Authorguy's Blog

Oh the shapes they are a-changing

Posted on: September 29, 2010


I know what you’re all thinking: “Good Sharkie, Colonel God, another post about those damned werewolves.”  (Quick, name the movie!)  But no, I will not be talking about werewolves (except to mention in passing that St. Martin’s Moon has a definite release date at long last, early next year!) but about shape-shifters, which are much worse.

Werewolves are shapeshifters only in a very technical sort of way, especially the Universal werewolves, which are the ‘real’ werewolves for me (see previous post).  They shift shape, it is true, but they shift more than that, and not on purpose.  Werewolves are usually cursed according to their nature, and the curse turns them into a beast, with a beast’s attributes.  It’s often the attributes that are fearsome, anyway; not too many people would be frightened by a were-Pekingese.  Jack Chalker came up with a were curse that doesn’t specify an animal, just takes the form of whatever animal is closest, so the ‘curse’ became a positive attribute instead, especially for a spy.

There are other shapeshifters that are like the werewolf, but not exactly cursed.  They change into a specified form, with specific powers, and usually keep their human intelligence.  I will admit that I don’t know much about them, since my main interest is in how humans deal with the curse that steals their humanity, and that doesn’t happen here.  Also, like the were-Pekingese, they don’t usually turn into some fearsome beast like a wolf, but some other creature like seals and otters and stuff.

What makes shapeshifters so much despised is not that they shift their shapes, but that they can choose what shape to wear, and yet they remain themselves.  They can become, at will, somebody else.  Someone you may know and trust, so that they can betray you.  The true horror of shapeshifters is the erosion of trust that they bring in their wake.  Even a mere disguise will do that (remember Sally Fields’ reaction when Robin Williams’ disguise came off in Mrs. Doubtfire?), and a shapeshifter wears the ultimate disguise.

I can think of only one thing worse than a shape-shifter.  Can you?

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2 Responses to "Oh the shapes they are a-changing"

The “shape-shifter” I admire most, is the alien creature from “The Thing” 1985 remake. It is a shape-shifter of sorts, that’s what I base most of my shape-shifters on.

I like the idea of having to absorb/devour a subject in order to take it’s form, rather then just having the ability to shift at will. It’s a bit more messy and less convenient.

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That would allow for parasitic invaders controlling the host, which does allow for the same treachery/betrayal aspect. In this respect the crab monsters from Attack of the Crab Monsters are pretty vile, since they absorb their victim’s memories, and use them to speak to others, using their voices and words. I always wondered if there was a ‘human’ Joe somewhere inside there, watching. This is why shape-shifters are good for horror and little else.

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