When did your interest in daikaiju and other giant monsters begin? What inspired it?
Without any doubt it was in early childhood, when my dad took me to the cinema to watch a double-bill: Jason and the Argonauts and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. I still think those movies feature two of the most memorable giant monsters in movie history, in the Cyclops and Talos, the bronze titan. Talos in particular struck me as a foe of almost unimaginable power and terror. He was so vast that couldn’t think of anything that might even slow him down, never mind destroy him. I remember being awe-struck. I was very young, but I’d never seen anything as frightening in my life. I think the shot when Hercules and Hylas come blundering out of the treasure-house, glance nervously around, and then relax again … and then Talos turns his head to look down at them, is one of the greatest moments in the whole sci-fi / horror / fantasy genre. It was certainly a defining moment in my life.
Perhaps you can tell us something of your career to date.
I began my working-life as a cop in Manchester, northern England. Injuries and disillusionment soon put paid to that, though, and after several years I entered journalism. Around this time I was starting to write fiction as well. Chiefly because of my police background, I was able to secure a trial-script on The Bill, a long-running British TV crime series, and I’ve worked for it, on and off, since 1988. I was made redundant from my newspaper in 1998, and used my pay-off to become a full-time author. Since then, I’ve written everything from children’s animation to full-blooded horror stories, though these days I tend to concentrate exclusively on genre subjects. My first book, After Shocks, a collection of ghost stories, won the British Fantasy Award for 2001, while a follow-up novel, Cape Wrath, made the final ballot for the coveted Bram Stoker award in 2002. Since then, I’ve had two other books published, The Extremist and Darker Ages, and have written two horror movies. The first of these, Spirit Trap, has now wrapped and is due for cinematic release in late summer 2005, while the second, Deepest Fears, is in pre-production.
How many giant monsters stories have you written/had published?
Now that I’ve finally checked, I see that this is an area I’ve ventured into more than I realised. Anyway, here’s the list: "Scavengers", which was published in Unreal Dreams in 1998, features a giant semi-invisible blob, which prowls Britain’s ruined inner cities feeding off broken dreams; "The Fimbulwinter" was first published in Oktobyr in 1998, and is set during the last winter of mankind, when the earth splits and the Norse giants return to reclaim the Earth; "Hell in the Cathedral", which appeared in The Shadows Beneath in 2000, concerns a giant octopus in a labyrinthine sea-cave, and the plight of several tourists abandoned there by their guides as sacrifices to it; "June", published in Sci-Fright in 2000, is a police-procedural, in which an undercover detective thwarts plans by cultists to wake up a hideous Cthulhu-type entity; "The Wreck", which appeared in Extremes 3: Terror on the High Seas in 2001, deals with an attempt to salvage a Skylab-type space platform, which has fallen into the central Atlantic and is now perched on the edge of the continental shelf – perhaps inevitably, some extra-terrestrial material leaks out and causes the local flora and fauna to morph into monstrous forms; and "Twilight in the Orm-Garth", the second of my two novellas making up Darker Ages, is set in a Norman castle in the eleventh century, and concerns the capture and escape of a real-life ogre, who then proceeds to kill and eat anyone he can get his hairy hands on. Having said all this, I don’t think any of these monsters compare in size terms to some of the beasties in Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales. Certainly, "CALIBOS", my own contribution to the anthology, is the largest monster I’ve ever written about, bar none.
What would you consider your major work to be?
Thus far I’m happiest with my collection, After Shocks. It’s the pick of my supernatural stories from the 90s, and seems to have won a lot of praise. I’m very proud of some of my TV scripts too, but in terms of subject-matter they’re probably irrelevant to this discussion.
Where does your fascination for giant monsters come from (if you have one)?
I’m fascinated by all monsters, regardless of size. Courtesy of my dad’s story-telling skills, I was raised in a world of myths and legends. I was fully informed about King Arthur, Beowulf, Hercules and such, and all the various monsters they’d dispatched, long before I left infant school. Truly gigantic monsters exercised a particular grip on my imagination after seeing Talos in Jason and the Argonauts, and then, probably, Godzilla. It took me a while to warm to Godzilla, mainly because I saw King Kong vs Godzilla first, which probably wasn’t the Japanese demi-god’s best movie outing, and secondly because, as a schoolboy I’d become so enthralled by Ray Harryhausen’s animation techniques that the thought of a man in a suit didn’t appeal to me at all; of course, I had no idea at the time just how superbly made the original Godzilla movie actually was.
Different people have different ideas as to why the giant monster genre holds such power? What is your take on it?
To be honest, I think we unconsciously like the idea of a clearly visible, clearly-defined enemy that we can fire every gun we’ve got at without risk of causing collateral damage. I know that Godzilla and other colossal monsters of Japanese movies spiritually embody the vast tectonic forces that so often threaten the lands of the Pacific. But the reality is that many of the major problems plaguing mankind – crime, drugs, pestilence, earthquake, tsunami etc – are simply too intangible for us to deal with effectively. There’s no real way we can find back. When evil comes at us in the form of a monster, however, it’s very different. No matter how much damage he does, you know that, sooner or later, we’re going to take him down. And the bigger he is, the harder he falls.
What is your favourite giant monster film? Why that one?
I guess I’ve already covered this one. Jason and the Argonauts, without a doubt.
Are there any written stories or novels featuring giant monsters that you would particularly recommend?
One especially stands out in my mind. That’s a piece called "Heresies of the Huge God", written by Brian Aldiss. It concerns a gargantuan moth flying through space, and stopping briefly on Earth – which is the size of a ping-pong ball to it – for a breather. It’s only there for the briefest of time – decades to us humans – and wherever it walks, it causes the most cataclysmic devastation. I hasten to add that this is not a rip-off of Mothra – I think it pre-dates Mothra anyway – but the sheer size of the monster is the key in this story. The moth doesn’t even know we’re there, it’s simply having a rest, and is totally impervious to even our most deadly weapons. It’s a classic tale of a most unexpected Armageddon.
What lies ahead for you?
I wish I knew. I’m not being flippant in saying that. The life of a full-time writer is far from certain over here. I’ve got more movie ideas out with various independent British studios – horror seems to be in vogue at the moment, thankfully – and have recently passed a new novel to my agent (a horror/police procedural). I also have several ideas for new collections of stories and novellas. Ghost Realm is the project that currently excites me most; it will contain original pieces of fiction all set in different parts of the UK, each one based on a piece of mythology unique to that region. But whether anyone will pick it up in the immediate future or not, I don’t know. Selling collections of short stories is till the toughest gig in town.
Can you tell us how you came to write your story for the DAIKAIJU! anthology? What thoughts lay behind it?
Funnily enough, I was discussing potential ideas with my nine-year-old son, Harry, as I drove him home from school one day. He knew I was looking for a giant monster, and he also knew that I needed something slightly different; i.e. not just some household pet that had miraculously got blown up in size. He gave it some thought as we drove, and then, totally out of the view, suggested a type of monster that I immediately knew I was going to go with. Obviously, he didn’t fill in the detail, but the basic idea he gave me really rang a bell. By the time we’d reached home, perhaps ten minutes later, I had the entire story mapped out in my head. So, though I’d like to be able to say that the story I contributed to the anthology represents some dark turmoil in my life, or is perhaps the personification or all my deepest dreams and fears, I can’t. It was just a rather neat idea, provided by my very imaginative little boy.
The daikaiju genre (such as it is) has been very film-focussed to date. Did this prove a problem when you came to writing your story?
In my case, not at all. I’ve often been told I have a very 'filmic' writing style. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but I don’t seem to have too much trouble when it comes to writing TV and movie scripts, and possibly this does bleed over into my prose. Either way, I didn’t find the thought that most Daikaiju beasties have so far come at us visually rather than on the written page, off-putting.
What would you say to those new to the idea of daikaiju films and stories?