Shambling Towards Hiroshima

Shambling Towards Hiroshima

James Morrow

2010 Sturgeon Award winner
Nebula and Hugo Award nominee

In the dual traditions of Godzilla as a playful monster and a symbol of the dawn of the nuclear era, Shambling Towards Hiroshima unexpectedly blends the destruction of World War II with the halcyon pleasure of monster movies.

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Shambling Towards Hiroshima

by James Morrow

ISBN: 9781892391841

Published: 2009

Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and eBooks

It is the early summer of 1945, and war reigns in the Pacific Rim with no end in sight. Back in the States, Hollywood B-movie star Syms Thorley lives in a very different world, starring as the Frankenstein-like Corpuscula and Kha-Ton-Ra, the living mummy. But the U.S. Navy has a new role waiting for Thorley, the role of a lifetime that he could never have imagined.

The top secret Knickerbocker Project is putting the finishing touches on the ultimate biological weapon: a breed of gigantic, fire-breathing, mutant iguanas engineered to stomp and burn cities on the Japanese mainland. The Navy calls upon Thorley to don a rubber suit and become the merciless Gorgantis and to star in a live drama that simulates the destruction of a miniature Japanese metropolis. If the demonstration succeeds, the Japanese will surrender, and many thousands of lives will be spared; if it fails, the horrible mutant lizards will be unleashed. One thing is certain: Syms Thorley must now give the most terrifyingly convincing performance of his life.

In the dual traditions of Godzilla as a playful monster and a symbol of the dawn of the nuclear era, Shambling Towards Hiroshima unexpectedly blends the destruction of World War II with the halcyon pleasure of monster movies.

“This dark, wildly funny, politically incorrect satire is a winner.”
—Nancy Kress, author of After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall

“The most provocative satiric voice in science fiction.”
Washington Post

“…widely regarded as the foremost satirist associated with the SF and fantasy field.”
SF Site

“Morrow understands theology like a theologian and psychology like a psychologist, but he writes like an angel.”
—Richard Elliott Friedman, author of The Hidden Book in the Bible

“America’s best satirist.”
—James Gunn, University of Kansas

“Readers will never think of Godzilla—or any other B-movie monster—in quite the same way, that’s guaranteed.”
Green Man Review

“…the strange brew of jolly satire and moral indignity of vintage Kurt Vonnegut….”
Time Out Chicago

“It’s called satire, and James Morrow does it brilliantly.”
SF Site

“…tour-de-force of razor-sharp wit…packs a big wallop….”
SciFi Dimensions

“Morrow is the only author who comes close to Vonnegut’s caliber. Like Vonnegut, Morrow shrouds his work in science fiction, but the real story is always man’s infinite capacities for love and for evil.”
—Paul Constant, The Stranger.com

“…witty, playful…reminiscent of Watchmen….”
Strange Horizons

“…a reminder that for all the shenanigans in his plots, [James Morrow is] first and foremost just a great writer.”
Bookgasm

“In the tradition of Dr. Strangelove…even as you’re laughing, you’re not sure you should be.”
Omnivoracious.com

“James Morrow’s bizarrely funny new book Shambling Towards Hiroshima turns the usual Godzilla paradigm on its head: Instead of being inspired by the horrors of nuclear war, Godzilla is its herald.”
io9.com

“It takes a special sort of person to…imagine a real-world basis for Godzilla….”
—John Scalzi, The Big Idea

“Morrow liberally salts the yarn with real Hollywood horror-movie personnel, Jewish showbiz snark, and gut-wrenching regret for the bomb. As usual for Morrow, a stellar performance.”
Booklist

“…sharp-edged, delightfully batty…skillfully mingling real and imaginary characters with genuinely hilarious moments.”
Kirkus

“…a total hoot to read…recounting horrors both imagined and real with equal aplomb.”
The Agony Column

“A ridiculously fun read…pitch-perfect satire.”
Fantasy & Science Fiction

“This is what we have come to expect from Morrow: intelligent, thoughtful, dark comedy with real bite—and in this case radioactive breath.”
New York Review of Science Fiction

James Morrow is the author of the World Fantasy Award–winning Towing Jehovah, the New York Times Notable Book Blameless in Abaddon, the Nebula Award–winning Bible Stories for Adults, and the Theodore Sturgeon Award–winning Shambling Towards Hiroshima. A master of satiric and the surreal, he has enjoyed comparison with Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Updike. He has a collection of Lionel trains and a rapidly growing library of DVDs of questionable taste.

Praise for James Morrow

“The most provocative satiric voice in science fiction.”
Washington Post

“…widely regarded as the foremost satirist associated with the SF and fantasy field.”
SF Site

“Morrow understands theology like a theologian and psychology like a psychologist, but he writes like an angel.”
—Richard Elliott Friedman, author of The Hidden Book in the Bible

“America’s best satirist.”
—James Gunn, University of Kansas

Praise for The Cat’s Pajamas

“His latest collection demonstrates that his rapier wit has lost none of its edge as it encompasses twisted scenarios ranging from Martians invading Central Park to having the fates of other worlds rest upon the scores of American football games…. All the stories manifest Morrow’s penchant for exploring the dark underbelly of technological promise and extracting quirky moral conundrums. Morrow’s fans will revel, and first-time readers may find his grim humor making fans of them, too.”
Booklist

“…far more entertaining than most of that tedious stuff you’ve been forcing yourself to read.”
Fantastic Reviews

“Morrow’s shorter tales possess…a keen sense of folly and morality, a witty inventiveness….”
SciFiction.com

“Amply displays [Morrow’s] ability to juggle absurdity, tragedy, irony and outrage….”
Locus

“Darkly delightful satire.”
Cemetery Dance

Praise for The Last Witchfinder

“Intrepid, impeccably researched.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“James Morrow’s novel about early American witchcraft pulls off so many dazzling feats of literary magic that in a different century he’d have been burned at the stake.”
Washington Post

“This impeccably researched, highly ambitious novel—nine years in the writing—is a triumph of historical fiction.”
Booklist

Praise for The Philosopher’s Apprentice

“A tumultuous take on humanity, philosophy, and ethics that is as hilarious as it is outlandish.”
Kirkus

Visit the James Morrow website.

I

 

Whether this memoir will turn out to be the world’s longest suicide note, or instead the means by which I might elude the abyss, only time can tell: a precise interval of time, in fact, the twenty-five hours that stretch between the present moment, Sunday, October 28, 1984, 11:06 A.M., and my presumed departure tomorrow on the noon shuttle to the airport. Right now the other route by which I may exit this sterile Baltimore hotel—the balcony—is the more alluring. I need merely cross the room, slide back the glass door, step onto the terrace, and avail myself of the hundred-foot drop to the parking lot.

Appearances are deceiving. Just because you’re reading my story, that doesn’t mean I lost my nerve and took the shuttle bus. The proper inference may simply be that I slipped the manuscript into an envelope festooned with stamps and addressed to the Rachel Bishop Literary Agency in New York, then left the package outside my door along with a note asking the hotel management to pop it in the nearest mailbox. Are you reading this, Rachel? I love you, sweetheart. You’re the greatest agent a has-been ever had. Assuming you find somebody who can decipher my handwriting, feel free to transcribe these pages, give them a title—The Day of the Lizard, perhaps, or Peasants with Torches, or Shambling Towards Hiroshima—and sell the thing to Doubleday for a big, fat advance, collecting your well-earned ten percent. The balance should go to Darlene. Yes, Rachel, I believe you’ve finally gotten a bestseller out of me, and it arrives bearing the ultimate seal of authenticity, the author’s notorious leap into oblivion, at once swan dive and swan song. True, the NSA may attempt to block publication, but when they go to make their case, the judge will laugh them out of court, especially when he hears about the giant fire-breathing bipedal iguanas.

To tell you the truth, Rachel, I’ve been dropping hints about the Knickerbocker Project behemoths for over four years now, mostly to my devotees—that is, to admirers of Kha-Ton-Ra the living mummy, Corpuscula the alchemical creature, and Gorgantis, King of the Lizards. The kids aren’t interested. Instead they want to know how many yards of rotting gauze I wore in Curse of Kha-Ton-Ra. (One hundred fifty, as a matter of fact.) Did I play both roles in Corpuscula Meets the Doppelgänger? (Of course I did, O ye of little fanaticism.) Did I really write the script for Gorgantis the Invincible under the pseudonym Akira Fukiji? (Not only that, I wrote Gorgantis Unchained as Kihachi Ifukabe and Gorgantis vs. Octopocalypse as Minoru Natsuke.) By now the fans realize that, sooner or later, I’ll manage to bring up my obsession with Überweapons—biological, atomic, and otherwise. They tolerate this tic of mine, but barely. History holds no fascination for them. The politics of atrocity bores them silly.

A Martian would be within his rights to ask why I’m in such low spirits this morning. After all, last night the Wonderama Fantasy Film Convention presented me with a major award, the Raydo, a name meant to evoke not only the rhedosaurus, that ersatz dinosaur featured in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, but also the two Rays without whom the movie wouldn’t exist—Bradbury, author of the original story, and Harryhausen, stop-motion animator extraordinaire. Were my hypothetical Martian to drop by Room 2014 right now, I would explain that on our planet winning a pewter trophy doesn’t feel nearly as good as bottomless despair feels bad.

In my view it’s boorish to complain about banquet food, so let me go on record as saying that the chicken croquettes and bean salad at the Wonderama Awards dinner were scrumptious. Predictably enough, everybody squirmed during my acceptance speech—as usual, I railed against the thermonuclear arsenals into whose maw our civilization may soon disappear—and the applause was understandably tepid. Feeling at once piqued and chagrined, I slipped away before the next event, a raffle for a credible facsimile of my Gorgantis suit, which the Wonderama staff evidently got for a steal after the National Science Fiction Museum in Denver went bust.

My Raydo statuette is a rather handsome artifact, featuring not only a skillful reproduction of the rhedosaurus in all his dorsal-plated glory, but also the Maine lighthouse he destroys halfway through the picture. The inscription is eloquent and contains only one error. Syms K. Thorley, Lifetime Achievement

Award, Baltimore Imagi-Movies Society, 1984. My madeup middle initial is J. Where did they get that K ? I hope they weren’t thinking of my eternal nemesis, the egregious Siegfried K. Dagover. That would be the unkindest typo of all.

Today my Raydo will function as a paperweight, securing each successive page after I’ve torn it, littered with my scribblings, from the legal pad. I’m equipped with thirty such virgin tablets, and I’ve laid in other essentials, too. A box of Bic pens, a carton of filter-tipped Camels, a jar of Maxwell House instant coffee with a submersible heating coil, two pastrami sandwiches from room service, a liter of amontillado in a novelty cut-glass decanter. This is Edgar Allan Poe’s city, after all, and I’ve decided to pay him homage. Pardon me while I take a few sips of sherry—yes, it’s decadent to drink before noon, but Poe’s hovering shade expects me to follow protocol—and then I’ll begin my tale.