This week, I was thrilled to interview one of my literary heroes, science fiction and horror best-selling author Gini Koch, in preparation for the paperback release of an anthology she’s headlining under her nom de plume, J. C. Koch. Hang on. Here be monsters. You are crunchy, and you taste great with or without catsup. It says so in the book – KAIJU RISING: AGE OF MONSTERS.
Q: What is KR:AoM, and how did you get involved?
Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters is an anthology based on kaiju, aka Godzilla and his kind. I was invited into the anthology — I think it was “We know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows another guy, who said you’d be great for this” sort of approach. It was a cool idea, with a fun but dedicated and professional editorial team, and they were just a joy to work with. I write horror as J.C. Koch, and I enjoy it. So I tend to leap at any opportunity that allows me to write something short and scary, creepy, and/or weird.
Q: I love the word “tuckerization,” but will you help everyone else understand that mouthful and what it has to do with KR:AoM?
I had to look this up when I was first asked about tuckerizations, so here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
Tuckerization is the act of using a person’s name in an original story as an in-joke. The term is derived from Wilson Tucker, a pioneering American science fiction writer, fan and fanzine editor, who made a practice of using his friends’ names for minor characters in his stories.
I tend to make my tuckerized characters either main characters or major supporting characters, but that’s just me. Many authors “red shirt” their tuckerized characters. It’s all down to what you, the author, prefer.
Q: What was the creation process for your tuckerized characters? Did they influence your story?
Actually, the tuckerizations helped a lot with this particular short, as did the artist who did my story’s illustration, Chuck Lukacs. One of the story tuckerization options was City, as in, the winner could choose what city my kaiju would destroy. The winner chose Gulfport, MS. I’d been thinking very urban originally, and this was a sort of head-whipping change. But, at about the same time, Chuck was saying that he wanted to draw a tree-kaiju and asked if anyone had one in their story. I was still in that gray area where I could alter whatever, so I said I’d do the tree. The combination of Gulfport and a giant tree totally changed my story, “With Bright Shining Faces,” and definitely for the better. I love what came from this combination. (Side note: Chuck ended up NOT doing the tree for my story, because, after reading it, he felt — rightly — that the correct illustration was something else. And I LOVE the illustration for “With Bright Shining Faces,” so Chuck was totally right.)
As for the tuckerized names, they affected the story somewhat, mostly by giving me fun things to play with. I enjoy figuring out whose name, or names, should go with which character, which names get to live or die, and so forth. So it adds a little bit of giggly fun for me, which is always nice.
Q: What other factors led to the formation of “With Bright Shining Faces?”
Well, about half of the horror I write is Lovecraftian. The other half tends to involve children being creepy in some way. I’m a linear writer — I start with the title, then the first line, and when I get to the end…I stop. Therefore, once I decided that I liked my title, the story sort of insisted on where it had to go (creepy children, LOL). And, again, as soon as it had to be set in Gulfport it all clicked perfectly for me.
Q: What was the best part about being in a Kickstarter anthology?
There are lots of best parts. First is the thrill that you get with any anthology, which is getting to be in the same book as other authors you know and respect. That’s true for every anthology I’ve been in, both already published and upcoming (The Book of Exodi, Love & Rockets, and Boondocks Fantasy as Anita Ensal; The Mountains of Madness, Dark Phantastique, and Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters as J.C. Koch; Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens, Unidentified Funny Objects 3, and 221 B Baker Streets as Gini Koch), whether created traditionally or via a Kickstarter campaign. It’s one of the main reasons I jump at the chance to be a part of an anthology.
Also, you get to work with new editors, which is always fun (yes, fun). The editors have a great deal of control over an anthology — they’re the book’s directors — and it’s interesting to work with different types of editors, all of whom are helping you get the coolest story possible out of your head and onto their pages.
Another best part is that anthologies have themes, and that means the editors tell you, roughly, what they’re looking for. While that takes a little of the creativity away, it’s a fun challenge that I really enjoy — writing something I love that fits what the editors’ theme centers around. I get to go places I might not have otherwise, and while it can be frustrating, the moment the story flows and all of a sudden it’s “there” is a magic moment. You have those moments many times while writing a novel, though they can be muted. But with a short story, I tend to get it only twice — once when I finally know where and what the correct story for the anthology IS, and once when it’s done and I know it’s just right. And neither one is muted. I love that kind of euphoria.
As for what’s great about being in a Kickstarter, it’s the excitement. Seeing if the book is enticing enough to get funded, seeing how close you scrape by or how far you exceed, getting to know the editors and other authors while you’re all striving for this goal together. Kaiju Rising exceeded by a lot, which was truly thrilling. And it was great to reach each and every stretch goal. Ragnarok Publishing did a truly fantastic, 150% professional job with this Kickstarter, and the final products are just as great. I’m truly proud and excited to be a part of it.
Q: I hear your minions – pardon, “fans” – have declared May as National Gini Month. Why?
I’ll also have my first ever Alien series short story, “A Clockwork Alien”, in the Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens Kickstarter anthology (wherein you’re also tuckerized again in that story…you’re a tuckerization addict, aren’t you? Not that there’s anything wrong with that…). I love this story, and the characters in it, and I can guarantee that there’s more information on a certain elusive supporting character in “A Clockwork Alien.” And Poofs. Because I can.
My second Alien series short story will also be in the May issue of Penumbra eMagazine from Musa Publishing. “Alien on the Runway” tells a story my fans have been waiting for — when Reader met Gower. I’ll have two more Alien series shorts coming in Penumbra later in the year as well. Plus, right now, Musa’s offering a fantastic deal. Each month Penumbra provides great short fiction from established and new authors, all on a theme that varies per month. And right now, they’re offering The Gini Special — instead of paying $3.99 an issue, you get a year’s subscription for just $24.00. You also get the Best of Penumbra 2012 and 2013. That’s a full year’s subscription for half price plus two free Best Of collections and three Alien series shorts that will only be available in Penumbra…as long as you use this coupon code (exactly as shown here) when you order: 2014Gini
This offer is good only through August 1, 2014, but each month is loaded with good stuff, so don’t miss out and get your special deal subscription going today!
Last but not least, Dark Phantastique, a gigantic Lovecraftian anthology, will be coming in May, and it includes my short story, “Outsiders,” written, of course, as J.C. Koch.
There may be something more, I honestly can’t remember. But as you can see, all this is a good reason to call May National Gini Month. And I’m good with that.
Gini Koch writes the fast, fresh, and funny Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series, as well as lots of others. She’s made the most of multiple personality disorder by writing under a variety of pen names, including G.J. Koch, Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch. Buy her books — her meds don’t come free, you know. www.ginikoch.com
* * * My review of KR: AoM * * *
Godzilla… King Kong… Cyclops… Kaiju is the Japanese word for “strange beast” – and the many authors of the KAIJU RISING: AGE OF MONSTERS anthology have their own unique ideas of how to celebrate monster mayhem. Here’s a brief summary of the what’s what in this collection:
SPECIES: Dragon, thorny polar bear, alligator, tentacled sea creature, turtle, dinosaurs, walking tree, squid, bipedal “it,” two-headed snake, undead, A.I., insectoid, spiny things, deformed WTH
PURPOSE: Destroyer, savior, revenge, teacher, eat, friend, world domination, fame, hoard, servant
EXTRA ABILITIES: Air, water, earth, fire/cold, magic, spiritual, undead, technology, combination (Can being freakin’ huge count?)
POV: Kaiju, human who becomes kaiju, adult, teen, child, pregnant woman
THEME: Military, school, honor, misfits, the environment, science/technology
GENRES: Science fiction, alternate history, dystopian, apocalyptic, children’s, military, historical
YEARS: Historical, alternate present-day, futuristic
COUNTRIES: USA, Canada, England, Japan, India, Germany, fantastical landscapes
Of the book’s 23 short stories within its more-than 400 pages, here’s a handful of individual story summaries for a more detailed look inside KR:AoM.
Kane Gilmour presented a moving alternate historical WWII short story with The Lighthouse Keeper of Kurohaka Island. Most WWII stories printed in the USA are from the POV of the Allies, but Gilmour’s relates that of a Japanese youth in the country of his birth. It begins though, not in the past, but in the future, with a father teaching his son about their family’s heritage. What follows is a first-person narration from the destruction of Nagasaki in the voice of a teenager.
Nathan Black’s One Last Round was a pleasing toast to comic book geeks and robot aficionados. Leaping to the idea of a mobile mechanical construction with humans controlling it from the inside wasn’t much of a kaiju-killing innovation. After all, if the Power Rangers could do it…? What made it worth the read was the balance of politics with action, selflessness with real-world concerns. It’s one thing to demand that the country be defended from the kaiju by a giant robot; it’s another thing to pay for it.
J. C. Koch treated readers to a return to first grade in Bright Shining Faces. Mrs. G didn’t know why her students were acting “off,” until she pegged down it had something to do with Sukie’s drawings (which explained absolutely nothing). But when a girl drew monsters which frightened the boys – Houston, we have a problem (or, just perhaps, a solution?).
Tracy and Paul Genesse played with a plethora of elemental powers in Of the Earth, of the Sky, of the Sea. The Empire of the Sun was faced with a fleet of dirigibles. When conventional Japanese weapons of bow and sword were seen to be outmatched and the enemy without honor, a general approached a traditional shrine for help. This fable-style piece is rooted in respect for one’s elders and appreciation of consequences on the personal and national levels.
James Swallow’s The Turn of the Card could be nominated as the “conspiracy-theorists’ kaiju.” This story was the explanation for why every monstrosity known in every mythology was possible…and currently tearing up metropolitan areas all over the world. The setting was London. There was fighting kaiju, helicopters, a rescue, and a museum. As for me- I want to know “the rest of the story.”
But my relationship with the kaiju began in September of 2012. This anthology was “crowdfunded,” meaning that the publisher, Ragnarok Publications, raised money to pay the authors and artists, print the books, and handle the other expenses through a credible donation website. I take part in every project in which my best-selling gal-pal, Gini Koch, is featured – in this case, under her pen name “J. C. Koch.” Along with my advance eBook and a host of other backer-only goodies, you can find my friend “Sukie” and me, “Lori,” kicking up our heels in Koch’s Bright Shining Faces.
If you threatened me with being smashed by a kaiju or finding fault with this collection, I’d have to say that I was a tiny bit disappointed in the commonality between a number of the short stories. Quite a few of the authors thought “Japanese” or “military” would be a unique and unexpected kaiju story element -or, why not include both? That’s where the diversity in the monster species, kaiju special abilities, POV, date of the action, and skill of the authors determine whether the story was a “dud” or a “stud.” I won’t claim that this is an anthology for the faint of heart, but it should be a no-brainer for every comics geek, science fiction buff, robot aficionado, and anime junkie. If girls don’t seem to qualify, guess again!
Rating: 9/10 monsters
Publisher: Ragnarok Publications
Pub. Date: February 9, 2014 in eBook; paperback in March 2014
Pages: 493 (estimation)