I got past the roughly 40% mark in the 2nd round of Summerworld edits last night. (The first round was entirely on paper; the 2nd is my collected on-paper edits plus cleaning up the draft directly.) I'm actually fairly far ahead of schedule, but I'd like to have the edited manuscript over to my test readers for one last round of look-see by April 15. The absolute drop-dead day for the whole thing to be at the printers is around May 15, since I have to allot two weeks for printing and shipping; that gives me some time to tweak the outer wrap design as well. There was a woodblock print pattern that I wanted to use, but I'm going to have to leave it off since I'm no longer confident it's in the public domain and can be used as-is. (Short version: If you downloaded it from somewhere off the Internet, it's probably not in the public domain.) Fortunately I have a backup plan or three...
This is the Bond movie they should have made all along. Casino Royale brings the James Bond franchise to where it always needed to be; it's to Bond what Batman Begins (or perhaps Batman: Year One) was to that comic-book hero. If they never make another Batman movie I will not be unhappy, and if they never make another Bond film I will always have this one. Harlan Ellison once lavished praise on one of Philip Jose Farmer's stories in his Dangerous Visions collection by saying that it was "the best — no, make that the finest story in this book." That degree of praise was tailor-made for this film, as it's both the best and the finest of the Bonds thus far.
Nobody needs to be convinced of the diminishing returns of the last several Bond movies; they were typically big movers at the box office, but they were also tilting into self-parody. I didn't even bother with Die Another Day, and was on the verge of tuning the franchise out entirely when the Bond-merchants announced the next film would be Casino Royale. That and the new Bond was going to be Daniel Craig, who I had admired enormously in Layer Cake; he had the gritty, sober realism that the series badly needed a stiff shot of. I defended him as Bond sight unseen, and now that I have seen the film I don't regret it one bit. Royale was one of the first Bonds in many respects — the first one Ian Fleming wrote, and the first to be to be brought to the screen (in 1954, for TV's Climax Mystery Theater) — and so it makes conceptual sense to reboot the series by coming full circle in many ways. Read more
Earlier today I finished the first round of edits on Summerworld — correcting typos, grammar, etc., but also making extensive notes for the second draft. That I will begin working on in the coming week, and ideally it should be finished by the end of April.
When I showed my rough first draft to people back in February, I mentioned that it was about 85% of what I was trying to achieve. I'm surprised that I got as close to the mark as I did the first time around, but it's that remaining 15% that's crucially important — that's hammering down all the protruding nails that people can snag their clothing on, or spackling the gashes in the wall through which you can see the studs. But I had amazingly good feedback from my readers, and I took a lot of notes along the way as to how to make that feedback work in the story.
I'll be checking back in with more word about the 2nd draft, which with any luck will be what goes to the printer!
Well, it's finally up and running - the official website for Summerworld, my most recent work of fiction (and a National Novel Writing Month 2006 winner, but that's scarcely the most important thing about it).
The site is in something of a disarray as I type this - there's a FAQ, but it is not feature- or text-complete (yet), and I'm actually still in the process of editing the book itself.
With any luck the book will be "closed" as of May 1st and then sent to the printer's shortly thereafter. My goal is to get everything together for a release party at A-KON 2007, where I'll have copies of the book available for a signing, some bonus merchandise, and will do readings, discussion and all kinds of other fun things.
Before there was Otogi-zoshi, there was Kaidohmaru, a 50-minute feature that is to the longer series what Kurosawa’s Kagemusha was to his later Ran: a “dress rehearsal” of sorts. Both Otogi-zoshi and Kaidohmaru hail from the same animation house (the immensely accomplished Production I.G) and both sport the same gorgeous period-fantasy look, an admixture of CGI and hand-drawn animation that complement each other wonderfully. In fact, it’s essentially a prelude to the longer show, with details about how many of the characters ended up where they were at the beginning. If you like the shorter feature, seek out the longer one by all means.
Kaidohmaru (怪童丸, or strong youth) opens in the late 900s in the old capital of Kyoto, where pestilence and unrest have become unmanageable. The decadent lords who are little more than masters of ceremony are growing nervous, and armed gangs are roving the countryside. Among the nobles is little Kintoki, whom the others call “Kaidohmaru” — a girl raised as a boy with all of the training of a warrior to go with such a lifestyle. S/he doesn’t seem to miss being a woman — “Writing letters all day long doesn’t sound like my kind of life!” — and is simply happy to be near her lord and master, Minamoto Raiko, while protecting the capitol against incursions. Read more
There is a moment near the end of When a Woman Ascends the Stairs when the main character, Keiko (Hideko Takamine), a Tokyo bar hostess, is asked if she loves someone, and her response is: “I neither love him nor hate him.” Keiko has spent so much of her time and strength purging herself of emotion that when real love is finally offered to her, she has no idea what to do with it. For most of her adult life she has perched on barstools next to middle-aged men of all stripes — bankers and office-workers and industrialists — and poured their drinks and pretended to be more wifely to them than their actual wives. She has done this for years out of the hope that maybe she’ll be able to sock away enough money to open up her own bar — which, aside from marriage, is about the most a woman in her situation could expect to find. And, she reasons, who would want to marry her? Surely no one who is entirely honest with themselves.
Not as if Keiko presents a terribly appealing object of affection for any man, either. For years she’s worked this wretched job, pretending to be all things to all people (especially men), only to end up hopelessly in revolving debt. What money she’s been able to glean from it has not gone into saving up for her own place; it’s gone back into flashier kimonos, taxi rides home for her more loyal customers, a swank apartment (that is, swank by postwar Tokyo rabbit-hutch standards), and an apportion of cash sent back home to her mother and her brother. The latter faces prison time if Keiko can’t come up with even more cash to pay for a decent lawyer, and has a polio-crippled son in need of surgery and physical therapy. Keiko spends a month in their house after being hospitalized for an ulcer, but despite the bitterness and recrimination that flows freely between them she ends up covering their needs. If you end up back in debt, there’s always the chance you can work your way out of it; but to burn bridges with family in Japan is anathema. Read more
Someone once said that trying to write a criticism of a favorite thing is a little like assembling a rational explanation of why you love your wife. That’s the central problem of criticism: you’re trying to find logical, dispassionate ways to talk about things that ultimately come down to taste and preference and, yes, passion. This doesn’t mean that criticism is useless, though — just that you have to be aware of how every critique is as much about its author as it is its subject. The better you defend yourself, the more transparent the reasons for the criticism tend to be.
To that end, when you talk about something that is close to your heart, you’re obliged to communicate a part of yourself, too. Roger Ebert couldn’t talk about La Dolce Vita without also describing how he saw it at different times in his life, and each time it meant something different to him: at twenty, it represented something he wanted to be a part of; at thirty, it was what he was trapped in; at forty, it was what he had escaped from. I can’t listen to, or talk about, Godflesh’s Pure without digging at least that far down into myself. I don’t know if it has much to do with the album itself — although it is, objectively, a great album, and I’ll go into that in its own way — but it certainly has a great deal to do with how it arrived in my life, what it came to represent, and what I hear in it every single time it plays.Read more
Tags: Justin Broadrick
Baian the Assassin is an above-average example of the sort of TV fare that’s popular in Japan but not an animated production, which is what most American audiences are used to as far as such Japanese imports go. It’s something to file next to stuff like the Zatōichi movies or TV series, and it’s directly reminiscent of it in many ways: A man of a certain social status dispenses his own brand of justice in feudal Japan and makes sure the wicked come to a sticky end. In this case, the hero’s no a blind masseur, but a doctor, Baian-sensei (Ken Watanabe, whom most of us will know from The Last Samurai), whose clinic is always crowded with those in need of his aid. His other job is that of an assassin, where he uses his acupuncturist’s needles to inflict a death blow to those who have ground the innocent and helpless underfoot.
The fun thing about Baian (which, again, like Zatōichi, was adapted from a series of novels) is how it depicts its main character and relishes the little details of its setting just as much as the big ones. Baian gets all of his assignments through a go-between, the motojime, who pays him piles of money and describes his targets to him. If he doesn’t take the job, he can always give it to his friend Hikojiro, the toothpick maker — another assassin-by-night, whose killing specialty is a blowgun dart to the eye. Most of those marked for death are haughty samurai, but there are more than a few greedy merchants — both male and female — who get marked for one of Baian’s needles in the back of the neck.Read more
Despite what most people here might think, not everyone in Japan’s a manga fan. Or at least they’re not fans to the extent that somepeople are fans — it’s a little like the difference between a casual TV watcher and a die-hard Star Trek fan here in the U.S.. Manga (along with anime, and their associated interests) may be big business; but to the average Japanese, otaku have a built-in dorkiness that’s hard for them to shake.
This ostracism isn’t something that isn’t always conveyed in manga or anime itself. It’s fun when it’s done right, though. Genshiken nailed this kind of thing perfectly; for anyone who’s a fan or feels like they’ve been a fan for too long, it was hilarious and dead-on. But there’s been a slew of other stories in the same vein: Cosplay Koromo-chan, for instance, a series of four-panel gag comics about a girl who has managed to turn cosplay into a way of life; or Maniac Road, about three sisters who turn a failed electronics store into a thriving “otaku paradise.”Read more
So what’s the future really going to be like? If you ask me, it’s going to be exactly what we have right now — and, at the same time, nothing like what we have right now. When Roger Ebert reviewed Blade Runner, he pointed out that the 1980s were nothing like the 1980s as we’d imagined them: no flying cars and no world government, but there’s still rock ‘n roll on the radio. That’s one of the things I’ve liked about the Ghost in the Shell mythology: it’s set in the year 2030, but life goes on for many people as it always has: people still work at jobs, drive cars, save for their retirements, and commit crimes.
That was how it came across in the TV series, and that’s also how it comes across in a highly entertaining series of light novels written from the series mythology and now presented in English. The first of that batch, The Lost Memory, was a fun read (I used it to keep from dropping dead of boredom during a stint of jury duty last year), and ifMemory read like an extended episode of the TV series, that was no accident: Junichi Fujisaku’s novel was apparently derived from one of a set of stories that had originally been intended for the show but got left by the wayside, and Fujisaku himself was on the show’s production team. I haven’t yet read the second novel, Revenge of the Cold Machines, but if it’s anything like White Maze, the third release, it’s probably as self-contained as the other two and thus not crucial to understanding what goes on inMaze. And probably every bit as much fun as Maze, too. Read more
Shojo manga’s a growing market right now, and one of the nice side effects of that boom is how we’re starting to see comics that might otherwise never have shown up domestically. I’m still waiting for a domestic edition of one of the most influential shojo stories of them all, Shinji Wada’s Sukeban Deka manga (which spawned a live-action TV series, a slew of movies, and an animated OAV) — but in the meantime there’s Vertical’s publication of Keiko Takemiya’s To Terra…, a title I’d only known about in passing and glimpsed when it was out of translation. Based on what’s in the first volume, it deserves an audience above and beyond just the shojo market, the way Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha deserves an audience outside of existing manga readers.
Much of the story in the first volume is divided between two plotlines. The first is the story of Jomy, growing up on Ataraxia, one of Earth’s far-future colonies, where society is rigidly controlled by computers as a way to suppress problems before they begin. When children come of age, they’re tested via a process called the "Maturity Check" to ensure that they will not pose difficulties to society at large — for instance, by showing signs of having telepathic ability. (Those who pass the Maturity Check are welcomed into society; but those who fail run the risk of becoming social rejects — a plot element probably echoed directly from the fears of a great many young Japanese trying desperately to pass their entrance exams and not be seen as failures!)Read more