When did your interest in daikaiju and other giant monsters begin? What inspired it?
When I was three or four years old, I saw my first Godzilla movie (the original Godzilla, King of the Monsters), as well as The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Gorgo, Gigantis the Fire Monster, and others. I was immediately hooked on giant monsters and have been to this day.
Perhaps you can tell us something of your career to date.
I originally created the fanzine Japanese Giants when I was in junior high school (1974), inspired by the now legendary Japanese Fantasy Film Journal, published by Greg Shoemaker. Japanese Giants changed hands several times over the years, but it still comes out, if irregularly, under Ed Godziszewski’s editorship. I went on to edit the magazine Deathrealm (1987–1997) as well as write short fiction and later novels, including the Dark Shadows novel Dreams of the Dark from HarperCollins (which was a thrill for me because I was as much a fan of the Dark Shadows TV serial as daikaiju when I was a lad). I’ve also edited an anthology of Cthulhu Mythos stories titled Song of Cthulhu (Chaosium Books, 2001) and recently an anthology of stories involving Edgar Allan Poe, titled Evermore, for Arkham House. My novel of the supernatural, The Lebo Coven (Five Star Books), came out in 2004, as did my anthology, Deathrealms (Delirium Books), which features 15 stories from the magazine. You can get all the gory details at my website (http://home.triad.rr.com/smrainey).
How many giant monsters stories have you written/had published?
Not many, actually. Back in college, I wrote a story, titled "Night of the Firebeast", about the very monster that appears in Daikaiju!, though it was a completely different incarnation. That tale became the basis for a big, sprawling, exceptionally fun but ultimately stupid novel, which (deservedly) never saw publication. I wrote a story titled "I, Krall" back in the 1980s, which ended where the original Godzilla opens, though of course Godzilla was not named; the story was serious in tone, but distinctly tongue-in-cheek. It saw print a few times, once in G-Fan magazine.
What would you consider your major work to be?
Gad. Probably my WWII historical/dark fantasy novel, titled Blue Devil Island, which my agent is currently circulating. Of my published works, I expect my novelette "Fugue Devil" actually stands above any of my novels.
Where does your fascination for giant monsters come from (if you have one)?
I’ve always been enthralled by the idea behind Japanese daikaiju (as opposed to just big critters in general) because they knock human beings a few rungs down the food chain; they highlight our foibles; they entertain us; they’re among the most truly imaginative creations I think people have ever come up with. I also love the fact that Godzilla and kin apparently carry around loudspeakers that frequently play Akira Ifukube music when they’re around. That’s just too cool.
Different people have different ideas as to why the giant monster genre holds such power? What is your take on it?
My answer to this is probably found in the question just above…
What is your favourite giant monster film? Why that one?
The original Japanese version of Godzilla. It’s so much more than a movie about a big monster. Its characters are its driving force; each is directly affected by Godzilla’s existence, but each has his or her own deep, ultimately moving story. As far as I’m concerned, Godzilla outshines King Kong as the best monster movie ever made; I know a lot of people take issue with that, but as great a movie as Kong is, technical details aside, Godzilla reaches a level somewhat more profound. Besides, to me personally, a big old radioactive fire-breathing dinosaur-ish beast is visually a helluva lot more impressive than a gorilla.
Are there any written stories or novels featuring giant monsters that you would particularly recommend?
Bradbury’s "The Fog Horn" might be the most obvious, and it’s certainly among the best. Clive Barker’s "The Skins of the Fathers" is bizarre but entertaining. Crichton’s Jurassic Park isn’t shabby, either.
What lies ahead for you?
I’ve just finished a new novel, The Nightmare Frontier, which I recently submitted to my agent. It’s not a giant monster novel per se, but it incorporates some of the same themes that I used in "The Transformer of Worlds" in Daikaiju!. I’m toying with some ideas now for a new book, which will probably be a straight thriller, as opposed to a "fantastic" tale.
Can you tell us how you came to write your story for the Daikaiju! anthology? What thoughts lay behind it?
Well, I mentioned the story "Night of the Firebeast", which I originally wrote in college. In later years, I rewrote it as "Pachacutec", which I think was a fun tale, but it didn’t really move as far into the realm of fantasy as I think the monster deserved. I’ve always enjoyed stories that involve dreamlands, alternate realities, etc., as well as H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos (into which many of my tales fit, some loosely, some quite overtly), so I decided to place "Transformer" into my well-used Lovecraftian universe. Most notably, it features the character Ivan Luserke, the artist, who also appears in my stories "To Be As They" (originally published in Miskatonic University, DAW Books) and "The Fire Dogs of Balustrade" (originally published in New Mythos Legends, Marietta Books).
The daikaiju genre (such as it is) has been very film-focused to date. Did this prove a problem when you came to writing your story?
Not really. Certainly, I wanted the story to feature the kind of spectacle you’d find in a major giant monster flick, but the setting and characters needed to be three-dimensional and reasonably believable, at least in context. Naturally, I’d not be opposed if someone with loads of cash came to me and said, "Hey, this would make a smashing film!"
What would you say to those new to the idea of daikaiju films and stories?
Hold on tight; daikaiju movies go from one end of the creative spectrum to the other, and it’s a wild ride. Just expect to have fun. And on those occasions you get a little more than that out of them, it’s something very special.