Odd thought I had the other morning: advances in human technology and increased population should lead to more supernatural creatures, not less.
I know this seems counterintuitive, and certainly counter to so many “the Magic Goes Away” fantasies. Let me lay out my reasoning.
Monsters tend to have three main origins. First, they may be a manifested fear of the unknown. Second, maybe they’re predators like wolves and tigers, just of supernatural lineage. Third (more common in modern Asian stories, but check out just about any folklore), they were regular creatures that somehow evolved to take on more human-like forms and mentalities.
So how does the modern world affect each of these?
I would argue the modern world has a greater scope for fear of the unknown than just about any time in the past. Sure, a millennium or even a hundred years ago you might not know what was going on half a world away, but most of the time, it didn’t matter. The odds of it affecting you personally were small. (Unless you’re talking something like Krakatoa, but hey.) Now we live in a world where not only do we not know exactly what’s going on half a world away, but we also know for sure it could wind up literally in our laps by way of a plane ride. That’s a lot of fear. Compound that with how much scientific knowledge of the world is currently out there, too much for any one person to grasp. Meaning there’s all that which we know we don’t know. That’s a lot of Unknown to be terrified of.
There are also more people in the world than any time in history, supported by advanced agriculture and health care. If you see monsters as just weird predators on humans, then there should be more of them out there than ever. Predators expand to match their prey base. All they need is a way to hide from prey, and they’re set.
Finally, if monsters are creatures that wanted a human form – if you’re a nonhuman looking at humans through most of history, there’s not a lot of advantages to being human (ish). Smaller than a lot of predators, weaker, no claws, no wings, a lifetime of constant toil to stay fed…. About all we’ve got going for us is the opposable thumb.
In the internet age, that thumb opens the way to wonders. And there are labor-saving devices all over the place. Washers! Dryers! Microwaves! Kindles! Even with the attention span of your typical drunken fox spirit, you can manage a hot meal, a nice, clean bed, and a library of esoteric knowledge (or racy porn) at your fingertips. That’s a lot more drive to cultivate a human form.
Given that – how do you think modern monsters should evolve?