kaigou: Happy typing on mac. (1 Hyperbole and a half)
I wish I'd had this mental framework years ago. Welp, at least I have it now.

kaigou: so when do we destroy the world already? (3 destroy the world)
Reading several of the books I got in Philly (among them, currently, Berry's Hideyoshi and Borschberg/Roy's The Memoirs and Memorials of Jacques de Coutre), but also just yesterday got a hankering for fiction and picked up three more, although The Goblin Emporer has been set aside as an award for later.

Short comments about 'The Coffee Trader' and 'The Boy with the Porcelain Blade'. )

Eh, well. I'll keep slogging.
kaigou: have some tea with your round cake (3 tea and cake)
Over on Dribble of Ink, there's an essay that had me pondering the way we write fantasy, in the modern world. “Broader Fantasy Foundations Pt IV: The Tale of Genji, and Building the World of the Shining Prince”, in which Gladstone comments:
[Demonic possession and ghosts in Tale of Genji] are unexplained, but they’re not treated as explicitly supernatural within the narrative, since we’re talking about a time before Enlightenment nature-supernature distinctions arose. Ghosts and demons and gods are edge cases of Genji’s reality, but they’re not any less real than the people he encounters on a day to day basis.

[The] fantastical does not seem fantastical to locals. Genji’s reaction to a ghost, or to a demonic possession, is not the Lovecraftian narrator’s “THAT IS UNPOSSIBLE” followed by a prolonged paragraph on circles of firelight, mad dancing beyond the edges of reality, etc., so much as “HOLY SHIT, GHOST!” He—and the other people in his world—are afraid of ghosts because they are dangerous and terrifying, not because they represent a hole in a world system that does not incorporate them.
I didn't even need to add that emphasis; Gladstone did it already for me.

In a sidebar, Gladstone also notes:
Notably, the reaction to a hole in one’s world system varies widely even within the modern age. Folks who just live in the modern world system tend to have the Lovecraft reaction to the holes they discover; scientists, though—and philosophers—respond, or should respond, by examining the edges of the hole and trying to peer through. I can think of two great examples of this in modern fantasy: in Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky novels, the wizards of Tsarepeth are presented as scientists and scholars with a near-modern understanding of the spread of disease. When they discover a demon plague that spreads through miasma, they’re initially flummoxed—since they’ve long known miasma theory to be false. Facts force them to revise their theory, in proper fashion. The Myth of the Man-Mother in Pat Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear is another example, played for humor—hyper-rational Kvothe fails to convince a friend of his that men have any role in the conception of children, since his arguments all devolve to an appeal to authority. The best part about this: it’s entirely possible that pregnancy just works differently in the Four Corners universe—or works differently among different peoples there.
A day or so later, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) wrote The Emperor and the Scullery Boy: Quests and Coming-of-Age Stories, in which she remarked that
...there are female protagonists in fantasy who quest. Mary Brown’s The Unlikely Ones, to pick a random example, is as straightforward a plot coupon fantasy quest as you can ask for (and it still ends in marriage). But they’re swimming valiantly against an undertow, which is the great preponderance of young men who come of age in fantasy by questing. I’m thinking particularly of the trope of the Scullery Boy Who Would Be King, and I can reel off examples by the cartload, from Lloyd Alexander’s Taran to Robert Jordan’s Rand Al’Thor. (Scullery Girls Who Would Be Queen are so rare as to be nearly nonexistent.) Fairy tales, too, are full of these young men, scullery boys or woodcutters’ youngest sons or vagrants, and there’s even a version of the motif in The Lord of the Rings: although Aragorn is not a child, his path through the trilogy is very distinctly from undervalued outsider to King of Gondor. All of them are the protagonists of bildungsromans, of quests, and the pattern they trace inexorably has shaped and continues to shape the way we think about fantasy as a genre and what we think it can do.

I don’t want to argue against bildungsromans in fantasy—far from it. I don’t want to argue against quests, or even against scullery boys. But I want to argue for awareness of the patterns that we have inherited—the grooves in the record of the genre, if you don’t mind a pun—and for awareness that patterns are all that they are. There’s no reason that scullery boys have to turn out to be kings. There’s no reason that women’s bildungsromans have to end in marriage. There’s no reason that fantasy novels have to be quests. It’s just the pattern, and it’s always easier to follow the pattern than to disrupt it.
Both essays are (obviously) worth reading, but that single line -- "Scullery Girls Who Would Be Queen are so rare as to be nearly nonexistent" -- started me thinking. There must be at least one out there, somewhere. Isn't there?

Hello? Hello? Don't tell me those are crickets I'm hearing.
kaigou: Skeptical Mike is skeptical. (1 skeptical mike)
Followup post for [personal profile] whatistigerbalm, but anyone else interested, here's the entire sad list. Maybe a quarter of these are available on the web; the rest are from Jstor. Check your local city library. You might have a free Jstor account. If not, and you're as whacked as I am about research, I have the pdfs. I can email zipped version. Just don't ask for all of them because that's just lazy, and besides, there's 895 of them. (and these don't include images and other non-pdf formats).

kaigou: Happy typing on mac. (1 Hyperbole and a half)
Times like this, I'm reminded of one of the earliest non-fiction books my parents gave me. The Weaker Vessel was authored by Antonia Fraser, better known (at the time, at least, from what I gathered) as a romance writer. One with intense research skills, though, who in the course of doing some historical digging on a new novel, ended up with enough data to write a serious doorstop tome about women's roles before, during, and after the English Civil War.

Sometimes I feel like I'm on a similar track, myself. Except my instinct is: I should take all this info and put it into a searchable database.

Saving notes here, collected from various academic articles/essays. This will probably interest exactly zero people, other than me. )
kaigou: (1 Toph)

Longer post coming soon, but this has been on near-constant repeat since I got the album.
kaigou: Ed & Ling bumpfist. (2 word)
I decided I really wanted to see Pacific Rim (again), and the local bookstore had it, so Friday night I rewatched. (Yay!) Then on Saturday I rewatched, this time with the director's commentary. There are people who think Godzilla is cool, and people who like mecha, and then there's the level of geekery from del Toro: names, names, little trivia about the origins of Godzilla (and the makings of), and the various mecha series (no shout-outs to Eva, but certainly plenty of discussion about Mazinger). If I was in any doubt about the man's geek cred, I am in doubt no longer.

Much of what he had to say -- while really fascinating in terms of the additional visual layers of the story, like the color-coding -- was cool but not really pertinent to verbal/on-page storytelling. And he also had me totes nodding along when he complained about CGI tending to make things look ungrounded, as in, no actual weight/substance. (His emphasis on the fight scenes being in rain and water were to offset that groundlessness; by seeing the water splashing around, and things flying through the air and cars hopping as the kaiju walks, it gives your brain the message that this CGI thing is on the same ground as everything else you see.)

Other things he had to say just made me go AHA. In no particular order... )
kaigou: fangirling so hard right now (3 fangirling so hard)
Went to see Pacific Rim (ohmygodholyfuckthatwasawesome). Had been letting lots of it stew and leaving the intelligent conversation to so many better commentaries across the web. Then [personal profile] margrave had some stuff to say about it. What tweaked me into posting was specifically this part:

It was why I loved Transformers; it was part of my childhood, and seeing Optimus Prime in an live action film was amazing. But it still didn't hit the spot because there was NO human pilot. It also lacked the parent-and-child theme that almost every giant robot series had. The need to do better, to be different or the same as their parent, to live up to, or to surpass their legacy, and just, it was such a Western film.

My take:

Bay's Transformers was a love letter... if the person writing had only ever read Letters to Hustler. That kind of lust love letter, complete with "it was SO BIG" and random exclamations of ridiculously physically-impossible feats concerning ridiculously numbers of orgasms. And big boobs.

Del Toro's Pacific Rim is a true love letter, paying homage to what's good and casting a forgiving eye on what's bad, and taking all the everyday things (like cliches) and seeing them as something to celebrate.

For me, though, being in tech and having to deal with the constant sense that if I want half the chance of the guys around me that I have to work twice as hard and prove myself three times more often, I think the point where I felt most despondent (in a "yeah, so not surprised") sense was when Raleigh asked Mako about the simulations and she admitted she'd gotten 51... out of 51. And yet not a pilot! Up to that point there had been only hints about the father/daughter relationship (and throwaway lines about how she'd re-engineered the Gipsy Danger and we'll ignore the quiet racism in that name), and I was all, well of course she's proven herself three times over and still gets no credit or chances. Then things move to the sparring scene and she proceeds to kick Raleigh's ass (without stripping down or getting her clothes ripped, no less) -- and I was totally expecting a sudden jump to the left, where she's the cocky rookie and Raleigh would be all like, no way are you sticking me with a rookie and somehow the story is about him learning to give her a chance and how he grows by leading blah blah blah.

But when they finish and she's won, there's not even a single instant of him being upset at being beaten. Instead he looks thrilled, so when he said (really loudly, too), this is my co-pilot. I was all like FUCK YEAH RECOGNIZE. There was no conflict apparent on his part, no worries about being shown up, but there also wasn't any machismo (the flip side of 'no worries' when Average White Guy Hero isn't intimidated because hey, he's the guy, he's naturally the best and doesn't have to prove himself the way everyone else does). It came across as pure and simple respect for Mako, and nothing to do with being a girl (or not being a girl) or being sexualized or not. She's his match and then some, and he doesn't require any intense soul-searching to want to be partnered with her, nor any agony on his part about not being the best himself. She is, and after that he doesn't waver from wanting to partner with her. Which makes sense -- if you know you're outgunned, why waste time with egos, you want the best chances to survive -- but that kind of common sense rarely enters the Hollywood equation. This time it did.

It was just icing on the cake to see that reaction to someone who is NOT the usual Average White Guy counterpart, the pinup big-boobed blonde leggy supermodel -- but a WoC who's petite, intelligent, a little introverted, self-aware, and ambitious. Let's be honest, the few women who ever get recognition (outside of the extreme outliers like Ripley) are inevitably ones who fit into the slender-and-leggy-and-white mold. Usually with long hair, at that.

Paragraph o' mild euphemistic spoilers behind the cut. )

Now if only Del Toro had made the two scientists women, the movie would pass the Bechdel and be truly flawless. I'd be sending the man a love letter myself if he'd made one of them of color while he was at it. In my head, the german scientist is actually an Indian woman educated in Berlin and the american scientist is a short round black woman from Chicago. But if we get a sequel, maybe then he'd get to push things a bit farther, because from what I've seen of him in the past, he's not ignorant of women on-screen (as if Mako doesn't prove that ten times over). He just needs to add more women, and if there's any director who might (and do it well), it might be Del Toro.

ETA more thoughts. )

Also, in the Japanese theatrical dub, the woman voicing Mako Mori is not the actress, Rinko Kikuchi, although she is native Japanese and an experienced seiyuu -- idk, maybe work schedules played a role in her availability? Anyway, the seiyuu selected is, drumroll, Megumi Hayashibara -- who also voiced Rei, from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

It's like the recipient of the love letter just wrote back and said, the feeling is mutual.
kaigou: Roy Mustang, pondering mid-read. (1 pondering)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks did a review of The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subjects by Renée L. Bergland. I am so getting a copy of this, but in the meantime, if you have any interest in pop culture, ghosts, cross-culture ghosts, American History vs Indigenous peoples, and so on (and I daresay the metaphor could easily be extended to the centuries of being haunted by our past as a slave-owning country, as well), at the very least, read the review.

From the Amazon description:
Although spectral Indians appear with startling frequency in US literary works, until now the implications of describing them as ghosts have not been thoroughly investigated. In the first years of nationhood, Philip Freneau and Sarah Wentworth Morton peopled their works with Indian phantoms, as did Charles Brocken Brown, Washington Irving, Samuel Woodworth, Lydia Maria Child, James Fenimore Cooper, William Apess, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and others who followed. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Native American ghosts figured prominently in speeches attributed to Chief Seattle, Black Elk, and Kicking Bear. Today, Stephen King and Leslie Marmon Silko plot best-selling novels around ghostly Indians and haunted Indian burial grounds.

Renee L. Bergland argues that representing Indians as ghosts internalizes them as ghostly figures within the white imagination. Spectralization allows white Americans to construct a concept of American nationhood haunted by Native Americans, in which Indians become sharers in an idealized national imagination. However, the problems of spectralization are clear, since the discourse questions the very nationalism it constructs. Indians who are transformed into ghosts cannot be buried or evaded, and the specter of their forced disappearance haunts the American imagination. Indian ghosts personify national guilt and horror, as well as national pride and pleasure. Bergland tells the story of a terrifying and triumphant American aesthetic that repeatedly transforms horror into glory, national dishonor into national pride.

And a bit of quote from Rushthatspeaks:

Why the change in the American ghost [from the European ghost]? Well, partly because of the rise of the modern scientific method, and the development of ways to test the empirical validity of the supernatural. And partly because colonists in the Americas could not take their ancestors with them, moving from a built-up landscape full of folklore and traditions they understood to a landscape they could not see as fully settled, full of folklore and traditions they did not know. And partly because of the rise of interiority and subjectivity as useful societal concepts, and the intersection of interiority and subjectivity with the newly-minted American Dream. Bergland is literally the first writer I have seen mention that the United States began as a colonized country and became a colonial power, and that the second required systematic repression of the knowledge of what it had been like to be the first.

In short, ghosts represent that which has been forgotten/ignored (ie a crime), and call out for justice -- and the American history is one long history of injustices, so it's no surprise we'd have a ton of ghosts. The crux lays in the fact that a lot of our ghosts are still also very much alive, too, where the crime lies in actively repressing a past (and ongoing injustice).

I can't explain it all that well, but there's much food for thought. So first go read the review and then go buy the book.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
For all the women I have loved who were dragged through the mud, an essay on hating-female-characters in fandom:

To be clear, we’re not talking about female villains. ... This is about people hating Hermione, Ginny and Luna, but loving Harry, Ron and Neville. This is about how ambiguous male antiheroes, like Snape, Zuko, or pretty much any male vampire protagonist can get away with walking that fine line between good and evil and not only remain sympathetic, but be even more beloved for how ~tortured~ he is, but when a female character is morally gray that bitch has to die.

So you can’t tell me it’s okay that you hate Sansa because you also hate Joffrey and he’s a dude. They’re not comparable. It isn’t even comparable if you pick a female antihero. Let’s do this apples to apples, here.

We all know that fandom does this. We all know that it’s fucked up and symptomatic of internalized sexism. What’s really fucking weird about it, though, is that the women doing this hating often aren’t ignorant. These are feminists. These are women who can go on meta-analyses of the writing. Some will hide behind pseudo-feminist reasons for their hate—oh, it’s the writing, we just aren’t given strong female characters! ... I’ve seen women who denied being sexist, but couldn’t name a single female character they liked. And it’s always that the female characters aren’t good enough, even when they obviously have a double standard, and they’re measuring women on an impossible scale full of contradictions and no-win binds, while the men are just embraced and loved pretty much for existing.

Read the whole thing.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
A friend passed this along, and now it's all ya'lls turn. Watch. It's amazing, powerful, heart-breaking, and yet hopeful. It's been a long time since the internets have shown me something that really, truly, spoke like this spoken-word poem.

A hosted link with notations: Bullies Called Him Pork Chop. He Took That Pain With Him And Then Cooked It Into This.

kaigou: Internet! says the excited scribble (2 Internet!)
A year (or two?) ago, there was a conversation online about the experience of growing up as an immigrant, with Mom's homefood for lunch and the reactions of (native-born, white) Americans to seeing the unfamiliar food. I cannot recall where that conversation occurred (community? someone's journal?) but if you do, pass along this link.

Is it Fair for Chefs to Cook Other Cultures’ Foods?, Francis Lam and Eddie Huang. Two immigrant sons hash out what it’s like to have your food shunned and celebrated in America

Some interesting, err, food for thought, in terms of how that childhood experience bears on the adult experience of two non-white American chefs/foodies and the question of -- when a non-American cuisine becomes 'popular' -- who has the right to cook it.
kaigou: fangirling so hard right now (3 fangirling so hard)
Sorry you guys who are LotR fans, but I've finally gotten to see the live-action Rurouni Kenshin and cripes has Takeru Sato left his idol days of Nobuta wo Produce far behind. As adorable as NwP was, no doubt, it was goofy and magical but it wasn't Kenshin, omfg. I don't normally keyboard smash of fangirling but ASDLKJFASDF;JASDLN;A ;JASD;LJASDF;LAKJDF Want want want sequel like FIFTEEN MINUTES AGO RIGHT NAOW A;SJLDFAL;KJDFSL;AKJDFS;OIEURSDNFLK

(Also, this is the second year in a row that I knew exactly what I wanted on my birthday, and it was available in some means on my birthday, but I didn't get to see it until the last few days of the year. Last year it was tickets going on sale for a dance production that wouldn't be until 12/28, this year it was Kenshin and having to wait until today for the BR/DVD to finally show up. Subbers seriously worked overtime to get well-done subs out at record speed, too. My birthday delayed no longer! Though perhaps next year I should just plan ahead and accept I'm now effectively a Sagittarius.)

Though as I mentioned to CP mid-movie, I can't think of another Japanese tv/movie production that really showed the utter lethalness of the katana in full-on melee at top speed. The closest might be Ichi, but that was almost always a single-combat, one-strike-you're-dead lightning fast move. Not at all the same as a style (supposedly) intended to take out a huge number of people at top speed. Can't say I've ever seen a Japanese movie choreographed as tightly as this one; it was almost Sammy Hung levels of choreography. Very impressive.

And the real enjoyment came as I realized about halfway through that while the first four or so arcs of Kenshin (the fake Battousai arc, the Kanryu/opium arc, and the Jin'ei arc, plus the mini-arcs introducing Megumi, Sanosuke, and Yahiko) are all bound together in a neatly-plotted, much tighter storyline... it doesn't feel as though the director's personality got slapped on top. Maybe it's that I wasn't exposed to a media onslaught during production, the way it was hard to avoid the same for LotR and then TaBA and Jackson, Jackson, Jackson. But the adaptation of LotR did feel, throughout, to me as though Jackson had to make the story 'his' in some way. Things being changed for the sake of being able to say he had changed it, while here, it felt like the movie bent to the story, instead. Not sure that makes sense; it's hard to express.

But in all, as someone whose first true anime love was Kenshin, I cannot think of a single element in the live-action adaptation that leaves me anything less than absolutely ecstatic, pleased, impressed... and omg I am so dying for a sequel. Someone please please tell me there'll be one.

full subs @ yuizaki-libra's journal
to find 720 version, google RUROUNIKENSHIN[GB][BDRip][720P][x264_Hi10P_AAC_5.1CH] -- scroll down to find the magnet link.

AND, pass this along because this is a movie that DESERVES to be seen on the BIGGEST SCREEN POSSIBLE. Okay, not imax, because that might be a little too much, but damn near close. Sign the petition and repost! Petition for Nationwide theatrical release of Rurouni Kenshin -- hey, can't hurt!
kaigou: I am zen. I am BUDDHA. I am totally chill, y'all. (2 totally chill)
In LA Story, the weatherman Harris K. Telemacher ends up befriending a road sign. It tells him that he'll find the key to his happiness by unscrambling the phrase, "HOW DADDY IS DOING". Harris spends most of the rest of the movie puzzling over this, and at the end, he takes his (new) girlfriend to meet the road sign. Yep, side of the LA highway, there they are, talking to a sign.

Harris: I never figured out the riddle, HOW DADDY IS DOING. It's a riddle too tough for me.
Sara: I know it. It's an English crossword clue. See, unscramble means rearrange. Change the "s" with the "h," move the "ing" after the "s," put the "do" after them. Swap the "h" and the "s." And put the "i" behind the "d."
Harris: "Sing Doo Wah Diddy?" That's the mystery of the ages?

I just discovered that all this time, I've been doing object-oriented programming. I just never really grokked 'object' so I'd figured I was somehow not doing it. Then I get whacked in the head and I'm like, what? That's the mystery of the ages?

Then again, this is a common reaction to me when I stumble over something that's gotten a constant build-up of mystique. Like objects. When I finally grok it, I'm not sure whether to be disbelieving at how simple it actually is, or disbelieving at how much time I spent agonizing about it.
kaigou: Jung-In (Kim Jae-Wook) looking very please-no (1 oh dear heavens no)
Thanks to [personal profile] marymac's suggestion, I ended up watching various documentaries from the Volvo Ocean Race. The best are the most recent, which include in-port, mid-race, mid-break interviews with each boat's skippers, navigators, crewmen, and so on. You don't get any idea of what's coming, but you do get a lot of really interesting reflection on what decisions they made in that leg of the race, what influenced those decisions, how they made those decisions, and so on. Plus, the narration is somewhat subdued, and there's not as much a sense of the teams being pestered to interview while on the water, which undoubtedly could get annoying. (No, I do NOT have time to explain what that is, I'm busy FIXING it! and so on.)

The 2005/6 race seems to just have an hour's documentary, which is like ten-something months to cram into one hour. You get a lot of highlights. Okay, more like you get a sense of how insane these people are, because most of the highlights consist of "and then their bowsprit broke" or "and then their main mast came down" or "and then they discovered a massive crack in their hull" or "and then they RAN OVER A WHALE AND LOST THEIR RUDDER" and there's no need to make this stuff dramatic. It comes that way out of the box.

The 2008/9 documentary seems to be a more as-it-happens format, but it has a lot of padding from pre-race clips. I really don't need a shot of some guy walking along the shore with his wife with voiceover about his dog dying. I get enough of that shit watching the Olympics. Plus, the narrator seems to have graduated from the Robin Leach school of narration. Not only does he talk like a bootleg version of Leach, he's just as dramatic about it. Quit the "but little did they know!" and the "but more was to come!" and "they had no idea what lay in wait!" Dude, when bowsprits break and sails go ripping along 120' of seamline, and this kind of catastrophic shit is considered one of the race's features, the tension is already there. No need to amp it more. Please.

A'course, the truly annoying part is that the 2008/9 narrator teases but then doesn't explain. Like, "little did they know..." and idyllic shot, then "...that THIS would happen!" and then a video of... something happening. I'm not sure. It's not explained. It's just several minutes of the boat going at a crazy angle and the boom swinging around, and... hey, narrator? A LITTLE HELP HERE, PLEASE. Someone tell me what I'm watching. At least the 2010/11 documentaries pretty consistently put voice-overs from the skipper or person-on-watch, explaining what you're seeing, to some degree.

Serious, this race? Shit happens. Constantly. Like nightmare material, extreme-panic, holy-crap-we're-all-going-to-die shit. I don't need some Robin Leach knock-off telling me for the nth time that these teams are experiencing LIFE AT THE EXTREME. Their fricking MAST just splintered and they're a thousand miles from the nearest solid land. They just missed a goddamn ICEBERG by a foot and a half. Unless someone wrote the 2008/9 documentaries for the total cabbages in the audience, it's pretty much OBVIOUS that we're not dealing with just a trip to the goddamn supermarket here.

The 2008/9 videos are totally inconsistent on subtitles, too. We've got one guy who talks softly and kind of mumbles, and no subtitles. We get the guy who speaks with an American middle-class accent... and subtitles. The guy who I still can't tell if he's speaking Spanish or English, and no subtitles. And then one episode won't subtitle anyone, and the next one subtitles every other person. Plus that year's version has bad editing and unoriginal music, though at least they quit it with the car-commercial jump-cuts and slow/fast crap after a few episodes. The production values on the 2011/12 version are substantially higher and the narrator is a more laid-back. I mean, it says something when you're watching a freaking youtube television documentary and you think, where can I get this soundtrack? Naturally there doesn't appear to be available OSTs on the Volvo Ocean Race site. Figures. Probably a bunch of generic soundtrack music from one of those warehouse companies, but still, whomever went through and found the music had an incredible ear for what to use, when, and blending it from one mood to the next.

I do wish the videos would have more infographics on what's happening. A simple CGI showing where the break occurred, or how, or whatever, would be really helpful. The extent of Volvo's visual info appears to be crazy-ass low-budget CGI of the little boats scudding across computerized water, with trails showing their paths. Not nearly as useful as knowing wtf-just-happened-there, especially when the skipper is speaking heavily-accented English so I'm ostensibly getting an explanation... that I can't understand even if I did know the jargon.

Last! Today's protip: don't bother with Google's on-the-fly subtitles, unless you're slightly tipsy and need the entertainment. Google doing on-the-fly of someone who speaks American english is iffy, but of someone speaking with non-American accent? Utter hilarious uselessness ensues.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 something incredible)
An intriguing, somewhat ambivalent, essay by a [male] Harvard professor: "My Life as a Girl".

Worth reading: Advertising: the Real Reason Women Wear Provocative Clothes.

A short essay from Guy Gavriel Kay, "Home and Away", about why he writes historical fantasy and not historical fiction.

Last, an excerpt from Mike's Review of Amanda Downum's The Bone Palace, about fantasy versus science fiction.
I was struck [by] how much nostalgia is coin of the realm [in fantasy]. Not just in the return to tropes of feudal society, a fetishized love of the baroque hierarchies of bloodline and class systems, or the reliance on tropes of wizardry, swordplay, medieval ordnance, etc.... ...Fantasy novels romanticize the past. But note the definite article there--"the" Past, as a concept, an Idea/l--which is separated from, even utterly disavowing, history. Sure, characters go on and on about who did what in which battle, or how so and so came from so and so's bloodline, but such historicizing is not about causes, or the way different factors alter historical outcomes. Instead, it's all destiny, Quest, fate, blood. There is a fixity to what happened, and thus--I'd argue--to what will happen. I'm being vague, so let me trace a counterpoint.

Science fiction, on the other hand... romanticizes the future, sure, but it does so to reveal and engage an historical consciousness. (H/t to Frederic Jameson...) Whatever future is outlined, the genre conventions are to untangle and examine the conditions which led to this new future--changes in tech, or species interactions, or.... you name it--the future is extrapolated extravagantly to reveal how such conditions (environment, biology, commerce, technology) alter culture and society.

In fantasy, the tropes of Identity, Family, Character are echoed in what happens. But in science fiction, History has the upperhand, and changes/alters identities, families, character.

The comments are worth reading. I may be giving the wrong impression with the quote, but Mike doesn't seem to be positing a theory or an explanation so much as thinking out loud. Not really something to argue with, that is, so much as to use as a jumping-off point for own thoughts.

I've been pondering the tropes he outlined, and thinking of how they (most often) show up. One would be the use of prophecy in a story, especially when the prophecy is tied to a bloodline. (A child of this family or that heritage, with such-and-such a destiny identified often early in life, if not at birth.) I seem to recall debates somewhere over whether Dune is science fiction or fantasy, and that like Star Wars it's really a fantasy masquerading as a space opera. Given that Dune does pivot on the notion of whats-his-face fulfilling a longstanding prophecy, I guess that would be a fantasy trope. I can't think of any full-on SF stories with heritage-based prophecies being a pivotal point, but it's not like I've read all the SF out there.

kaigou: Edward, losing it. (1 Edward conniption)
From an interview with the author:
Q: I’ve studied Japanese for six years and been to Japan yet still may not have been able to execute a Japanese-inspired world as real and sensational as yours. What was the research involved in bringing the world of Stormdancer to life? Or did you drink some magical sake and try your luck?

A: I’ve had a few people say that, and it’s really flattering, but honestly I think most of my research was done via osmosis. I’ve always had an interest in Japanese cinema and manga, so I absorbed a lot of knowledge through that over the years. Wikipedia was really my go-to source for information, plus a few specialized sites dealing with the Tokugawa age.

The cool thing about writing a setting that’s inspired by Japan, but not actually Japan, is that you can take what you want from history and mythology and leave the rest. Take thunder tigers, for example – there’s nothing close to griffins in Japanese folklore. But without thunder tigers, there would be no Stormdancer.

My theory has been that if you want a place inspired by Japan (or anywhere) that's not actually Japan (or wherever), then you must avoid all non-English words that are not long-standing loan-words, for starters. At the simplest level. Otherwise, you're obviously writing about a certain place because the non-Englishness is going to act as a red flag, and pull people back into the concrete this-place that's the analogue to your wherever. This is why authors make up their own words & phrases in fantasy and science fiction, except in those cases where they specifically want you to be thinking France, Japan, Mozambique, or wherever.

But I'll let other folks do the talking, since that's hardly the only thing wrong with this story. Oh, Goodreads, why do you recommend stuff that just makes my blood boil?

Discounting manga/anime, I can count on two fingers how many Asian-inspired fantasies I know of. Stormdancer gets the middle one.

Have a small link roundup. )

And some useful posts, for you guys and also for me:


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

October 2016

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