Before I forget, this weekend I'll be in Houston, TX. On May 29, 2011 I'll be speaking at the Houston Zen Center 1605 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX. This is also a one-day retreat. All of you people who constantly gripe at me about "why don't you lead a retreat?" here's your chance to stop belly-achin' and come do some zazen.
I've also updated the tour page with a talk in NYC, some more Zero Defex gigs and other talks and things. Go look.
Also remember my new/old book Death To All Monsters is available now as a downloadable eBook or print-on-demand. Here are the links where you can get it:
http://tiny.cc/g38eg (Barnes & Noble)
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/BradWarner (print-on-demand available)
For your entertainment, here is the afterword to the book:
I tend to assume that a number of people who have purchased this book did so because they are fans of my other nonfiction books, Hardcore Zen, Sit Down and Shut Up, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate and Sex Sin and Zen. Thank you.
I wrote this book between 1996 and 1998. So it predates my first nonfiction book, Hardcore Zen (2003), by several years. I sent Death To All Monsters out to a number of publishers at the time and collected a lot of rejection notices. One publisher expressed some interest and I rewrote the book according to their suggestions. But in the end they passed on it as well. The version you just read contains some of their suggestions but not all of them.
Like my nonfiction books, this one is a true story. But unlike those books it is not a factually true story. I’m not contending, for example, that the Japanese Imperial Army really shot down an alien spacecraft at the end of World War II. That part of the story is made up. But much of the rest of this book is essentially true.
In many ways this novel is almost as autobiographical as my later nonfiction books. Bob Morningstar, the protagonist, is based on me and this is the story of my life working for Tsuburaya Productions in Tokyo, one of the world’s leading producers of Japanese science fiction films and TV shows. Although there was no real movie Death To All Monsters, there really was episode 12 of the TV series Ultra Seven.
Ultra Seven was a Japanese television series featuring a superhero from outer space named Ultra Seven who stood 40 meters (120 feet) tall and routinely battle equally gigantic alien monsters who wished to take over planet Earth. It was a follow up to the company’s more well-know superhero TV show, Ultraman. The monster in episode 12 of Ultra Seven came from a planet whose dominant species had destroyed their own environment in an atomic war. They desired to steal the white corpuscles from human blood in order to heal their dying species. The story and the imagery (see the photo on this page) in this episode proved to be too much like the real story of those who had survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So after a few broadcasts in the late sixties and early seventies, this episode was withdrawn from circulation. The other 48 episodes of the series played countless times in reruns and continue to play even today. From the time of its withdrawal, episode 12 was never included on any home video or DVD release and was not mentioned in any official publications. Official episode guides all cryptically skip straight from episode 11 to episode 13 without explanation.
Ultra Seven spawned a following of dedicated and often obsessive fans not unlike fans of Star Trek in the USA and Doctor Who in the UK. These guys really, really wanted to see the mysterious episode 12. The company had in its possession a single print of the show. For reasons I never could quite understand, this print often found its way into really weird places. For a while it was stored in an unlocked locker of one of the employees. At one point it disappeared for several weeks causing major concern within the company. People were constantly trying to get at it as if it contained some sort of bizarre secrets.
Some time just before I started working for the company, my predecessor at the international sales division sold the broadcast rights to the Ultra Seven series to Turner Network Television in America. Unlike me, this guy wasn’t really a fan of the shows we made. He had no idea that there was any problem with episode 12. So he sent the entire series to America.
I got word of this and made a quiet decision not to pursue the matter. As I hoped, the episode was shown on American TV, allowing me to see it for myself when someone sent me a VHS tape. And, of course, that version subsequently made its way back to Japan. By the mid-1990s any hardcore fan who really wanted to see the show could track down a bootleg tape. Yet officially the episode still does not exist even today.
Whenever the subject of releasing the episode came up the company people reacted to the idea in much the same way someone in the US government circa 1950 might have reacted to the notion of supplying the secret of the hydrogen bomb to the Soviet Union. It was dangerous even to mention the idea lest someone believe you were a traitor! I found this highly amusing. Much of that air of paranoia became the basis for the plot of the novel. I wondered what would happen if episode 12 of Ultra Seven really did contain some deep dark secret.
Unlike Bob, I never got in trouble for allowing Turner to broadcast the show because technically I really didn’t. I had plausible denial on my side. It wasn’t me who sent the films to America and it wasn’t my job to monitor what went on after they were sent out. I only learned about the broadcast when a description of the episode appeared in TV Guide and some friends of mine in America who were obsessive fans of the show told me about it just days before the intended broadcast. All I did was to pretend I hadn’t heard.
That was the situation upon which I based the story. What’s also true in this fictional story are the people. All of the characters are based to one degree or another upon people I actually knew. Some have been highly fictionalized. Some not.
Jackie Satsuma is based on my first boss at Tsuburaya Productions, the late Jimmy Ugawa. Ugawa had been in the Japanese Imperial Army during the war. And, although he was not stationed in Manchuria like Satsuma was, another important person in my life was. The Zen teacher from whom I received ordination, Gudo Wafu Nishijima, actually had been stationed in Manchuria where he saw no action at all during the war. Lucky for him. Both men had a deep impact on my life. Gudo makes a cameo in this novel as well.
The character of Charlie Lo isn’t anyone specific but is based on a number of people I interacted with during my time at Tsuburaya. There were a lot of guys in various Asian countries who ran film distribution companies. Many of these people were quite ruthless. The line in the novel about how people would kill each other over the rights to Disney films was something I actually heard from one of my coworkers. I have no reason to doubt it. Some of the people I dealt with were kind of scary and I often wondered how far they would go if they felt their financial interests were threatened.
Even some of the really outlandish characters in this book have real life counterparts. There were American fans of our shows every bit as obsessive as O’Dell and Daisy. There were ex-pats living in Japan just as weird and wonderful as Nick and Emily. There was even an extremely enthusiastic fan in Southeast Asia who built his own completely unauthorized museum of our shows much like the one owned by the fictional Ajrat Gupta.
The story of the people making a Gorezolla film in America is based on real events that took place when Tsuburaya attempted to hire a team to remake Ultraman in Hollywood in the early 90s. The results were a complete catastrophe and the program was never shown in the USA, though it appeared on home video in Japan.
In addition to the people in the story, many of the events contained in this novel actually happened. Some of you will recognize a few scenes that I wrote first in fictional form here and then later rewrote for Hardcore Zen. The scene in which Bob passes out while dancing in a monster costume actually happened to me, and some of the stuff that occurs in temples in the novel actually happened to me at Zen temples in Japan. Most of the set visit stuff is also essentially factual.
This was a fun novel to write. But it took a lot of work. I’d written loads of short stories by the time I decided to write this, but never a full-length novel. In order to keep all the action straight I had post-it notes all over one wall of my apartment so that I would know where each character was and what they were doing even in chapters in which they didn’t appear.
It took a couple of years of daily work to turn that vague idea of making a novel based on the story of Ultra Seven episode twelve into a coherent book. At the time I was working a regular five-day-a-week job, so I had to dedicate all of my free time to the book. It was a massive amount of work. Yet even when the book failed to find a publisher I never felt like I had wasted my time.
I hope you have enjoyed this book as much as I did.
Thanks for reading!
April 21. 2011