I am very excited to announce that Mechanoid Press has been nominated for the 2014 New Pulp Awards.
AND THE CATEGORIES ARE…
BEST ANTHOLOGY: Monster Earth, edited by James Palmer and Jim Beard
BEST SHORT STORY: I. A. Watson’s The Monsters of World War II, or, Happy Birthday, Bobby Fetch, from Monster Earth
BEST COVER ART: Karl Comendador for his fantastic cover for Robots Unleashed!
The New Pulp Awards will be given at MidSouthCon 32 in Memphis this March. Congratulations to all the nominees!
Our latest anthology STRANGE TRAILS is now available in print and Kindle e-book formats. This collection of Weird West tales features stories by Tommy Hancock and Morgan Minor, James Palmer, Barry Reese, Joshua Reynolds, and Edward M. Erdelac. It also features a snazzy cover by comic artist James Burns.
Contact: James Palmer
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Atlanta, GA—Mechanoid Press, a small imprint specializing in science fiction, New Pulp and more, returns to the exciting world of their popular giant monster anthology MONSTER EARTH with MONSTER EARTH 2.
Returning to the helm of this mammoth (pun intended) undertaking are editors James Palmer (Blackthorn: Thunder on Mars) and Jim Beard (Captain Action and the Riddle of the Glowing Men).
“This is going to take the monster action to a whole new level,” explains Palmer. “I thing fans of the first book are really going to love this one.”
MONSTER EARTH 2 will bring the action closer to the present day, with the nations of the world experimenting with genetic manipulation of the various beasties. Add a secret death cult trying to herald the end of days, and you’ve got a volatile recipe for mayhem and destruction as only some of the hottest writers in New Pulp can bring it.
Returning for this volume are Edward M. Erdelac (Mighty Nanuq), Jeff McGinnis (The Beast’s Home) and Fraser Sherman (Peace with Honor). Joining them will be Thomas Dejah (How the West Was Weird). Just as in the previous anthology, Beard and Palmer will also contribute stories. Artist extraordinaire Eric Johns is also returning to do the cover.
“Jim did a great job with the bible on this one,” says Palmer. “Between that and all the readers who have asked about a sequel, I knew we just had to do another book.”
MONSTER EARTH 2 is scheduled for either a late December or early January release, and will appear in both Kindle and trade paper formats.
About James Palmer
James has written articles, interviews, columns, reviews and fiction for Strange Horizons, Tangent Online, The Internet Review of Science Fiction, and New Pulp Publishers Airship 27, Pro Se Productions, and White Rocket Books. His books Slow Djinn and Four Terrors: Weird Horror Tales are currently available in PDF and Kindle formats. He also has a story in Mars McCoy: Space Ranger Vol 2. from Airship 27. For more, visit www.jamespalmerbooks.com or follow James on Twitter: www.twitter.com/palmerwriter and www.facebook.com/jamespalmerwriter
About Mechanoid Press
Mechanoid Press is a new imprint specializing in science fiction, New Pulp, and steampunk ebooks and anthologies. For more, visit www.mechanoidpress.com or follow the robot revolution on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mechanoidpress. You can also like Mechanoid Press on Facebook.
Contact: James Palmer
ATLANTA, GA—Mechanoid Press, a small imprint specializing in science fiction and New Pulp e-books is about to be invaded by robots.
The young publisher is releasing an e-book only title called ROBOT STORIES, featuring three tales of mechanized mayhem. Included in this volume will be work by Joel M. Jenkins, James R. Tuck (author of the Deacon Chalk: occult bounty hunter novels), and Jim Kinley.
“With this many Jims involved, it’s sure to be a winner,” jokes Mechanoid Press editor James Palmer. “I’m super excited to have these gentlemen on board. It’s going to be a blast.”
ROBOT STORIES is scheduled for a mid-summer release, and will sport a classic cover by Rondo award-winning artist Mark Maddox.
Mechanoid Press is a new imprint specializing in science fiction, New Pulp, and steampunk e-books and anthologies. For more, visit www.mechanoidpress.com or follow the robot revolution on Twitter. You can also like Mechanoid Press on Facebook.
As noted at my blog, when I wound up with the 1970s slot for Monster Earth, I settled on an idea that’s intrigued me for a while: We don’t commit ground troops to Vietnam and it remains a minor side affair in the Cold War. This being Monster Earth, of course, that changes when Vietnam develops its own monster.
My knowledge of the Vietnam War was not enough to do this from scratch, so I immediately began reading up: Working-Class War, A Hundred Feet Over Hell, Why the Vietcong Fought and Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam: A History (a really outstanding one-volume history of Vietnam), among others.
I had the basic concept from the first: Instead of trying to go mano-a-mano with the Son of Johnson, the Vietnamese Shrieker uses its flight and speed to wage a war of attrition, striking South Vietnamese troops, then withdrawing before “Junior” can counter-attack. The only solution is to send Junior directly into the heart of North Vietname to force a confrontation. Around that, I had to build my cast.
Slowly, the players formed up in my mind: Johnson’s handler, who’s smugly confident about victory, and a cynical sergeant with a much better understanding of what war is really like. Several of the books quoted soldiers and field officers disgusted at the careerists who made cameo appearances in ‘nam just to burnish their CV, without ever really wanting to get out in the field; the scientist would be someone like that.
In practice, that character didn’t work at all. After a couple of drafts, I replaced him with a female handler, a middle-aged woman who’d been in the military since World War II and now wound up in the monster project. The careerist officer would be her foil.
Then I realized I needed to give more space to the Vietnamese side. I started telling some of the stories from the perspective of the Shrieker’s rider and for reasons I no longer remember, made her female. And then decided to make the American handler male as a kind of balance.
Things finally began clicking. On the American side we now had Alec Bannister, a military man leading the Son of Johnson in his first big battle, and determined neither of them will let America down. On the Vietnamese end we have Li Anh, a young woman equally determined to do what her family have been trying to do for 30 years—free Vietnam of all invaders (Japanese, French, US—they got invaded a lot) and unify the country.
Both dedicated. Both caring more for their respective monsters than official policy says they’re supposed to. And both slowly moving toward the inevitable showdown …
Other characters, such as Bannister’s handler Fox and Anh’s cadre Tringh (cadre being a combination sergeant and political offer) developed.
And finally it was done. And now it’s up to you to see what you think of it.
Chuck Ronson Reporting
by I.A. Watson
A tie in to his Monster Earth story “Monster of World War II, or Happy Birthday Bobby Fetch”
CHUCK RONSON: I’m here for the National Broadcasting Company reporting live from the tent relief hospital at Pearl Harbor, just twenty-four hours after the devastating Japanese attack led by another giant creature under their control, a monster the experts are now calling Kraakus. It’s impossible to describe the scene here. In fact I’m told we’re not allowed to comment on the magnitude of lost shipping and aircraft or to name specific vessels. Or to detail casualties. We’ve just learned as a nation that we have enemies who will be more than happy to use that information against us. Anyhow, I’m here in one of the big emergency pavilions where the wounded have been brought, and I’m talking to a survivor and eyewitness of this attack, Miss Bethany Morris. Miss Morris, you were right here when it happened?
BETH MORRIS: I was on the base, yes. I’m a secretary – I was a secretary, at the Admin Building at the Naval Yard. It’s just a heap of steaming rubble now, after the acid spray.
CHUCK: You were heading to work, just before eight local time, when the attack began?
BETH: I was heading across the playing field with Lizzie. She works with me… that is, worked. She’s dead now. I saw that huge tentacle lash out and swat her like a fly! She burst! She just… burst. She…
CHUCK: Take your time, Miss Morris.
BETH: Sorry. It was… Anyway, we were just coming over the field, me and Lizzie, yesterday morning. Some G.I.s were playing ball and they whooped at us. At Lizzie anyway. Guys always whooped at Lizzie. She waved back to them. We’d just gotten to the road when there was this awful stench. Like every sewer in the world had backed up all at once, or like fish that have been dead for about two years. It was awful, choking.
CHUCK: What did you do?
BETH: We hurried inside. We thought maybe there’d been a bad tide. We thought it’d be better in the building. Private Mortensen held the door open for us.
CHUCK: I should explain for the benefit of listeners that Miss Morris and I are sitting beside Private Mortensen’s bed. He’s not conscious. His head’s wrapped in bandages.
BETH: Yes. But that was later. Right then I didn’t even think about him. We just hurried past to get away from the smell. Then there was that sound.
CHUCK: Everyone I’ve interviewed has talked about that. No-one can agree what it sounded like.
BETH: It was the noise souls make as they’re dragged to hell. It’s like… needles in your head, needles that hate you. I don’t wonder that folks can’t describe it. I think we all just heard it in our minds and assigned it some noise we could understand. I think… whatever it was made that noise carried thousands of years of pain and cried it out in anger. I think it blames humanity for its torment. Or something. I don’t know.
CHUCK: This was the screech of the creature they’re calling Kraakus, the monster some people are describing as a legendary kraken?
BETH: Yes. I didn’t see it rising in the harbor. Some of the people here did, but most won’t talk about it. Lizzie and I only saw the shadow as something really, really huge blocked the light into the Admin Building lobby. And then there was that scream, that shriek that tore right into you, that shredded your courage, that made you afraid like a tiny animal being hunted in the dark.
CHUCK: What did you do?
BETH: I was on my knees before I ever realized I’d reacted. I wanted to be sick. My head was spinning round. Lizzie was trying to drag me up, to get us away. Then we heard a big tearing sound, metal tearing, and an explosion. That was when it ripped up the first of the battleships.
CHUCK: We can’t say on air what that was, Miss Morris. But you didn’t see that?
BETH: We didn’t see the creature. Not then. We smelled it and we heard it – and we felt it in our bones, in our blood.
CHUCK: The monster’s cry seems to have affected a lot of people. Some of them just curled into catatonic balls.
BETH: I can understand that. But Lizzie dragged me up, pulled me back to the door. “We have to get out,” she kept saying. “We have to get out”. The building was shaking. Another explosion made all the windows blow in. Private Mortensen was there, by the entrance, looking round wildly, holding his rifle up as if he could shoot the building before it fell on us.
CHUCK: Did you get out?
BETH: Something massive hit the outer wall. A tentacle, I guess. The plasterwork cracked and some of the ceiling came down. The big chandelier smashed to pieces. An alarm bell started ringing. I remember thinking, some part of me was thinking, how pointless it was to ring a bell to warn people that something was wrong. Lizzie kept trying to drag me away. She got me to the door but when the building got hit she let me go and just ran. Ran away, across the road, towards the field. That’s when… when…
CHUCK: That’s when the tentacle hit her.
BETH: Yes. Smeared her, just like that. Like it didn’t matter. Like she didn’t mean anything. All that energy, all that potential, that beautiful, fun-filled, flirty, annoying, brilliant… all gone into a puddle of gore. And then that same tentacle lashed back straight towards me.
CHUCK: Go on.
BETH: That’s when Hank – Private Mortensen – grabbed me. He hauled me back through the door just as the tentacle slammed into the wall. It shattered the stones. The whole place came down around me. I… I don’t remember anything for a while.
CHUCK: Is that when you broke your arm?
BETH: Yes. It didn’t hurt much till they set it again. I didn’t even know it was busted till I woke up and tried to use it.
CHUCK: How long were you out?
BETH: Hank said a couple of hours. We were trapped under the rubble, see? The doorway had formed a kind of archway that protected us from the debris. It was like a little tent, a tiny space under the fallen building. Hank was laid on top of me. We were pinned like that.
CHUCK: Not a good situation.
BETH: Better than being crushed. It was only later on that I realized why Hank was lying on me. He must have thrown his whole body across me to protect me. That was pretty brave.
CHUCK: Was he unconscious then?
BETH: No. He’d gotten his crack on the skull. That concussion, but we were in pitch darkness so he couldn’t tell if it was bad. He was bleeding a lot but head wounds are always like that, aren’t they? I could get my good arm up to touch his injury and I wound by scarf round it the best I could.
CHUCK: So you were trapped under the Admin Building while Kraakus was rampaging across Pearl Harbor.
BETH: That’s probably why we survived. So many others didn’t.
CHUCK: And at last you were rescued?
BETH: No. Not then. It got much worse before that.
CHUCK: Can you tell us about it?
BETH: I… yes, I can. I must. First off was the acid. You heard that Jap monster spat out wads of acid? It just melted folks to goo. Ships and planes too, they tell me. Well it must have sprayed the Admin Building, because some of that stuff tricked down to drip into the space where we were laying. We knew because, even though it was pitch black in our hole, that stuff glowed!
CHUCK: Did it get near you?
BETH: Some did, but it melted right down into the stones beneath us. A few drops fell right on Hank’s back, too, but he didn’t tell me then. He just let it burn him and he sheltered me from it. See those bandages all round his torso? That’s the wounds Hank took when he kept me from being burned.
CHUCK: Is that why you’re sitting here next to him while he sleeps? He saved you from the acid?
BETH: That’s not why. Not really. You see… what came next was worse. We lay there waiting for rescue, or for that monster to come back and finish us. It went quiet for a while. They say it headed inland to rip up the mountains. We just lay there and nursed our wounds and wondered why no-one was coming to help us. Of course, we didn’t know how bad it was outside. There was no-one to help us. And then… it came back.
CHUCK: How did you know the kraken had returned?
BETH: We felt it. I don’t mean the ground trembling, though it did. We knew it was coming before the smell hit us again, before it screamed out that horrid mind-scraping creel. We just knew it was approaching. And it knew where we were.
CHUCK: You mean you thought it knew.
BETH: I mean it knew. We could sense it. I can’t explain it any better than that. It knew where we were and it hated us. It wanted us to die. It wanted to devour us mind, body, and soul.
CHUCK: Did you try and dig out of the rubble?
BETH: We couldn’t move. The lintel was keeping the whole thing from falling on us. If we shifted anything the lot would have come down. So we were trapped, me under Hank, while that thing crawled back to finish us off. It’s cries got louder and louder, worse and worse. I thought I would go mad.
CHUCK: But you didn’t.
BETH: Maybe I did, for a moment. But then… It was Hank. Hank talked to me. He just talked to me, so calm, so kind. He made me listen to him. He just talked and talked, about anything. About when he was a boy in Iowa with his little dog. About his brother and sister. About the movies. About bluebells. Anything to drag me away from hearing that horrible thing heading towards us.
CHUCK: Sounds like he did a good job.
BETH: Yes. You know, I hardly remembered him from before. He asked me out once, at a mixer dance. I wouldn’t give him the time of day. He was only a private, and Lizzie and me, we kept getting asked by the officers. I just brushed him off, I guess. But here he was, laid on top of me, telling me everything that came into his head, just to keep me sane. Hank Mortensen, saving my life again.
CHUCK: I should say for the folks listening, you’re holding his hand.
BETH: That creature, that Kraakus, he was getting closer. And the nearer he got the worse it was. There was something about it, something that tore up all the parts of a mind that allowed common sense, or hope, or rational thought. I was a rat caught in a trap. Hank must have felt the same way, but he kept on talking to me, trying to hold me together. I knew that if I once slipped I’d be lost, mad, destroyed. As it got nearer it was harder and harder to hold on.
CHUCK: Do you need a moment, Miss Morris?
BETH: No. I want to tell this. I need to. It was… I couldn’t hear Hank any more. I couldn’t feel his weight pressing down on me. I could only feel the monster invading my mind, like tentacles coiling around my thoughts, squeezing. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t even breathe. And then…
BETH: You know there was another monster? A second one, from out of the mountain? Something ancient and buried, that was woken up by Kraakus’ attack?
CHUCK: That would be the dragon-like entity the locals are identifying with the legendary Kalamainu’u from island myth. The one that flew out to engage the Japs and Kraakus.
BETH: That one yes. Did they tell you that she sings?
CHUCK: Sings? Like a bird?
BETH: Like an angel. That Kraakus screams in your mind, but the other one, she – I know it was she, I could tell – she sang. It was like my mother holding me as a baby. Or like… like a sister hugging me. It was like love.
CHUCK: This was the time when Kalamainu’u appeared to do battle with the kraken?
BETH: I guess so. We couldn’t see anything, Hank and I, but we sure felt it. We knew those two ancient powers were clashing against each other. We had no doubt who we should be rooting for.
CHUCK: There are other reports of people who were traumatized by Kraakus’ cries recovering when the dragon came.
BETH: She was like… like cool mountain air and cleaning fire. And though we could tell she was so old, she felt so young. Younger than me. Fresh and passionate and new. Everything that Kraakus wasn’t. Her song just burned through me and Hank, searing away those tentacles, setting us free.
CHUCK: The two monsters met out over the ocean, some distance from here.
BETH: And we were in a little hole under a whole lot of rubble. It didn’t matter. The kraken-thing had dragged us into it, somehow, and the dragon-girl lifted us out. But we were there. We were there when they met. And at the end, I think we helped.
CHUCK: That’s an odd thing to claim, Miss Morris.
BETH: I know. But listen. We knew they were out there. We knew they were fighting. Fear and love kept lashing through us. Hank squeezed my hand and said, “Let’s just hope that love is stronger.” But it didn’t feel that way. It didn’t feel like that was how it was going to end. But then… well…
CHUCK: Miss Morris?
BETH: Then Hank Mortensen kissed me. Or I kissed him. I don’t know. We kissed. We fell in love. Right then, right there, with the monsters in our heads fighting it out. We fell in love and we’ll be together for the rest of our lives! You wanted to know why I’m sitting here looking over Hank while he recovers? It’s because this man is going to be my husband, for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, all the days of our lives! So there!
CHUCK: Congratulations, then. That was some first date!
BETH: And when we kissed, when we fell in love, Kalamainu’u knew. She knew! It strengthened her, somehow. It spurred her on. I swear it, we helped her. And she won.
CHUCK: Reports are that both monsters were lost.
BETH: But Kalamainu’u won. Love triumphed over hate and fear. Now every day Hank and I will try and do justice to what that creature did for us, gave to us. She might be gone, but she will never be forgotten. Never!
CHUCK: Well there you have it, folks. One more tale of horror and disaster, with a remarkable twist. One happy ending in a day that sure needed them. Miss Morris, I’m certain the whole nation is with me in wishing you and Private Mortensen every happiness for the future. And now, over to Brock Murphy for the weather…
When the Jims approached me about writing a story for a giant monster anthology, I caved like Osaka Castle in a Godzilla and Anguirus sandwich.
I love the giant monster genre.
As a kid growing up in Chicago I watched local TV personality Rich Koz as Son of Svengoolie, a rubber chicken dodging wisenheimer in KISS makeup who, like Elvira, would host classic sci fi and horror movies like I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF and break in to comment on the action.
From Hammer horror to THE KILLER SHREWS, I never missed the show. It was Svengoolie who introduced me to giant monster movies, starting with the classic 50’s B-movies like THE DEADLY MANTIS, TARANTULA, THE GILA MONSTER and THEM! and on through the Japanese imports like Showa era Godzilla and Gamera flicks.
These latter were the stuff of comic books – enormous super monsters that duked it out with villainous alien gargantuans usually enslaved to some cosmic menace bent on world domination, or chaotic monstrosities spawned by humanity’s carelessness with nukes or pollution. The Godzilla and Gamera of the 70’s fought for Mother Earth and was a friend to all children. They saved us from aliens and from ourselves.
The 50’s stuff had that element, but it was always man vs. monsters. The colossal critters that stomped down Wall Street or beneath Los Angeles or over the desert foothills terrorizing drag racing teenagers and the National Guard were atomic age nightmares, nature gone horribly wrong. But ultimately all it took to take them out was a well placed gas bomb or an irradiated bullet from Lee Van Cleef.
A lot of years passed before I revisited the giant monster genre. It took my stepson, a Godzilla fanatic at six years old, to reintroduce me. The Godzilla he knew was not my Godzilla however. This was the Heisei era, beginning with GODZILLA 1985 and ending up with GODZILLA VS. DESTROYAH. The FX were updated, the models more intricate, the rubber suits fantastically detailed, the breath weapons computer enhanced. The Godzilla (and Mothra) of this period was a little more of an antihero than what I’d grown up with. More the lesser of two evils in most cases than the sometimes clownish big dog of the 70’s.
Together we experienced the ensuing Millenium series, with its wildly varying entries, including, for my money, one of the most memorable, GMK, or GODZILLA-MOTHRA-KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL OUT ATTACK. Here Godzilla became the 1950’s B-movie menace, trashing Tokyo and squashing bystanders and rogue teenagers with ferocity, but in a film almost perfectly melded with the hero monster movies of the past, as a trio of mystical guardian monsters rise to stop big G.
On par with this is GAMERA 3. I didn’t overly care for the first two in the new era Gamera movies, but 3 gets it right in one big way – for the first time, the obligatory human interest element (historically, poorly done, and nowhere more so than in Godzilla: Final Wars) is just as compelling as seeing a giant flying turtle take down a reptilian bird thing. A young girl, her family accidentally smashed by Gamera years ago, awakens, psychically bonds with, and trains a giant killer kaiju to be the vehicle for her revenge.
Which brings me all the way back to MONSTER EARTH and why I loved writing MIGHTY NANUQ, my tale of a Canadian Inuit, his anti-establishment nephew and their mystic bond with an immense ice breathing polar bear (more indepth about that here at my blog. [There's another extensive essay on the origins of his tale there, plus an excerpt.--James]
What Jim Beard and James Palmer have done in envisioning this anthology, a shared world in which the Cold War is fought with kaiju instead of ICBM’s, is they’ve created the perfect excuse to blend all the best elements of the giant monster genre – monsters as threats, monsters as heroes (and of course, clashing), and a relatable and enjoyable human element.
If you have any inkling of what I’ve been going on about for the past few paragraphs, then trust me.
You wanna pick this one up.
We continue with our series of posts from MONSTER EARTH contributors. Next up is Nancy Hansen, author of the tale “And a Child Shall Lead Them”. Enjoy.
You have to imagine me as a wide-eyed kid snuggled down on pillows in front of an old console model black and white TV; chin on hands, avidly watching Gamera and Gyaos exchanging fire. I’ve always enjoyed monster movies—the weirder, the better—to the chagrin of my family, who could never understand my fascination with such over-the-top and sometimes kitschy cinema. Oh sure, the translated scripts were often awkward; even when the dubbed tracks almost synched with the lip movements. The rubber costumes were barely this side of believable, the miniature sets were detailed but lifeless, and the special effects were primitive compared to today’s CGI marvels. It didn’t matter, because I was there to witness something I’d never get to see in my everyday life anyway. A couple of behemoths were busily duking it out and trashing most of some unfortunate city in the process.
Oh how I enjoyed those Kaiju movies! They made Saturday afternoons when it rained, snowed, or it was too hot to play outside a whole lot more interesting for a working class kid with nothing better to do.
When I was growing up, the older of two daughters, I was the shy introvert who had very few friends. There weren’t many kids in my neighborhood and most of them had little interest in me. There was no money in our household for summer camp or afterschool activities, so books and TV were my playmates and my vacations. Over time I found that my imagination could provide me with all the traveling companions I needed to get to those places no other means of transport would ever find. Retreating into that private inner world as often as I did really fired up my love for the outlandish creatures and exotic locales that appear so prominently in my fantasy writing today. Monsters of all ilks populate my stories; so when I was asked if I was interested in writing an alternate Earth, where conflicts are handled not so much with conventional weapons or nuclear devices, but gargantuan critters stomping across the countryside, of course I was excited. What kid at heart wouldn’t be?
It may sound like a contradiction of terms, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years about writing fantasy, it’s that it has to be believable—or at least so much fun to read (or watch) that your audience is willing to suspend belief long enough to sit through your offering. People pick up these books and watch those movies for the same reason they get on carnival rides, bungee jump, go whitewater rafting and rock climbing. There’s a certain satisfaction in having met a challenge and mastered it, though not all of us are willing or able to leave the shelter of our mundane home lives to do so. There’s no safer way to travel through dangerous situations in uncharted worlds than via an engaging flick on the screen or within the pages of a riveting novel. It’s exuberating to feel as if you’ve triumphed over a traumatic and precarious situation along with the characters and that you’ve become one of them in the process. That’s what keeps us coming back for more.
Kaiju films have been around for a long time, and they have their devoted audience for that very selfsame ‘bigger than life’ adventure factor. They’re lighthearted entertainment with many thrilling moments, and yet they don’t have any resemblance to our everyday lives. In all honesty, that’s the idea! We don’t go to the movies or pick up a novel to be reminded that there are taxes to pay and a nagging boss to please, that little Johnny needs expensive orthodontic work, or to relive the traffic jams and construction detours in the area we need to commute through daily. We want to leave all that behind and be captivated and ultimately whisked away from our everyday world of same-old-drudgery blues punctuated by screaming headlines. We want to see something amazing happening on the screen or within the very next page that gets turned. We want heroes and villains in conflict through big splashy battle scenes that make us forget all about our own troubles and worries for a while. We want to groan along with the losers, fight the bad guys beside the reluctant heroes, dodge the bullets and the rampaging monsters, and ride off into the sunset the ultimate winner. Every time we choose a diversion, we get to live another life in those pages, or in that theater. I’m acutely aware of this each time I sit at the keyboard, so I do my best to pack as much entertainment into a story as I can manage.
That’s why when I sat down to write my Monster Earth tale; I gave it all I had. I wrote it for some other kid of no certain age who might just need a diversion today—somewhere to lose the rest of the world for a while in the thundering tread of a colossal creature. I chose a setting I felt comfortable with, people who don’t get a whole lot of attention in our usual Eurocentric character offerings, and some nonstandard supernormal opponents. My colleagues in this anthology all thought along similar lines. We offer you pure entertainment—rousing good fun. I’m all for that!
What makes a great monster story? Well, monsters need to be monstrous, people virtuous or villainous, and it has to eventually reach some equitable and agreeable outcome where the good guys triumph, the bad guys get their just desserts, and a semblance of order is restored to the world. In the meantime, bring on the breathtaking battle scenes, the chaotic discovery of a force greater than ours, the fear and the horror of gigantic creatures romping through the countryside while crushing cars, knocking down buildings, and tearing through the power lines. Let them astound and confound us with their laser beam eyes, supernatural strength, and radioactive breath until we small, vulnerable, and fragile humans find a way to fight back with our superior intellect. Those are the thrilling tales that legends are made of, though surely none of us ever want to experience firsthand!
That’s why Kaiju movies and monster fantasy stories are still popular today. You know that when you leave the theater or put down that book, you’re going back to your own relatively sheltered and comfortably monotonous existence, just a little more grateful for the same old timeworn routines with no giants stomping after you.
So what you have within the pages of my Monster Earth tale are the longtime dreams of a girl who loved monsters for the contrast they brought with her own very ordinary and somewhat dull life. I hope you all have as much fun reading it as it was to write.
Following up on our MONSTER Earth guest posts today is contributor I.A. Watson. Just what is it about giant monsters, anyway? Ian explains:
Monsters are hardwired into our heads. Somewhere in the prehistoric dark our ancestors were the ones who learned to hide when the big lizards rumbled past and who banded together to protect the children from the predator packs. They succeeded, or we wouldn’t be here. They survived because they knew about the monsters.
Equally ancient is that fight-or-flight assessment that flashes in our brains when we face danger. Are we outnumbered? Is the other guy bigger than us? And, because we’re more than mere animals, that other question: How can I get something I need from this big enemy?
And somewhere deep inside us is the bit that says, “That force of nature, that terrible adversary, is stronger than me. Maybe I can convince it to help me if I worship it or give it gifts? Maybe I can tame it and train it? Maybe I can become like it? How can I survive this thing and get it to give me an edge?” We took some of the most dangerous things around – fire and lightning and wolves – and used them to build an empire.
All of which proves that humans and monsters go way back. We fear the dark, so we invent the light switch. Predators chase us so we adopt and train some of our own. We make metal claws sharper than a tiger’s, ways of travelling faster than a cheetah, machines stronger than elephants.
And the bigger the monster the more it fascinates us. When it comes to scaly, furred, horned, clawed, fanged, roaring horrors, size matters.
The big monsters, the ones the Japanese call kaiju, are different from other things that go bump in the dark (and not just because they more likely go thoom in the dark). Vampires sap our life. Werewolves are the beasts within. Incubi tempt us to impurity. Ghosts tangle us in past tragedies. But big monsters, big skyscraper-climbing city-toppling can’t-hide-in-the-shadows-‘cause-it’s-casting-them monsters? They’re something even older and more primal.
That’s why we’re fascinated by them. Humans can’t help but watch destruction. Folks slow down to rubberneck when they drive past car wrecks. We watch footage of hurricanes and forest fires and marvel at the devastation. Those giant marauders are that kind of disaster personified, and we just can’t look away.
More than that though, monsters can be interacted with. Nobody can get a storm to chase him and so turn it from the village. Nobody can try and kill a hurricane. Nobody can gain control of an earthquake (well, maybe a few pulp mad scientists, but usually…). But with monsters there remains that possibility that we might divert, slay, or even direct them. Don’t we humans obsess about shaping and using even the most dangerous things around us?
Big monsters are often allegories. The 50s monsters were typically personifications of the terrible power of the split atom, or of ancient things woken by modern human hubris, or of the overwhelming alien impinging on our limited reality. For all our achievements, we know that there are still powers out there that we cannot overcome, dangers that can crush the lives we have made. Many of them have names like Gorgo, Mongo, or Fin Fang Foom.
The lessons of these monsters is “Man is not ready for this knowledge” or “Some things should not be trespassed upon” or “We have forgotten the old ways” or “There are forces out there powerful enough to crush us if they choose”; or else the more positive reverse that mankind will prevail against any threat, no matter how terrible, and that science or human bravery will overcome even the biggest menace.
So to Monster Earth, which digs down into those ancient dreams of monsters and sets them loose across its pages. When the book was planned the editors made it very clear that this was to be fiction about how people interacted with the monsters. A giant frog who lives in his cave really only becomes a story when a human meets him there. A giant lizard and an enormous ape clashing is just a fight until there’s a city full of screaming people trying to survive it and some emotional consequence to the outcome. In fact there’s no way to tell that the monsters are giant unless we put humans next to them to provide scale.
I was intrigued by the challenge. There are classic short stories and novellas covering most of the more modest-sized horrors, from Camilla and Jewel of the Seven Stars to The Werewolf of Paris, but little has been done in prose about the depredations of gargantua. Even Lovecraft keeps his sanity-sapping elder gods safely sleeping until the stars are right.
Oversized monsters have mostly remained in the domain of motion pictures, brought to life by stop-motion animation, rubber suits, and CGI. But while film can well convey size and movement and spectacle it can rarely match the intellectual or emotional impact of prose.
There seemed to be a gap. To find convincing giant monsters in literature we have to delve into fairy tale and ancient myth. The Titans who ruled before the Olympian gods, the Frost and Fire Giants slain by the Norse Aesir to form the bones of the universe, these lurk in our oldest tales, told around flickering campfires while the elements raged beyond the cave-mouth. Surely the time has come to reclaim the art-form?
The campaign starts with Monster Earth, wherein a reality is imagined where giant creatures are more than ancient legend or movie-fodder. It’s an anthology about interactions, about the consequences of the reality of kaiju, about people’s experiences and responses to forces of nature that can stomp around on scaly legs. The title says it: it’s about Monsters and it’s about our Earth, and what happens when the two meet.
It’s about human choices faced with inhuman giants; fight, flee, use.
Monsters are hardwired into our heads. In Monster Earth we let the beasts out for a while and see what we’ve been carrying around with us all these years.
I.A. Watson was bitten by a radioactive writer and became the award-winning author of the Robin Hood series King of Sherwood, Arrow of Justice and the upcoming Freedom’s Outlaw, Blackthorn: Dynasty of Mars and the upcoming Blackthorn: Spires of Mars. He is a contributor to each volume of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting
Detective (four so far) and Sinbad: The New Voyages, The New Adventures of Richard Knight, Armless O’Neil: Blood-Price of the Missionary’s Gold, Gideon Cain: Demon Hunter, and others.
He has always wanted to be a two hundred foot high monster and has a list of buildings and people he plans to crush. His website is at http://www.chillwater.org.uk/writing/iawatsonhome.htm
To learn more about MONSTER EARTH, go here.
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