MEGADRAK: BEAST OF THE APOCALYPSE — The Skinny on my Latest Kaiju Novel

 

Megadrak - Beast of the Apocalypse_correct byline cover

 

 

My newest and second novel in the kaiju genre has just been published by Severed Press, and it provides a further step in building what I call the Dragonstorm Universe, a shared kaiju/sentai/jaeger universe that will appear across many novels and short stories published by moi. The first story taking place in that universe was chronicled in my previous kaiju novel Dargolla: A Kaiju Nightmare, and in a short story “The Criminal and the Kaiju” published among the tales of many fine kaiju authors contained in Matt Dennion’s Attack of the Kaiju: Age of Monsters anthology.

For those not entirely in the know (or not in the know at all), a kaiju is a shortened version of the word daikaiju, which is used by genre fans to describe strange monsters of immense size and power. Think Godzilla, Gamera, King Kong, etc. A sentai is a Japanese word for super-heroes who battle monsters, especially those who can attain gigantic size to directly tussle with daikaiju. Think Ultraman, Dark Horse’s Hero Zero, etc. A jaeger is a German-derived term used to describe gigantic robots designed to combat kaiju. Think the Shogun Warriors, the Power Rangers’ Zords, Gipsy Danger and her mecha allies in the Pacific Rim franchise, etc.

Kaiju prose has been booming in recent years, thanks largely to authors such as Eric S. Brown, Matt Dennion, Zach Cole, John W. Dennehy, C.G. Mosely, and James Melzer. The popularity of kaiju in this long-uncharted medium was largely pioneered during the 1990s by the august personages of Marc Cerasini’s and Scott Ciencen’s separate series of Godzilla novels published by Random House, and short stories regularly contributed to G-Fan magazine by scribes such as Skip Peel and Neil Reibe. These paved the way for the kaiju genre to explode across the prose medium in the succeeding decades, and among their number happens to be this author.

So what is Megadrak: Beast of the Apocalypse all about, and how may it differ from my previous entry in the genre and Dragonstorm Universe, Dargolla: A Kaiju Nightmare?

For starters, it’s considerably longer than the latter novel, which was more akin to a novella in length. Megadrak, however, will be a reading size more apropos for a tale describing the havoc wreaked by a deadly monstrosity of skyscraper proportions.

Secondly, Megadrak will be a period novel set in 1954 Japan, exploring my idea of what may have been done with the genre by Toho during that era with an alternate take on the same concept. Accordingly, this book is a complete homage to Tokyo’s iconic Godzilla (1954) that made cinematic history, which had and continues to provide this author with immense creative inspiration.  It is intended to duplicate the deadly serious tone and anti-nuclear commentary of the first two G-films, while covering some additional territory that Toho didn’t, but which I think should be covered in retrospect. Like Godzilla in the Tohoverse, Megadrak will represent the first assault on an unsuspecting humanity by a daikaiju in the Dragonstorm Universe, and how the nation is affected.

For those interested in seeing how the nightmare began in the Dragonstorm Universe, and how the Earth in that reality found itself changed forever, then this is the book you do not want to miss.

Megadrak is every bit as large as Godzilla, and every bit as nasty a customer as Dargolla was in his eponymous novel. Death and destruction will outpace what was seen in the previous tome (just when you thought that wasn’t possible!). And this time around, rather than focusing on a single protagonist and his family’s desperate, tragedy-filled attempt to escape their home city after it comes under siege by the titular kaiju, I have the space to focus upon several individuals who become embroiled in the horrific series of events that unfold when the kaiju apocalypse begins. These individuals end up crossing paths along the way, and find themselves forced to work together for mutual survival, with a combination of impressive successes and tragic failures.

Also, there will be giant mutant bloodworms. Yes, you read that correctly. The hapless citizens of Tokyo and the islands surrounding the Land of the Rising Sun will have much more than just Megadrak to contend with, as the atomic forces that spawned the kaiju will be discovered to have spawned a diverse array of dangerous mutant fauna that are not averse to using humans as a food source. You can also look forward to the first kaiju battle on this world’s timeline, as Megadrak ultimately discovers that humanity isn’t the only rival for world hegemony that the great beast must eliminate to stand at the top of the proverbial mountain.

This book was a lot of work, and required extensive research into the politics, economy, pop culture, and honorific-filled lingo of Japan as of the early 1950s, when that nation was still feeling the effects of the post-war era. The hard work was worth it in the end, though, as it was a lot of fun to write, and I am very thankful that the good people at Severed Press, likely the foremost publisher of kaiju prose in the Western world, gave me yet another opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream under their banner.

Is the culmination of my dream worth its weight in readership gold? That, of course, will be up to you, my esteemed readers, to decide. Megadrak: Beast of the Apocalypse is now on sale at Amazon in both digital and paperback versions, and I look forward to providing my share of kaiju mayhem to each of you. So by all means, buy the book, enjoy (I hope!), and I welcome and encourage reviews!

My third novel for Severed Press is now in the works, so more on that soon! The Dragonstorm Universe is expanding just as the genre as a whole continues to do, and not only in prose, but also in the cinematic, comic book, and video game mediums. This is the best time to be a kaiju-fan since the genre’s previous heyday during the 1950s and 1960s, and I’m proud to be part of the devastation being wrought!

 

 

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Dargolla: A Kaiju Nightmare — My Debut Novel and A New Universe Rises

To quote the highly inspirational song “Faith of the Heart” by Russell Watson (yes, it’s the theme song for Star Trek: Enterprise, my fellow Trekkies!): “It’s been a long road, getting from there to here; it’s been a long time, but my time is finally near.” Or, in this case, actually here!

Yes, my first novel has now been published, after a long time working up to this with several short stories published in anthologies and eZines from great indie presses such as Black Coat Press, Sirens Call Publications, Pro Se Press, Pulp Empire, Horrified Press, Grinning Skull Press, and a few others who have since slipped into oblivion. I was greatly honored to have stories deemed worthy of professional publication from all of the above, and it was a lot of fun taking the many arduous steps necessary to develop the reputation necessary to getting a novel accepted.

I’m particularly thankful to Jean-Marc Lofficier, co-publisher and editor of Black Coat Press, for giving me my first professional break in Volume 8 of his terrific annual anthology Tales of the Shadowmen, devoted to yarns of heroes and villains culled from French pulp fiction of the 1920s-1940s. I’ve endeavored to get a short short story published in every subsequent volume (with Vol. 14 due next, in December of 2017), and you can bet I have many more plans for projects with Black Coat.

I am also very thankful to the great writers and creative mythographers who comprise the Wold Newton publishers that have continued and expanded upon the great shared pulp and sci-fi universe built by the late, great Philip Jose’ Farmer, in particular Win Scott Eckert and Chuck Loridans for first welcoming me into their circle of influence, which enabled me to meet many great friends and colleagues, many of whom I have collaborated with for many years now. The inspiration which they and other creative mythographers provided to me was immense, and it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be a published author today if not for the friendships and networking I acquired as part of their creative circle. Thank you, guys, for everything!

So needless to say, I was thrilled to the gills to have my first submission to Severed Press accepted, as this great publishing label is undoubtedly the biggest force in kaiju prose today (as well as other horror and sci-fi sub-genres, such as books devoted to sea monsters, zombies, dinosaur mayhem, post-apocalyptic scenarios, and space military action). I was quite familiar with them and a fan of many of their publications, including Eric S. Brown’s awesomely horrific, high-selling, and long-running apocalyptic Bigfoot War series; and my friend and colleague Matthew Dennion’s kaiju novels, including gems such as Atomic Rex, Polar Yeti and the Beasts of Prehistory, Operation R.O.C., Chimera: Scourge of the Godsand Kaiju Corps

I’m especially grateful to Matt Dennion, as my first published work that truly belongs to the kaiju genre is “The Criminal and the Kaiju,” and it appeared in Matt’s anthology Attack of the Kaiju: Age of Monsters Vol. 1. I met a lot of talented friends and colleagues by working on that and other projects of Matt’s, and I was as proud to share a byline with them in that anthology as I was with the many great authors (which also includes Matt) in the Tales of the Shadowmen volumes. Most importantly, the above-mentioned short story was also the first published entry into the shared kaiju/sentai universe I’m building.

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Cover to Attack of the Kaiju: Age of Monsters Vol. 1, where a new universe started with Blue King and Mokkadon. Thanks, Matt! 

For those who may not be fully in the know, “kaiju” is a Japanese term roughly translating into English as “monster” or “mysterious beast,” and the context in which most English-speaking fans of the genre use it is an abbreviated form of “daikaiju” (sometimes spelled as two separate words) which means “giant monster.” Think Godzilla, King Kong (at least the larger versions of the size-fluctuating giant ape, i.e., the Toho version and the current Legendary MonsterVerse iteration), and Gamera. The term “sentai” is a Japanese word that roughly translates as “monster-fighting super-hero” (well, not literally, but in concept), particularly those who can achieve kaiju-level size to get the job done, either by dramatic size-and-mass accruing themselves, or as pilots of giant robots which rival kaiju in size and power. Think Ultraman, the jaeger (giant robots) from Pacific Rim, and the Power Rangers’ giant polyglot robot the Mega-Zord.

Which brings us to my first novel, and the latest entry into my shared and (hopefully) exponentially expanding kaiju/sentai universe, Dargolla: A Kaiju Nightmare.

 

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One giant step for me; and numerous giant steps for Dargolla.

Though I have every intention of pitting kaiju against each other in city-smashing battles, as well as sentai vs. kaiju battles — as I did between Blue King and Mokkadon in “The Criminal and the Kaiju” — in my future work, this first novel gives the podium to Dargolla alone. What is the basic skinny of this tale?

For one thing, I extenuate the horror aspects of the kaiju genre. Rather than depicting these gigantic monsters as being in any way funny or goofy, I pay homage to the antiquarian roots of kaiju from world mythology (e.g., Jormangand the Midgard Serpent and Tiamat) and the Biblical beasts Leviathan and Behemoth, where they were destructive, overpowering, and living forces of nature that even the gods respected (and often used for their own destructive tendencies).

I also strive to pay homage to the wondrous kaiju-films I grew up watching, which fascinated me and piqued my creative impulse on a deep psychic level. They certainly constitute great childhood viewing memories, albeit of a decidedly different sort than the type I got from watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island or The Brady Bunch.

Which brings us to Dargolla. As the sub-title of the novel makes clear, this is not a kaiju you want visiting your home town, or even co-existing on the same planet with you. This creature doesn’t simply smash buildings and flatten automobiles that happen to be directly in his path. Like most kaiju in this universe, he views the tiny humans in his midst as rivals for global food chain hegemony, so he makes literal food out of them at every opportunity. When he isn’t devouring humans, he’s deliberately smashing their buildings and kicking their vehicles about, which his bestial but far from simplistic mind correctly identifies as constructs that harbor his miniature competition for dominion of the planet. People in this world live in mortal terror of kaiju, as humanity’s best military weaponry often has minimal effects on them.

Which brings us to the military of this nightmarish world, who are frequently engaged in the development of weapons specifically designed to deal with these living WMDs, and often pose as much of a threat to the civilization they are hoping to preserve as the kaiju themselves. This becomes evident in the novel when the fleeing hordes of hapless residents of the city of Metroville find themselves besieged by a military attack on Dargolla, as cluster bombs and building debris blasted loose by the weapons rain down on them and claims as many of their lives and limbs as the monster himself.

Which next brings us to the main human protagonist, Colin Wilson. He’s a young boy that finds Dargolla’s attack on his home city to be anything but cool or exciting. The story focuses on Colin and the rest of his nuclear family as they desperately try to escape from the city while a skyscraper-sized beast and the additional obstacles of attacking military forces and stampeding crowds of terrified people present additional obstacles.

With this novel, I endeavored to answer a series of disturbing questions I have always harbored in the darkest recesses of my mind: What would it actually be like, from the point of view of an average family, to have to deal with a kaiju attacking their city? What would be their realistic chances for survival, or even of simply getting out of such a disaster zone intact? Could every member of the family be expected to make it? What would their interactions with their panic-ridden fellow residents be like as everyone desperately attempted to flee for their very lives? How would they deal with the psychological trauma of seeing people crushed, eaten, and blown to bits all around them? How would they act and react knowing that this was their own likely fate at any moment? What would be the thoughts of the military aircraft pilots as they faced almost certain death, but were determined to do their best to carry out their orders anyway? How would these soldiers feel about the destruction they would inevitably wreak upon the very city and citizenry they were trying to save, and how would this effect them psychologically? And what about the military brass safely ensconced in distant military bases who had to issue the orders, if for no other reason than to make them appear to be “doing something” about the kaiju incursion? How would they feel about authorizing the use of an untested doomsday weapon on the kaiju, which could have far-reaching consequences for millions of people and the biosphere itself?

I endeavored to answer all of these unsettling questions as best I could, or at least to confront them head on. This particular novel has no true heroes, just an average family doing their best to flee the only home they ever knew and retain both their sanity and their lives as horrific death and destruction constantly ensue all around them. Besides that, we have soldiers who engage in heroic actions, but are first and foremost soldiers who must obey orders and make sacrifices no matter what the possible consequences to both themselves or the people caught in their crossfire (I personally consider soldiers to be a category of warrior, but not necessarily a category of hero — just like mercenaries — but I’ll deal with that in depth in a future blog when I discuss character concepts and categorizations).

Time and reader reaction will ultimately tell if I effectively addressed these questions and successfully provided a scenario to do them some type of justice with this novel and subsequent publications, but it was a lot of fun to make the effort, and it’s a dream come true to be given the opportunity to make this nightmare happen. I’m now at work on my next kaiju novel occurring in this universe, Megadrak: Beast of the Apocalypse, and I look forward to inflicting that upon the world as well!

For all my fellow kaiju-fans who may be interested in purchasing this debut novel, you can buy it for your Kindle or rent it for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, or purchase it in paperback. Your choice, as the nightmare and mass destruction will unfold in either format 🙂  Thank you to all who have already purchased, and those who will do so in the future, as your contribution to making this book a success is appreciated more than I can possibly say.

Doc Wildman’s Savage Daughter is Back in Action!

 

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I’m pleased to remind my fellow pulp fiction fans that Meteor House will soon be publishing a trade paperback version of The Evil in Pemberley House by Philip Jose’ Farmer and Win Scott Eckert. This collaborative novel marks one of the two final published works by the late, great PJF, which came to completion thanks to the pen of his friend and most prominent successor as chief curator of the Wold Newton Universe concept (that would be Mr. Eckert; the other, his true last published work circa 2012, is The Song of Kwasin, concluded in collaboration with Christopher Paul Carey).  This is the first of two original novels featuring Patricia Wildman published to date,  this extraordinary woman being the daughter of none other than the legendary pulp hero Dr. James Clarke “Doc” Wildman, better known to pulp aficionados by a more, shall we say, Savage moniker.

 

 

This novel was previously published in two rather pricey hardcover editions by Subterranean Press, and has been out of print since 2010. Now it will be back in publication before the summer of ’14 is out, and in a more affordable format that has a lot of interesting extras. For full details and where to pre-order, simply go here. The second Pat Wildman novel by Win Scott Eckert, btw, is The Scarlet Jaguar.

Unseen is the Theme

First of all, before I begin the main subject of this post… I’m baaaaa-cckkkkk!!! (Sorry, but it’s hard to forget that movie line, no matter how long ago you may have heard it.)  Nevertheless, it’s suitable for the announcement of my new blog here on WordPress, which will continue everything from the old one. I own the domain on this one, so consider it the new and improved version of The Norse King blog, which you can access to read my prior posts on my Links section, or here. I will be re-posting some of the stuff from there with a few twists and updates, so stay tuned for that.

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Now, onto business, which is the promotion of the latest anthology to contain a short story of mine. That would be WE WALK INVISIBLE: A SHORT STORY ANTHOLOGY, which was produced as a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Universal’s release of The Invisible Man, the first and arguably best celluloid adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic horror novel. I’m proud to be among the roster of authors who contributed to this book, published by Chupa Cabra House. So proud, in fact, that I’m actually inclined to forgive owner and editor-in-chief Timm Tayshun for spelling my name wrong, both in the table of contests and with my story byline! (Yup, I’m actually that proud of being part of this.)

 

My particular story in this collection, “Madness is An Unseen Variable,” introduces the latest member of the infamous Griffin family to formulate a version of the invisibility serum, Maximilian “Max” Griffin. He administers his improved version of the serum to himself with the best of intentions: To use his reversible power of invisibility to become a crime-fighter in the grimy modern day urban locale in which he makes his home. Well, we all know how good intentions often turn out, right? Max finds out too, especially after he discovers–too late, mind you–that the side effect of escalating insanity which plagued the other recipients of this serum was not eliminated from the improved formulae.

 

Why did the novel from Wells, and the film series produced by Universal, and the subsequent TV series from both the 1970s (short-lived as it was) and 2000s, resonate so much with readers/viewers? Because like all successful horror and sci-fi tropes, it appeals to a potent fantasy in the collective human psyche to be able to move about undetected, to go wherever one pleases whenever one pleases, and to commit acts of mischief and personal gratification without anyone knowing it’s you. This thrill works side-by-side with two separate forms of deep-seated fears that the human subconscious is afflicted with: 1) Being watched and/or victimized by someone whom you cannot see, and who can violate your sense of privacy and security with impunity; and, 2) Becoming trapped in a state of perpetual invisibility, a theme played up in both Wells’ original novel and the Universal film adapted from it, which can be viewed as an elaborate metaphor for our fears of being ignored and our lives unnoticed by our peers and world itself, not to mention the emotional instability that can arise from this… a theme focused upon quite well in classic episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

 

So like all good horror tropes and themes, the invisibility motif plays on multiple power fantasies and deep-seated fears simultaneously. This is what made both the novel and the film big hits with readers/viewers, and why this theme has been repeated over and over again the annals of horror and/or adventure fiction, including more recent films like Memoirs of An Invisible Man and Hollow Man, even though those two quite different movies focused upon different aspects of the same theme: The power fantasy and fear-inducing aspects, respectively.

 

This anthology brings the trope into the literary medium, and allows several authors (including moi) to bring you their unique interpretations of this enduring theme. See if you can resist the hidden urge to buy this one! (Actually, don’t try to resist the urge, but yanno what I mean…) You can buy it here.