Quite some time ago, the Daily Prompt was this: “When the full moon happens, you turn into a person who’s the opposite of who you normally are. Describe this new you.” I began this post at the time, and have returned to it several times to add, edit, and ruminate. As someone who has written about the Lupa for a very long time, I definitely found myself with something to say. A warning that this is my longest post to date.
The world has long been full of stories of how creatures such as werewolves change from Human to Wolf, and what it does to them–replace it with animal instincts; make them monsters; turn them into someone who would kill either for pleasure, or because they cannot help themselves. It takes something seemingly safe (a person), and, usually, turns it into something monstrous, if not evil. While modern urban fantasy and supernatural romance often goes into the idea that werewolves are somewhat in control–but not all the time, can be controlled by the will of the Leader, or creatures to be pitied for their lack of choice, they are still usually seen as unnatural an monstrous by many others.
In the immensely popular Harry Potter series, for instance, “A werewolf cannot chose whether or not to transform and will no longer remember who they are and would kill even their best friend given the opportunity once transformed.” (From the Harry Potter wiki, sourced to The Prisoner or Azkaban.) Remus Lupin is a good man and a good teacher–until parents discover that he’s a werewolf. He is used to the persecution, despite the fact that he is a good man, and has no choice over his condition. Series like Twilight (which I have not read) and Mercy Thompson (I’ve finished the first two) do much more to humanize the werewolf, as they are main characters in the series.
This brings me to another common occurrence–the presence of both werewolves and vampires, where each group hates and despises the other (also done in the 2003 movie Underworld). While most of this is done for interest, plot, and entertainment, it’s also clear that Humans have a predilection for being fascinated with creatures of the dark. Like most superheroes, these groups have fantastic abilities, and can also sometimes control others. The werewolf is incredibly strong and fast, vampires can often hypnotize (Dracula) or read people’s thoughts (Lestat in The Vampire Chronicles). The original Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel can become a wolf, bat, or fog.
People love the idea of people or monsters with powers, and hearing stories about them. We like deciding which is Hunter and which is Hunted, and which to root for. We enjoy programs like Star Trek where there are always new alien species with different abilities: we envy the Klingon his warrior strength, the Vulcan her sheer willpower over her emotions, the Trill the ability to become one with a symbiote. The idea of supernatural powers, and how they change the basic Human or Humanoid, is interesting to us.
But we started with werewolves. People who become monsters, whether by choice or not, whether they like it or not. Much of the sympathy for the werewolf comes from their inability to choose what they are in most fictional worlds. They were just born that way (Blood and Chocolate) or infected by another werewolf (Remus Lupin). What happens, however, when you have someone who changes form in ways others may find monstrous, but retains their mind? Who doesn’t see themselves as a monster or unnatural in any way? What happens to your monster then, and is it actually a monster?
When I started writing about the Lupa species as alien rather than werewolf (yes, there was a time they were werewolves, but that’s ancient history at this point), they were already people of one mind with two bodily forms. However, pulling them out of supernatural fantasy and into science fiction allowed some studies which I didn’t foresee at the time.
If you have a species that looks exactly like a monster with all kinds of myth and lore around it, will other people believe them when they say what’s true and what’s not? The Lupa have a lot of blurred lines if you don’t look too closely; after all, there needs to be a reason for Hunters to go after them. Someone whose body changes but their mind does not , and does not loose control or kill sentient species may not consider themselves a monster, but will other people believe them when they say so? At what point will most people go “Okay, you’re really not a monster, you just look like one”? How will they then treat that person? For whom does action and experience matter more than appearance, and who believes that such drastic appearances always have deeper meanings, and therefore they may be being lied to?
Ultimately, I feel there is a lot more territory out there than found in most of our media. The idea that having a different form, especially an animal-like form, means to most people that you suddenly can’t control yourself and have the thoughts of an animal. What you can do with such a species, however, is explore areas that have seldom been explored so far. What is it like to have to great forms? What can you do? How do they interact with each other, and how is their life experience different? Finally, the reaction to such a species can be quite different.
While impossible, making such a study in real life, with the reactions of real people would be a fascinating study. I sometimes wonder which would be more preferred: someone who has no control over it, or someone whose mind will never be altered.