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What’s In a Character’s Name?

Naming a character is like naming your first-born child. You agonize over very detail, even go so far as to pronounce the name under your breath to test the inflection. Lucky for you, you're more concerned with how it looks on paper rather than how it sounds spoken in...

4 Ways to prep for the Royal Wedding Outland Entertainment style

In addition to wearing the Editor in Chief hat here at Outland Entertainment, I also write about pop culture in enough places that I've found it useful to follow the news. While this is particularly relevant for geek news, there are some headliners you just can't...

Press Release: Blackguards Anthology Gets Facelift

Outland Entertainment is please to announce a new look and edition for the anthology Blackguards, dividing the book into two volumes and including two never-before-seen stories. Blackguards, originally published by Ragnarok Publications, was a massive volume containing stories from some of the best dark fantasy and grim dark authors in the industry…

A Letter to My Past Self

Dear Greg (in 1986), So you’ve just turned fourteen, and you’ve just entered your freshman year of high school.  I wanted to send you...well, not a pep talk, exactly.  You’ve never liked or trusted those; they’re treacherous, and too often they’ve been empty promises,...

Fighting The Voices in My Head

This article by fantasy author Melanie R. Meadors first appeared Geek Mom: Geek Speaks...Fiction! Here, Melanie tells us about how she fought the voices (of the characters) in her head…and lost. When editor Marc Tassin invited me to write for the anthology, Champions...

Outland Entertainment on the new serial, Born to the Blade

Recently, Publisher Melanie Meadors and Editor in Chief Alana Joli Abbott got together to chat about a serial they're both reading: Born to the Blade. Alana: So, Melanie, how did you feel about Born to the Blade? Melanie: Wow, I have to say, I knew it would be cool,...

Press Release: Announcing Knaves, A New Blackguards Anthology

Outland Entertainment is pleased to announce they will be publishing a new collection of stories where protagonists’ moral compasses don’t always point north, and where villains are the heroes of their own stories.

Rejections: The Building Blocks of Collections by Maurice Broaddus

Short stories are my first love. As much as I enjoy writing novels and novellas, I keep coming back to short stories. That’s why my first collection, The Voices of Martyrs, means so much to me. But as I’ve reflected on the long journey in getting here, I keep coming...

Dagon’s Bones: A Lovecraft-Inspired Kickstarter Game!

Dagon's Bones A fast and fun Lovecraft-inspired dice game played in the pubs and bars of Innsmouth. Roll the Bones, pray to Dagon. Utility Games, LLC is proud to announce our first game, debuting on Kickstarter, Dagon's Bones. Dagon's Bones can be taught in minutes,...

Interview with Warlock 5 Artist, Jeffrey Edwards

From Batman to Star Wars, Jeffrey has tackled numerous fandoms. Now, he faces the Warlock 5 Grid! Did you read Warlock 5 before joining this project?  No, unfortunately I had never even heard of Warlock 5 before signing on to work on this project. I was given a .pdf...
Rejections: The Building Blocks of Collections by Maurice Broaddus

Rejections: The Building Blocks of Collections by Maurice Broaddus

Short stories are my first love. As much as I enjoy writing novels and novellas, I keep coming back to short stories. That’s why my first collection, The Voices of Martyrs, means so much to me. But as I’ve reflected on the long journey in getting here, I keep coming back to one thought: rejections are a part of a writer’s life.

Number of short stories I have written: 87

Number of times I’ve sent stories out: 594

Number of acceptances: 67

Number of rejections: 527

By my rudimentary calculations, I have about a 13% acceptance rate over the history of my career. I have no idea where this ranks in terms of being typical. I’m no Jim C. Hines or Tobias Buckell or else I’d crunch these numbers to death. I know that if I were to grant my acceptance rate over time, you’d see an ascending curve as the acceptance rate in my first five years is quite different from my most recent five years. When I was first starting, I was sending stories out to every market I could think of. It took a while to get a feel for what kinds of stories particular markets were looking for. So being better at matching stories to potential markets helps.

The other thing that has helped is that I get invitations to submit to projects. While no guarantee of an acceptance, it helps the odds (like an editor already familiar with my work wanting me to write something tailored to them). All that said, that’s still 527 times I’ve received a rejection. Five hundred twenty seven times I’ve had to read “no” and feel that sting that you never get used to.

There can be a difficult learning curve to rejections. It takes a while to emotionally realize that the rejection was of the story, not of you. Different kinds of rejections tell you different things. A lot of quick arriving form rejections may be telling you that the story’s not ready (or tat the market is brutally efficient). I have sold every story that I wrote in college. The last one sold five years ago (well over a decade since I first wrote it). They’ve gone through maybe ten drafts each. I stuck with them because I believed in them and because the rejections went from forms to personal comments. Those stories which never moved past the form rejection stage, after a dozen send outs, I took a hard look at. They simply weren’t good and have been trunked (there are ten short stories that will never see the light of day).

Over the last couple weeks I’ve sent three stories off into the wild. One I’ve already heard back on with a “maybe … if you’re willing to edit.” The other two I’m simply waiting to hear back on (read: I’m working on new stories to distract myself). I’ve also sent out rejections to all but a dozen or so authors for the April issue of Apex Magazine which I’m guest editing. I’ve had to reject some great writers and close friends whose stories simply didn’t work with what I was looking for.

You will be rejected. It’s part of the writing life. It feels personal (especially when you’ve poured your soul into it, bleeding over each page), but it’s not personal. It’s about the work. Not every rejection means the same thing. Before you reach to drown the grief of your baby being rejected, parse it for what it means to you and where you are. Rejection can refine us, letting us know when a story is not ready. But that rejection could just mean “not for us.” Or “we ran out of room.” Or “we just brought a story similar to this.” Rejection can teach us things, but sometimes the biggest lesson is about perseverance. About getting up, dusting yourself off, and sending your story out again. Because, like much of life, a successful writing career is about determination. Those eventual acceptances are how collections get made.

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About The Voices of Martyrs:

“An outcast in the distant past struggling to survive. A religious captain rationalizing away the evil of the slave ship he commands. A future biomech warrior in a literal culture war. The stories in The Voices of Martyrs again prove why Maurice Broaddus is one of the most exciting writers of today’s genre fiction. His vision spans space and time while staying grounded in the stories–in the very voices–which make us fully and tragically and hopefully human.”

–Nebula Award-nominated author, Jason Sanford

We are a collection of voices, the assembled history of the many voices that have spoken into our lives and shaped us. Voices of the past, voices of the present, and voices of the future. There is an African proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates as “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” This is why we continue to remember the tales of struggle and tales of perseverance, even as we look to tales of hope. What a people choose to remember about its past, the stories they pass down, informs who they are and sets the boundaries of their identity. We remember the pain of our past to mourn, to heal, and to learn. Only in that way can we ensure the same mistakes are not repeated. The voices make up our stories. The stories make up who we are. A collected voice.

The Voice of Martyrs is available online and wherever books are sold. Order your copy here!

About Maurice Broaddus:

With sixty seven stories published, Maurice Broaddus’ work has appeared in Lightspeed MagazineWeird TalesApex MagazineAsimov’sCemetery Dance,Black Static, and many more. Some of his stories have been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. He is the author of the urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court trilogy. He co-authored the play Finding Home: Indiana at 200. His novellas include Buffalo Soldier, I Can Transform You, Orgy of Souls, Bleed with Me, andDevil’s Marionette. He is the co-editor of Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, Streets of Shadows, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror. Learn more about him at MauriceBroaddus.com. 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MauriceBroaddus

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mauricebroaddus

Melanie R. Meadors on Playing In Someone Else’s Sandbox

Melanie R. Meadors on Playing In Someone Else’s Sandbox

This post was originally posted here on Books of M (www.booksofm.com).

When Marc Tassin invited me to write a story for the anthology he and John Helfers were editing, Champions of Aetaltis, I was over the moon. I had always wanted to work on an RPG tie-in project, and since this had a sword and sorcery type setting, it seemed right up my alley. Some of the first fantasy novels I read as a teen were Dungeons and Dragons tie-ins, and I’ve enjoyed the Pathfinder Tales books from Paizo as well. It didn’t take me much thought at all to agree to work on this project with two editors I admired.

When I got the setting guide to the world of Aetaltis, where the stories of the anthology were to be set, I started reading it with glee. I couldn’t wait to get started, and I was sure inspiration for a story would hit me as I pored over the pages. There were two hundred pages, to be precise, with details about races and classes of characters, facts and maps about the settings, and everything I ever wanted to know about the history and gods of the world. But when it came time to actually write the story, aside from having a little struggle coming up with the proper “champion” (and you can read more about my struggle with that here) I became really worried. There was so much stuff in the world guide, so much of it was already established. What if I completely screwed something up?

Thankfully, I’m not a shy person and went straight to Marc with my fears. Not that I asked him to hold my hand or anything, but I pitched my story idea to him as specifically as I could, and asked him to please verify that the world stuff that was involved with my story seemed accurate. I told him straight out, “Hey, I’m new at this shared world stuff. I just need your OK that I’m going in the right direction.” Sure enough, I was fine. I wrote the story and submitted it to him by the deadline.

Then things started to get really cool.

I hadn’t thought much beyond needing to get my story written and then taking care of edits when they arrived. To me, my characters existed in Aetaltis, and there were creatures and mention of other places in the story, but that was it. It was self-contained in my mind. But of course, to the world developer, this one story was a piece to a much bigger puzzle. My story’s characters and the events in it would become the stuff of leg-end in Aetlatis. And possibly most awesome of all was finding connections between stories in the anthology, things that were completely unplanned but just coincided. Two stories, for example, that had a staff in them. When Marc emailed me one day and asked if I could fiddle with the description of a device in my story to make it match one in another story, which would actually be a legendary weapon, I realized for the first time just how cool writing in a shared world really was. My story was more than just a story, it would become a bit of the mythos of the world. People could read my story and create a game out of it, just like the Aetaltis role playing game world was the basis for my fiction story.

The same goes for pretty much any tie-in. When you write a story based in the world of a video game, RPG, or movie franchise, your story becomes part of that world’s cultural literacy. Something small in the world might have inspired your story, but something small in your story might inspire someone to write another story, or game, or even movie. Your work becomes part of something bigger than it would have been if it was just a stand-alone tale.

A simple story becomes legend.

About the Author

Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available on Amazon.

Ogres–And Stories!–Have Layers

Ogres–And Stories!–Have Layers

We’re pleased to highlight Melanie R. Meadors, who will be writing a Kaiju story for our recently funded Kickstarter anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II! Check out the anthology here!

When Nick Sharps and Alana Joli Abbott invited me to write a story for their new anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II, I was pretty ecstatic. I love a good monster story, and I have several ideas I’d like to some day write about. I pretty much immediately accepted, and off I went, on an adventure with some unlikely heroes to kill some monsters.

Only…it wasn’t that simple.

My story is one that kept surprising me with every draft. What started out as a simple action monster story grew to have a depth I didn’t expect. Yes, it was action-adventure, but as I got to know my characters, and spent more time with them even within the seven thousand word confines of their story, all these little connections started happening. Little motivations for their actions. Or vice versa—they would do something, and then I would say, “Oh, they are doing that because___,” and I’d discover something new about that character.

For example, I had my character, a half-orc, in draft one, traveling to a town where she took a job hunting a monster. OK, that was fine. And it would have been perfectly fine. In fantasy stories, that happens all the time. But then as I wrote, I said, “OK, maybe she has this job because it’s personal. Maybe this monster messed with her home city.” “All right,” another side of me said, “But how can we make it WORSE? How can the stakes be raised?” In the next draft, the stakes got higher. Then, as I learned more about the character as she interacted with other characters, I said, “Oh, here is a new way to make her experiences shape her situation even more…” and “What if her own MOTHER [redacted for spoilers]??”

After doing this with the main character, the secondary character started coming into more focus as well. If the main character’s mother did this thing, then this other character would do ___. Wait…What if that character actually was the hero of the story? As one thing developed, another thing would, like a chain reaction. And one of the hardest things for me to do while writing is to not fight this process. I often feel the need to rush. I have some author friends who seem to write four books a year. Could I do that? Sure. Should I do that? Well, I don’t know, but I do know that when I let a story grow as it needs to, that story turns out to be so much better and deeper than it would have otherwise.

Part of a writer’s job is to make the reader’s experience seamless and effortless. Readers aren’t supposed to see the machine behind the works, they aren’t meant to see all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a story. They are supposed to just get swept up into the story, live life through their characters’ eyes, and have adventures, fall in love, or do whatever it is the story’s purpose is—mostly, they should be entertained. Sometimes, as a writer who is also a reader, it’s easy to forget that stories have layers. With each draft, something new comes out, some new aspect of a character, or of the backstory, of the world. This is why, at least for me, when I’m in the middle of my first draft, with every story, I think to myself, “My glob, I have forgotten how to write!” No, I haven’t forgotten how to write exactly. I’ve just forgotten that the way I write, I have to start with a core, and work out, fleshing out the details as I go. Draft one is often terrible, but then draft two gets better. Draft three is where things start getting really interesting, and then when I hit draft four, I’ve got the story as it should be, usually, and will just need some proofreading. It takes time for things to process. But sometimes, the best stories are the hardest to write.

About Melanie R. Meadors

Mealanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. her fiction has appeared in Circle Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, and other places. She’s the co-editor of the anthology MECH: Age of Steel and editor of Hath No Fury, and she is a blogger and general b*tch monkey at The Once and Future Podcast.

About Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II

A few years ago, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters smashed onto the book scene, collecting stories from some of the best writers of monsters in the business. Now, the age of monsters continues on with the follow up anthology, Kaiju Rising II, featuring stories from authors like Jeremy Robinson, Marie Brennan, Dan Wells, ML Brennan, Jonathan Green, Lee Murray, Cullen Bunn, and more! If you love movies like Pacific Rim, Godzilla, and Kong, you won’t want to miss it.Learn more about this anthology from Outland Publications on Kickstarter now, keywords Kaiju Rising.

Where Do Kaiju Come From?

Where Do Kaiju Come From?

We’re pleased to highlight Alana Joli Abbott, who will be editing our Kickstarter anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II! Support the anthology here!

I have a three year old, so big monsters, in the form of dinosaurs, are a staple around my house. These creatures have strange names, roar, and stomp a lot. Most of the time, all of this happens through toddler filter, so my resident Tyrannosaurus Rex only comes up to my waist. But it’s safe to say that big monsters are very present in my life.

Before working on Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II, I didn’t know much about the origin of big monster stories in modern mythology. Were they dinosaur holdovers? Related to their fantasy-cousins, dragons and giants? Where do kaiju come from, anyway?

One of the things that I think is so cool about mythology is how it can evolve. Although I’ve found hints in articles that kaiju are the heirs of monsters from Japanese folklore, the truth is that they’re a specifically science fiction construct, even though they feel much older. While some kaiju might have an Elder Gods, Lovecraftian flare, kaiju were actually born in the 20th century—a mix of a filmmaker wanting to make bank on the popular Hollywood monster movies and the horror of atomic reality.

In the early 1950s, Japanese citizens were understandably wary—if not terrified—of the consequences of atomic weapons, having suffered two devastating bombings in 1945. Survivors of the bombings were named hibakusha, and were typically shunned due to public misunderstandings about radiation sickness and contamination. In 1954, fears of radiation were heightened again when twenty-three sailors aboard the fishing boat Daigo Fukuryū Maru got too close to the fallout of a thermonuclear test at Bikini Atoll. All twenty-three crewmembers suffered acute radiation syndrome. Although all but one recovered, those who were unable to hide their exposure to the radiation were shunned like the hibakusha, and the incident led to a growing fear of contamination in the fish. The fear was reasonable—the “danger zone” from the testing sites declared by the U.S. government underestimated the range that the weaponry would impact, and the fallout spread into an “expanded zone” that included the range of several fishing boats.

What would those fish do to people who ate them? What else might radiation do to the creatures inside the danger zone? Those very present fears, combined with the Japanese box office success of King Kong, created an opportunity for filmmaker Tomoyuki Tanaka to create a relevant, resonant genre of films. Gojira (Godzilla) released the same year as the Daigo Fukuryū Maru and it struck such a chord among Japanese and international viewers that the genre has continued to thrive and grow. The original Godzilla might have been a metaphor for nuclear weapons, but he later became something of a hero, defending humanity against other monsters.

So, Godzilla is the official start of the kaiju—but the idea of a large, prehistoric danger being awoken by the misdeeds of humanity? That’s an old, old story, and continues to be a staple of the SFF genres inside the kaiju medium and beyond. And perhaps it’s also a good thing to remember around my three year old: beware the wrath of the prehistoric imagination!

About Alana Joli Abbott

Alana Joli Abbott is the author of the novels Into the Reach, Departure, and Regaining Home, the interactive multiple choice novel app Choice of Kung Fu and was the writer for the webcomic Cowboys and Aliens II. Her game writing has been featured in Steampunk Musha, the award winning Serenity Adventures, and Dungeon and Dragon magazines. Alana has visited ancient ruins around the world; sung madrigals semi-professionally; and recently earned her black belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate. She lives near New Haven, CT.

About Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II

A few years ago, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters smashed onto the book scene, collecting stories from some of the best writers of monsters in the business. Now, the age of monsters continues on with the follow up anthology, Kaiju Rising II, featuring stories from authors like Jeremy Robinson, Marie Brennan, Dan Wells, ML Brennan, Jonathan Green, Lee Murray, Cullen Bunn, and more! If you love movies like Pacific Rim, Godzilla, and Kong, you won’t want to miss it. Support this anthology from Outland Publications on Kickstarter now, keywords Kaiju Rising.

We’re pleased to highlight Guadalupe Garcia McCall, who will be writing a Kaiju story for our Kickstarter anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II! Support the anthology here!

A Slice of Kaiju Story with a Side Order of Crazy Writing LIfe

A Slice of Kaiju Story with a Side Order of Crazy Writing LIfe

We’re pleased to highlight Guadalupe Garcia McCall, who will be writing a Kaiju story for our Kickstarter anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II! Support the anthology here!

It always feels strange when someone asks me to write on command. “Write something with me,” someone will say, and I find myself having to decline. One, because I don’t know what “something” means for them and two, because I’m usually pretty busy writing my own kind of “something.” Then there was the guy who leaned over, made googly eyes at me, and said, “Write a poem for me.” That was just creepy, so I declined that one too.

Occasionally, though, there are requests that are intriguing enough to make me look up from my laptop and say, “Really?” Like when Alana Joli Abbott asked if I would write a Kaiju story. A Kaiju story—now that’s never been on my radar. But I like writing things that challenge me, things that take me completely out of my comfort zone.

So, I said yes and spent the next few months worried that I wouldn’t be able to deliver because I had no earthly idea where to begin. You see, I write about people who wear chanclas and eat chicharrones. I write about the love of mothers, the bond of hermanitas, and our past struggles in this country. I write about familia, not giant monsters stomping on things.

I perused the stories in Kaiju Rising and watched Pacific Rim. After that adrenaline rush, I came up with something I could write about. I sat at the computer the first week of Christmas break and started outlining a story about a giant-prehistoric-looking-baby-creature that somehow ends up in the clutches of an evil man (insert strange professor with an eye patch here). Yes. Yes. I was on a roll.

Then because I still had another week to write, I went to see a movie with The Man. As I was sucked into the gorgeousness of The Shape of Water, I thought, “That’s how I should be writing this. I just need to believe it could happen.”

After the movie, I was standing in the hallway waiting for The Man to refill our drinks when the Anti-muse popped into my head and grinned at me. “Yes, but is your story-line believable? Are your characters solid? I mean, who wears an eye patch anymore? A one-eyed professor walking around with a deep dark secret? Really?” my soul-crushing, overly-critical Anti-muse asked.

I was in the midst of complete and utter writerly despair when the doors of a nearby theater opened and a crowd of movie-goers walked out. And who should be leading the crowd but an older, professor-ish looking man with an eye patch. Yes! In your face, Anti-muse! The universe said yes, and I went home to write my short story.

Although I like it when the Anti-muse packs her bags and my zany, overzealous, dramatic, overachieving Real Muse shows up, the truth is my Real Muse is kind of a tyrant. She puts vats of Diet Coke on the counter, banishes my dear husband, and makes me write like the house is on fire and we have to finish and submit the story because we can’t take the laptop with us when we run outside.

Four days and forty-five pages into the project, I realized the Real Muse was out of control. “I can cut it back later,” I told myself. “I can still trim this down.”

Five days, several more characters’ points of view, and sixty-four pages later, and it was official—I was writing another young adult novel. However, as shiny and bright as the whole thing was (writing different points of view is new and thrilling for me), I was in deep trouble here. It was Friday of the second week of Christmas break and I only had two more days to write the Kaiju short story for Alana.

I messaged my buddy, David Bowles (the master of all things Sci-Fi) and he gave me some good writerly advice. “Write a short story in the same universe,” he said. That night, I went back to my laptop. “What if there were other creatures?” I asked the Real Muse. “Who would find them? And how would he/she get rid of them?”

In the end, I wrote a short story called, “Rancho Nido” for Kaiju Rising, Age of Monsters II and submitted it on time. “Rancho Nido” is a little morsel, a prequel to my bigger project, a young adult book which I am labelling my “Borderlands Kaiju Novel.”

“Rancho Nido” is different from anything else I’ve ever written before, but it’s coming from a fun place, a place where families sit around a fire pit and tell crazy historias de monstros. So, wait ’til dark, kick your feet up, and enjoy it with a taquito.

About Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Guadalupe Garcia McCall is the author of Under the Mesquite (Lee & Low Books), a novel in verse. Under the Mesquite received the prestigious Pura Belpre Author Award, was a William C. Morris Finalist, received the Lee Bennett Hopkins/International Literacy Promising Poet Award, the Tomas Rivera Children’s Book Award, and was included in Kirkus Review’s Best Teen Books of 2011, among many other accolades. Her second novel, Summer of the Mariposas (Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books), won a Westchester Young Adult Fiction award, was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, was included in the 2013 Amelia Bloomer Project List, the Texas Lone Star Reading List, and the 2012 School Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year. Her poems for children have appeared in The Poetry Friday Anthology, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. Ms. Garcia McCall was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. She immigrated with her family to the United States when she was six years old and grew up in Eagle Pass, Texas (the setting of both her novels and most of her poems). She is currently a high school English teacher in San Antonio.

About Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II

A few years ago, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters smashed onto the book scene, collecting stories from some of the best writers of monsters in the business. Now, the age of monsters continues on with the follow up anthology, Kaiju Rising II, featuring stories from authors like Jeremy Robinson, Marie Brennan, Dan Wells, ML Brennan, Jonathan Green, Lee Murray, Cullen Bunn, and more! If you love movies like Pacific Rim, Godzilla, and Kong, you won’t want to miss it. Support this anthology from Outland Publications on Kickstarter now, keywords Kaiju Rising.

Kaiju Rising: Kaiju Destruction by Kane Gilmour

Kaiju Rising: Kaiju Destruction by Kane Gilmour

We’re pleased to feature Kane Gilmour, who will be writing a Kaiju story for our Kickstarter anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II! Support the anthology here!

I grew up in the 1970s, and monsters were everywhere. Not the kind you read about today in the news, chaining children up in basements or charging dying people thousands of dollars for needed medications. These were the classic creatures of myth and legend, or spooky castles and forlorn forests. Fairytales and adventure stories. Black-and-white movie reruns on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, after all the cartoons or religious shows were over. Then came the monsters.

Okay, yes, sometimes it was a Tarzan movie, or Peter Cushing in The Hound of the Baskervilles, or more regularly it was a Chinese Kung Fu movie. While my older step-brother went outside to play street baseball or football, I stayed in, hoping beyond hope for Abbot and Costello to meet Frankenstein, or if I was really lucky, King Kong might make an appearance. Dracula was a favorite. As was the Wolf Man. But one creature was king on those weekend afternoons, and when Godzilla was going to be on, even my step-brother would stay inside and watch.

There was just something about the giant lizard monster destroying cityscapes, telephone wires, and tanks. Something glorious about the creature swatting an enemy with his tail or unleashing atomic breath on a particularly nasty flying foe (we’re looking at you here, Rodan). At the time, I just loved to watch those stories—even the ones with the somewhat slow-on-the-uptake and much reviled these days ‘Minilla,’ Godzilla’s awkward son. I was just the right age to appreciate him then.

Eventually I moved on to other things in the 80s and 90s, but I went back and watched all of the films from the Heisei and Millennium periods about ten years ago. But exactly what it was about Godzilla that drew me was never at the forefront of my consciousness. Not until 2013, when Nick Sharps asked me to write a short story for an anthology called Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters. I had been preparing for a few years at that point to write a YA novel featuring kaiju (even before the Kaiju Thriller genre was born, by Jeremy Robinson stomping it into existence with Project Nemesis—which I urged him to write and ended up editing for him, as well). I only ever wrote about a third of my own kaiju book, and I’m still hoping to get back to it one day. But the point is, I had been actively thinking about kaiju and what makes the genre appealing to people.

I still didn’t have an answer when I wrote my short story for that first anthology, “The Lighthouse Keeper of Kurohaka Island.” But as we began to promote the book, it suddenly came to me. I’ve written a bunch of other things since that story, and my career has jinked and jagged in different directions. But when Nick asked me if I might be interested in contributing to yet another kaiju themed anthology, cleverly titled Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II (and which Nick jokingly suggested the publisher would call Kaiju Rising 2: Electric Boogaloo), I think he got the words “Dude, would you like to—” before I cut him off with a hearty “Hell, yes!” Because I had had fun with the first story. It was well received and reviewed. It even got reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Kaiju edited by Sean Wallace, and I loved getting paid twice for the same work. The publisher was great to work with and they paid me well and on time. (I had also worked with them again on a project that was a bit late, but of the same caliber of excellence, MECH: Age of Steel). Why wouldn’t I want to do another one? The books were fun, people liked them, and the people I worked with were professionals.

But another story meant thinking about kaiju, and their impact (no pun intended), and it meant throwing myself back into my fictional world I had created for the first story, which was the same world of my still-unfinished YA novel. Because I wanted this story to be a sequel of sorts to the first, but set in the modern day, whereas the first had been set in WWII Japan. Alana Joli Abbott, one of the two editors on this project, asked all the authors to think about some questions that we could use for promotion, and one of them was the key to it all. The same question I had come up with an answer to when promoting the first excellent Kaiju Rising anthology.

“What is a theme you identify with in big monster stories?”

Obviously, there are a lot of answers for many people. Mankind’s hubris. Mother Nature’s way of reclaiming things. Issues of who the real monster might be or examining the monster inside. Who is responsible for creating the monsters? Thinly veiled analogies toward nuclear weapons, kaiju as forces of nature or survival instead of malice, and so forth. The list goes on. But what I had come up with in 2013, and what I was reminded of when Alana asked the question is at the core of the appeal of kaiju, for me, and I think for all people.

It’s a primal recognition of and identification with the urge to destroy. We do it as very small children, before we’ve been taught better, before we’ve been shown that it’s better (and harder) to create than to destroy. But most of us can recall being little, and building a tower of blocks or LEGOs, or setting up a village of tiny toys. And we can remember pretending to be a massive creature and rampaging through our creation and knocking it all down. It’s a primal, and I think universal, experience. Even if you were too poor to have wooden blocks for toys, you might have built something with sticks and imagined the power of being much larger than a normal human. Giant sized. Kaiju. And then you crashed through things and destroyed them. I’ve travelled to over forty countries around the world and seen children in some incredibly squalid conditions. Even though many of them had surely never seen a Godzilla film, the toddler impulse to build and then destroy is everywhere.

Somewhere in our natures is the capacity to destroy, and when we are children, we are much closer to accessing that capacity, before our restraints are put into place by parents and society. We know it’s not right to destroy things, and most of us don’t do it in adulthood anymore. But the lure of the monster stomp is there, and we get to live out those toddler fantasies when we watch a Godzilla movie or read a Nemesis novel, or read a collection of giant monster tales from a gaggle of talented authors. We want to see the monsters crush things, but we also want to see the human-piloted giant robots halt their rampages in films like Pacific Rim or to have a benevolent monster intercede in a kaiju brawl—because we also know the destruction cannot go on forever. And we’d much rather imagine a world of destruction halted by heroic figures than to see the emaciated chained captives in basements or the smug faces of pharma-bros getting rich off the helplessness of the weak. Because those things make the toddler in us all want to go berserk and knock down all the blocks.

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About Kane Gilmour

Kane Gilmour is the international bestselling author of The Crypt of Dracula. He has co-authored several titles with Jeremy Robinson and also writes his own thriller novels. In addition to his work in novels, Kane has had short stories appear in several anthologies and magazines, and he worked on artist Scott P. Vaughn’s sci-fi noir webcomic, Warbirds of Mars as well as on Jeremy Robinson’s comic book adaptation of the novel Island 731. He lives with his significant other, his kids, her kids, and three dogs in Vermont. He’s thinking of buying a farm to house them all. Visit him online at: kanegilmour.com.

About Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II

A few years ago, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters smashed onto the book scene, collecting stories from some of the best writers of monsters in the business. Now, the age of monsters continues on with the follow up anthology, Kaiju Rising II, featuring stories from authors like Jeremy Robinson, Marie Brennan, Dan Wells, ML Brennan, Jonathan Green, Lee Murray, Cullen Bunn, and more! If you love movies like Pacific Rim, Godzilla, and Kong, you won’t want to miss it. Support this anthology from Outland Publications on Kickstarter now, keywords Kaiju Rising.

Kaiju Rising: In Search of a Monster by Lee Murray

Kaiju Rising: In Search of a Monster by Lee Murray

We’re pleased to feature Lee Murray, who will be writing a Kaiju story for our Kickstarter anthology, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II! Support the anthology here!

When editor N.X. Sharps approached me last year to commission a story for Kaiju Rising II, I assumed it was because he’s been a fan of my military fiction novel, Into the Mist. A kaiju tale of sorts, it’s a story of a group of scientists and civilians who journey into the East Cape’s misty Te Urewera mountain ranges where they encounter a primordial monster, one which features strongly in New Zealand legend and culture. For me, it was the perfect set-up for lots of bloody, monstery action, set among the gnarled beeches of our native forest, and calling on local living mythology. But as an editor myself, I know putting together a kick-arse anthology isn’t just a case of collecting stories which reflect a particular theme—in this case, colossal monsters on the rampage—you also need a good balance of stories. To that end, I asked Nick if he was looking to me to provide some New Zealand flavour.

“Some NZ flavor would be awesome!” he replied. “Definitely, some of that, please.”

Lucky for me, New Zealand simply oozes atmosphere. Perhaps it’s because darkness and danger lurk just beneath the surface of our every day. As my Hounds of the Underworld co-author, Dan Rabarts, put it recently:

“That underlying current of creeping dread is a part of [New Zealand] life. We live on a string of major fault-lines, on the spines of any number of volcanoes, surrounded by violent and unpredictable oceans and everything they bring with them, including regular floods, cyclones and tornadoes. We live with a constant sense of isolation, both in our rural and suburban communities, and even within our own neighbourhoods.”

And it seems even looking in from the outside this omnipresent foreboding is evident, with American scholar William Schafer observing that “a common cultural link between Pākehā [non-Maori] and Māori is a belief in the hauntedness of the landscape, the sense that Aotearoa New Zealand is a land of sinister and unseen forces, of imminent (and immanent) threat, of the undead or revenant spirits.” (Schafer, 1998).

Well, that sorts that, then. All I needed to do was look to the landscape for my inspiration. I chose my childhood home, a small township perched at the edge of a crater on shores of Lake Taupō. A quiet place in the winter months, Taupō is a tourist destination, attracting thousands of visitors every year. They come to visit the mighty Huka Falls, the steamy Craters of the Moon, the evocative Mine Bay Māori rock carvings, or stay a night or two in the sleepy little hamlets that line the edge of the lake. These iconic landmarks would be the backdrop for my story.

And as for the monster? Which oversized creature or spirit might rampage across the pages? A giant golem? A basilisk? Something more traditional?

Despite Peter Jackson’s best efforts to introduce elves and dwarfs, New Zealand hasn’t been readily settled by the pretty fairy folk of Europe, something that 19th century Scottish poet, Alexander Bathgate, lamented in his poem, Faerie:

Our craggy mountains steep are full of fear –
Even rugged men have felt their awful spell.
Yet lack they glamour of the fairy tale,
Nor gnome nor goblin do they e’er recall,
Though Nature speaks, e’en in the wind’s sad wail.

But Bathgate is right, because down here in Aotearoa, Nature does speak, and through a host of local folk creatures all associated with the landscape. I looked to New Zealand’s mythology to find them. There are the kahui-tipua, bands of cave-dwelling shape-shifting ogres, who hunted with packs of two-headed dogs. The first to occupy the South Island of New Zealand, the kahui-tipua were “giants who could stride from mountain to mountain and transform themselves into anything animate or inanimate.” (White, 1911)

There are the porotai, two-faced beasts conjured from both flesh and stone. There are manaia: creatures that are part-bird, part-serpent and part-man, who carry messages to the living from the spirit world. And then, of course, there are the water dwelling taniwha, man-eating lizard monsters, that can be benevolent or evil as the whim takes them.

But we mustn’t forget New Zealand’s natural fauna, almost kaiju themselves, species which roamed the land, swam in our seas, and inhabited our skies. Take, for example, the giant moa with its deadly ratite claws sufficient to disembowel a man with a single swipe, now hunted to extinction; the shy colossal squid, which still haunt our waters and whose brethren leave their calling cards on our beaches every now and again, or New Zealand’s Haast eagle, Te Hōkioi, the heaviest eagle species ever described, weighing up to 17.8kg (40 pounds) and with a wingspan of up to 3 metres (10 feet), and talons the size of a tiger’s.

So, which monster did I choose? If you want to find out, stop by the Kickstarter and pre-order yourself a copy. Suffice to say, for Kaiju Rising II, I was able to dredge up a revenant kaiju from the landscape itself, and from deep in the heart of New Zealand’s conception mythology.

Works Cited:

William Schafer (1998) Mapping the Godzone.
John White (1911), Ancient History of the Maori, Vol. III., p. 124

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About Lee Murray

 

Lee Murray is an award-winning writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She lives with her family in the Land of the Long White Cloud where she conjures up stories for readers of all ages from her office overlooking a cow paddock.