We’re Making Monster Porn, BABY! (Reflections at 50 Episodes)

Monster Porn Puggles, The Desolator of Abath K'nath

By Matt Cummins

When I first approached Bret about the possibility of making a podcast Monster Porn was not what I had in mind. Unless of course we were writing real monster erotica in a joking way like those girls who wrote the dinosaur erotica and made decent money doing so. I could have probably done that, as a joke, for a little while. I didn’t have this in mind at all. Actually, at first Bret and I developed and wrote several episodes of an entirely different podcast. However, neither of us wanted to concede control of the podcast and it fell apart. It wasn’t until I pitched the idea of an anthology that we got on track and began putting together MP. 

The need that pushed me to want to develop a podcast was that I recognized how unfriendly the traditional publishing route has become for writers. Unless you have a story concept that is beyond obvious in its value—not to readers but in marketability—then you’re probably not going to be able to take a swing at a novel and knock it over the fence on the first try. (Does a baseball analogy seem dated to anyone else? Yeah, I pictured myself saying that in an old-time radio broadcaster’s voice, but back to the point.) So where does that leave you? Ah yes, this leaves you in the vague world of publishing credits. 

I could give two shits—cold and hard, not even steaming—about publishing credits. I can remember sitting in my Introduction to Creative Non-fiction class and listening attentively to my teachers as they talked about the pursuit of publishing your work. “Expect to be rejected, hundreds of times,” Ms. Blank said. I think her name was Linda and she was cool with being called Linda. Also Linda was in her early thirties and I was in my late twenties so calling her by anything other than her first name made me feel like I was posing as a southern gentleman. Luckily women in academia don’t often want our chivalrous pretentiousness. I had been writing for a while when Linda told the class this but I had yet to test the waters of publishing in a small market journal. A local publication opened up for submissions and I sent a snippet from a novel I’d written. I submitted near the deadline and in that way Bret was notified a few weeks before me that his submission had been accepted, but mine was accepted eventually. I thought, “BAM! In yo face, LINDA!” Okay, I didn’t really think that, but I was damn proud of my writing career for about two-seconds. A one-hundred percent publishing to submission ratio felt pretty cool. It was a neat publication and it even went to print. Each contributor was able to take home several copies and we had a catered reading. It was nice, but it felt empty. The publication had printed and we’d gathered to scratch each other’s backs and tell each other “good job” while unbeknownst to us the thing would die once we turned on our heels and crossed back over the threshold of that small banquet room. The sounds we heard that night we confused for a reading but what we really heard was the publication’s collective death rattle. I don’t think the publication ever ran again. I submitted once more, I think, or had inquired about an upcoming issue but that issue never happened. 

After this I moved on from literary fiction. Genre fiction still seemed to have a pulse and after thinking about what I would write, horror seemed an easy choice. I’d always consumed horror and sci-fi. I was an X-Files junkie though less for the sci-fi than the horror episodes. I loved old shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. I couldn’t get enough of the Tales from the Crypt. I went through a phase where I read little but the classic literature that any young, aspiring writer should read. It was illuminating and it helped me find a sliver of my voice,  but it mostly felt like work. When I read for fun, however, I read Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. I read Tolkien and Rowling. I even slogged through George RR Martin, which as a side note I don’t believe helped me as a writer. Martin has created potentially the greatest fantasy world ever built but he doesn’t seem to know what the hell he wants to do with it. There are so many detours into characters who have little meaning to the plot that you find yourself one hundred pages into a book only to wonder, “Why should I care about any of these people?” History is great for world building but when there is too much history and too little plot I find it frustrating. Maybe I’ll review Game of Thrones some other time. 

I dove into writing horror and I wrote some stories that I enjoyed writing. This was a new experience because I never give myself a break. I hate each word that I type, in range and arrangement. At least with horror I enjoyed the story behind the words. 

After I’d put together a few short stories I began submitting them and this is where I figured out how horrible the publishing world is for new writers. You spend time trying to write a quality story and you spend time identifying the markets you’d like to publish your work in. You submit to each publication by its specific guidelines and you go into it understanding that they request the right to have up to three months to respond and they expect you not to submit to any other publication in that time frame. If you follow these rules you will be able to only submit that story four times a year if it is rejected. Remember what Linda told me about expecting hundreds of rejections? Do the math on that and try and figure it out.

Early on in this process I had several submission that went past three months with no response. My inquiries about whether they received my story were ignored. I even had one publication tell me “We are so sorry but your submission got lost in the pile, but we’re sorry to inform you that it’s not quite right for us.” I have a fairly well-tuned bullshit detector and let me tell you that response was pungent. They hadn’t read my story, but they had felt guilty of the professional discourtesy of the mistake. So they responded in the way they did. I think that these small journals get overwhelmed by submissions. There is no way for most of them to give what they receive their fair amount of attention. Most publications will fill their entire season off of a short time being open for submissions. The only publications that you can really get to are the ones that don’t have anyone paying attention to them. I refused to spend time throwing my writing away in publications that no one is paying attention to. 

For small markets I can see the hole in my writing that prevents me from succeeding therein. I write with very little academic pretension. I’d rather hear the person on the other side of the pen than hear the person they think they should be pretending to write as. For better or worse I try and write in this way. Small publications are often run by academic types who’ve barely dabbled in the world outside. There are a lot of junior-college professors running these publications as a last ditch effort to keep their own writing careers alive. As the saying goes, “Those who can’t do, teach.” I’m not knocking junior college professors. Hell, I’ve considered heading back to school and immersing myself into academia, but, well, fuck that. I don’t feel like other writers are the best people to act as the gatekeepers for writing. You see, writers are often jealous. There are times when Bret will write a story for Monster Porn and even after all of the years he and I have leaned on one another for our work I will still feel myself having only one negative response to his better stories, the why-the-fuck-didn’t-I-think-of-that response. Monster Porn has been good for me in this way. (No Creepy Porn Guy I’m not talking about the tentacles. Only MP fans will understand that reference.) 

Having writers who themselves are struggling for success as the gatekeepers for other writers is a pretty shitty concept. I feel like there are two types of failed writers; those who feel that they are misunderstood and those who feel like the world isn’t intelligent enough to get them. In both cases the ever ubiquitous “they” are at fault.

I understand that I could write a novel and bypass this whole system if it was good enough. Publishing companies and agents have a simpler incentive, money, and that lends itself to being more diligent in their search for the next best-selling author. The problem is you have to stand out in some small way and when you are a complete unknown you don’t typically stand out. That is the struggle of writing a novel; writing isn’t music or a painting but you still have to try and craft something that will catch the attention of a passerby. This brings us back to publishing credits. Unless you have an MFA to stand on it’s difficult to get any attention. If you can’t point a neon sign to the successes you’ve had then how do you even get anyone to take the time?

Enter Monster Porn. Yeah, if you can’t publish your stories just dive headlong into some Japanese porn fetish and say goodbye to a normal life. Get knee deep into those tentacles, claws, teeth and steaming carnivore breath. Just Kidding. Bret and I decided to start a podcast so that we could circumvent the gatekeepers and have the freedom to not have to adapt our stories to fit in with whatever publication we were aiming for. We started a podcast. We had the concept. I pitched to Bret that we create a podcast where we write speculative fiction stories with some flexibility between genres but with an overall horror motif. I didn’t want it to have the drab, overused approach of being ominous and eerie. I’m not saying there aren’t good horror podcasts out there with this setup, I just think it has been overdone. Monster Porn pulls from a mix of shows like Tales from the Crypt, Mystery Science Theater and a little bit of South Park when it comes to the introduction. None of those are models but we picked elements from existing shows that had influenced us over the years. The stories stand alone and are serious, for the most part; it is difficult to have a show called Monster Porn without writing some tongue-in-whose-cheeks kind of stuff. To be honest I’m more than a little squeamish about the stuff we come up with and Bret is the more conservative one of the two of us. I can’t imagine how he feels about it though the name was his idea. 

We started off at a trickle and now we have a steady stream of listeners. We’ve been fighting the battle of trying to improve our show and stay relevant. We haven’t yet gotten to the money-making stage of MP and perhaps that will never happen. The podcast wasn’t meant to be our careers. However, it was meant to help launch our careers and as of right now we are reaching thousands of people with our stories and the feedback has been great, other than the occasional person who pops in leaving you wondering why they ever clicked on a show called Monster Porn and thought they would get a normal horror anthology. 

Now that we have the platform and something to show for all of our efforts we need to start writing novels. Afterall, that was the point of creating MP. Of course, I’m not sure if it’ll do any good if we both decide to write middle-grade novels. 

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