Monthly Archives: October 2013
For the second year in a row, I have posted something every day in the month of October. While I had some good stuff, I also had a few duds. I’m always seeking ways to improve this blog. To do that, I’m using this post to gain feedback.
What do you like about Nerd Redefined? What do you dislike?
Are there subjects you want me to cover more? Less?
Are there any subjects you think I should take a crack at? Some I should avoid like the plague?
What subjects do I write the best about? The worse?
Are there any special themes/ topics I should think about covering next October?
The format of the blog has been the same since the beginning. Should I redecorate? Should I not?
Should go back over my old posts and see if I still agree with them and explore what has changed?
I also have some ideas that I want to explore.
Should write more in depth about my ideas and projects?
Should I try to do more formal research papers?
Should I start a series called “Unsolicited Advice”?
Should next October’s theme be more of a diary rather than just a series of random posts?
Should I try a two month NaNoWriMo? (To be honest, I’m not fond of NaNoWriMo).
Feel free to drop any other constructive comments in the comments section.
That’s it for today. I’m going to take a few days off. I should be back sometime next week.
Today’s post (and tomorrow’s) will be talking to myself posts. Today, I’m going to be focusing on the temptation to exoticize in secondary world fantasy. Also, I want to touch on the problem of naming. Tomorrow, I’m going to write about writing sex and the issues I have.
The Temptation to Make Exotic
I have a series idea. It could come in one of two forms, either set on a contemporary, though fantastical, Earth or a secondary world. I know that there will be an international focus in both works. But where I’m starkly aware of the dangers of playing with cultures not my own in a series set on “our” Earth, I’m seriously facing the temptation to do what I don’t want to do in a world that I make up.
Why is that?
I think, for me, the cultures are real in our world. And the offense of getting it wrong is so much more clear cut. If I have a story arc set in Japan, the onus is on me to not fuck it up.
But is the same true for a constructed culture, even if I draw inspiration from several real cultures? Is there still an onus to not fuck up if I’m only borrowing inspiration from Japan and mixing it with other influences?
To be honest, fucking things up can cause offense whether or not the setting is Japan or a made up Japan-plus influenced setting. It depends, ultimately, on the reader. And, of course, the onus should be on being respectful wherever the setting happens to be.
Yet, I’m still not answering my own question. Why am I so more tempted to play into exoticism when it is a world I made up?
I don’t know. I don’t know If I buy my own argument that I’m tempted because it is easier. Perhaps the issue lies in the image I have in my head. A very erotically charged image that so tempts me into exoticism. (I’ll return to that image tomorrow for obvious reasons).
(I’m also almost tempted to wonder if there is something about sword and sorcery and science fantasy that just, like that image, tempts me. Maybe, at some point, I need to really analyze that aspect of my reading.)
Perhaps, in the end, the only thing I can do is fight my damnedest to not give into the temptation. No matter the setting.
What’s in a Name?
To be honest, I’m an Aerith and Bob kind of guy. While I’m almost certainly more “Bob” when the setting is Earth, I’m completely a mix in secondary fantasy.
I’m not very good, or comfortable, when it comes to making up names and languages wholesale. I’m not a linguist, so that’s not my thing.
But, I do recognize that I will have to make up some languages wholesale for some of my projects. And I’m likely to only do that level of creation only on those projects. Otherwise, I’ll stick to using the languages of our own world. Or mutating it to get some “cool” names.
This is, annoyingly, where this half of the post touches on the first half of the post. When is it appropriate (or not) to use certain names? Let’s keep with the example of Japan/ Japan-plus inspired, okay?
Is it appropriate to use a Japanese name, or a Japanese sounding name? Am I being too obvious or does it fit?
Again, I don’t know. Maybe the only way I can find out is through trial and error. By making the mistake and correcting it, I can learn how not to make those mistakes.
Before I write two posts on writing for days 29 and 30, I want to have a fun list post today.So, here are my favorite sports teams.
College Football (hell, all college sports): Texas Longhorns. Besides them, I’m also fond of the Oregon Ducks.
NFL: Houston Texans (’cause I’m a Texan) and San Francisco 49ers (’cause I love S.F.).
NBA: Miami Heat (I’m, honestly, not so into basketball).
MLB: Texas Rangers (’cause I’m a Texan) and (this is funny) San Francisco Giants (’cause I love S.F.).
NHL: Dallas Stars (duh), Toronto Maple Leafs, and Vancouver Canucks
MLS: Portland Timber (I love Portland) and LA Galaxy (go Robbie Rogers!).
And there you have it, my favorite sports teams.
Tomorrow, I’ll have some stuff to say about writing.
I don’t have anything planned. Nothing to rant about. So, this will be a brief, mixed bag of a post.
This morning, my Niece and I were looking at pictures of insects on Wikipedia. It was, honestly, great fun. For someone who dislikes living insects, she was quite fascinated with their pictures. Though she does share her grandmother’s love of purple butterflies. . .
Given how many channels are devoted to sports, one should think that a greater variety of sports would air regularly. Instead, so much “sports” programming is little more than talk. Repeating the same football news cannot be better than airing a soccer game, a hockey game, or a sumo event.
While I do like football, I am also a fan of less popular sports. I love action sports. Give me X Games and more Dew Tour. I remember years ago when ESPN aired sumo competitions. I want some! Or what about those little known Olympic sports? What about fencing? Or the strangely compelling curling? Seriously, I don’t want to wait four years to watch fencing. And then only on a computer.
Part of the problem, I think, is that too much focus is payed to the big three sports. And while that attention is, honestly, warranted, it should not lead to other sports being ignored. Compare the football sites on ESPN to what passes for the action sports site. And the same is true for NBCSports.
Back to my niece. I really want to make her toys. Not buying her toys. I mean actually making her toys. Just another sign of my ridiculousness.
Hopefully, I’ll have something better tomorrow.
Right now, I have seventeen books checked out of the library. You heard that right. Seventeen. Yesterday, I checked out twelve from the library. I’m simply shocked that my library bag managed to hold so many.
So, what all do I have? Well, here’s a list:
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. I’m really looking forward to reading this before I have to return it next weekend.
The Book of Marvels by Richard Haliburton. I’m equally looking forward to checking this book out.
Physics of the Impossible and Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku. I’ve read these before and am looking forward to reading them again.
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I’ve read bits of it when I did a paper on Morgan Le Fay years ago. Finally going to read it.
The Space Opera Renaissance. I really need to read the whole thing.
Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel by Frances Gies, A People’s History of Science by Clifford D. Conner, and A Short History of Scientific Ideas to 1900 by Charles Joseph Singer. These three books are all for research for one of my projects.
And finally. I have volumes eleven through eighteen of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle.
Yep, that’s a lot.
And this is why I love the library. I love the fact that I can check out so many books and not have to buy them. Especially if they are research books that turn out to be useless.
That said, I do want to buy Tsubasa. Damn I love that series. And maybe The Neverending Story.
So, Texas’s Voter I.D./ Suppression Law went into effect yesterday. However, it may be stayed until it can be litigated by the federal courts. This is just depressing. Why? Because it makes me ashamed to be a native of Texas. And it enrages me because it shows that Texas Republicans don’t trust themselves or their voters to remain in power by legitimate means.
Texas is, in all practical terms, a one party state dominated by Republicans. I don’t think a single state wide elective office is held by a non Republican. Republicans have the majority in both houses of the state legislature. I could go on. The only areas of the state not under Republican control are the largest metropolitan areas and areas with heavy Hispanic populations.
Seriously, what are the Republicans so scared of that they have to attempt to disenfranchise voters who may not vote for them? Is it their lack of ideas? Or their lack of faith in the elective process. Especially as their hopes for the presidency fade and their continued dominance of the House a matter of gerrymandering.
The attempt at disenfranchisement is defended by arguing that it protects against voter fraud. Seriously? Seriously? There is no evidence that voter fraud has been a deciding factor in elections for decades.
The truth, I think, is that increasingly, both political parties cannot fathom why their candidates lose. So in close elections, it must be fraud. This would explain the accusations of fraud in Ohio in 2004 and other recent elections. Is that to say that the vote is not endangered?
No. Because the Voter I.D./ Suppression laws are on the books, seeking to protect the power of Republicans. And I don’t know if the electronic voting machines are all that trustworthy. Especially if they can be hacked or manipulated.
I’ve spent most of this post ranting against the Republicans, but the Democrats are not innocent here, either. If given the chance they’d do it, too. And they have. What do you think Jim Crow was for? At the time, most African Americans voted Republican. So, really, both parties are guilty.
But at the moment, the Republicans are the ones active at suppression. Largely, I think, because the demographics are turning against the Republicans and favoring the Democrats, at least for now. You see, the problem is that the Republican Party is becoming more and more ideologically rigid. Rather than being a “big tent,” the Party is more like a corporatist commintern, demanding absolute ideological purity. Such a status quo can only lead to the further weakening of the Republicans. The only way the Republicans can hope for continued success is to adapt their message to the needs of more voters, especially the young.
Now, everything is not rosy for the Democrats. It will face the problem all dominant political parties face. Especially if they have very weak competition. The only way both political parties can be great is if they have great rivals. Which means that both need to step up their games.
But, seriously, I won’t be holding my breath.
I’m somewhat disappointed with anime and manga news sites. My biggest problems with those sites are the lack of analysis and the privileging of anime over manga. So, what do I want to see when it comes to manga reporting/ analysis?
I’m a nerd. I want to know how mangaka work. What kind of research do Kishimoto and Mashima do? Does Arakawa and Kubo outline or write in the moment? How do they deal with the influence of the greats like Tezuka and Toriyama? These questions fascinate the heck out of me. But, like with comic books, often times interviews with mangaka tend toward promotion of upcoming storylines. Though I could be wrong and there are such in depth interviews. I hope I’m wrong.
I also want a stronger critical analysis of manga. Rather than reviewing Naruto or Fairy Tail, what do those two series mean? Now, I’m sure there is some good lay analysis laying around the internet somewhere, but I haven’t found it. And academic criticism is even harder to find (there is a dedicated journal, though). Here are some questions I’d like to see answered (or maybe even answer myself when I have the time):
Why is Naruto the most popular shonen manga series in the U.S. ?
How does Naruto relate to the concept of the child soldier? Does Naruto glorify the child soldier? Or condemn the child soldier? How does tone form the perception of meaning?
In Fullmetal Alchemist, the Ishvalans are the victims of an attempted genocide. For Western readers, the Ishvalans are reminiscent of Arabs, but for Japanese readers, the Ishvalans are inspired by the Ainu. How does this knowledge affect readers in both cultures?
Waiting for Fairy Tail to end, can the series reveal where heroic fantasy begins and epic fantasy ends?
I could go on. Hell, there are likely hundreds of potential research topics available.
But sources to answer and prove one’s arguments might be harder than one wants to imagine.
There aren’t that many scholarly books on manga. So far, I’ve only found a few histories. And there is that journal. I don’t know if The Journal of Popular Culture has ever featured articles on manga. Plus, one must be aware that manga are Japanese cultural products, and it would be stupid to not keep that in mind. Really stupid.
All that said, I do want to read more analysis and scholarship of manga.
Fantasy (and science fiction) is, perhaps, the most research intensive of the literary genres. We’re centuries gone from the medieval period. Sword use is an extreme, though still cool, niche hobby. When was the last time someone came upon a lost crypt with awesome treasures and strangely advanced booby traps? So, obviously, writing fantasy demands a lot of research. But how far should the research go? When is the research too much?
The answer is, honestly, a complex one. A writer needs to do enough research in order to accomplish these goals: achieve a sense of verisimilitude, get any real world cultures right, and have a good basis for ideas. But, the writer must not allow him or herself to be bogged down by their research.
I guess a lot of the answer depends on what type of world one is constructing.
If Earth is the featured setting (either contemporary or historical), then a good amount of research is demanded. If the setting is 1450 Paris, do your freaking research. Most of your readers probably won’t be able to tell how accurate you are, but you can be sure that some of your readers will. And given our critical culture today, you’ll be called out on it. If your setting is contemporary Thailand (or near future Thailand), do your freaking research. Make damn sure you don’t butcher your subject. You will get caught, even if you win awards for it (The Windup Girl, anyone?).
When it comes to secondary worlds, the research can, I think, be looser. Perhaps all that is needed is to give the writer and reader a mutual grounding in the world of the text. This could be as simple as obsessing over food or other mundane details of everyday life that would have been a staple of the period of influence. Some writers barely do any research, and some writers can be described as lay scholars. The balance is up to the individual writer.
Readers, though, also bring whatever knowledge they have to the world of the text. One of the recurring themes of contemporary criticism of fantasy is how religion is incorporated into fictional worlds. Let us use the medieval period as an example. In the medieval period, religion was a central concern for practically all people. One could not escape religion. But a lot of fantasy worlds don’t have a similar attitude towards religion. So, what is going on? Remember religion is not as important today as it was centuries ago (by and large). Hell, religion may not even be a concern of the writer (while it is an obsession of specific readers). The same could be true of anything. I read an awesome article on fencing styles and how they could be used to greatly inform fantasy world building. But while it would be awesome, it is not necessary.
There is also the danger to making the influence so apparent as to become allegory. Take A Song of Ice and Fire as an example. Is the series just a retelling of The Wars of the Roses with some adjustments? No, but taking the research too far could lead to that conclusion (not that some readers don’t already make that conclusion).
Research is unavoidable when it comes to writing fantasy. It can be an act of such fun learning that one does not want to get to the actual writing of the story. And some can be so bogged down with so much research that they might as well write a history. In the end. it is up to the writer to decide a sufficient level of research.
I’m fickle. I go through periods of obsession that sputter out. I’ve written about this before. And I’m sure to write about it again. Right now, I’m going through a period of transition. For a about a year, I was obsessed with comic books after a period of deep manga obsession. But now, I’m growing less and less interested in comics.
This became obvious to me when I checked out Wonder Woman volume 2 from the library last week. I flipped through the book (of which I do have the last two issues that comprise it) and found myself completely uninterested in actually reading it. Compare that to my passion for Tsubasa and annoyance at the library for not getting the past few volumes of Fairy Tail.
Why am I so uninterested in comic books right now? What changed? I think the answers are pretty obvious.
For one thing, buying individual issues are expensive. And that is true of graphic novel collections that don’t add much besides the issues themselves. And the length of time it takes for graphic novel collections to be released are ridiculous when it comes to Marvel and DC.
I’m also getting tired of superheroes. All but a few of my comic book purchases were superhero books. And while many of them were quite good, I’m just tired of them.
And, to be honest, I wasn’t in love with the direction some of the stories were going in. This is especially true of Young Avengers. I had such high hopes for the series, but I am bitterly disappointed with the direction it has gone. Another series that saddens me is the direction the plot of Earth 2 is going. I loved that series deeply, but it just lost it along the way.
Heck, I’m not even following comics news as much as I used to. I just don’t care.
So, what is taking comic books’ place in my, admittedly, fickle heart? Manga. For all the passion I had for Earth 2, it pales in comparison to the passionate love and hate I have for Naruto. Nor does it compare to the love I have for Fairy Tail.
It is moments like this that I am most annoyed with myself. In my obsession with comics, I got rid of all my manga. Now I want my manga back. Arrgh.
Well, since I wrote about comics today, maybe I should have a manga post tomorrow?