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Below: a scene from The Monolith Monsters

Petri Sinda
Q & A
Daikaiju! story: "The Quiet Agrarian "

When did your interest in daikaiju and other giant monsters begin? What inspired it? 

In 1972 or so I saw a film on TV that I’ve never been able to forget (regardless of its undoubted crappy quality):  Dinosaurus.  [I kid you not.] This led, naturally, to Godzilla and other Japanese wonders of the TV Age (otherwise known as "The '70s".)

Perhaps you can tell us something of your career to date. 

A Goth fanzine once took a surreal comedy; I had a story published in a Seattle "alternative" mag back in the mid-90s; and Overland Express (the online version of the Overland literary magazine) published a cyberpunk story of mine in its 4th issue.

How many giant monsters stories have you written/had published? 

Well, one with the Daikaiju! Anthology, but I’m planning on sending one to Interzone imminently, and I’m hoping the regular Agog! Anthology next year will take the first submission I offered to the Daikaiju! anthology.  And I have quite a liking for beasties, critters et al., so I’m expecting to write more in future. 

What would you consider your major work to be?

Work?  (Excuse me while I try to translate this one.)  It’s not work to me:  it's necessary as breathing. "The Quiet Agrarian" is certainly the most substantial thing I’ve written, though I have a few others almost as long that I still plan to whip into shape.  

Where does your fascination for giant monsters come from (if you have one)?

For me there’s a parallel between Daikaiju and the old idea that [horror] monsters are eruptions of irrepressible energy from the universe or the Id:  Forbidden Planet had a huge effect on me as a kid (as did several Dr Who episodes that touched upon similar notions).  I think the strange and the alien is strange and alien, and I dislike overly symbolic monster stories:  monsters are monsters, irrational, irreducible, and are more fun if they stay that way. (Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing is another paramount beasty love of mine.) [Robin Pen is personally responsible for renewing my interest in it:  I used to go over and see a lot of videos with him, and joined him for the first fresh-print rescreening of the original Gojira.]

Different people have different ideas as to why the giant monster genre holds such power? What is your take on it? 

There is some innocence in monsters; we don’t understand their natures, so we’re willing to think somewhat well of them (until they eat their first cheerleader … the world has a shortage of cheerleaders and we begrudge each loss).  They’re also fun, when they’re truly imaginative. 

What is your favourite giant monster film? Why that one?

The Monolith Monsters. Because I haven’t seen it. Tremors, perhaps, is the paradigm of a great monster film (though they’re not nearly Giant enough.) Them, too, is great. Can I say The Thing? That would be the one (followed by The Thing From Another World).  Seeds of Doom from Dr Who.

What lies ahead for you?

More time in the computing lab.  Well, I’m doing Astronomy and Philosophy at Uni, while trying not to get kicked off the dole; and writing incessantly, so I guess that covers it. 

Can you tell us how you came to write your story for the DAIKAIJU! anthology? What thoughts lay behind it?

When I heard the phrase "giant monster" I thought:  Hmm, something big as a dinosaur; what physiology would it have, and how would it work? Well, dinosaurs were pretty big, and they used ganglia. Check. Then I thought, any created beasty of appreciable magnitude would have to have ganglia technologically grafted onto it, or grown into it from its modified genome up. If they have a technological interface to make upkeep or upgrades easy … then those could be hacked into. There’s conflict. Now for character. Well, "big" makes me think of Lenny, from Of Mice and Men. Innocence. More conflict. And I recalled "George" from prog #135/140 or so of 2000 AD, which featured a giant robot whose major limbs had separate rebellious issues of their own. That added another brick. Then I thought:  why would large, genetically constructed beasties be used, and where? Well, they could oversee agriculture, and where needs it more than Asia and Africa? Around that time the title The Quiet American floated around in my head, and my head misheard it, turning it into a kind of pun: Agrarian.  And everything fell into place all at once and I had my setting and subtext, as an oblique homage to Graham Greene.

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?

Not really. I was aware of it, but decided that it was best to avoid going that route, because everybody else would be, and I never go with the first idea I get. ("The Quiet Agrarian" being an exception.)

What would you say to those new to the idea of daikaiju films and stories? 

There’s plenty of ammunition there for good fun and good ideas: it isn't a crayon-ish cartoony area of literature at all, but can be seriously weird, if not bent.

February 2005



The anthology is published by Agog! Press.

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