Interview with Masahiko Inoue

by Rebecca Seippel

Masahiko Inoue

We spoke with Masahiko Inoue about his short story, But First, a Toast (Shukuhai wo mae ni shite). Toast is a fictionalized account of Inoue’s experiences visiting the 1995 Son of Famous Monsters of Filmland world convention held in Universal City, California. Read the story here, published in our Japan x Future issue. In the following interview, we include both the original Japanese and the English translation. 

Seippel: You first began your career as a writer when you received the Shin’ichi Hoshi Award for Excellence in 1983. What inspired you to become a writer?  


Inoue: I have admired various professions since I was a child. I wanted to be a toy maker, a movie director, a winemaker, a paleontologist, a vampire movie actor, a spaceship designer, and so on. Eventually, I came to believe that becoming a novelist was the best and most realistic career for me, as I could create any world I wanted with just a piece of paper and a pencil. This was triggered by reading a short story by Shin’ichi Hoshi. When I won the award in 1983, I was a university graduate. When I was at the crossroads of my career path, I received an award from an author I admired, and I decided to make writing my life’s work. 


Seippel: Your stories often feature themes of the supernatural and monsters such as vampires and ghosts. Is horror your favorite genre to write?  


Inoue: The novels I have written span a variety of fields, including mystery, historical fiction, and science fiction. Nevertheless, there is always something mysterious, something fantastic, something that catabolizes reality, or even something scary in my work. Horror fiction is one of my favorite genres, but the inhabitants of the fantasy world seem to be a better match for me than realistic killers. I call my favorite novels “dark fantasy” or “dark romance”, but sometimes I use the word “Phantasy”.  


Seippel: In But First, a Toast, there are many creatures that appear from classic horror novels and films, such as Frankenstein’s Monster and Mr. Hyde, as well as famous creators from the industry. When did you first become interested in horror media?  


Inoue: When I was three or four years old, American and British horror and monster movies were often shown on TV. In Japan, Universal, AIP, and Hammer Films were often aired on TV. Short dramas like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone were also a weekly treat. Later, I learned that the authors of these stories included Bradbury, Richard Matheson and Robert Bloch. Many of their short stories were also translated [into Japanese]. Of course, I also watched Japanese monster and ghost movies. It was the age of television. Even children as young as three or four years old knew that the images and stories were artificially created. Still, at night, I would remember those images and get scared. It was a delightful nightmare. Very naturally, I came to love the things of this field. 

井上:「 私が三歳か四歳の頃、テレビには、アメリカやイギリスのホラー映画や怪物映画がしばしば放映されました。(日本語に吹き替えられていました)。日本ではユニバーサルやAIP、ハマーフィルムがテレビで放送される機会が多かったのです。『Alfred Hitchcock Presents』や『 The Twilight Zone』のような短篇ドラマも毎週の楽しみでした。(のちほど、その物語の作者には、ブラッドベリや Richard Matheson や Robert Bloch などが含まれていることを知りました。彼らの短篇小説も多く翻訳されていました。)もちろん、日本の怪獣映画や幽霊映画も観ていました。テレビジョン全盛の時代でした。 三歳か四歳の子供でも、それが人工的に創られた映像や物語であることは知っていました。それでも、夜になると、私はそれらのイメージを思い出して怖くなる。それは、愉しい悪夢でした。ごく自然に、私はこのフィールドのものを愛するようになりました。 

Seippel: But First, a Toast is such a touching piece that is dedicated to Ray Bradbury and his work. It’s also based on when you first met Bradbury, right?  Could you tell us what meeting Bradbury was like?   


Inoue: The “Son of Famous Monsters of Filmland World Convention,” which I wrote about in this story, was a real event held by a horror magazine in LA in 1995, and this was the situation when I met with Bradbury. At the time, I was writing a novel for the Japanese version of Fangoria, a magazine dedicated to horror films, and that’s why I attended the convention with the editor-in-chief. As I mentioned in the story, I had never been outside of Japan before, but I was more than excited to meet Bradbury. He was dressed in white, and meeting with him was like having an audience with the Pope. There was a long queue. My English was like a toddler’s, but he read the letter I had written on the back cover of my first short story book, which I had brought with me as a dedication to him, and kissed the book on the spot. Bradbury’s stay was short. I spent most of my time talking to Bradbury’s good friend, the filmmaker Ray Harryhausen, and his wife (through an interpreter). Afterwards, I had the pleasure of being invited to the home of Forry (Forrest J Ackerman), an old friend of both Bradbury and Harryhausen, and a benefactor of horror and science fiction. The mansion is no longer in this world, but it still stands in another world. I feel that Bradbury and the other holy spirits live there with the owner of the mansion. 

井上:この物語の中で書いた、1995年にLAで開催されたホラー雑誌主催のイベント「Son of Famous Monsters of Filmland World Convention」は実在のもので、私がブラッドベリと会見した時の状況も、このとおりでした。私は当時、ホラー映画専門誌の日本版ファンゴリアに小説を連載していて、その縁で編集長とこのコンベンションに出席したのでした。物語で書いたとおり、私はそれまで日本の外に出たことがなかったのですが、ブラッドベリと会えるというので、それがなによりも楽しみでした。白い服を着た彼の会見は、まるでローマ法王の謁見のようで、長い行列ができました。私の英語は幼児の会話のようなものでしたが、私が彼に捧げるつもりで持参した私自身の第一短編集の表紙の裏に書いた手紙を、彼はそので読んで、本にキスしてくれました。ブラッドベリは滞在時間が短く、私は、彼の親友で映画監督のRay Harryhausen夫妻と通訳を介して話していた時間が長かったです。そのあと、両者の旧友で、ホラーとSFの恩人でもあるForry(Forrest J Ackerman)の邸宅に招かれたのが愉しい想い出でした。あの邸宅は現在はこの世にはありませんが、今でも異界に聳え立ち、ブラッドベリたち聖なる霊たちが邸宅の主人とともに住んでいるような気がします。 

Masahiko Inoue with Forrest “Forry” J. Ackerman (1995)

About Rebecca Seippel

Rebecca Seippel first began learning Japanese back in middle school and decided to pursue it as a major with a business minor in college. A favorite way for her to study Japanese was by reading Japanese stories, which was an immersive way to learn grammar and vocabulary. She enjoys translation because it’s very much like creating a piece of artwork: a rough translation of the original text serves as a “sketch”, and she will go back and edit the rough translation several times to create the final piece. Rebecca had a wonderful experience working with Inoue Sensei, who was very kind and encouraging during the process, and is also grateful for receiving permission to translate But First, a Toast. “It’s truly a touching story about Bradbury, and was also a delightful challenge to translate”.

About Masahiko Inoue

Masahiko Inoue (井上雅彦) was born in Tokyo in 1960. In 1983, he entered the Hoshi Shin’ichi Short-Short Story Contest and won an award for excellence, and thus began his life as a writer. Although Inoue’s works, mostly featuring vampires and ghosts, have been published in many formats such as short stories and dark fantasy and mystery novels, he has maintained a fantastic motif across a variety of fields. In addition to his own prolific output as a novelist, he supervised the paperback horror anthology series Freak-Out Collection「異形コレクション」; the series won the 19th Japan Science Fiction Award Special Prize in 1998. The collection also provided a place for countless emerging and established authors to unveil weird and macabre creations of their own. The series has now grown to 51 volumes. His profile on Amazon Kindle is here.

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