey Redekop says:

    I am a sniglet of hair, trapped in the belly of some monstrous glutton, slowly gathering foodstuffs and dust particles to myself, growing ever more massive and gross, only excised through painful surgery when I am thereupon placed in a glass jar and kept in a museum of medical oddities.

  13. Felix Gilman says:

    astride of a grave

  14. Felix Gilman says:

    down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps

  15. Jonathan Wood says:

    I’m not honestly sure that I am emerging. I kind of feel more like I am being exposed to previously innocent minds by perverse individuals.

  16. Ennis Drake says:

    I’m a botfly larvae. And it has nothing to do with being a writer. Emerging, or not. But, perhaps, it has everything to do with posting on this particular thread.

  17. Ecografia 20 Semanas says:

    Interesantísimo artículo. Nos vemos!

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