Werewolves live among us. They belong to co-ops and drive Priuses. That guy one cubicle over, with the hairy knuckles? Werewolf. The woman who just sold you a house? Werewolf. They’re capable of appearing human, controlling their urges just like the rest of us, even when the moon is round and full. But if provoked—if treated like second-class citizens—they may revolt.
So begins Red Moon, the second and latest novel by Oregon native Benjamin Percy, who sets his horror story within the gothic arena of the Pacific Northwest. To call it just a “horror story” is too dismissive, though. Like Orwell’s Animal Farm (or X-Men, for that matter), it carries deep political undertones, tackling xenophobia and civil rights with werewolves—here called “lycans”—standing in as the Other. And the lycans are mad. Very mad. They’re tired of mandatory medication, and submitting to monthly blood tests to make sure their “disease” is in check. They’re resisting the U.S. occupation of the Lupine Republic. And they’re willing to organize deadly terrorist attacks on American soil—and in its airspace—to make their case.
Percy isn’t shy about borrowing plot points from 9/11 and its aftermath. “The most lasting horror stories are those that seemed to channel cultural unease, to take a knife to the nerve of the moment,” the author told our sister publication Portland Monthly in a recent interview. “Frankenstein is born out of the Industrial Revolution. Dracula is channeling Victorian prudishness. The red scare gave rise to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Stephen King’s The Dead Zone is so connected to Cold War anxieties. And since 9/11, there’s been a slew of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives in literature and film. The thing we fear most now seems to be some kind of combination of disease and terrorism, so I braided those two together.”
I’ll be honest: I don’t go for horror stories. But I haven’t been able to put Red Moon down. And I’ll certainly be at Elliott Bay Book Company tonight to hear Percy talk about the werewolf in all of us tonight with fellow Northwest author Jonathan Evison.
“The werewolf myth is one everyone can relate to,” he told Portland Monthly. “We’ve all gone a little crazy as a result of drunkenness, anger, or rage. Only later—maybe the next morning—do we feel regret. The werewolf story informs Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It informs the Incredible Hulk. It is about an unleashed Id.” Read on for the full interview.Benjamin Percy with Jonathan Evison
May 9 at 7, Elliott Bay Book Co, free