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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Anthology Envisions World With Monsters As Weapons

From Toledofreepress.com

Jeff McGinnis, who had never written more than 1,000 words of fiction in his life, was asked to write 10 times that number for his first attempt at full-length fiction. The challenge, he said, was actually cutting down his drafts.

“When I turned in my first draft, it ended up being 17,000 words,” McGinnis said. “I ended up slimming it down to 13,000 and I sent that in and said, ‘Guys, I’ve cut it down as much as I could without feeling like I’m gutting out massively important parts of the plot, can you tell me where I can cut down some more?’”

McGinnis, Toledo Free Press Star pop culture editor, is one of seven writers who contributed to the science fiction collection “Monster Earth,” recently published by Mechanoid Press.

Toledo Free Press Star columnist Jim Beard, who created the concept, said he has been pushing McGinnis to write long-form fiction for a little over a year, after reading one of McGinnis’ Toledo Free Press Star columns.

The column, McGinnis said, revolved around a fictional universe involving cereal mascots such as the Trix Rabbit and Cocoa Puffs bird meeting up in a dark alley.

“I wrote it as an old-school pulp story about desperation,” McGinnis said. “For me, it’s always a matter of, I do these things because I think they are fun. I think it’s entertaining but I also try to make a point. I ended up doing this thing where these two characters were meeting up and almost immediately I got a comment from Jim saying, ‘You should really flush this out into a full book.’”

Beard said McGinnis’ style of writing was exactly what he wanted in his project.

“In his world of journalism, Jeff was pushing the boundaries; he wanted to do something more than the normal article so he weaved some fiction into it,” he said. “When we looked at all the writers, we wanted them to do that because in that way, we believe ‘Monster Earth’ is pushing the boundaries of what a pulp anthology can be.”

Jeff McGinnis, left, and Jim Beard.
Beard said the book is an alternate history that essentially replaces nuclear warfare with gigantic monsters.

“Some of the big things still happened, but with monsters right beside us,” Beard said. “One of the biggest divergent points in our universe is that we didn’t drop two atomic bombs on Japan; we dropped a giant monster on Japan, which was almost as destructive, and that ended the war.”

Each author wrote a separate narrative taking place between the 1930s and 1980s.

Beard said he has had the idea of combining the pulp style with giant monsters for a long time and after discussing the idea with Mechanoid’s publisher James Palmer, who also wrote one of the stories, the idea grew into the anthology.

“I threw that idea at him, literally that germ of an idea that almost every country on Earth has its own giant monster,” Beard said.

From there, Beard and Palmer began writing the bible, which gave the anthology’s writers an outline for its fictional universe.

Beard’s story, which is the first one, is set in 1937 and revolves around an incident during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

“They invaded and it was over a little incident at this Marco Polo Bridge. All I did was say, ‘OK, the Japanese came over, just like they did in the real world, but they brought a giant monster with them to give them an edge,’” Beard said. “Well what they find, without ruining the story, is the Chinese had a monster of their own but nobody knew this.”

Beard said what makes his story different is that his is told from the perspective of a person recounting the events in the present day during an interview.

“It really reads like an audio recording,” McGinnis said of Beard’s story. “It really has a great feel and it distinguishes itself from the rest of the novels. I think putting it in the front of the book helps give it immediacy from everything else. It drags the reader in right away with a certain type of story and certain type of event.”

While every other story has at least two monsters facing off, McGinnis said he took a “King Kong”-like approach, creating only a single monster in Los Angeles during the 1950s.

McGinnis said he was fascinated with the idea of what a society would be like if monsters were kept around and he wrote of the demise of the City of Angels.

“The thing that really grabbed me was the idea of what type of society would you have in a world where giant monsters existed and were kept in certain areas. What would the effect be on the people who lived around that?” he said. “I loved the idea of a community slowly disintegrating under the weight of a giant monster.”

While each of the stories is about monsters, Beard said they all focus more on human characters affected by the monsters, similar to the original “Godzilla” movies.

“In all the ‘Godzilla’ movies, there’s all the monsters and stuff going on bu there are always human characters and many times they have their own little story going on with the giant monster stuff going on around it,” he said.

McGinnis also pitched and wrote a second story for the “Monster Earth” universe. That tale, told as if it were a magazine article, follows a person who is still searching for the Loch Ness Monster despite being surrounded by other monsters.

“I love the idea of obsession; I’ve always been fascinated by this idea of being obsessed with something even if it’s not there,” he said. “So here’s this guy who is so passionate about something that just doesn’t exist.”

Beard said because the bible had more information than the writers could cover, it opens up the possibilities for new stories to be written in this universe, dealing with some topics such as space exploration.

McGinnis said each of the stories, while circulating around destruction, also features “the essential hope.”

“There is a fatalism about what is happening, but there is also a potential for hope. In each one, there’s a lot said about the conflicts at that point,” he said.

Jim Beard, Jeff McGinnis and cover illustrator Eric Johns will appear at a book signing for “Monster Earth” at 2 p.m. Feb. 16 at Monarch Cards & Comics, 4400 Heatherdowns Blvd.
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