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.