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: "...so 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).

Well.

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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6 Responses to natalia, christine, katya, starbride, andy, and miku

  1. Tiyana says:

    Oh, Tropic Thunder… That movie was ridiculously funny. 😀

    On Cloud Atlas, I’m also looking forward to that one–just because it looks interesting. Do I expect to be superbly amazing? Not really. Though, it does look pretty ambitious.

    Like with all these movies that get so much hype, I just hope the ending doesn’t disappoint because the journey of the story itself seems like it’ll be pretty exciting.

    Also, I guess I’ve never really been one to get caught up on non-such-n-such-type characters playing actual-such-n-such-type characters–in this case whites playing Asians. Though, it really depends on the actors playing these roles. I can understand that if the director had specific persons in mind for certain roles because of their unique talents that they would then opt for the “makeup magic” option. However, if that actor doesn’t deliver in their performance then it would probably rub me the wrong way that they’re trying to portray someone of a certain ethnicity that they’re clearly not.

    Sometimes, though (and I can’t say whether this is the case with Cloud Atlas yet), having characters of various ethnicities or races is more about being varied than trying to strike a resonant chord with the Asians or the whites, if you know what I mean. It can be more of an aesthetic or artistic decision rather than one made with the hopes of creating a sense of realistic authenticity.

    Yeah…I hope that made sense, lol. 🙂

  2. There are certainly examples of this being done badly (Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffanys, John Wayne in that movie where he played Genghis Kahn), but in general I agree that you have to give it the benefit of the doubt and take it case by case.

    White men have played Othello effectively, and women have played Hamlet and Prospero. Alicia Masters was always white and blonde in the Fantastic Four comics and in the movies she was played by Kerry Washington (who lobbied for the part). And Nick Fury (originally a white man) became Samuel Jackson by a fairly complicated route. And Heimdall, the Norse god, was usually portrayed as white until the Thor movie.

  3. Barbaraannwright says:

    I figured it out! Thanks for the mention. I hope to continue to surprise people.

  4. Barbara:
    Glad you figured out the registation thing. I’m also glad that I read you’re writing a sequel. I’ve been dawdling about finishing the book because I didn’t want to say goodbye to Katya and Star.

  5. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Cloud Atlas. Have you read the book? I had a really complicated relationship with it–and ended up loving it. But I brought it (in tiny flipback form, with super tiny print) to a writing retreat and ended up in the middle section where language has degenerated while I was trying to make progress on my novel, and I was somewhat infuriated for a good number of pages. I usually react emotionally to characters in books, but with Cloud Atlas I reacted emotionally to the structure. It challenged me and frustrated me and ultimately rewarded me beyond what I imagined when I started reading.

    Had I read reviews or known more about how the book was structured, I would have taken all that for granted and had a different reading experience. It’s really a brilliant piece of work, and it was fun (in retrospect) to travel through the pages with no clue about where we were going or why. I won’t say more for fear of giving something away to someone who hasn’t read it.

  6. I didn’t manage to see Cloud Atlas (the hurricane sort of derailed movie-going for a while there). I guess I’ll see it on DVD.

    Very interesting point about reacting emotionally to structure. I’ve had that with movies (Pulp Fiction and Go being obvious examples) and sometimes with books (The Alexandria Quartet).

    And thanks for avoiding spoilers. 🙂

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