NEW

Announcement: VIKINGVERSE COVER ILLUSTRATION RELEASED!

ANNOUNCEMENT Official summary of ALL FATHER PARADOX along with color cover illustration! What if an ancient god escaped his fate…and history was thrown to the wolves? Churchwarden Michaels thought it was just a run-of-the-mill crazy old man who stood in the graveyard,...

Announcement: New Comic Coming from Outland Entertainment!

ANNOUNCEMENT: Announcing Riddle of the Loremaster, an all new original comic series written by Melanie R. Meadors, with art by Nicolás Giacondino! Here is a sneak peek at some of the promo art: Riddle of the Loremaster is a comic for mature readers set in a fantasy...

Women in Dark Fantasy Have Changed by Linda Robertson

In doing a bit of research looking for a dark-fantasy-related topic for this article, I sought something that I knew at least a bit about, something I felt strongly about, and something where I could add meaningfully to the conversation. Many things were considered,...

Alethea Kontis on Imposter Syndrome

Earlier this year, I met the only student Katy Kellgren ever had. He told me he just about had to bully her into being his teacher. This amazing, multiple award-winning voice actress with hundreds of audiobooks under her belt truly didn’t believe she knew anything...

Announcements: HATH NO FURY Has Arrived in the US!

Backers of the paperback and hardcover editions of Hath No Fury will be happy to learn that the books have arrived at the printer's headquarters in Chicago! Now, they just need to be sent to our head honcho Jeremy Mohler, and then they will be sent out to backers...

Fairies with Dark Faces by I.L. Cruz

I like fairies—not a difficult admission for a fantasy writer—and I don’t mean the safe Victorian ones with gossamer wings that spread sparkles when they walk. I mean the ones that steal little children and make Faustian bargains. They were ancient and magnificent and...

Announcement: Launching New Transmedia World, VIKINGVERSE

Announcements Introducing the beginning of a new transmedia project with fiction, comics, and games in development! VIKINGVERSE From a concept created by Ian Sharpe, Vikingverse is going to launch this fall with a novel called All Father Paradox. Here is the line art...

The Secret Origin of “Daughter of Sorrow” by Maurice Broaddus

“Mr. Broaddus, you need to start a Creative Writing Club.” Thus began a four week campaign in which different members of my eighth grade class wore me down and I agreed to run an after school program. We ended up with nearly a dozen intrepid souls in our merry band,...

Knaves Has Funded, and Then Some!

Thanks to our awesome backers and readers, the Kickstarter for our anthology, Knaves, has been a success! Four hundred eighty-nine backers came together and invested $15,342 to make Knaves happen. Not only will this anthology be produced, but the authors will all get...

You Like Me Because I’m a Scoundrel

I remember watching Phantom Menace in the movie theater wondering what the movie was missing. There was awesome Jedi action (and way better choreography than the original trilogy). The music was fantastic. Tatooine looked pretty much the same, and pod racing was...
Dagon’s Bones: A Lovecraft-Inspired Kickstarter Game!

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, is designed to be played casually, yet players have to make quick decisions to win. It makes a great warm-up for Game Nights or as a fun mini-game in Lovecraft-themed RPGs. Either way, it’s a fun and fast beer-and-pretzels game that’s easy to play while plotting to overthrow the accursed land-dwellers.

In the seaside pubs of Innsmouth they play a game of chance and fortune called Dagon’s Bones. It’s a dice game that requires both luck and daring and maybe a small blessing from the Elder Gods.

Will you steal from the other players, rob Cthulhu himself, or be granted, however fleetingly, Dagon’s blessings? Roll the Bones…and pray.

Included with each game are three dice with unique combinations of Innsmouth inspired symbols and 25 plastic replica coins from The Marsh Refinery, all packaged in a sturdy storage tube. Backing begins at $20.

Shipping for each backer will be determined after the campaign has ended and will be added to the bid amount. We will always strive to find the lowest cost shipping solution possible.

About Utility Games, LLC:

Our gaming passions span the gamut, from dice to board games, RPGs to minis, simple to complex. Together, we have over 80 years gaming experience.

Brian S. Roe is a graphic designer, sculptor, and writer and the creator of Zombie Plague and Trash Bash Bits.

Cinda Lybarger is a gaming hobbyist, with a background in production, logistics/shipping, and technical writing.

Ryan Lybarger is a scientific/technical writer, project manager, and lifetime gamer who has decided to apply his skills to game design and production.

Visit us on Kickstarter, Facebook, and Instagram:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/643854291/dagons-bones-a-fast-and-fun-dice-game

www.facebook.com/Utility-Games-LLC-1921759928137265/

www.instagram.com/utilitygamesllc/

Interview with Warlock 5 Artist, Jeffrey Edwards

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 containing all the images of all the books after signing, however. So, I’m working my way through them as work on the book. Amazing stuff!

Do you have a favorite character?

Honestly, my favorite character is Zania, full stop. From the very first description of the character, I loved her. Then, when I was told we would be making some small changes to her as well as updating her look, I loved her even more! I grew up loving characters like Wonder Woman, you know? Powerful females, but also beautiful women who could not only beat the snot out of a snarky kryptonian, but could also capture the gaze of every eye at the high-class gala! So when Zania came along, I gravitated towards her.

Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?

Not at all. My favorite character is still Zania. Hands down. But what has changed since taking on the project is the amount of distance between my favorite character and the second place finisher. Zania was my fave by a long shot at the beginning, but I have really come to love others! Savashtar and Doomidor are at times the perfect picture of brotherly bickering and banter! Then, you also have the super dry mechanical wit of Argon. He’s not a sarcastic character by nature, but the fact that he takes everything said around him literally lends to a lot of funny interactions. He is super literal, but surrounded by a quartet of smart-mouths. It’s great! Tanith could easily have been a simple character summed up with one word: sexy. Yet, she is so much more than attractive. She has insanely powerful magic and is a natural leader. She’s great. All the other four guardians are and I’m getting to see that more and more as I work on the project. That’s the only change.

The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences do you have?

The original work cast a shadow the size of a mountain! Those pages are beautiful! I wanted to try and keep the core of the characters alive, but I have a style that is much more linear and graphic. I grew up drawing panels from the books I was reading. I’m talking Todd MacFarlane, Jim Lee, John Romita Jr., Mark Bagley, to name a few. But as I grew older, I started looking at a lot of different artists from the laundry list of ridiculously talked artists working today, and the ones that influence me the most would have to be Ryan Ottley, Ed McGuinnes, Sean Gordon Murphy, and Jim Lee.

Are there any specific scenes that stand out?

Absolutely! I love action scenes, but so often the most impactful images, at least in my opinion, aren’t action-oriented, but drama-oriented. I mentioned Sean Gordon Murphy earlier, and now more specifically, his work on Joe the Barbarian. In that book, the ending is so powerful, it would bring tears to your eyes. I know it did to mine. It wasn’t the usual action scene capped by the shot of the death of a beloved character, for example. I won’t spoil the ending, but take my word for it. Buy the book, read it, and you’ll understand why I love dramatic scenes.

In Warlock 5, there is a great one. It takes place in Tanith’s chambers. She’s searching for something and is visited by Savashtar. They’re both detectives of a sort, and they have a kinship. Nothing tawdry, more of an unspoken connection, but in this scene Cullen wrote the dialogue in such a way as to be uncharacteristically unsnarky for Savashtar, as well as uncharacteristically affectionate for Tanith. It made for a scene that needed some subtlety. So, I arranged the camera angels and the composition to try and imply that they were engaging in a verbal dance. A back-and-forth spinning waltz that grabs you and takes you along with them. The best part is they never take a physical step in any direction in that entire scene! But they do move with each other just like a dancing duo reading the flow of each other’s moves.

I have to say that I’m more inspired by this script than any other I’ve ever worked on and its the depth that Cullen puts into it that makes scenes like this one happen. It happens to be my favorite scene so far!

The story is really diverse, ranging from fantasy settings to hi-tech scifi. How does one keep aesthetic coherence between this blend?

I think the best way to maintain coherence is to boil down the different genres to what’s at their respective cores. Once you do that, the job is to remain true to them. Remain true, but blend them. I think of it in terms of colors of paint. Imagine that Sci-Fi is red. The most intense, vibrant red you’ve ever seen. The same is true for Fantasy, but it’s yellow. Now, they seem like such different genres. Different colors. They both have bodies of works ranging from iconic movies to comics that inspired generations. Each one is a slightly different take on their original respective red and yellow. Perhaps the iconic movie Star Wars is a vermillion. That would make Star Trek: The Next Generation a scarlet. The comic book Conan is a goldenrod, while the movie by the same name is a canary yellow.

Both of the genres are filled with millions of iterations, but when you strip away all the subtle differences, you get back to the core of the genre, the yellow and red. Then, the job is to blend those colors to make orange. It’s understanding the two genres well enough to know what makes them unique and then blending those aspects together.

The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?

The biggest challenge in bringing them to life is to try and constantly do justice to that depth of character you mentioned. We are all affected by our environment and so are the 5 warlocks. In order to do them justice, I must push to show the depths of the worlds that they hail from. When you’re trying to show, at minimum, five different worlds full of living beings, as well as their guardians, it is a super challenging task. You have to know these individual characters both inside and out. And when you can do that, then the real fun part kicks in. If you were from a different planet within a different solar system within a different galaxy, well you might have an entirely different response to a common occurrence/question than I would. Makes sense right? Right. But what is that response? Exactly. What IS that response? You have to know the answer to that question a million times over. And that’s just for one warlock. Now do it 4 more times! Ha! But basically you have to know seriously everything about the 5 guardians! It’s a challenge for sure!

Did the fact that a previous artist had already given them a face help or harm your creative process?

Oh, it absolutely helped! You hear it all the time as artists, ‘we needed somewhere to pull from. We need a starting point. And then we can go from there’. But lucky me, I already had a starting point, and amazing one at that. From there it was just a matter of breaking down the characters to their core, and keeping the most important stuff while playing around with the rest! The push and pull of reshaping these characters was made much, much easier with having already had such an amazing foundation to pull from!

Has it turned out as you’ve envisioned it so far?

Truthfully, it has turned out better than that. I have worked on projects before that got me certain positives but would come at the cost of certain negatives. You know how it is. And one project in particular had supremely tight deadlines. But I did it. I did the work. I even learned to get faster at interior pages. Big positive! But it turned out to be at the cost was the final art. I hated it. I still do. It doesn’t represent my skill set as an artist and it doesn’t feel like I improved at all during the production phase. And most importantly, it doesn’t look cool! So I hate that project.

But Warlock 5? Well this project is a completely different story. I feel like I am constantly learning and improving, I feel like it is easily, far and away the best storytelling I have ever put out and most importantly, it is the coolest looking interior pages I have ever made! And that’s not me bragging, I don’t do that. That’s just the results of me taking a cold, objective look at this project versus my previous ones. It’s the best storytelling I have ever created. And its the most fun I have ever had working on storytelling. It’s just way better than I ever could have hoped for! I truthfully hope this never ends!

Thanks Jeff, for giving us a sneak peek into your work and the future of Warlock 5!

Thank you so so much for talking with me! It was a blast! I hope you all love the book!

Interview with Warlock 5 Colorist Andy Poole

Interview with Warlock 5 Colorist Andy Poole

Andy Poole says that one of the reasons that attracted him about being a colorist is the satisfaction of “seeing black and white art brought to life with color, under your very hands.” In a previous interview, we have also learned he enjoys playing with conventions when it comes to coloring comics. But how did Andy face the Warlock 5 challenge?

Did you read Warlock 5 before joining this project?

I’d never even heard of Warlock 5 before joining the project, as comics were not an interest of mine up until maybe ten years ago, so a Canadian comic from the 1980’s was completely off my radar. I did get myself into gear and do some research on the series however, reading reviews and finding what books I could.

Did you discover a favorite issue?

Not a particular issue, no. The original Warlock 5 had a cliff hanger at the end of issue #3, which I won’t ruin here, but it’s a pretty good one. Unfortunately, it was never resolved in later issues, so despite the writing continuing to be good and fun, I kind of gravitated towards the artwork instead of the story. From that point of view, any issue from #4 onward is a favorite.

While the first three issues had great artwork, the later issues kick it into overdrive with some of the most incredible black and white paints and inks I’ve ever seen. A page in issue five is especially nice, with the Robot Warlock Argon’s ship moving through space in front of a rocky, crater marked planet, with bright sun and ethereal nebula behind it all. The lighting is fantastic and makes the entire scene both dark and mysterious and beautiful too.

How about a beloved character?

Tanith. I find that the other Warlocks know their positions, powers, responsibilities and conspiracies well, but Tanith has had a lot of growth as a messenger of peace and harmony realizing that her standing as one of the Warlock 5 means performing acts that are far from savory. She’s straddling the line between her personal views and philosophy, and the corruption and violence that dealing with The Grid and the other Warlocks is pushing on her. Personal conflict is the most human story, my favorite kind of story, and she fits the bill the most.

Warlock 5 is tied to this 80’s view of a dystopian multiverse. How is it to work on such a setting?

The setting is interesting because it’s not a single setting at all, it’s like being thrust into 80’s Horror, or Urban Fantasy, Cyberpunk and I even get a Masters of the Universe vibe every now and then. These are all different worlds that rather than make the book feel convoluted, they make it work. They’re defined as individual worlds, not a mish-mash of genres. Working on that is interesting, it gives me the opportunity to join in on defining those individual worlds and genres using the colors, which is quite obvious when you see the color theory in practice.

The series has a – quite large and – faithful fanbase. Did that put any different kind of pressure onto you?

Not at all, mostly because I’ve remained blissfully ignorant of the fan base. But now I know… I did put pressures on myself though. When I saw the artwork from after issue #4 of the original run, I assumed that anyone who saw the art would pretty much instantly fall in love with it the way I did. As a Colorist I have to live up to that standard, and that is not easy at all.

The greyscale art is detailed and rendered expertly, and is something I would personally love to see the new series of books rendered as. But I’ve been brought on to modernize the story along with Cullen, Jimmy and Jeff, the writers and artist respectively, so I had to color the thing in a more modern style. I wanted to keep an eighties vibe, so I limited the color palette to suit that, but it’s still obviously a modern take.

Warlock 5 has always stricken me as having these bright colors. There seems to be something nearly violent about that approach. Do you agree with that? Or is it a misconception?

I can certainly agree. The original four issues had a very, I guess you could call it a sharp style of inks. They felt very in place with a violent story. Denis Beauvais, the artist, could reel that style in when the story required a softer touch however. I’ve tried to live up to that myself.

The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have when tackling this project?

I’ve tried not to be influenced by anything but the original source material and the creative team around me. If I feel I’m capturing the atmosphere of the original, I’m happy. If the Writers, Artist, Letter, Editor, Publisher and Creative Director are happy with it, I’m happy with it.

Are there any specific scenes that stand out?

Tanith using her magic stands out the most. It’s bloody brilliant, in the literal sense. Bright blue and white glowing power, taking the form of butterflies that Jeffrey Edwards must have killed his knuckles drawing. But he pulled it off excellently! I hope that I lived up to his efforts in those scenes, because he deserves nothing but the utmost praise for pulling them off.

Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?

Yes and no. You come into projects like these, with very rich and detailed artwork, with a style in mind, but the work grows and changes all on its own, and you have to flow with it. I’ve found it both to be good and difficult for me to render, and it’s fallen away from my original vision, or perhaps my need to honor the original artwork. That aside, it looks quite nice, I’m pleased with how it’s turning out and can’t wait to see the printed pages. That’s when it all comes together, the experience of reading the finished product and holding those floppies or trades in your hands.

Thanks, Andy, for leading us through the colorful multiverse of Warlock 5!

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.

Warlock 5 Interview: Jimmy Z. Johnston

Warlock 5 Interview: Jimmy Z. Johnston

Interview with Warlock 5 Writer Jimmy Z. Johnston

We’re excited to feature Jimmy Z. Johnston, writer for the Kickstarter-funded revival of Warlock 5!

What was your first contact with Warlock 5?

I picked them up new off the shelf in the late 80s. I remember seeing the cover to issue one and thinking it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.

Why did it capture you?

100% the cover. I bought it because that cover was one of the most incredible I had seen. Issues 2-6 had fully painted covers featuring the face of each Warlock. And they stand the test of time today as being some of the most striking covers of their time.

Did you have a favorite issue?

In many ways, the first issue holds that honor. It did such a wonderful job introducing the world.

How about a beloved character?
 
I have a ton of art I did through high school, and there is one montage I have of dozens of characters I loved from various works. Argon is in that montage, if I find it I will share it.

Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?

When I read them years ago, I never thought about the idea of where their story might go if I was writing it. It was a few years later that I began thinking about these things in earnest. But rereading the original series now is a tough thing to do. Because it is very much a product of the time. Storytelling was different back then. In issue 3 (I think) Zania sets off a nuke in Grid City. In issue 4 they don’t even acknowledge it. There is no way a writer could do something like that today, the fans would be all over it. They did resolve that eventually in the trade, but if you only get the issues you don’t see the resolution.

As for characters, when we started writing the series, I spent a lot of my time working on the new character Lycia, so my view of the original characters didn’t change much at all.

The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have?

Clive Barker is my biggest influence. He tells stories in ways that no other writer I have ever read can compare to. I do find it interesting, having read comics spanning all eras, how storytelling in comics has changed. I worked on Micronauts with Cullen Bunn, a series that originated with Marvel in the 70s. I have talked to fans who wish we were writing stories like the ones Marvel did. But the reality is that nobody could write like that today. Readers wouldn’t be interested in it. There are many readers who seek out the older stories like that, but the nostalgia factor lets them be read without worrying about the storytelling. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is one that stands the test of time. He did such a fantastic job telling the stories he told, that they will always be relevant examples of how to tell a story.

The writing process is a collaboration between you and Cullen Bunn. How is it to collaborate with other artists? Is there too much compromise?

In spite of what Cullen says, we work really well together.

But seriously, we sit down and talk out the idea. Then we write up a page by page outline. Sometimes that could be one line “FIGHT” or it could be a paragraph with dialogue we want to make sure we use. Through this process we make sure we don’t have too many scenes we are trying to fit in. In this case it was a 60 page script, so when we finished the outline, we talked about scenes we “wanted.” Cullen really wanted the Savashtar investigating scene, so we blocked that out for him. After we do that it is usually pretty close to an even split on the workload.

When we finish our parts, I combine it into one unified script and we both go over it. This part is fun because we get to revel in the genius of our parts and rewrite the stuff the other guy did. I joke about it. Usually it involves tweaking a few things here and there, but not too terribly much.

This is not the only project you two have partnered up for. Why did you start working together?

I met Cullen in 2003. He met me in 2004. There is a story there, but this isn’t the day for that. We were both at a horror convention for writers in New York (in 2004). Found out we lived very close to each other and when we got home started talking and hanging out more. He was working on writing prose, and I had discovered an innate talent for editing. I did an edit for him on a story and he really liked what I did. That was the start of working together.

Are there any specific scenes or narrative developments you want to include in this continuation of the 80’s comic?

We are looking at this as a continuation of the series. 30 years later, these 5 are still defending reality from threats. They have changed, but the dynamics amongst them are still pretty consistent. Zania and Argon are the “bad” pair, while Tanith and Savashtar are the “good” pair, leaving Doomidor in the middle as the balance between them.

The only thing I really pushed for was doing a cover based on the original issue 1. We are technically working on the fourth run of the series. The second run was a short mini series that did a new version of the issue one cover. The third run did not, but it deviated massively from the original concept. I am glad that we got to use a version of the original cover. Jeffrey Edwards did an amazing job on it, and on every page that will be between the covers.

The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?

Anytime you have an ensemble cast it takes time to develop the individuals. It is much easier to write a story with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman because you don’t need to establish who they are. You see the S, the Bat cowl, the lariat, and you instantly know who they are.

We have 5 main characters we are essentially introducing to readers. Along with a handful of new characters to the series. That takes time to develop. Being able to do a 60 page issue helps massively with the character development aspect.

Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?

I am still pretty fresh in the comic world, so I am loving the process. Seeing thumbnails come in, then pencils, then inks, then colors. . . Seeing my words and scenes turned into comic pages is amazing. It is so much better than I envisioned it. I love it.

In these shaken times do you try to embed your work with some subliminal criticism or do you keep it detached from the outside world?

Oh, I am constantly putting Easter Eggs into things. Many of which go unnoticed. Cullen is always telling me not to worry about things like that because no one will notice. The secret is, I am putting them in for me. I am ok if no one else ever notices!

I am guessing though that your question is leaning more towards the current political and social climate in our country. And that is something I try and avoid. I don’t need to make enemies right now as I get started in writing. Many writers and artists are taking positions publicly about their support or lack of support for our current administration. I will leave that to them for now.

Anything you can tell us without giving out major spoilers?

We start out seeing the Warlock 5 fighting against an incursion into Grid City, but we will be showing them in their own worlds. And a portion of this first volume is going to take place on a new world in crisis. This will be creating a dilemma for them as they have to choose between helping an individual world or pulling back to Grid City and simply protecting the Grid. It goes towards the question of what are you protecting. It is all good standing guard over a forest and making sure it doesn’t succumb to a forest fire, but when you let a lumberjack in to cut down a tree. . . well, it sucks if you are that tree.

Thanks Jimmy for opening up about the future of Warlock 5! 

###

About WARLOCK 5 KICKSTARTER

Five guardians protect the multiverse against the chaos that lurks outside the boundaries of reality. There’s only one problem: they hate each other.

“The Grid.
 
A mystical nexus, a crossroads connecting all times, all realities. Along the ley lines of the Grid, the multiverse clusters. To move along the Grid is to move from one reality to the next. To harness the power of the Grid is to harness the awesome might of creation.Five touchstone realities exist at focal points along the Grid. From each of these realities, a Warlock is chosen to act as one of five Guardians.
 
Savasthar, a shapeshifting dragon-like being.
 
Doomidor, a warlord from the Dark Ages.Argon, an advanced cybernetic organism from a techno-hell.
 
Tanith, an ageless sorceress.
 
Zania, a power-mad, machine gun necromancer.
 
Together, the Warlocks protect the Grid, thereby protecting all of space and time. They are the last line of defense against the awful forces of chaos that lurk in the darkness outside the Grid.There’s only one problem.They hate each other.”
 
Originally created by Gordon Derry and Denis Beauvais, Warlock 5 was published by Barry Blair, a Canadian comic book publisher, artist and writer, known for launching Aircel Comics in the 1980s. A fierce advocate for innovation in the themes, genres, and types of illustrations, Blair helped to bring titles to life that broke the narrative and graphic boundaries at the time — including Warlock 5.
 
The new Warlock 5 Kickstarter funded this continuation of the Aircel Comics classic fantasy masterpiece. This 2017 reboot is written by CULLEN BUNN and JIMMY JOHNSTON, illustrated by JEFFREY EDWARDS with colors by ANDY POOLE, letters by ED DUKESHIRE, and designs by EDWARD LAVALLEE and SHAWN T. KING. This saga of rivalry, betrayal, magic, dragons, and killer robots is aiming for a 60-page full-color (hard cover) original graphic novel.

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.

***

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

***

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.