Shouhu || Interview With a Werewolf

What got you into werewolves and how old were you when you discovered them?

I remember being 14. I was very alienated by the other kids as a child, and I got into fights very frequently compared to most of the others. At the time, for the past few years, those fights had mostly started and ended in a red haze where reason and tactics simply gave way to uncorked fury, effective or not. Having Norse heritage, I wondered if I’d inherited some berserker tendancies. Upon really digging into that idea, I found out that many of the nordic berserkers credited their ferocity with a connection to the spirits of bears and wolves, and some even claimed to be able to take on hybrid form.
Part of me wants to say more. The other part says “no no, you sound like you’re insane already.”

 Do you share the same love of other types of shapeshifters?

Yes AND no. I find shapeshifters very interesting, both from a conceptual standpoint and a literary one. But there’s a number of shapeshifters whose lore always revolves around ‘killing and taking the place of the killed.’ There’s also the consideration I’m very interested in folklore around the world. Here in America, we essentially killed off folklore and stories. As someone who routinely sees spirits and came to understand myself maybe just a tiny bit better by looking at stories about werewolves, I find this tendancy in my country to be incredibly offensive. When looking into mythology, I’ve always been told that we need to evaluate things from a more primitive perspective, with less understanding about the world. When I look at various shapeshifters, I notice that most of the body snatcher varieties tend to be just that-body snatchers. They most likely are myths conjured up that spoke to that very deep fear we have of being wholesale replaced and no one would know the difference until it was too late. But some other shapeshifters seem to be better grounded. Kitsune come to mind. The fox spirits are a widespread concept over much of Asia, and even to a certain degree much the rest of the world. While they are shown in mythology to be murderous animals, they are also shown to be tricksters and deceivers. That interplay between positive and negative aspects, like we see in werewolves and vampires indicates to me that there is more going on there than simply folklore. Then there are the shapeshifters that are shapeshifters NOW but their original lore was much less pleasant. This is the succubus example, though I’m sure there are others. No lies, I prefer the modern variation, mostly because it’s more interesting and far less one dimensional.

What do you think it is that attracts you to werewolves?

I see bits of myself in the werewolf myth that I’d like to understand better. I like dogs better than most people, so I’m sure that plays a part in it as well. There’s more though. I think the topic is tragically under-explored. I find that the topic of werewolves challenges us with an uncertainty that we, as “civilized people,” don’t like to grapple with. Throwing it out there, when someone becomes a zombie, we accept that the ‘person’ has died, they’ve become a monster, no matter who they were. It’s a shame, but it’s time to put the kid next door/grandma/dad/that dipshit from 5th grade down. Pull the trigger, whack ’em up side the head, put ’em in the ground, and we’ve done what had to be done. But it’s kinda’ different with werewolves, isn’t it? Depending on what you think and the legends you prefer, the werewolf may or may not have any control over its actions. Yes, it could be a rampaging murder monster… but it could also be intelligently making decisions. In fact, it could actually still be that person simply trying to run away while everyone loses their minds! In the werewolf, you have a very definite monster, but there’s the point that by killing the monster, you’re also killing a person who is perfectly fine 95% of the time. And what if it’s the town doctor? Or maybe a beloved figure in the community? “He’s the best mayor we’ve had in decades! …ok, sure he’s a werewolf, nobodies perfect!” In a werewolf story, does humanity prove how civilized it is when it kills the beast, or does it say other things about us? And that is interesting if you ask me, which you did.

Do you prefer a gory werewolf tale or a more serene, nature loving version?

Generally I like to see both, the caveat here being that I feel a werewolf is an appropriate character outside of the horror genre. Now if we talk about how this applies to the horror genre specifically, the answer is still the same, but the reason is a little different. First off, words matter. Monster has its roots in Latin and essentially means ‘to show.’ So let’s get that straight. A monster isn’t JUST a slavering beast thirsting for human flesh. You’re supposed to learn something. Secondly, I think we need to briefly discuss that there should be a split in the Horror genre into Horror and Slashers. Horror is, to keep the description short, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or even arguably Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Slashers are more akin to snuff, where the substance of the story is in how many gruesome ways can we kill people. I detest slashers. They’re boring, one dimensional, and generally just gross. Some of these stories have been spun into psychological thrillers, but even with that element added in, we’re still essentially watching something go horribly wrong and lift with a big ‘well that happened’ at the end. In their defense, sometimes life is actually like that. Being as I grew up in a part of my country that was having some very serious issues with truly senseless violence, it’s something that really bothers me to this day. So I might be biased.
Horror though… you have a proper monster, with motivations, struggling against both the world and possibly its own cursed existence. The monster is scary, but also something we see ourselves in. And when the world hunts down and (generally) succeeds in killing it, the world feels a bit smaller afterward, doesn’t it? And at the end, something key to how you see the world has been challenged. Frankenstein asks if it is not WE who are the monsters, with our ignorance and anger. A Christmas Carol confronts us with ghosts to guide us to understand our past choices, see what our choices right now are, and show us potentially where they can lead.
(I am sorry for all these long answers! You are asking simple questions with big answers!)

 What does the ideal werewolf look like in your opinion? Give some Cinematic examples if you have any.

While I don’t know that I’d say it was perfect, particularly since I take issues with how very briefly we see werewolves in that two hour film, Van Helsing has what I’d describe as the ‘ideal’ werewolf, which is to say a hulking mostly wolf beast that stands on two legs as opposed to the Wolfman, who is a confused and angry lumberjack from the look of him. A close runner up would be the werewolves from Dog Soldiers, and if we take the way back, possibly Project: Metalbeast. Underworld should go home and think about what they did because it’s SO BAD. This is all to say that a werewolf should be more wolf than man. A snout and ears are every bit as essential as big pointy teeth and gnarled claws. Why are we going to transform a human into a hairy human with an anger problem? No, no, no. That is ridiculous, beloved icon of Universal Studios golden years of creating the most iconic movie monsters ever or not.
I want my werewolves to be beasts, not men. I really don’t need a slasher villain standing in for a werewolf in my werewolf movie…. BUT I’d probably pay good money to see Jack the Ripper vs the Werewolf of London.

What should a werewolf NOT look like in your opinion?

So have you ever seen a picture of a character who looks pretty much just like a normal person, except they have more pronounced canines, possibly dog ears, a bit of extra hair, and MAYBE a tail? Those “werewolves” are not werewolves. They are maybe lite furries. MAYBE.

Give a cinematic example of a werewolf that didn’t quite meet your expectations.

I dunno, that’s a big list. Dog Soldiers is high on that list I’d say. While not a bad werewolf movie by any metric, I think that says more about werewolf movies than it does about Dog Soldiers. The plot of it had some interesting ideas that it abandoned to just throw werewolves at marines. I feel like there was an interesting story in there about soldiers and how we turn them into monsters… and instead, it just turned into a slasher flick with werewolves, which as I said, I feel most “horror” movies do this, to one extent or another.
It’s a shame, but it is what it is.
I’d like to ding Van Hellsing for it as well. That movie gave us the best werewolves I’d seen in a movie in a long, long time, and they have so little screen time.
I’d hit Underworld as well. For being a story about the great vampire werewolf war going back millenia, they pretty much only care to show us and discuss the vampire side in any real depth, which is disappointing.
To the previous, I used to get really mad at how nothing in film really matched my idea of what a werewolf is or could be. Then I grew up and realized that of course someone else’s idea is unlikely to match mine. So instead of being mad about it, I now just look for where we had common ground. Dog Soldiers has a werewolf shaped werewolf at least. Van Helsing is a great action movie. I feel it would be better with more werewolf time, particularly, with werewolves that are capable of self-reflection instead of just RAWR MONSTER KILL, but it was, as they say, ‘badass.’
I think it’s better than not having werewolf movies at all. Even the bad ones, or like Project Metal Wolf, the unapologetically B movies that most werewolf movies are.

Stepping away from the cinematic side of things, what is your favourite werewolf novel and why?

I’ve honestly not read any werewolf novels. Probably as close as I come to that is either the third Harry Potter book (which I don’t count, it had a werewolf in it as opposed to being specifically a werewolf story), or Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures which ALSO doesn’t count because Rumo is wolperting in Zamonia, which NEAR as I can gather is a humanoid dog deer thingie, but that’s VAGUELY werewolfish? That said, if you’re looking for the best book I’ve ever read, that’d be it.
Honestly, I look at my own writing, and I just assume it’s contrived, the pacing is terrible, my dialogue is phony, and my idea is probably uniquely appealing to me. People who’ve seen the, sadly, ONE werewolf picture I have up in my gallery have told me it has a, quoting here, ‘strange mood.’ It doesn’t fit their expectations of a werewolf piece, whether we’re talking horror story buffs or the ‘FA crowd.’ For what it’s worth, I don’t mind them too much, and although it’s practically all sex all the time, it’s about the best werewolf art I’ve seen around… which sorta loops back to what I was saying in 7) there about accepting that different people have different ideas than you do.

Back to cinema, what is your favorite werewolf film?

Conceptually, Van Hellsing. Really, there was so much they could have done there. They didn’t, but that doesn’t change the fact that anyone COULD, and could do so in a fairly seamless way.
Execution… An American Werewolf in London. That’s a fantastic horror story all the way around. We have the monster, the infection, the realization, and the tragic(?) ending.
(I keep mentioning these movies, it’s like I like them or something. ;p )

Do you have any werewolf related songs to recommend?

I can’t say as I do. Most of my music, while a least a portion of it is most likely appropriate for werewolf themes, is just simply more generically sci fi, action, and straight fantasy related, while the rest is either rock/metal, game soundtracks (original or remixed), classical (big Beethoven and Bach fan), and the occasional odd piece, whether that’s country, rap, hip hop, or just something off the wall like Star Trekkin’. Though, while not specifically werewolf music, maybe more gothic/enchanted forest type music, there is a group called Nox Arcana that does quite a bit of music that could be adapted easily to most horror ideas. Might be a bit slow for werewolves, but all stories have slow parts.


Do you have a particular favorite werewolf artist, what is it about their art that you love?

So art is very subjective, and in this manner, its important to understand someone’s influences. I am primarily into animation, so there are a few things I look for above all other qualities in art: personality, a sense of life, and consistency. Now it should be noted that I do see enough examples of things that are so great on their technical / realism merits that sometimes they rise above that short list of descriptors, but generally I would consider the master of combining those three elements to be Chuck Jones. Now I bring this up because the vast majority of werewolf I see is very technically skilled, actually combining near photo-realism with excellent skill in depicting anatomy… but almost all of that art has a ‘staged’ look to it. A big part of this for me is that I grew up around the stage, so I really just can’t “unsee” it.
I suppose there’s only a handful of artists that I follow that I’d consider ‘werewolf’ artists, and that’s alright because JLoneWolf on Deviant Art has a fantastic gallery and one of the werewolf images I’ve seen go around the net so many times I’ve actually reported copyright issues to him when I’ve seen people post that image and claim credit for it.
Art is simply extremely subjective. My other favorite artist when it comes to werewolves would have to be dragoon88 on Fur Affinity, however this artist primarily does foxes and dragons. When the artist does a werewolf/wolf anthro character though, it’s one of the best things I’ve seen. This artist has an extremely anime-style aesthetic that I particularly dig.
Also, I just want to make a shoutout to AbyssWolf for doing the single best animated transformation sequence I’ve personally seen of a werewolf here ->
https://www.deviantart.com/art/Into-Werewolf-RETURNS-102483470

What do you think of the way representation of werewolves has changed over the years? (In both literature and cinema.)

With werewolves in particular, we’ve seen a bit of a split in their representation. In fact, given the success of Twilight and particularly Jacob, I’m not sure exactly where werewolves sit at the moment! I’m not into Twilight, but I became a lot closer to one of my family members because she was, and it sort’ve bridged the gap between us. Also, Twilight is pretty much the definition of mainstream acceptance., opinions of it notwithstanding. I’m primarily used to seeing werewolves being pushed further and further toward the animalistic, out of control, psychotic beast concept. Since White Wolf Publishing made their whole Werewolf series (which again, I consider so thoroughly researched and uniquely creative that I’d argue it IS literature), we’ve been seeing a pull the other direction, more towards a tragic protagonist character instead of a throwaway villain of the week. I think it’s important to differentiate ‘protagonist’ from ‘hero’ given the current climate. We might have some werewolves that aren’t irredeemably evil at the moment, but I would certainly not call them ‘heroes.’ Unfortunately, as far as popular culture goes, we see the werewolf portrayed in one of only two ways-murderous monster or unwilling protagonist. In 2010’s The Wolfman, we have two werewolves. One is psychotic and ‘let’s the beast run free,’ while the other is…less sure of things. The story is interesting and the psychological aspect they explore is compelling, but I wasn’t particularly moved by it.
However, a key point in all this… I have no idea what happened in Twilight. Like I said, I wasn’t into it, but several of my family members really enjoyed it. I know that Jacob plays Edward’s rival, but I have no idea what that means in context of that story. What I do know is given the wild success Twilight enjoyed, I think it’s more than reasonable to expect ‘Jacob’ as being a new werewolf archetype. So… dreamy, little rough around the edges, likes the woods, has ‘family(pack)’ issues?
So that’s what I see. We have two ‘accepted’ werewolves and a third one breaking surface. Hopefully we can expand that window a bit to accommodate a few more interesting characters that can have more depth than getting angry during a full moon and shot to death.

Tell me something that makes the werewolves in your works unique. What makes them special?

So generally speaking, I approach the werewolf idea as a more permanent curse. Instead of transitioning from man to beast and back through lunar cycles, my werewolf characters are stuck as man-wolves because I find that idea more interesting. Now granted, my proclivity is toward anthropomorphic characters, and I do think the shapeshifting aspect is important, but I’m also a brutal deconstructivist. In the classic sense, we generally deal with an old werewolf getting killed, transferring their curse to the next werewolf. Maybe the next person gets cured, more likely they’re just the last link in a long chain of werewolves… I feel that story is -really- played out.
On the other hand, we have the modern variation, with werewolves as protagonists, and to me, these Twilight-style werewolves, and even their White Wolf counterparts feel very… Cursed with Awesome is the trope.
See link for details:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CursedWithAwesome
Put succinctly, I really dislike the Cursed with Awesome trope. Now that doesn’t mean it can’t be used to great effect in a story, but poor me, I have super powers, life is hard just feels disingenuous literally the entire time. So as the writer, that’s out for me as well. If I used the trope at all, it’d more likely be with a side character, not a focus character. You can get away with a lot on those little one offs, you know?

The Cursed with Awesome trope as used in popular culture. A character has some “terrible” curse placed on them (if they weren’t born with it) that is …
So…. since you would almost never be confronted by your horrible dual man beast nature in the traditional example, which makes for poor drama, and the second example just makes me want to punch kittens, we need a third option. My werewolves are shapeshifters, but they have to earn it. They are cursed, that at least implies things are neither easy nor simple. So their primary form is that of what we would call the werewolf, in all it’s hybrid glory and freakishness. If they want to pretend to have a normal life, they have to earn it, whether through acts or dogged determination.
The reason why is that if this is going to be a hero, or at least a central protagonist, this character needs to be interesting. Simultaneously, this makes any other werewolf that shows up in the story that much MORE interesting. Suddenly, just by existing, that werewolf has motives and its own struggle with its curse. Yes, it’s possible it gave up its struggle and has simply become just a beast, but that story would be interesting too.
Plus, let’s say you throw in a natural werewolf instead of a cursed one. All of the sudden you’re hit with implications. This is a concept with more room in it.

 What are you other passions within the horror genre or out of it?

Science Fiction in general really. Whether that means Victorian-era steampunk gothic horror, shadows of modern day cyberpunk, or full on space opera, I am really into it. I think Deus Ex and the recent Shadowrun games have done an excellent job of blending cyberpunk and horror elements, for example. I imagine a world where our primary value is our consciousness and how our consciousness can interface with various bodies, some purpose built, others more akin to a heavily personalized avatar. You want the horror angle on that? The murderer the detective is chasing is a MIND that possesses bodies at random… maybe even hijacking them and disrupting/killing the previously loaded consciousness. Since it’s a mind, it has no physical presence, and once submerged into cyberspace, possibly becomes nearly impossible to track. It may be possible to confine it to a host body, but you’d have to know what host body it was in to confine it to.

Tell me about your most recent werewolf related work.

So not three days prior to seeing your post on Twitter, I had an idea for a werewolf protagonist in a more traditional fairytale setting, specifically an Enchanted Forest. While I’m still hashing out a lot of the details of it in my head, I’ve written about five pages of it so far with the goal of launching a series of short, interconnected works on Amazon with the first chapter free! Things that are decided are that the protagonist is a werewolf who is essentially a professional henchman for the wicked sorceress who’s wickedness may be a bit trumped up. Typically I don’t really do blood, gore, and dismemberment, but this is a story that calls for it as the protagonist struggles, at least for a time, with becoming a brutal, murderous monster who essentially goes about the business of being a henchman. Insert twists and turns, and thinking it is a thing and then finding out that it’s not that thing but some other thing type business, and you have a pretty good idea of what I’m writing. I’m not sure how much folklore I’ll put into it… so far it doesn’t feel like a story where I’d feature the pumpkin and nightmare goblins, various fae, the crows and their town, or any of that business… but I am planning for it to be a series on Amazon, and as I write it, we might see some more of my deep folklore inspired creations, so we’ll all just have to see-myself included!

 Who is your favourite character within your own work and why?

Across anything I’ve done, my favorite character is probably Medina, who was basically a character writing experiment for me to expand my horizons a bit concerning what I could and would write about. It was also an experiment to write more about what I wanted to write rather than what I thought other people wanted to read, so she is the main protagnonist of a cyberpunk horror story. I’m calling her a she because her actual gender is complicated, being as she was a guy prior to being forced into an “industrial accident” with nanites that consumed the body and were preprogrammed to make the new body (obviously, that of a hot woman because this is what men who have tons of money and power want more of) subservient and, shall we say, accessible to the salacious advances of others. Prior to becoming the AI/Sentient Construct/Nanotech Cyborg/WHATEVER, the programmer manages to break into the code and guarantee freedom of thought for the creature he’s about to become, but is not able to alter everything… he essentially accepts that the corporation is above the law, there is no authority he can appeal to, but if he’s going to be turned into some bimbot, it’ll at least be on his terms. After the transformation and the, ah, hostile takeover of the company, Medina proceeds to consolidate her power and build her way up to essentially being a James Bond villain. She navigates the highest echelons of society with that haughty ‘I’m better than you’ attitude, but has the charisma and domineering nature to pull it off. She rides a high flying Italian performance jetbike everywhere she needs to go, and is always seen reading the latest edition of a gossip tabloid about celebrities, looking for any little tidbit she can to gain an advantage in upcoming negotiations.
Because she’s supposed to be a Bond villain, sex is an important part of the character and how she gets things done, but I’m trying to find that balance where it isn’t how she gets everything done. I want an interesting character who succeeds in power plays and intimidation, but isn’t afraid to do whatever she needs to. Definitely my favorite character I’ve come up with, but every time I start writing her, even her description like this, I feel like I’m pushing things too far… which is probably the clearest sign I need to keep going that direction.

Do you have any big upcoming plans relating to werewolves? Any new works on the way?

As I mentioned in the answer to 15. ETA though… I’m not sure. My job has me working late hours much of the time

Will you be available to meet other werewolf lover and fans in the near future, are you doing any outings or signings, or attending any conventions?

Sadly no. At present, I have to have a boring, awful, terrible job which wastes my weekends with recovering from how lousy it is due to my weak constitution. Who knows, maybe things will change.

Do you have any places online where other werewolf fans can contact you to discuss your work or anything lycanthropy related?

I’d recommend my Twitter for that. I mean there’s my art pages, but I’d rather give those links out to people I’ve met. I consider Duro@Sekhmes my most public face to offer, and am happy to talk about anything provided people aren’t just trying to take cheap shots at me or rile me up.

Vampires and zombies have both become seriously popular within the horror genre in movies, do you think that as technology continues to improve werewolves will eventually reach the same kind of status? 

I think so, but the biggest thing is going to be getting more werewolf stories out there until one really resonates with people, and the truth behind what’s going to work is weirder and likely more unexpected than any of us, as werewolf fans, likely expect. My bet is that it’s going to be a different sort of story than the ‘classic’ werewolf story, though if someone did the ‘classic’ werewolf story just completely top to bottom perfect with full modern special effects, it could surprise us… but I’d point to 2010’s The Wolfman for how well to expect that to go over. Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro were in that and it did ok. If that was going to break out and be huge, I think it would’ve done so by now. But it’s clear that story just resonates with horror buffs, furries, people who are already into folklore and fantasy, and maybe some other fringe folks. To go mainstream… I’m not saying that it needs to be Twilight 2.0, but I think it needs take a queue from Twilight and be different in some key way. In my opinion, we need a werewolf that is still a werewolf, but also heroic. The character that showcases both the savagery and the -nobility- of the beast. I think if you put that into a story, and you get an effects team on board, you’ve got a shot.

 

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