Godzilla is one of the most famous monsters in the entire world. He has reigned as the king of monsters on the big screen, cartoons, and comic books. (We won’t mention the video games). But are Godzilla movies ‘horror’ movies. And how would a giant monster truly fit into the literary world?
Godzilla (1954) was an incredible film, full of despair and the full realization that the threat of radiation and nuclear weapons was ever-present. Godzilla, was terrifying because he represented the specter of Japan’s powerlessness in the face of the nuclear bomb, as well as the crippling of their rights as a nation after WWII. It is about the dangers of an arms race and the loss of humanity that must go hand in hand with developing horrifying weapons.
Many of the movies that followed lost the nuance of these monsters as parables, either ignoring the idea altogether in favor of a giant monster melee or being so obvious as to be cartoonish and garish (I’m looking at your Hedorah). These fights are much beloved, including by me, the spectacle of giant monsters fighting filling the silver screen fills me with adrenaline, it allowed Godzilla, and his cohorts in Gamera and the Ultraman mythologies to all flourish. Beneath these fights, there is always some sort of message. Some lessons to learn, but it’s often drowned out by explosions and, let’s be honest, for many of us, bad dubbing.
Shin-Godzilla changed that. The movie has action, sure, but Godzilla is the lone giant monsters and spends much of the movie standing still and resting, or just moving forward. The action is on the red tape and panic of the Japanese government. The contrast between the older generation maintaining the status quo and the younger who seek to make Japan better. All the while the rest of the world threatens Japan with nuclear weapons if they cannot stop the Kaiju. It is an amazing film and deserves every award it has received.
This is where the kaiju fits into literature. Yes, it’s a set piece of action against which our protagonists can flee or try to fight. But to truly to the strange beasts justice you have to remember their original purpose: parable. Kaiju should be used to represent some implacable danger, something that man cannot fight with weapons or military. Something that, without some type of adaption. The kaiju is a force of nature that must be addressed by changing as a species. That, in my opinion, is the kaiju’s place in modern horror.
Whenever I mention Jewish Horror, I am met with blank stares, confused faces, and admissions that my choice of genre is not one they have heard of. Sure some people will jump on the golem bandwagon, but most people seem confused that Judaism could ever enter the realm of speculative fiction. Or maybe they think religious-themed horror and literature have to be the sole domain of Christianity.
I’ll tell you what I tell everyone, Judaism has been around for a very long time. Due to the diaspora which scattered the Jewish people to nearly every corner of the world, you can find Jewish themes and mythologies hidden within the folk tales of nearly every culture. And, just as importantly, you can find bits and pieces of those cultures within the greater body of Jewish folklore and mythology.
This means once you set your mind to it, Jewish speculative fiction can borrow more freely than many other forms of ethnic fiction and fantasy. The wide breadth of Jewish history, both what we know as reality and that which has fallen into legend, allows for the stories that Jewish authors write to take place in nearly any time period.
When we consider Jewish horror specifically, people tend to assume there will be nazi zombies. Again, we can remember the full array of people that have set themselves against the Jewish people throughout history, not the least different factions of Jewish people. There is no reason to be derivative, boring, or predictable.
Is the world ready for Jewish horror? Absolutely, younger readers especially crave and seek out new twists on tropes and legends they have heard before. People want to be steeped in the alien and strange while still seeing something familiar, even if it is twisted. So, through the lens of folklore and mythology that has saturated the wide world while maintaining its own peculiar flavor, we can give our readers exactly what they are craving.
I am so excited to destroy the world with you, above, embedded firmly in the code is the very first live reading of the very first commissioned piece of kaiju fiction, aimed at Rockaway Beack in New York!
As some of you are probably aware, I record and produce a number of podcasts. Wandering Monster is probably the most fun I have. I spent a little over an hour talking to Lemons Clemons and Charles Bernard about monsters. a subject that is obviously near and dear to my heart.
Currently, Madness Heart Press is offering Inhuman Error, my first novella written with Reed Alexander for free on their website. They’re doing this because as we continue on with the UPD series, we want to get people hooked. So you can grab book one, and then find book 2 for just .99.
It is also available for free on Kindle until March 11th!