a tokyo noir fairy tale

Hello, readers.

Here we are again, where we’ve always been.

Happy Halloween.

I’m reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. This is a book I’ve read before, and a book I will probably read again.

I read this book for the first time in Oxford, Mississippi, as part of a class on literature from the Pacific Rim. Possibly in the spring of 2008. Possibly in another season of a different year. At the end of the course, I wrote a paper about the novel called:

“A Tokyo Noir Fairy Tale History of War and Identity: Murakami’s Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and the Age of the Mashup”

Which is the sort of thing you call academic papers.

For some reason, if there’s not a colon, no one takes you seriously.

I presented this paper at a conference in Baton Rouge the year after I wrote it. So, someone liked it. Which is cool. I liked writing it. It was fun thinking about Murakami’s book in the context of The Long Goodbye, Sleeping Beauty, and A Stroke of Genius.

Here are some other things.

Thing one.

My Clarion class has just launched The Green Volume, our fourth in an ongoing series of yearly fundraising anthologies to raise money for the Clarion Foundation. I’ve contributed the first story I ever published. It’s called “Monsters and Virgins.” It was published in Fiction Weekly, which isn’t around anymore. This means the story’s no longer available online. So, if you want to read it, this is your one shot.

Here’s the press release:

The students from Clarion 2012 (a.k.a. ‘The Awkward Robots’) have brewed an eerily bubbling concoction of fiction for imbibing this Halloween! The Green Volume brings you stories of gnome-killing boy scouts, hologram-assisted self-interrogation, epic Norse monsters and the librarians who fight them, horrors both tentacled and branched, and more.

For fans of Sam Miller’s The Art of Starving (Junior Library Guild Selection, Kirkus Starred Review), there is exclusive interview content from the Storylogical Podcast and the short story Allosaurus Burgers, about Matt’s life before he learned the Art. For fans of Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough (the sequel to which, Armistice, drops March 28, 2018), there is a never-before-seen cut-scene from backstage at the Bee.

All proceeds (after hosting fees) going to The Clarion Foundation.

Go here to check it out.

I’ll write more about all of this later in the week, but I wanted to put it out there now. That way you have it.

Thing two.

Apparently, Quantum Leap creator Donald Bellisario has written a Quantum Leap film.

There’s nothing that says this will get made. But, it reminds me how so much of the iconography of Quantum Leap affected me as a kid. I loved that show. It taught me to fear windowless vans, devil women, and stepping foot into untested time travel machines.

Okay. I guess that’s not entirely true.

I was not unattracted to the devil woman.

Also. I’ve just realized how much Quantum Leap has in common with Doctor Who. Time traveling do-gooder. Inscrutable, but lovable, technology. A desire for home.

Thing three.

I loved Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s book, Harmless Like You.

I wrote her a fan letter after I finished it. It’s still in my notebook somewhere. I should probably send it to her. Who doesn’t love mail?

Here’s something else she wrote. It’s a short piece. And wonderful.

Happy demon-hunting, readers. Or whatever, you know, one does on Halloween. I don’t know. I’m in England. There’s a pumpkin impaled on the fence around the square. I don’t think that means what they think it means.

 

 

ttfn.

things of an almost preposterous nature

Hello, readers.

As often happens, it’s Friday. I haven’t done the math1, but almost every time you turn around. Bam. Friday. Put on your raincoats and dance. Or something. You know. Friday stuff.

Some things.

Thing one

I interviewed Carmen Maria Machado for Storyological.

Carmen is a wonder. And also a recent National Book Award finalist. I met her at Clarion. That thing I attended back in 2012, in San Diego, where also I met many other amazing people 2. The thing I remember about Carmen is that I love her. There are other things, I remember, but that’s the first thing that came to mind. Here are some of the other things I remember:

  1. We ate a lot of avodado and eggs. Or maybe we did that once.
  2. One morning, we drank coffee and talked about life in a way that made life seem like the scariest most awesome thing, but I don’t remember anything about what we said only the feeling of feeling connected to something that we were inventing or discovering about the way everything fit together.
  3. We collaborated on a story together about how to be a man. It was in the shape of a list. I remember at least two sex scenes, a single Twitter bio, and several hearts in peril. Part of our collaboration involved wandering off into the woods in search of a talking tree. I believe we settled for a mysterious assortment of furniture on which we sat and wrote about the aforementioned imperilled hearts.
  4. An LA Times reviewer described Carmen’s collection of stories, Her Body and Other Parties as an example of “almost preposterous talent.”
  5. Preposterous is probably one of my favorite words.
  6. But only when it is deployed in the spirit of love and wonder.
  7. In that spirit I would probably describe Carmen Maria Machado as an almost preposterously magical person.

Thing two

EG, partner in adventure and professional creative type, has gone and got herself long-listed in the Information is Beautiful Awards for this visualization of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

I have not read many of these books, but I will.

I am looking forward to spending time with Death most of all.

Oh. Also. Of note. EG did that illustration of Carmen in which BAM!.

Thing three

The seventh volume of Phantom Drift, in which one can find my story Maemi, has a cover and everything.

I wrote “Maemi” during the third week of Clarion in answer to Delia Sherman’s challenge that I do that thing people do sometimes which is to go and read a bunch of fairy tales and then select one with which to muck about.

I spent several days in the UCSD library, sitting at the window and reading many fairy tales. On the ledge outside my window, a crow would come, now and then, and sit and hop and look at me curiously. As much as I might have wished, the crow and I never said more than a few words to each other, and, most of the time, I was doing most of the talking.

The fairy tale I chose involved a little girl, and a lion, also a bird, and no small amount of magic or betrayal. It turned out this was “Beauty and the Beast.” It wasn’t called that in the book I read, and I didn’t recognize it, but when Delia told me that this was the true nature of the story I had chosen it made sense. At least, that is, the kind of sense one finds in fairy tales. Which is a sort of inscrutable sense that tricks you into understanding something altogether different and more important than whatever thing you set out to understand.

I combined this fairy tale with the story of a little girl in Korea who was sold by her father into sexual slavery during the second world war.

I lived in Seoul for two years and, while there, I taught English at an all-girls school. One weekend, during my second year, I went with a group of friends (some of whom were part of a group called Durebang), to the House of Sharing in Gyeonggi-do. We walked through a museum and an art gallery and, later, met several of the women who lived there and who are called, sometimes, “comfort women.” A large group of kids showed up, at one point. A school trip, I think. One of the old women, through some manner I never entirely understood, instigated a K-pop dance-off among the kids, the teachers, and some of the group that inclued me. Roly Poly3, I believe, was the song of choice. I’m pretty sure Roly Poly will always be, because of this, my favorite K-pop song. All of those kids and everyone dancing. And the old woman who danced for a bit and then sat, chuckling at the gorgeous mayhem she had created 4.

There are many books about that time in Korean history. I have read many of them. Two that I remember, in particular, both by Nora Okja Keller, are Comfort Woman and Fox Girl. Here are some others.

As it turned out, there were no lions in the story I ended up writing, but there is a bird, a heart in peril, and no small amount of magic or betrayal.

I added a bit of music, as well. It seemed the right thing to do at the time.

Happy Friday readers.
ttfn.

 

  1. Actually, I have done the math. Approximately 14.2857% of the time, it’s Friday.
  2. Including my partner in adventure, E.G. Cosh, who was recently longlisted in the Information is Beautiful Awards for her visualization of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. You will read about this in a moment in thing two. 
  3. This is the video of Roly Poly. The long version. If you are only interested in the music, I would suggest skipping to the four minute mark or so. And then again to the eight minute mark. I have the whole thing on in the background right now. It later became a musical. Because that’s how things work in Korea.
  4. Some of all of this came back with me to Seoul. And I talked about it with my students, one day, in an after school class in which there were only maybe eight of us. I talked about what they knew about that part of Korean history. I talked with them about how it felt that week in school, seeing every classroom full of girls the same age as those taken during the war. It was a fairly advanced conversation class that day.