natalia, christine, katya, starbride, andy, and miku

Quite a few things today.

1) Natalia Sylvester has a book deal! Whoo hoo!

2) Christine Zilka over at 80,000 Words wrote a post called, "Fiction: writing characters of another race." The post and the comments are very interesting.

Here is an expanded version of my comment:

I try to be aware of what my limitations are (which changes over time, of course). For example, I’m very comfortable writing female characters in third person limited, but I’m not sure I could do it in first person. So, I don’t. 🙂

I generally write about a world where race doesn’t matter, and in a lot of cases I don’t reveal characters’ race right away, and sometimes I don't mention it at all (I’m pushing very gently against the fact that many readers assume all characters are white and straight unless clearly specified otherwise). I wrote about that here.

Oh, and I agree completely about Tropic Thunder. I thought that was a very sharp satire on this specific question. (In movies, the opposite point of view is represented by Kill Bill, Vol. 1, which is basically an argument that you can master another culture and race if you work at it hard enough.)

3. I thought about this also when reading a book called The Pyramid Waltz by Barbara Ann Wright. I saw a post of hers where she talked about suddenly having these two characters and knowing she had to tell their story. I like that. I like stories that demand to be told.

It's an interesting book (I'm still reading it). It's a fantasy (kings, queens, magic, swords, etc.) and it's a lesbian love story. I'm not done reading it, but even so far there is one thing about it which is very striking.

Princess Katya meets a foreign courtier named Starbride and they fall in love (quickly, but not instantly). Katya has a history of sleeping with female courtiers, but this is more serious, and she starts to think about making it formal.

And apparently it would be fine for them to get married. Katya is royalty, of course, so there are steps to follow. Starbride would start as a "princess consort," before eventually becoming Katya's wife.

There is never a mention of opposition (at least on the basis of them both being female – there is plenty of opposition of various kinds, but it's all politics and hurt feelings and court intrigue so on, nothing to do with their gender). There's even one brief mention that this means they won't have children, but nothing much has been made of that so far (most remarkable, given the usual imperative of continuing the royal blood line).

As I say, I'm not finished yet, but so far it's been a bit like waiting for the other shoe to drop, and gradually realizing that the other shoe may actually never drop at all.

One of the great things about fiction, as I mentioned above, is that you can let your mind wander and imagine a world very different from our own, in both obvious and subtle ways.

4) I'm very much looking forward to seeing the movie Cloud Atlas. It sounds interesting and challenging and, as I said above, like it was a movie that the directors really felt impelled to make. Which is not how most Hollywood movies get made. And it sounds like, even though it is very highly regarded, the three directors were completely willing to take the book apart and put it back together differently in order to get a good movie out of it.

I'll report back when I've seen it.

However, it's also generating some controversy about the number of non-Asian actors playing Asian parts.

As I say, I haven't seen the movie yet, and its certainly possible that it will be bad on this question but good otherwise and in general (like, for example, Firefly, which showed a future world where society was dominated by the remnants of the U.S. and China, but where there were never any Chinese actors or characters – so it became pretty much just an excuse for the non-Asian characters to curse in Chinese from time to time).

The piece I link to includes responses from two of the directors, but the one that caught my attention was from Andy Wachowski, who said (in part), "The intention is to talk about things that are beyond race. The character of this film is humanity, so if you look at our past work and consider what our intention might be, we ask that those people give us a chance and at least see the movie before they start casting judgement."

As I indicated above, I think its fine to go "beyond race" in fiction, to stretch your mind in any direction and see where you can end up, but one part of his comment struck me as possibly ingenuous: " if you look at our past work and consider what our intention might be..."

Past work? I think he's getting at a more general point, but I do have to note that the Matrix films (as far as I can remember) have very few Asian characters or actors (is the Keymaker the only one?), and Speed Racer was based on a Japanese manga but all the characters and actors in the movie were white.

So, the point might have been stronger if he'd left out the part about "our past work." 🙂

5) On a somewhat different subject, I saw an interesting article in Wired called, "How Virtual Pop Star Hatsune Miku Blew Up in Japan." It's about how Hatsune Miku is a huge pop star in Japan despite not actually being a human being, and (even more interestingly) how so much of her creativity – songs, ideas, etc. – comes from her fans (crowdsourced, as people say these days).


I'm sure there are musicians who would be okay with this as long as it remained a "virtual" development, happening on various types of screens, but who would be horrified when they discovered that Miku does live concerts, with a real backing band. I've known people who would consider this one of the signs of the apocalypse.

Me, I think it's great. As they say in Planetary, "It's a strange world, let's keep it that way." (For example: "A few fans saw a homemade Miku music video in which she plays a fictitious instrument, a kind of keytar with a touchscreen interface. They took a screen capture, blueprinted the thing, and built it. Now it’s a real instrument.")

So, I guess I'll leave you with a song from Miku.

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