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Daily Science Fiction :: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Monsters by Alex Shvartsman
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The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Monsters

Alex Shvartsman is a writer and game designer from Brooklyn, NY. Over 60 of his short stories have appeared in Nature, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Galaxy's Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and many other venues. He edits Unidentified Funny Objects, an annual anthology of humorous SF/F. His fiction is linked at alexshvartsman.com and his short story collection, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma releases on February 1st, 2015..
It isn't easy being green, scaly, or abominable these days. Humanity turned the tables on the apex predators of the food chain, and has been exterminating us with extreme prejudice.
We're still faster and stronger than they are, but we're prone to defeat by bad judgment. Heed the lessons of our vanquished brethren; learn from their mistakes and remain successful, extant, and satiated.
1) Don't Rely on Henchmen
There's no denying that it's emotionally satisfying to be worshipped--or at least obeyed--by humans. However, there is little practical benefit. In the entire history of henchmen, cultists, minions, lackeys, and worshippers, one is hard-pressed to come up with a single paragon of effectiveness. Instead they tend to be slow, dim-witted, and clumsy.
At best, your followers might mildly inconvenience your adversary as he or she rampages through your lair or secret laboratory, Sharp Object of Destiny in hand. At worst, they might develop last-minute regrets and attempt to throw you down the nearest shaft.
So next time someone asks if you're a god, just eat them.
2) Heed the Warning Signs
Ignoring the obvious means you're just asking for trouble. For example, vampires and other beings highly allergic to Vitamin D are advised to steer clear of towns with the word "sunny" in their name. That's just common sense.
There are plenty of better targets, places with names that evoke gothic dread and despair. Names like Gloaming Creek, Murky Hallow, Gloomsburg, or Detroit.
3) Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Don't climb skyscrapers. There's little room to maneuver up there, and the position isn't defensible.
If your adversary is running away, they're almost certainly leading you into a trap.
Pre-plan your retreat. Always know the shortest route to the nearest sewer, secret passage, or inter-dimensional portal.
If retreat isn't an option, pretend to be their friend. A surprising number of humans will fall for a few sparkles and a tortured expression.
4) Practice Safe Invading
When invading alien planets, be sure that all your vaccinations are up to date.
Your mothership's operating system shouldn't be compatible with the latest in Earth's computer virus technology.
Whatever resources you seek on Earth (water, oxygen, landmass to terraform) are cheap and plentiful elsewhere in the universe.
If you've achieved interstellar flight, your robots are probably safer, smarter, and longer lasting than human slave labor.
5) Mix it Up
Adjust your tactics to keep your nemeses guessing:
It's okay not to eat the lone black guy first. The rest of his party will never expect it if you start with someone else.
Stab your adversary in the middle of explaining your nefarious plan to them.
Don't place your calls from inside the house.
6) Hunt Safely
On average, few modern humans have access to silver bullets, pitchforks, or wooden stakes soaked in holy water. Improbably, the odds of anyone who encounters a monster possessing such items rise exponentially.
Always comport yourself as though everyone has access to the one thing that can pierce your otherwise-indestructible skin or body armor.
7) Reconsider
Even if you meticulously prepare your schemes and pay careful attention to the safety tips above, at the end of the day you must ask yourself: is it really worth it?
The most dangerous monster of all is man. For best results, avoid encounters at all costs.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 22nd, 2014


The title of this story popped into my head as I was driving to a local science fiction convention, and I worked out most of the "habits" by the time I got there. I arrived twenty minutes early for my first panel, and literally wrote the proto-version of this story on the back of the napkin while I waited for the panel to begin. Problem was, it was way too short. The entire story was only 150 words or so. I set it aside for a while as I pondered a way to add some meat to its bones without making it feel like any of the material was extraneous. What you read today was the end result of that rewrite, and I hope you found it amusing.

- Alex Shvartsman

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