Everyone loves a good monster mash, so we’re very excited to reveal the beautiful cover for SA Sidor’s upcoming novel Fury From The Tomb thanks to Angry Robot!
This excellent cover was created by Daniel Strange, who said “The real buzz line given to me as a means to get the imagination flowing was Indiana Jones meets Sergio Leone which pretty much gave me permission to delve back into the history of classic B-Movie poster art with a healthy dose of Pulpy adventure to finish it all off.”
Doesn’t that sound good? Here’s a plot synopsis for the novel (out in May) if you need your appetite whetted a little more.
“Saqqara, Egypt, 1888, and in the booby-trapped tomb of an ancient sorcerer, Rom, a young Egyptologist, makes the discovery of a lifetime: five coffins and an eerie, oversized sarcophagus. But the expedition seems cursed, for after unearthing the mummies, all but Rom die horribly. He faithfully returns to America with his disturbing cargo, continuing by train to Los Angeles, home of his reclusive sponsor. When the train is hijacked by murderous banditos in the Arizona desert, who steal the mummies and flee over the border, Rom – with his benefactor’s rebellious daughter, an orphaned Chinese busboy, and a cold-blooded gunslinger – must ride into Mexico to bring the malevolent mummies back. If only mummies were their biggest problem…”
Now, here is Sidor himself to tell us how to make creatures feel fresh…
Mashing Up Monsters Makes Them Feel Alive Again
We live in a time of sequels, reboots, and retreads. For fans of horror and sci-fi/fantasy, that means the audience often finds themselves in a lifeless, check-all-the-boxes, and ultimately unsatisfying landscape. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We like old monsters/villains and favorite setups. We have a taste for time-tested tropes. They have the magtheic to return us to our first experiences falling in love with a genre. But the trick is to take the audience to familiar territory and make it feel fresh. That task is not easy, and it is almost always doomed to fail. But if creators open up their trick bag they might find something to spark their brains in new directions. [Caution: a lot of these ideas will lead in new and bad directions. If executed poorly, they’re nothing better than gimmicks, desperation moves, and Hail Mary passes.] But if they are used as springboards instead of formulas, they deliver an alternative way forward, climbing past the dead end to bring old monsters back to life and keep things interesting.
When I set out to write Fury From The Tomb, I wanted to write an adventure about an archaeologist and mummies. But I wasn’t interested in hacking my way to a Universal monster circa the 1930s, or even the late 1990s. How did I start? My initial goal wasn’t to write a book with the widest possible audience in mind. In fact my first audience was really, really small: just me. I wanted to write something to entertain myself. I did it for fun. But I take my fun seriously. I didn’t start out with a template or any paint-by-the-numbers outlines. Instead, I had an image. In my mind I saw an Egyptian mummy walking in a Mexican desert. How did he get there? I didn’t know. So I wrote my way to an answer to that question. I wanted the story to be historical rather than contemporary. I went back to the 1880s, well before the time of any Indiana Jones adventure. The setting and time period put my story in the American Old West. My favorite Western movies are spaghetti Westerns. A spaghetti Western vibe with mummies — that idea felt weird but fresh. I’d never seen one of those before. But if I saw one on Netflix would I watch it? You bet I would.
Old Monster Needs a New Scene
Remember Jason X? The science fiction slasher put icon Jason Voorhees in space. It’s better than some of the sequels, but worse than others. Maybe going into space was too big a leap for the hockey-masked machete aficionado. But the reason that movie comes up short isn’t because it’s in space. It’s because nothing else changed. Our arguably best-loved monster, Dracula, likes to spread his wings. One big reason Dracula and vampires have survived and thrived in our cultural consciousness is because they got out of Transylvania. Whether it’s London or Louisiana or ’Salem’s Lot, changing setting has boosted the fanged bat’s love bite.
Bring in Some Other Baddies
I’d argue that Aliens is the best monster sequel of all time. It works because a lot of aliens sounds scarier than just one. Alien was a haunted house movie in space. You’re trapped and no one can hear you scream. But in Aliens, everyone can hear you scream only they can’t help you because they’re also dealing with an acid-for-blood tooth machine. Whether it’s Graboids, Crawlers, Velociraptors, or kaiju, more is, if not merrier, then usually scarier. A good way to amp up the action is to put multiple monsters in play. Restraint is not advised. My mummies have ghouls, satanic cannibal monks, hopping vampires, and sandworms added in the mix.
Give Me a Hero (Team)
A lone hero is a thing of the past. It’s more dynamic and more believable to tackle monsters with a team effort. A group working together means more talents, more imperfections, and more inner conflict to go with the challenge of killing the unkillable. It means more characters for people to identify with and care about. From Star Wars to Star Trek to The Walking Dead, the team approach prevails. We have to learn to work together, and so do our heroes. Or are we our own worst enemies? Can we put aside our differences and learn to get along to beat the bigger threats we face? In Fury From The Tomb, I play off the Indiana Jones sidekicks by making them more than just sidekicks. My archaeologist is young, inexperienced, and in way over his head on his first expedition. He needs the help of a millionairess occult librarian, a young Chinese railroad worker, and a grizzled bounty hunter. This oddball artificial family takes a road trip pursuing stolen mummies into the Sonoran desert. How they learn to work side by side is almost as challenging as their battle with a bandaged sorcerer resurrected from his cursed tomb… almost.
Blend and Twist
Mixing genres injects life into tired conventional narratives. And it creates new space to work. For example, I really wanted to write a train robbery sequence. One of my favorite subgenres is train thrillers (Train To Busan, Snowpiercer, The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3, Terror Train, Horror Express, Runaway Train, The Great Train Robbery, The Cassandra Crossing). Mixing elements of spaghetti westerns with horror gave me the chance to drop a bandito train robbery right in the middle of my mummy novel.
I’ve left the most important trick for last. And it’s not a trick at all. Any reinvention of a genre monster needs heart. It’s not mechanical, it’s human. Story rules. Without that secret ingredient, it’s going to taste like Seth Brundle’s (The Fly) steak.
Fury From The Tomb by SA Sidor is published on 1 May from Angry Robot.