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Bug-eyed monster

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Title: Bug-eyed monster  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Stock characters, List of stock characters, Doctor Who, BEM, Grey alien
Collection: Extraterrestrial Life in Popular Culture, Stock Characters
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Bug-eyed monster

BEM, cover, Avon Fantasy Reader

The Bug-eyed monster is an early convention of the science fiction genre. Extraterrestrials in science fiction of the 1930s were often described (or pictured on covers of pulp magazines) as grotesque creatures with huge, oversized or compound eyes and a lust for women, blood and/or general destruction. The term is now often abbreviated to BEM.

In the contactee/abductee mythology which grew up quickly beginning in 1952, the blond, blue-eyed, and friendly Nordic aliens of the 1950s were quickly replaced by small, unfriendly bug-eyed creatures, closely matching in many respects the pulp cover clichés of the 1930s which have remained the abductor norm since the 1960s.

Artists Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell are famous for their artwork in this genre.

Popular culture

  • The most frequent "bug-eyed monster" in pop culture is the Daleks from Doctor Who. When the show was created, the BBC producers stated that Doctor Who would be a "hard" science fiction show, and there would be no bug-eyed monsters - explicitly stated by show creator Sydney Newman. Writer Terry Nation created the Daleks in the show's second serial, much to Newman's disapproval, but later to his placation. These have frequently been referred to as a bug-eyed monster since that time.[1]
  • A 1968 Japanese anime called Yōkai Ningen Bem is based on this concept.
  • Bug-Eyed Monsters (specifically called "BEMS") are prominently featured in fantasy novel Bearing an Hourglass, as a sort of "simulation" created by Satan for the book's protagonist Norton while he is new in his new official role as the Incarnation of Time. Female BEMS are called BEM femmes – or Bemmes.
  • Bug-eyed monsters were mentioned in Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
"We hitched a lift," said Ford.
"Excuse me?" said Arthur. "Are you trying to tell me that we just stuck out our thumbs and some green bug-eyed monster stuck his head out and said, 'Hi fellas, hop right in. I can take you as far as the Basingstoke roundabout'?"
"Well," said Ford, "the Thumb's an electronic sub-etha signalling device, the roundabout's at Barnard's Star six light years away, but otherwise, that's more or less right."
"And the bug-eyed monster?"
"Is green, yes."
  • Unusually, the main character himself is a bug-eyed monster in the animated children's television series Invader Zim.
  • The Pokémon species Beheeyem is based on the concept of the Bug-eyed monster.

See also


  1. ^ BBC – Doctor Who – A Brief History of the Daleks URL accessed April 26, 2007

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