The Beauty of Lies

by Mel Gilden

Many years ago I wrote a series of books called The Fifth Grade Monsters.  It was about a normal kid whose best friends were sort of watered-down versions of the Universal monsters — the wolfman, Frankenstein's monster, and Dracula. 

        5GM1       5GM2       5GM3

Fifth Grade Monsters. There were 14 of them.

The books were published by Avon/Camelot and I wish they were still in print.  Because the series was owned by Byron Preiss Visual, a book packager, and not by me, I have no say on when they will be released from the vault — if ever.

At that time, the senior editor at Avon/Camelot was Ellen Krieger.  We met at last when we both had speaking engagements in the middle of Oklahoma at the same time.  Turned out we both had been introduced to okra by Campbell's chicken gumbo soup, and our favorite musical was The Music Man.  We had lots to talk about.

These days Ms. Krieger is a VP at Aladdin Books.  I just contacted her about the possibility of Aladdin purchasing my new series, The Spaceship in the Driveway.  No decision yet, but I'll let you know.  She also informs me that Aladdin is now publishing the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, and that I might be right for a Hardy Boys tale.  Of course, my name would not be on it, but they would probably pay me — which is good.

Many interesting people work out at the gym where I go to keep down the poundage, and the conversation is sometimes lively.  The other day we were talking about human universals, things that all humans do no matter where they were brought up.  Joseph Campbell talked about this in some detail in his classic book The Hero With 1000 Faces, in which he explained that all heroes, whether it is James Bond, the Lone Ranger, or N'bungo the Monkey God, all have qualities in common.

I told my friend at the gym that I had heard that when kids "in the middle of Borneo" are presented for the first time with an Oreo sandwich cookie, their first reaction is to take it apart and eat the white stuff.  He responded with a story of his own — that a kid "in the middle of Borneo" who wants to show his disrespect, will fling a classic Bronx Cheer, though he probably calls the action something else.  We also agreed that all humans laugh when they are happy, and cry when they are sad.  And that they all sing and bang out rhythms.  I leave it to you to decide whether any of this is significant, or even true.

Some years ago I read an sf short story in which the aliens were puzzled by the human preoccupation with fiction.  The aliens knew that the person telling the story knew it was a lie, and that the person listening to the story knew it was a lie — then why bother telling it?  Obviously the aliens didn't understand the human need for catharsis, and the fact that fiction sometimes gives one a view into the human psyche.