On the Subject of the GNP’s Three Guiding Principles™
To say that an endeavor to craft 30+, full length novelizations of beloved motion pictures is “challenging” is to literally DEFINE the term “understatement”. That said, with the project having crossed the one year mark back in February, I’m actually rather stunned to look back and see how much has been created thus far. The road ahead is still a long one (like, really REALLY long), but I can honestly say that my excitement to continue pushing forward and creating these books has not wavered. 2019 is going to be a big year for this project, and while looking back at what’s been accomplished is encouraging, looking forward is just as thrilling!
Why do I mention all this? Well, it’s because much of that drive to see this project through to completion comes from my own personal philosophies on Godzilla in general, and on how I, as a fan, have always watched, enjoyed, and thought about the films themselves. Since starting the GNP, I’ve found myself adapting and applying these various philosophies to how I approach the writing and research for the project, and am of the opinion that, without these philosophies – these principles, if you will – guiding me, this project would be a very different beast, if it existed at all.
In this behind-the-scenes Monster Musing, I’d like to share those philosophies with you, and explain how they are the backbone of the GODZILLA NOVELIZATION PROJECT, as well as my love for the Big G himself.
So, without further ado, I present…
The GNP’s Three Guiding Principles™*
Principle the First: At the GODZILLA NOVELIZATION PROJECT, ALL Godzilla Films are Created Equal
In the years since making my first tenuous steps into the world of the internet and discovering the various online communities of Godzilla fans, it’s become increasingly clear to me that I’m somewhat of an outlier within my own fandom. Unlike many fans, I don’t have an intricately crafted ranking of the series from “best” to “worst”, nor do I have a “Top 5 or “Top 10” list of Godzilla flicks. While I certainly don’t decry fans for making such lists, it’s simply never been my thing. To me, as a fan who truly loves all the films pretty much equally (with a few nostalgic exceptions), creating such a ranking would inevitably result in one of my favorites being on the bottom. In my mind, there is no “worst” Godzilla film, nor is there necessarily a “best” one; to me, the best Godzilla film is the one I most feel like popping into my DVD player at any given moment.
The question of what Godzilla films are “good” and “bad” is probably the biggest source of strife amongst enthusiasts for the series. To some, all have something worth appreciating. To others, only a handful are worth their time. To one group, the Showa films are the only G flicks worth watching, while another might feel the older films aren’t as good as the newer ones. One fan might enjoy the directorial works of Kazuki Omori, Takao Okawara, or Masaaki Tezuka the best, while another remains a “Honda Purist”, only making exceptions for films like GMK or Shin Godzilla while considering most of the rest as unwatchable garbage.
So many combinations of differing opinions, all of them subjectively valid to each viewer. In the end, there is no right or wrong way to watch or enjoy ANY of these films. There is no universal law that dictates that one Godzilla film should be enjoyed less than another, or vise-versa.
This is how I’ve always viewed the series. To me, the question of “good vs bad” doesn’t come into the equation. In my mind, EVERY Godzilla film, despite its respective flaws, is good. EVERY Godzilla film brings me joy. While this might make me “not a true fan” in the eyes of that vocal, so-called “gatekeeping” minority, I wear such a distinction as a badge of honor. If honestly liking – even loving – a Godzilla film I’m “not supposed” to like (such as the often derided All Monsters Attack, Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla, or Godzilla : Final Wars) makes me a bad fan, then slap the Kaiju Cuffs on me, because I’m guilty as charged.
This overall philosophy of positive Godzilla viewing has ultimately become one of the strongest elements behind the GODZILLA NOVELIZATION PROJECT. Here, there are no bad Godzilla films. Here, EVERY film deserves to have the same amount of respect and care put into its novel adaptation. Here, a book based on the original Godzilla from 1954 will have the same amount of work, research, and time dedicated to it as a book based on Godzilla vs. Megalon, Spacegodzilla, Final Wars, or the Anime Trilogy. In my mind, no adaptation of any film in the franchise deserves any more or less than another. Here, all Godzillas, big and small, practical or CG, Eastern or Western, Showa, Heisei, Sony, Millennuim or Legendary, are created equal, with no exceptions.
This philosophy might not be for everyone, but rest assured that I, as a fellow fan, always respect the opinions of others in the community (as long as they reciprocate and treat fans with differing opinions with similar respect). My way isn’t the right way for everybody, nor should it be. Nevertheless, it is my hope that this philosophy will continue to make each book not only as good as it can be, but no better than another book on the site.
Principle the Second: If You’re Not Having Fun, Then You’re Not Doing it Right
This is a big one, in life as well as in massive writing projects.
What does it mean? It means, quite simply, that if fun is not being had in a particular situation, then something is wrong within that situation. In regards to the GODZILLA NOVELIZATION PROJECT, it simply means this: if I’M not enjoying myself while working on this endeavor, then not only am I doing something terribly wrong, but the project will suffer as a result.
Think of it as a firm yet gentle warning to myself rather than something directed at readers. (Although, by extension, it’s likely that if YOU’RE not having fun reading the GNP, then it’s almost definitely the result of me not doing something right…)
To me, Godzilla, and my love for him and his movies, boils down to one simple yet powerful word: fun. To me, this is what Godzilla is all about. That’s not to say that every Godzilla movie needs to be a “fun” movie to be enjoyable (for example, I adore the original 1954 film, but I’d be hard pressed to describe it as a “fun” film), but rather the overall experience of enjoying Godzilla and being a fan should be a fun one.
As I mentioned before, this philosophy extends into many aspects of life, especially creative ones. In addition to being a writer, I am also an artist, and have quickly learned that if I’m not having fun working on a particular project, then the project will likely not turn out as good as it could be. (Trust me, this happened in college WAY more times than I care to recall…) When I’m having fun and enjoying the process of creation, I often find the finished product to be something I’m proud of. What’s more, people observing my finished art can feel that fun and passion come through, helping to truly make the piece in question a success.
Now life, of course, is not all fun and games. We all have off days, and we all have downright bad days. I’m no exception to this rule, believe me. On such days, I know it’s wise to stay as far away from my laptop as possible. If I’m not going to have fun writing, then I simply won’t do it in that moment. The material deserves better, and you, the reader, deserve better.
That said, these kinds of days are (thankfully) few and far between. Whenever I sit down to research or write for the project, I do so with the desire to have fun with the process. Fortunately, I never have to force myself to be excited about researching, translating, typing, proofreading, or performing any of the other myriad tasks this project requires of me. To me, this often slow, in-depth, labor intensive process is literally living a dream. There isn’t a single aspect of working on this project that I don’t enjoy, and not a single moment spent wishing I were doing something else instead. When I write, it’s because I want to write. When I sit down and read through texts on the history of Japan, it’s because I want to read those books and learn whatever I can. As I mentioned in my Kaijuvision Radio interview last summer, this is the kind of research I want to do!
Long story short, I’m having pure, unadulterated FUN working on the GNP. If I’m having fun, there’s a good chance that fun will translate into better material. And if the material is fun, then readers like you will (hopefully) enjoy reading it and, just maybe, have a little fun of their own!
Principle the Third: Respect of Intent, Respect of Vision, Respect of Legacy
This, folks, is what it’s all about.
To me, nothing about this project is more important than that one, powerful word: respect.
Allow me to explain.
Over the years of my Godzilla fandom (read: obsession), my general love for the films has evolved into a legitimate respect for the films – and the character – on many different levels. To me, these films command esteem for aspects ranging from their entertainment level and high craftsmanship to the intent with which their creators set out to bring them into the world.
Let’s take the original 1954 film as an example. This was not just a piece of sci-fi entertainment, but a film with a true mission. It was a warning, an extended metaphor for the horrors man can unleash upon himself when certain inhumane boundaries are crossed. Even now, 65 years later, the film has lost neither its power to enlighten or entertain, and for all the progress we’ve made as a species since the 1950’s, there is still so much left unlearned. Until we learn those lessons, you can bet Godzilla will be there to put us in our place both on-screen and off.
The intent behind the birth of Godzilla is one of true integrity, and to call the creative team behind that first film – Tanaka, Honda, Tsuburaya, Ifukube, Kayama, the Yagi brothers, Nakajima, and the rest – visionaries is, in my mind, entirely appropriate and accurate. While few of the sequels have carried the allegorical weight of the first film, almost every one of these movies does carry with it an intent to deliver a message of some kind. Themes such as Ishiro Honda’s famous “Brotherhood of Man” concept, as well as messages about the environment, pollution, war, peace, corrupt politics, the misuse of science, life verses artificial life, religion verses science, the effects of economic progress on the younger generation, remembering (and the willingness to forget) the past, the balance of nature, humanity’s place in the cosmos… ALL of these and more can be found within the majority of the (as of this writing) 34 currently released Godzilla films. For the few that don’t contain such messages, entertainment is the chief impetus, and in my mind, that’s just as worthy of my respect as aiming to deliver a message.
It all boils down to this: I don’t just love these films, I respect them. I respect the vision of the people who made (and continue to make) them. These people – representing six-and-a-half decades of creativity – are legitimate heroes to me on many levels, and to say that they have left behind a massively influential and important legacy is an understatement of kaiju-sized proportions.
It’s this legacy that I feel upon my shoulders as I continue working on this project. I’m not just standing on the shoulders of giants… I’m standing on the shoulders of giants who themselves created giants of their own! It can be a sobering, even intimidating perspective to view the project from. At the end of the day, who am I to take on such a challenge? Who am I to walk in the footsteps of Tanaka, Honda, Kayama, Sekizawa, and the rest? Who am I to interpret these works, or to put words in the mouths of beloved characters brought to life by several generations of incredible actors/actresses?
In the end, thinking too hard about these things not only distracts me from the joy I get from working on these books, but also, in an Asimov-esque twist, violates the Second Principal of the GNP: to have fun! Instead of crumbling under the weight of legacy, I instead have set out to ensure that these books preserve the same reverence and respect for the films that I, as a fan, have felt for them all of my life. To me, the GODZILLA NOVELIZATION PORJECT isn’t just a way to express my own love for Godzilla in a creative way; it’s also my way of showing my heartfelt respect to the men and women who created these films. In my monster-obsessed mind, this endeavor is an incredibly long-form – and perhaps insanely ambitions – way of saying “thank you” to the creative giants who have made these films possible.
As such, adherence to what these creative giants produced is of paramount importance to me as I continue my quest to convert each of these films into the written word. As I’ve discussed before, it has always been my goal to preserve the original spirit, vision, and intent of the films in my adaptations, which means sticking as close to the original scripts, characters, and plot progression of the films as I possibly can. While I’ve always intended to make use of the novel format to flesh certain elements of the stories/characters out, seam up potential plot holes and continuity errors, and to be creative as to how the stories are told (such as using both first and third person perspectives for certain stories), these little bits of creative license are always carefully chosen/crafted so as not to betray the intent, tone, or overall vision for the films. This is also why (despite my nostalgic love for them) none of the full novels being written for the project draw influence from the dubbed versions of the movies. As fun as they are to watch, few are true to the spirit/intent of the films they are attempting to translate/adapt, and several veer toward being outright disrespectful toward their Japanese sources.
At the end of the day, it’s my sincerest hope that the novels that will one day result from my research, writing, and re-writing will preserve just a little of that magic – that sense of wonder – that makes the franchise so special and beloved. It’s a tall order, for sure, and no doubt that weight of legacy will plague my artistic insecurities (of which I have many, believe me!) for however long it takes to see this project through to fruition. However, I truly believe that, with the above principals guiding my way, my love for Godzilla fueling my imagination, and the encouragement and support of readers like you to inspire me, the GNP is only going to continue to grow, to prosper, and (hopefully) to entertain.
*No, of course I didn’t actually trademark this, you silly nerds! You think I want Toho’s lawyers kicking in my modest apartment door!? The title just honestly looked funnier with a little ™ slapped onto the end. I can’t be the only one who thinks that… right?
Please… please don’t sue me.