The Alpha Breakdown – Monsters

Now it’s time for part two of my three part series breaking down The Alpha. This one will focus on the featured creatures of the novel so, without further adieu, please enjoy the monsters!

**There are spoilers involved so, if you haven’t read The Alpha (or The Pack for that matter), you may want to skip this until after you have.**

If you read The Pack then you’re already familiar with the werewolves, their lore and their forms – half changed, wolf-person, and alpha. For The Alpha it was just a matter of doing some different things with them, such as a wolf-man wielding a machete in the subway tunnels – which really ought to be airbrushed on the side of someone’s van.

I also revealed more about the nature of the Alpha state. Namely, that it distills a person into their very basic self. It’s not dissimilar to what was explained by Jack Halliday in The Pack, only taken to a starker degree. And there’s also the notion that one must willfully turn off their humanity to fully transform, and tap into the the Alpha state.

New monsters include mention of a gill-man, which is a sort of Creature from the Black Lagoon homage. But the first new monster we actually see is the insectoid. I was looking a bit at low budget giant insect movies from the 1950’s for inspiration for them, but Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic was also an inspiration for their form and function. They’re really just straightforward nasties covered in slime and stingers.

The vampires are the main new monsters here though. I didn’t want any suave or beautiful or sparkly vampires, I wanted to use scary as hell vampires. Their abilities borrows from many classic vampire tales, even Dracula scaled his castle walls. For the jaws that unhinged, I was thinking about snakes or a freaky dream I once had had where someone’s mouth just got wider and wider as they ran after me. The glowing red eyes just cut a nice spooky image in my mind.

I liked the idea of using the standard vamps as sort of drones for their Master, which is a notion that has its roots as far back as vampire lore goes. Though a couple of good recent examples of something similar are The Strain trilogy or The Passage. The varying strength of the psychic connection between Master and minion was only briefly mentioned, but it’s something that may be pursued further in future venator novels. In this case, it was primarily added to give credence to Hadrian Graysmith’s ability to wield power and control over people.

Graysmith himself is a different sort of vamp – in regards to both his power set and his personality. Early on I present him with a classic suave, aristocratic air. Kind of like Count Dracula-by-way-of-Jon Hamm. But this is all just a smokescreen hiding the monstrosity within. This concept is not new,  in fact it’s been used to varying effect in films ranging from Fright Night to Vampire Hunter D to Van Helsing.

I like the duality of how Graysmith presents himself versus what he becomes when he truly unleashes the beast within. The other advantages here are the ability to first reveal his transmogrification during the rooftop battle with Michael as a bit of shock and awe, and then use that altered state to create a strong, visceral thrust to the big monster mash that concludes the story.

Speaking of the story, my next post will be about the general inspirations for the overall narrative and structure of The Alpha. So stay tuned for that!

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