I didn’t realise how large Anime was but gradually, through outlets like Crunchyroll I have been educated, and gradually I have developed a taste for it. Anime originated in Japan and what first drew me was was its use of scenery, bringing the world to light in stunning ways; then I fell for the characters and the drama. Japanese Anime is more than Studio Ghibli,
there are all kinds of shows on Crunchyroll: Fantasy, Romance, Sci-fi, Horror…
If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord
Those I have seen focus on MMORPGs – MMORPGs are online role playing games where players from all over the world interact and play in the same game world, one in which they slay monsters, loot treasure, go on quests and raids and in general hang around with their online buddies, even adventure solo.
The pull of such online adventures is new sights, new sounds, new experiences new rewards – all as ‘toons. ‘Toons: realistic looking but ultimately cartoon personifications. Those who follow this kind of media will know that Anime is largely derived from Manga which in turn has roots in the Japanese Light Novel. A Japanese Light Novel is printed in A6 format and might have around 300 pages.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? II
In Door Witch (which is my current work in progress) I am reversing all that. Sivitiya is a door witch who gets sucked into the real world. She doesn’t think of herself as a ‘toon – her job is real – guarding the property of Akalito. She isn’t powerless and can wield magic to some effect in the game world, but will that power carry over into the real Earth? Also, her world is a pastoral paradise… for wayfarers and heroes. It isn’t built up and has no cities, travel, technology, fast food, business, shows, transport, libraries… and certainly no masses of people. These are all things she has yet to witness and discover.
Door Witch is a Western reflection on the Eastern anime-manga-light novel phenomenon. It will be realistic but there will also be magic, quests and skulduggery. In short Anime with a make-over to make it plausible. It is a fantasy romance — real world crossover.
Current state of play:
Draft 2/3 complete Wordcount: 20,000 Point of view: First person narrative alternating male and female Genre info: Adventure + realism + magic + moderate violence Age range: 16 + Book cover: Looking an for artist to do Anime style illustration. ETA: Early 2020
A quick catch up. Work pulls me away of the social media world – no bad thing given the number of projects I have on the go. Currently I’m on with a couple of MMORPG influenced stories. These are:
At The Haunt This story was written with Halloween in mind as Davy Dipskit, newbie Knight (level 1) goes on a Halloween themed blind date to The Haunt – the place where the vampires, werewolves and zombies all hang out. His date: Epheramie of the Dercevii (the headless people). It’s all on MMORPG: Darkness Falls, so Ephermie must surely be an NPC. So take it away Davy and Ephme!!
Door Witch Akalito is a Magister of the 7th level on MMORPG: Earth Myth. He has had his house built in the wilds of Eald Widu… you do stuff like that to stop newbie Raids. It is called House Batezz. When he logs, Akalito returns to a life of bills, credit card debt and a zero-hour job. Yep, Earth Myth makes the the real life of Alan Bates worth living… just about. Then Sivitya bursts into his life – literally. So who’s Sivitiya? She’s the Door Witch hired to defend House Batezz when he’s not there. Just an NPC… everyone hires them. Except in defending House Batezz from a high level monster, she is unexpectedly propelled into the real world. Akalito’s problems are just beginning. For a start, in the real world he’s just plain and simple Alan Bates – few skills, no powers and only a tatty bedsit. His credit cards are nearly maxed out and his Door Witch, Sivitya, has just burst into his life. Or has she? Could this just be a con by other players to wind him up? My artist, Slothmeister, is hard at work generating appropriate Anime style illustrations, when her day job permits. One cannot live on art alone.
Theme / genre: MMORPG / hero / romance Age range: Teen and older. Due out: 2020
I’m still working on Men for the Stars. This is a re-take on how we get to the stars. As a fan and reader of SF, many years ago, I always wanted more narrative on how we got from here (planet Earth) to out there (managing an interstellar civilisation). Men for the Stars dwells on the here and now: the Ogallala aquifer, reflections on the lot of the American Indian, the Mexican Wall, an independent London, and links these to a near future in which the Earth is contacted by aliens. It’s a personal project. I enjoy the process of working a story through to give it those little touches of authenticity. The hero in this case is an accidental hero: Johnny Burco. Name ring familiar? Well we take our influences from anywhere no matter how obscure. Still a long way to go on this – currently detailing the impact of a riot following a bad tempered football (soccer) derby fixture between Watford and Luton.
ETA: sometime after Door Witch is complete.
Lancashire Authors have invited me to do a podcast. I will put the link up once it is done. Lancashire Authors are supportive of local dialect and they are also supportive of the very many gifted writers (present and past) so sadly ignored by London based literatii, and media. Hang your head in shame The Guardian for being ‘Captured by the Bubble’ – you lot dally with the enthusiams of the capital while normal people are once again ignored – that’s how it is.
Work things: we authors cannot survive on the meagre pickings of the traditional publisher route and the self-publishing model is very heavily gamed (Amazon, hang your head in shame) so the rent must be paid for by a day job. That’s how it is. For those with an interest in the business of finance, I’ve currently set up an Asset Validation project, I’ve a couple of papers to deliver on IFRS 9 (Financial Instruments) and IFRS 15 (Revenue from Contracts with Customers) plus I’m well-stuck into the gubbins (tech term for innards!) of analysis and reporting of Provisions. When I go home at night I rub my hands in glee and declare “This is what I was made for!” Seriously this kind of stuff means finding the correct location for the required pov….. say somewhere beyond the Rings of Saturn. Okay, ha-ha1 Just testing to see whether anyone was left awake. 🙂
The series is set in the land of Laband which is settled by humans and demi-humans. Adjacent to Laband are lands such as Vassilios – ruled by the First Demon Lord and settled by demons (sometimes they are called devils)… then there’s the Third Demon Lord who is Demon Lord of the Sea. Demons differ from humans by being much better in magic. Magical beings / beasts can be dangerous to humans which is where adventurers come in.
Dale very quickly learns Latina is demon born but, taken in by her innocent helplessness, he quickly moves from being rescuer to becoming her guardian.
Dale is based in the city of Kreuz and so they head there to
his lodgings at the inn, the Dancing Tabby Cat. In between excursions into how
inn-life functions, Latina gets to grip with how human society works. The
Dancing Tabby Cat is frequented by adventurers. Latina may seem too innocent to
some but in remembering my youth, her lack of guile and the reactions of those
about her feels right. Her disposition is endearing and the reaction of the
adventurers to her rings true.
As the series progresses, hints are dropped that suggest a
larger (and darker) story – we discover more of Dale’s background but despite
some clues, Latina remains a mystery.. Just as there is conflict between humans
and demons, there is internecine human conflict. It is plain to me that aspects
of the larger story arc must revolve around this. The keen eyed will pick up
the hints but I won’t spoil this for those who haven’t watched. Having watched
up to episode 10 I am left in no doubt that the story tellers will not flinch
if future episodes call for darker deeds to be portrayed and the later episodes
leave no doubt of the ability to carry this off.
Most anime suffers from ‘next episode we must have a bigger and better disaster’ syndrome, this show isn’t one. It strays from familiar MMORPG gamer territory into ‘Hey this has a realistic feel’ and ‘Heroes with a human side… actually I like it’. Will suit those who prefer a softer, more human side to adventuring and its heroes.
Glitches: the translation could be tightened up e.g. Demon appears to be interchangeable with Devil. Episode titles could be snappier as there is a preponderance of ‘The Little Girl’ and ‘The Young Man’. This appears to be a stylistic trait but these are largely superfluous after the opening episode.
Rating: Worth watching – you may even need a handkerchief!
Availability: Crunchyroll – a subscription anime streaming service.
Language Japanese, English sub-titles
Originally published: as a Japanese Light Novel series,written by Chirolu and illustrations by Truffle + Kei. Available in English by J-Novel Club
Just to mention that today, 3rd July 2019 is the 136th anniversary for one of my favourite writers: Franz Kafka who was born in 1883, into a middle-class family in Prague – then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
By background he was a German speaking, Bohemian Jew. He had a troubled relationship with his Jewish side which fluctuated between fascination and alienation, and he would often contrast the Jews of Eastern Europe with those in the West. Although self-conscious, he went on to form numerous short term and sometimes intense relationships with women he met. These would sometimes provoke a productive period of writing from him. He never married. Kafka blended realism and telling characterisations of the state with the fantastic. Most of his work was in German. Few of his works were published in his lifetime.
He died in 1924 from tuberculosis. He left his unpublished works to his friend and literary executor, Max Brod with instructions for them to be burned. Most were unfinished and their narratives were disorganised so Brod began the process of preparing them for publication. Gradually they began to attract attention. His works dealt with alienation and persecution. The term Kafkaesque (reminiscent of oppressive and nightmarish qualities of Kafka’s works) has entered the English language. Not all Kafka’s papers have been published and they continue to be the subject of an ongoing legal wrangle.
Particularly liked: The Trial (Der Prozess)
Kafka offers important weapons to the armoury of the speculative fiction writer
Story setting is important in fiction however some things can be taken for granted depending on the genre e.g. Regency fiction is deemed to be set in Great Britain with the customs and manners that surrounded the period 1811 – 1820 when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, was instated as his proxy as Prince Regent… it is a ready-made time and place into which authors can populate their stories. In Fantasy peoples, nations and histories have to be built from the ground up. This is world building. I’ve created several fantasy worlds. Before I talk about then I’m going to look at the worlds built by fantasy greats: JRR Tolkien, Andre Norton, Robert E Howard and Jack Vance.
The grand-daddy of them all is Tolkien. His masterful generation of new English Myth is gentle, sweeping and definitive in the genre, full of hidden surprises – no one who’d read LOTR (Lord of the Rings) expected that origin of the orcs until the hints, once the Silmarillion was published made it plain, erudite, and was imbued with gravitas (not twee – stand up all you imitators who aimed for ‘twee’). Middle Earth could be overlaid on our Earth. If this was done there were easy connections. First though you have to step back in time to an Earth of the Middle Ages when the main bastion of the West was Byzantium, which equates to Minas Tirith defending the lands of Arnor and Gondor from the multitudes to the south (the Haradrim) and the Easterlings of Rhûn. So let’s do this.
Minas Tirith becomes Byzantium, and just as the land of Gondor was west of Minas Tirith, so the hinterland of Byzantium – Greece, Thracia and other holdings such as Sicily were to the west of Byzantium.
Rhovanion becomes Kievan ‘Rus (which later grew into Russia)
Rhûn with its Easterlings become the Central Asian steppes and the nomads
Haradwaith, which used to be part of Gondor, and its sea lords, becomes the former provinces of Rome in Asia – Syria and Mesopotamia which under Islamic rule make the Mediterranean into a Muslim lake.
Tolkien denied his work was a reflection of recent events (two world wars), but would he disassociate his work from my map-based comparison? As a student of civilisation and the maps that go with it, such speculation has long been second nature to me. He was a great map maker; indeed he used those maps to plan out Sam and Frodo’s journey, which is how we come to have such detailed geography of his literary genius. And his elves were brilliant game changers; like Sam Gamgee, I wished I could meet them.
Fantasy as we know it was changed forever by Tolkien. He breathed life back into a genre that had lost its way. That isn’t to say there were no other decent fantasy writers when LOTR came out. Jack Vance’s Dying Earth (published in 1950 which was before LOTR) depicted a far future Earth where the beings, powerful artefacts and landscape were clearly delineated. Jack Vance was economical with words but he mapped out a world that hung together well. Then there’s Robert E Howard’s Conan, a savage hero in a sorcerous world that, more so than Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Howard’s Hyborian Age maps well onto Europe and he made it plain that this was intentional. His Conan lives in a time before the nomad hordes of the east (Hyrkanians) crushes civilisation.
Let’s skip to post-Tolkien. So: the world has changed. Ace Books has tried to rip off Tolkien’s work and failed (and eventually pays the price for sharp business practise). But there’s new life in Fantasy as Andre Norton begins her depiction of Witch World and the High Hallack. Her first six works came in the 1960s, telling the tale of Simon Tregarth, his witch trained wife, Jaelithe and the adventures of their three offspring in the lands of Escore and Estcarp. Also in this f is the first of many tales of the High Hallack.
Andre Norton’s Witch World
Witch World is pre-industrial revolution, but it does not map onto our Earth. It is old and so is its magic. In its past, the witches of Estcarp cast a spell that twisted and rove the mountains to seal off Estcore from lands to the east known as Estcarp. In Estcore, magic can only be cast by the witch-trained and only by women who haven’t been with a man. This restriction doesn’t apply in Escarp whose adepts create gates into other places at whim. Estcarp is full of powerful magic wielders and dangerous , often magical, monsters. The High Hallack lies west across the ocean from Estcarp. Its dales have recently come to be settled by men, but in the past, it used to belong to peoples who, some of whom had sorcerous powers or could shape-shift. There are traces of the former inhabitants all over the dales; places of power as well as their artifacts. These people retreated north to Arvon, however their were-folk and shape-shifters drifted west into the Waste. The High Hallack lies west across the ocean from Estcarp. Its dales have recently come to be settled by men, but in the past, it used to belong to peoples who, some of whom had sorcerous powers or could shape-shift. There are traces of the former inhabitants all over the dales; places of power as well as their artifacts. These people retreated north to Arvon, however their were-folk and shape-shifters drifted west into the Waste.
Andre Norton was the by-line of Alice Mary Norton and she went on to write many books in her Witch World series. Her stories feature respect for the old ways and coming of age, and they resonate; yet her work went under the critical radar. She was of American Indian blood and had a love of cats.
Fantasy Worlds I’ve Created
When I write Fantasy I start with a status quo that is about to be disturbed. The hero or heroine rarely knows what their actions will lead to. Each setting is different and these are the themes:
Imagine a world in which the collateral damage due to the wars between elementals is so destructive it threatens to destroy all life on Earth. This is the setting for the Turning Stone. Thousands of years ago, long before that start of human civilisation, there was war between the beings of fire and the lava elementals. The conflict affected all: old myths, new myths, star-seekers and of course the humans.
Mercenary for Hire
Title: Brant Status: incomplete
Imagine a fantasy world where the hero doesn’t believe in magic. Magic has retreated from human lands but is never far away, especially in the darker corners of the world. This is the world of the Northland Steppes where the armies of the Khaif have forged a mighty empire and where there’s plenty of work for mercenaries. From the banks of the West Caulderin in the far west, comes Brant. He’s still new to the game of mercenaries for hire but knows the best odds of staying alive are in joining a reputable mercenary company. If he knew anything about guarding runaway princesses, that would come near the bottom of the list – the only likely pay being an unmarked grave. The town of Orby in Brychon Woods is under threat by mercenaries with Princess Aralie (who is hiding there) as prize. Unconcerned by these affairs of state, Brant walks the forest trail that leads to Orby. Not far from Orby, Ysarie, a very powerful (and beautiful) magical being makes plans to snare the next unwary adventurer. This is a world of soul-bleeds, night-frights, muut-inimes (floating people), and the magical mirror realm of Turalam.
The Gates to Faerie
Title: Blue Belle Status: complete but not yet published
Far to the west of the Northland Steppes lies Angelynn, capital city of a realm with many parallels to medieval Britain. In that realm lies Pleasant Wood. It marks one of the ways into faerie and so it is well guarded by wood nymphs; all ways to the lands of faerie are guarded by the fae. The fae live in harmony with nature so there can be no increase in population. Eventually one of the wood nymphs decides to sample the delights of man. her actions have repercussion for the nearby village of Tranby which has its own secrets that tie it to other guardians of Faerie: the Seneschal of Light and the Seneschal of Night. Meanwhile, the Augeruch, who rules men from the city of Angelynn decides on a foreign war, with unexpected consequences to Tranby and Pleasant Wood.
Title: Erisse of the Illyany Status: incomplete
Imagine a world of dark fantasy set in the present day. A New Silk Road is being built to bring prosperity to the ancient cities of the Old Silk Road. Construction work means disturbing archaeological sites. When it does, the experts are called in. Nearby Urumqi is a melting pot of humanity where East meets West, and there is where an American contractor meets a girl with a strange past. She is one of the Illyany, a people who have kept their connection with the dark world, where death and life are terrifyingly merged.
Quests and Seekers
Title: A Sending Status: Incomplete
Quests are the currency of heroes. A quest can be to steal or loot (Conan), to rescue (many of Andre Norton’s works), or to lose a ring (Frodo). Imagine a world driven by quests. Deep in the lost realm of Harether, in the tundra’d forests where icy winds blow most of the year round, are two sentient sparks. Ting and Ming. A party of Seekers approaches them. The Seekers are headed by Beau Wanderlode. He used to be of the Ghovarian Guard from the county of Ghouv’d which lies in the princely state of Tokui. Of late, Tokuish has been overrun by the Rosekhi and its heroes have been banished. This is a world of Seekers and it is uber-quest driven. Beau Wanderlode was a hero but when his homeland of Tokui was conquered he was bound by an unbreakable geas and sent on a quest to wild and uninhabited lands. Though he doesn’t know what he seeks, he cannot turn away and so can’t, for example, foment rebellion. He is a Seeker. All the warriors and heroes he once knew have, like Beau Wanderlode, become Seekers. Ting and Ming are both magical and capricious. They have scoured their forest haunt for miles around and cleared it of all animals and birds.
Note: this blog post was produced using the new WordPress Gutenberg block editor. It’s not clear to me yet how to make this work better on mobile for which my apologies.
Nothing can prepare you for the intricacies and myths propounded on this subject (many by people that should know a lot better). What is needed is imaginative thinking that directs the trivial into productive channels while simultaneously dealing with the impasse felt in Westminster.
There have been so many Remain options that didn’t pass in Parliament so, this being the cae, there should be a multiple choice Remain referendum – the leading Remain option should then be thoroughly debated and a commission of Guardian think-tankometers should examine the issue in great detail -and as this is a matter of the greatest urgency to some, the deliberations should be held away from the public eye, so that the results can be stored in a suitably nondescript location, say the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet for the Lets Revive Old Sarum campaign. Biennial updates on the condition of the cabinet could be issued regularly
While this goes on a decent exit should be arranged so that we can get on with our lives.
Window Lights (Horror Fiction)
Okay, I’m not gonna’ talk Brexit no more (on here anyway). So leaving aside my gentle skit, I have recently completed a short story: Window Lights. This is a genre area I rarely visit, Horror. It concerns an inquisitive young man who, at the time this piece is set, would have been termed a Nosy Parker. The first Nosey Parker was held to be Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury (1559-75). He had a reputation for prying into the affairs of others. Window Lights is set somewhat more recently, during the mid-twentieth century. Anyway the young man in my story pries into the affairs of vampires and fairies and in doing so, makes an unpleasant discovery.
Once I have exposed this piece to my critics (i.e. my ‘Alpha Checkers’ – by reading it out to them) I will return to my story about a near future containing a Mexican Wall, a US in which the giant Ogallala aquifer has run dry and a London that declares independence. Oh and aliens.
I’ve always been a great admirer of the institution of news and in this spirit, here’s my take on the events of this day, 26/06/19.
Columnist @Sarahditum asks why writers are still sniffy about SF. As an SF writer, I think there’s plenty wrong with the genre. All she needs to do is dip into the largest source of SF sales, Amazon’s Kindle.
These green targets waved through by MPs will make the cost of no deal look like small change.
British politicians are posturing on the basis of hairshirt economics at home which will have negligible impact on the main polluters. China will leap into gaps left by local enterprise. This aside, a hypothesis that, regardless of levels of public belief, is more a boutique of agendas than science, needs to step up from the shadow of manipulating data sets.
Labour can’t afford to lose its working-class heartlands by backing remain (Jon Cruddas)
Except they already have – long before there was a remain. This observation is a long, long time after the event. Message to Labour revel in the trappings of power and lose your connection with the people.
Also on this day
In 1243 AD, the Mongols achieved a decisive victory over the Sultanate of Rum, a state ruled by Seljuk Turks in the Battle of Köse Dağ. The Mongols were nomads as were the Seljuk Turks. The Mongol objective was twofold: loot and dominion over all nomads. They hunted down any nomads who refused to pay allegiance to the Mongol Empire.
And in 1907, The Tiflis Bank Robbery took place and around 40 people were killed in the attack (which is now in present day Georgia). This triggered a chain of events that split the Bolsheviks from the Mensheviks, and propelled adherents of Communism into a position where they could rape, murder and pillage lands and people across an entire continent. They duly did.
Looking back is easy. All you need is wisdom after the event and a message (or agenda). I’d place the starting point for New Wave SF as the writer’s workshop set up by Judith Merril, Damon Knight and James Blish; the workshop offered helpful feedback so that SF authors could improve their craft. It mutated and by the time I began reading the genre, it was unrecognisable. Where did I pick up on this? In the mid 1970’s. I’ll start with my favourite bête noir: The New SF.
The New SF
When I first read The New SF I took a gamble on the blurb ‘a totally new literature, a Space Age fiction’. There were no rocketships or aliens on the cover, just text. But I read it and I was frustrated – not at being short changed but at the arrogance and conceit that delivered the work. Its message was: you’re reading clap-trap and what you should read is this. That might have won plaudits from some in the Arts Council of England, but the reality was great effort had been put into delivering a poor reading experience. Yes, at the time this kind of work was immensely frustrating. This work epitomised the attempt by a few in the UK to rail at the poor quality of SF pouring out of the US with all its mechanical SF plots and wooden SF characterisation.
As an aside this was a logical outcome of Hugo Gernsback’s philosophy of sell it cheap, don’t pay royalties, drive the market down. Thus was SF kept in the literary ghetto that New Wave SF railed against. Gernsback went on to have fan awards named after him.
Though I rarely found New Wave Science Fiction an entertaining read, I accepted the view that much could be better. It’s now fifty years on; there’s been plenty of time to reflect on what was achieved and what went wrong. Brian Aldiss’s forays into this area The Eighty Minute Hour, Frankenstein Unbound, Barefoot in the Head… were unexceptional. Michael Moorcock preached New Wave but resorted to writing planetary fantasy pot-boilers to pay the bills – his Jerry Cornelius might have sated Arts Council backers but never moved beyond a Moorcock potpourri. Harlan Ellison, editor of Dangerous Visions, was a fellow traveller who seemed more intent of courting controversy than quality.
Using its own tools I’d call New Wave SF a failure. It was a dream of betterment that produced unedifying works. A key outcome of the movement was was to keep the genre on the fringes – how could publishers make money from bad art? It distracted publisher interest from good art. There has been no follow on author to Robert Heinlein who was head and shoulders above others in genre.
He was successful because he had a deal, he delivered and his work sold. The New Wave SF camp often sniped at Heinlein (Aldiss in Billion Year Spree stands out) and in doing so muddied the path of succession. His experience might have helped others take the first step on the path – many in New Wave SF turned their noses up at what worked.
Key players producing better quality and more challenging fiction were already there such as Philip K Dick and Ursula K LeGuin. With the benefit of hindsight, New Wave SF was a distraction. Having made a successful transition into paperback in the 1950s, the genre was ready to grow. Instead the premier UK SF magazine, New Worlds, was destroyed as part of a financially unviable art project (courtesy of Michael Moorcock and his mates). They should have known better. You can’t go back and deliver a sharp literary cuff about the ears but at least the record can be set straight.
So, who will follow in Heinlein’s footsteps? I’m still waiting for an answer. In part this explains why I write.
This post forms part of a series looking at the state of SF: