Kane Gilmour on The Rise of Kaiju Prose

Kane Gilmour on The Rise of Kaiju Prose

As we cruise into the middle of 2018, it might be difficult, surrounded as we are with great kaiju novels and anthologies, comics, and Pacific Rim Uprising rampaging across theater screens, to recall a time when kaiju fans were at a loss for good material. And while there have been few gaps in the cinematic history of kaiju, when it comes to prose, things were pretty sparse until 2012.

Just how sparse? Well, there was a fairly steady stream of comics from the Marvel Godzilla issues of the 1970s. Dark Horse got the Godzilla license in the late 1980s and continued publishing their comics into the 1990s and acting as prologue to the abysmal American Godzilla film from 1998. IDW’s comics started in 2010 and became some big sellers, and along the way we had artist superstars like Matt Frank and Bob Eggleton become well-known names associated with kaiju. There were also a handful of other kaiju comics (i.e.: those not starring the Big G) or things that could charitably be called kaiju comics, too.

But when it came to actual prose—novels, novellas, and short stories—the scene was pretty thin. And beyond Godzilla? Not much.

In the 1990s, a series of Godzilla YA novels began with Marc Cerasini’s Godzilla Returns. But sales on the series probably were not what the publisher hoped, because it was cancelled after just four books (with a fifth written but never published).

A few random fits and starts occurred over the years. Monster Makers, Inc. (1987) by Laurence Yip, predated the YA series, but was more of a one-off thing. The Buzzing (2003) by Jim Knipfel was a detective story with its inspiration in kaiju stories. MM9 (2012) by Hiroshi Yamamoto was certainly a full-on kaiju novel by a Japanese author, but the translated edition appears to be the last book by the author available on Western shores. (I should also point out here that this brief history of kaiju prose is strictly looking at novels in the English speaking world. I would expect—and hope—that there are plenty of kaiju novels available in Japan).

Although MM9 was released first, it didn’t have half the impact of the next kaiju novel released. And I know a little something about this next one. I was partly responsible for its existence. In 2011, I was freelance editing and working on my own novels as time permitted. One book I planned to write was a YA kaiju adventure set in Vermont (sadly still not completed). I talked about it with my most frequent editing client, Jeremy Robinson. It turned out he was a huge kaiju fan, and had always wanted to write a kaiju novel. Most of his novels up to that point featured large creatures—aliens, dinosaurs, sea serpents, the hydra, and stone golems—and the book he was working on at the time even had a creature/character named ‘Kaiju.’

I encouraged Jeremy to go ahead and work on his kaiju novel idea and release it. The time was ripe for self-published novels and if anyone could do justice to a kaiju novel, it was Jeremy. That novel, which I edited for him, was 2012’s Project Nemesis, and while Jeremy opted to self-publish the book, he had actually received an offer from a major New York publisher for it. He turned them down though, and he promptly made more money self-pubbing the book. The book came adorned with a label that read ‘A Kaiju Thriller’ and a novel subgenre was born.

Nemesis was huge. The novel was (and perhaps remains) the highest-selling original non-licensed kaiju novel of all time. Jeremy became an international bestselling author and among many other novels he also wrote four bestselling sequels in the Nemesis Saga. The character was licensed to appear in an indie video game. The book was reviewed in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and when they launched their comic book publishing arm, American Gothic Press, Project Nemesis, written by Robinson and with art by the stellar Matt Frank (hot off the heels of Godzilla: Rulers of Earth) was their flagship title. The character has even had major Hollywood interest lately.

Following Nemesis, though, and seemingly all at once, kaiju were everywhere. It helped that the Pacific Rim film was coming in 2013 and a new American Godzilla film was on the way for 2014. But suddenly there were authors writing kaiju novels. Matthew Dennion (who wrote a Nemesis short story for G-Fan magazine in 2014), Jake Bible, JE Gurley, and Eric S. Brown were all putting out great stuff. Handfuls of other authors were diving in, many utilizing the ‘Kaiju Thriller’ tag line, loud and proud.

Then there were the anthologies. Robert Hood and Robin Penn had edited a trio of kaiju-themed anthologies in 2006-2007, Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales, Daikaiju! 2 Revenge of the Giant Monsters, and Daikaiju! 3 Giant Monsters Vs. the World. Once the dam broke in 2012, however, many more followed. Monster Earth by James Palmer and Jim Beard. Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters by Tim Marquitz and N. X. Sharps came about via a kaiju-sized Kickstarter campaign that was so over-funded it brought on illustrations for every short story and even a few additional stories (including one from yours truly).

SF editor supreme Sean Wallace put together a reprint anthology for the Constable & Robinson (and in the US, Prime Books) Mammoth series: The Mammoth Book of Kaiju. Ragnarok followed up their successful Kaiju Rising anthology with a giant robot companion, called MECH: Age of Steel, and the book contained its fair share of mechs beating down on over-sized monsters.

In short, the last six years have been a second golden age for kaiju fans. Two Pacific Rim films, two Godzilla films (with more coming, including a Kong rematch). Animated films. Kong: Skull Island. Cloverfield sequels. The upcoming MEG. Even the black comedy Colossal. Comics have been bountiful, and there’s been plenty of good stuff beyond Godzilla and Pacific Rim comics, including Kaijumax, King of Zombies, and the upcoming Redman with kaiju-riffic Matt Frank art. Fantastic novels like Robinson’s Apocalypse Machine, Raffael Coronelli’s Daikaiju Yuki, Lee Murray’s Into The Mist, and Greig Beck’s Primordia series are becoming the norm. A cursory look at the search term ‘kaiju’ on Amazon will yield plenty of releases just in 2018 or scheduled for later this year.

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About Kane Gilmour

Kane Gilmour is the international bestselling author of The Crypt of Dracula and Resurrect. His short stories have appeared in Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters and MECH: Age of Steel. SNAFU II: Survival of the Fittest, and Dark Discoveries magazine. He also writes comic books. 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. Find him on the web at http://kanegilmour.com/.

 

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