Hollywood and 20th Century Fox used to make movie monsters with organic slime and grotesque puppets, back when CGI was something unheard of that was slowly being practiced.

But there were also written books, such as The Thing From Another World and Children’s Goosebumps Stories, all using grotesque imagery and emphasis of how creepy or unnatural the beings in the books make the human characters feel.

I know I sound as though I know a lot about monster movies and books, but I don’t really, because I have been doing my research and I do not know what I am looking for. I just know that people have been writing monsters for centuries; monster fiction seems to have died out because the filming industry has grown (and zombies and dinosaurs are coming and going).

Does anyone still write about monsters in Sci-Fi novels?

  • Also, it's not clear which question you are asking: "How do I write monsters...?" or "Does anyone still write monsters...?" And I think both of those are off-topic. The first is close to a "what to write" question, and the second is probably a better fit for the Sci Fi or Literature stacks. Can you figure out one or two specific problems you're having with writing monsters and ask about how to overcome that? May 30, 2018 at 13:54
  • Do you include fantasy in Sci-Fi? May 30, 2018 at 19:50
  • @ToddWilcox ‘How do I write monsters’ May 30, 2018 at 20:47
  • @DavidThornley yes May 30, 2018 at 20:47
  • If you haven't already - pick up The Dresden Files
    – user18397
    Jun 11, 2018 at 5:36

2 Answers 2


Not sure which is your main question - the one in the title (How do I write about monsters in the 21st Century?) or the one in the text (Does anyone still write about monsters in Sci-Fi novels?).

If it's the latter, then the answer is 'yes'.

Barnes and Noble have a blog which has a page that lists the best science fiction for May 2018, which is about as representative as you're going to get. Within that page, I picked up at least half a dozen books that contain monsters of one type or another.

If it's the former then ... I'd probably start close to home. Think about the following words: brute, fiend, beast, ogre, devil, demon, barbarian, savage, villain, sadist, animal, bogeyman. All are synonyms for monster in the sense of an inhumanly cruel or wicked person.

Write about human nature and then change the form (add tentacles, claws, teeth, scales etc.) in order to home in on a traditional view of what constitutes monster.

The trick is to get to the heart of what makes a monster scary. And you can start that by looking at some of the phobias people have. Aside from that, the following qualities and attributes can make a thing scary:

  • Unpredictable
  • Violent
  • Shrouded in darkness/Hidden
  • Out of control
  • Ugly/Different
  • Threatening
  • Big and Hungry.

To summarise - look within to see what scares you and what is scary about you - and then write about that.

Edit: Just started reading a story from our very own Secespitus on Universe Factory called Call Of The Night Raven, written (or posted) in Dec 2017. It brought your monster question straight back to mind. The fleshmoles, originally created by Joe Bloggs, are the most chilling creatures I've read about for a long, long time. Check it out if you want to know how to write an effective monster!

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    Additionally, keep in mind that very little stuff is actually "new": Stranger Things borrows a lot from Stephen King, who borrows a lot from H. P. Lovecraft.
    – John Doe
    May 30, 2018 at 23:30

Let me first set the scope of my answer. To me a monster as you ask, is a single or a small group of creatures that have powers making them a very large threat for the protagonists. The thing(s) are mindless and cannot be reasoned with. They are a direct and mediate threat. This is not about writing from a monster's point of view, or any kind of work looking to flip tropes on their head.

Monsters in modern writing are like monsters in movies.
The good ones, the one that scare the audience are never scene, never understood. The protagonists see the consequences, jump at shadows, but never know what it is they are facing. Same as in a movie a full description of the creature is the same as the CGI shot, always just a disappointment. The first time it steps out in full shot even in our minds'eye it is no longer fear, but just an obstacle to eventually overcome.

In any modern work the monster never has the center stage. it is about the characters, their interaction, friendship, betrayal. The monster is always just a force of nature, no different than a hurricane or a flood. It may be a fun detraction but it is never what will make the story. No matter how many amazing and scary scenes you can put it, it will always just be a ticking clock, and a stick nudging characters from scene to scene.

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