An Update on Monsters Among Us

Okay wow, it has been a bit. Who knew that raising a child could be so time-consuming? I mean, at least there’s not still a pandemic, rising homegrown fascism (fueled by just the most brazen ignorance), a largely ineffective American government, and one of the most useless and wasteful wars in history also going on…

You’d think with all the complications of life, it would be fun to escape into some creative writing. Ordinarily I’d agree with you, but Monsters Among Us, my next novel, has proven to be anything but ordinary. This draft has been sitting, fully written and 95% edited for months. I’m no stranger to writer’s block but this goes beyond anything I’ve ever experienced as a writer. So, what exactly is going on with Monsters Among Us?

What is Monsters Among Us?

My earliest drafts put the beginnings of Monsters Among Us in July 2017. The Dreamcatchers was written and on the way and I wanted to take a brief (hahaha) detour before working on the sequel, The Night Terrors. See I had this idea. Those who know me will tell you…I’m something of a Godzilla fan. Let’s be clear, I love giant monsters of all shapes and sizes, but the King of the Monsters is, by far, my favorite.

It should come as no surprise then that the original Gojira is one of my favorite films of all time. The way that director Ishiro Honda is able to believably craft an allegory around a giant monster standing in for the horrors of the nuclear blast is astounding. Honda was not alone in his thinking. There are many giant monster movies where the creature serves as a reflection for the dangers of humanity’s technological prowess – that line can be traced all the way back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and beyond.

The difference between Gojira and say, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms is, however, one of brutality. The latter is just a giant monster fantasy, only loosely anchored in our reality. The former is, in certain cases, painfully close to the horrors that a nation and its civilians actually faced. There are no real heroes in Gojira, only those who survive and those who don’t. The handsome man doesn’t get the girl and doesn’t know always what to say.

This was a tone I wanted to emulate. Instead of electricity or radiation, I looked at a world that I saw (and still see) that, for certain people, can be lived free from consequence. Where a few can lie and cheat and rape and con, and be celebrated because the respect for what is true and what is not has been diluted through ignorance and through selective listening. The most dangerous weapon in Honda’s day was undoubtedly the atom bomb. Now, nuclear weapons have competition. Alternate facts and misinformation can’t reduce a city to rubble in a flash but they corrode society and turn people against one another, creating the perfect setting for catastrophic disaster.

Monsters Among Us is an exploration of what would happen if Godzilla appeared in 2016 and half of the United States didn’t even believe he existed. After all, if the giant monsters only rage across Asia and Africa, the people in North America can’t see it. Who can really say if the media is overblowing the story just to make an incoming president they don’t like look bad.

As you can guess, this hasn’t been the most fun story to write.

When will Monsters Among Us be Completed?

Despite the daunting nature of the challenge, work on Monsters Among Us proceeded fairly smoothly. I’ve crafted quite a few characters I really enjoy and, truthfully, the story might now resemble more of Rashomon than Godzilla. While I was pushing for allegory, the last thing I wanted was to preach. A story is only truly good in my mind if the people are just that…people, and not simply walking, talking ideologies. Is it any good? I like to think so most days.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. It isn’t my opinion that is holding Monsters Among Us back. No, work really slowed down after March 2020. By then most of the story was written and I was getting ready to seriously begin edits.

Then something in Asia happened, and half my world didn’t believe it. My story, where a demagogue uses unbelievable circumstances to his advantage, where he tells his followers it’s all the Asians fault? Yeah, suddenly that hit way too close to home. I wasn’t escaping from the pandemic by working on Monsters Among Us, I was diving further into everything I didn’t want to think about.

Of course, the birth of my daughter played a factor. As did my general state of burnout from my (now thankfully) old job. But at the end of the day I write to escape and to entertain. I didn’t feel like I was doing either of those things. Writing Monsters Among Us became – and largely still is – an exercise in depression.

But one I will finish, and soon. I need to tell this story. It is not in me to walk away from something like this. These characters deserve a chance to speak. So, now that my life has to an extent stabilized, the time has come. Monsters Among Us will be completed and out to agents well before 2022 ends. That’s a promise.

Chris Pratt Brie Larson
One trick that helped was picturing actors to play my characters. Chris Pratt and Brie Larson are my two ideal picks to play the primary antagonists in Monsters Among Us. Not because I dislike either of them – I just think they would have a lot of fun with the roles.

What Comes After Monsters Among Us?

Honestly, one of the primary reasons I can’t wait to move on from Monsters Among Us is that I have other stuff to write.  The Dreamcatchers needs its sequel, and I have a couple more stories I consider “must writes.” I won’t go into them in great detail here, but those who have known me since high school are aware of a certain werewolf who really needs his time in the moonlight. There’s also Under the Leaves: or The Bizarre Realities of You and Me. That one may very well be therapy to write.

I’ve also been working on a series of short stories, modernized fables really, for my daughter. I know I always say I won’t work on more than one book at a time but…well it’s not a novel so it doesn’t really count.

Apart from that, I’m going to try to blog more in 2022. I have missed releasing my thoughts, even if they go largely unnoticed. It feels good to get something down on WordPress.

Oh yeah…one last thing I should mention even though I’m already groaning. I do have a sequel idea already in place for Monsters Among Us and it’s thanks, of all things, to Gamera. I’ll talk more about that later.

So that’s it for now. I hope this didn’t come off as too much of a ramble. To say one last thing that isn’t about my work, I want to add: This is a truly exceptional time in practically every sense. Life is a wonderful, precious gift and this world of ours is a blessing beyond words. Try not to let hate or despair cloud what’s in front of you. It can drag you down and reduce you to a shell if you let it. If disaster can teach anything, it is that every moment is precious – and it’s rarely because of the stuff we own. People make life fun so please, be excellent to each other. You have value and so does everyone else.

Okay, here’s some Gamera. Good night everyone!

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