Book: Master of Miniatures Title
 Master of Miniatures
 Jim Shepard
Language: English Release: 2010
Publisher: Solid Objects
Pages: 51
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 978-0-9844142-3-9

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Back Cover
Nicholas Driscoll

When I think of Godzilla novels, I usually think of either movie adaptations or original adventures penned by the likes of Mark Cerasini or Scott Ciencin. Basically, stories about the monster itself. Jim Shepard, a fairly prolific author of literary fiction who teaches creative writing at Williams College, has turned those expectations upside down with his somber and dark novella Master of Miniatures*, which explores the creation of the original Godzilla film from 1954 from the fictional perspective of Eiji Tsuburaya—and the imagined broken family life that results from his dedication to his craft.

The story largely centers on Tsuburaya’s relationship with his wife, Masano. Throughout the story, Tsuburaya neglects her as he works on Godzilla and overcomes the numerous obstacles inherent in creating a new genre of film. Basically, in the space of about 50 pages, Shepard weaves a tale of great creative achievement coupled with familial disorder and disintegration. As Tsuburaya accomplishes his dreams, Masano falls deeper into depression, especially when their son Hajime begins to follow in the Old Man’s footsteps.

Shepard has done his homework—many of the fun little trivia about the creation of Godzilla appear here, such as the original idea spawned by Tanaka after a Japanese-Indonesian co-production fell through, or how Akira Ifukube created the roar. Which isn’t to say that everything is accurate in the book. Shepard takes license with the Tsuburaya’s life—in this version of the story, Eiji and Masano have lost a daughter to an early death, which contributes to Masano’s growing melancholy. If Miyako really existed, I have never heard of her, and she is not mentioned even on the Japanese Wikipedia page for Eiji Tsuburaya. More disappointingly for me as a Christian, Masano’s Catholic faith is never once mentioned—Shepard instead depicts her as deeply superstitious.

What really matters here, though, is the writing—and Shepard acquits himself well, crafting touching and heartfelt characterizations in a sometimes dreamy and richly realized landscape. Again, for fans, it’s pretty great to see some of our creative heroes in fictional form, from Tsuburaya to Ishiro Honda to Haruo Nakajima. Still, for me, I couldn’t help but feel… weird reading about Tsuburaya’s sex life, despite Shepard’s sensitive handling of said subject matter.

Overall, though, Master of Miniatures is a solid book with an intriguing premise and strong, character-focused, evocative writing. I didn’t always appreciate how Shepard handled certain aspects of the story, but I was nevertheless impressed; this is an easy book to recommend, provided you don’t mind a more leisurely pace and an ambiguous and morbid conclusion.



*Originally Master of Miniatures was going to be titled Gojira, King of the Monsters; there was even a cover made that shows Godzilla in silhouette—you can find said cover on an old Scifi Japan article. Presumably Toho objected and forced Shepard and Solid Objects (the publisher) to change the title and imagery. The story was later re-released with the former title in a short story collection, You Think That’s Bad, in 2012. Oddly, Master of Miniatures is not listed on Jim Shepard’s homepage. For those who are curious about Shepard’s other work, he also wrote a fictionalized retelling of the making of the vampire film Nosferatu in his book titled, appropriately, Nosferatu. I haven’t read that book yet, but it would be an obvious place to dive in.