Writing about monsters, one cannot deny fiction often copies real life. Unlike the kingdom of humans, the animal kingdom offers a wide variety of mating rituals and encounters. None more fascinating and/or horrifying than that of the anglerfish.
I’m partial to this sexy creature, because I used the premise of the anglerfish for two of my novella monsters—the Night Terrors in Novella 2 and the Farragos in Novella 3.
It probably goes without saying, I’m one among the many writers who have fashioned a fictional monster after a creature in nature. Godzilla, Werewolves, Vampires… is there any monster you can conceive that doesn’t resemble some aspect of nature here on Earth?
The anglerfish gives the appearance of someone’s worst nightmare. And what she does to her mate—well, let’s just say—makes whips and blindfolds look like trick-or-treat kids’ play compared to her moves.
Tale of an Anglerfish
In thick blackness. The abyss. In the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean, a bright light beckons. Edward, the tiny male anglerfish, follows a trail of pheromones, and there before him, the most beautiful female anglerfish, Bella, lures him to come heather.
(Wait. Is it seen or is it smelled?)
He is 40 times smaller than her. And he wants Bella to notice him, but he has no light. He is small. Cold. Weak. And a tad fishy. So he opens his mouth wide to give her a love bite. To make her notice him.
He can’t resist. She smells so delicious. And she’s beautiful. He sinks his teeth into the soft underside of her belly. He is stuck. Attached. He can’t escape. He is dissolving. His lips, his eyes fuse into her.
What Happens to Edward?
His freedom is gone forever.
(You married guys out there reading this. No wisecracks about marriage, please.)
From this point on, for the rest of his life, Edward becomes nothing more than an attached lump of a sex machine… or sex creature… or reproductive entity.
Edward’s internal organs wither away. He no longer has need for them. His blood vessels fuse with Bella’s and he gets all the nutrients he needs from her to sustain his reproductive function. He remains the rest of his life attached to her, readily available to her beck and call whenever she is in the mood.
He becomes a mere pair of gonads.
The sacrifices he made for Bella. Oh, my! And she doesn’t even remain faithful. Oh my! When her inner goddess calls, she may melt another male. Biologists have observed as many as eight males attached to one female. It’s not likely Edward will remain her true one and only.
No fairy tale ending for Edward. Fused and attached, he will be until Bella dies.
When I first read about the anglerfish, I was designing my monster for novella 2, Man’s Best. I didn’t use the mating ritual, however, I used the mouth and jaw of the angler.
The first scientist to descend into the perpetual darkness of the deep sea was naturalist William Beebe.
In 1938 in Ceratias—Siren of the Deep, Beebe writes of the anglerfish mating ritual:
But to be driven by impelling odor headlong upon a mate so gigantic, in such immense and forbidding darkness, and willfully eat a hole in her soft side, to feel the gradually increasing transfusion of her blood through one’s veins, to lose everything that marked one as other than a worm, to become a brainless, senseless thing that was a fish—this is sheer fiction, beyond all belief unless we have seen the proof of it.
Beebe said it beautifully. With that kind of a build-up, what better basis for a monster?
To be absorbed to the point nothing of you exists is what the Farragos do in novella 3, Sparkers, to the young males they entice. Just imagine a fleet of space aliens—who have the mating habits of an anglerfish female—descending upon a captured audience.
Additionally, imagine the anglerfish of the deep evolves and creeps from the ocean depths onto Earth. It’s bigger and meaner and needs food of the human-kind to survive. Scary.
The Bathysphere’s creation is as science fiction as it gets and well deserving of a full-fledged blog (next). Theodore Roosevelt—a colonel at the time—drew the first sketch of a Bathysphere—on a napkin—while he and Bebe chatted over the possibilities of venturing into the ocean’s abyss.
I wonder how much influence Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea had on Beebe and Roosevelt as they dreamed of the deep unexplored regions of the sea? Did they imagine a giant squid?
You Tube: First Footage of Anglerfish Pair
Can you think of any monsters roaming around out there in either books, on TV, or in the movies that are NOT based on actual creatures on Earth? Name one and argue well, because I’ll try to find similarities in nature.