IWSG – Stalled Out (+ An Idea Up For Adoption)

Published September 5, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Lately, I  just don’t seem able to write.  Not much, anyway, especially not at a single sitting.  My blogging has almost stopped entirely (I seem to be averaging about 2 posts a month on this blog, and about 1 every other month on my other blog), and my regular writing has really stalled, too.

Part of that is due to the re-write in progress, I think.  I believe I said last time that I was currently re-writing last year’s NaNo novel (and had been for both this year’s Camp sessions) and that for the current attempt I’ve completely replaced one of the characters, which has necessitated massive shifts in story.  Some of the scenes are barely altered (largely because he’s not in them), some are still similar enough that they’re easy to deal with, and then you get to the sequence I’m currently in, where there’s more that’s 100% new than there is that’s been kept.  And I don’t mean how much text and I can copy-and-paste from the old draft.  I mean the entire situation of why they’re in town, what they’re doing there and how they’re going to get to the island off the coast has nothing in common with the original version.  Once they get to the island, things won’t be as different, but…they have to get there first.  Today (er, yesterday) all I did was look over what I’d written the last time I worked on it (some two or three days previous) and ended up doing nothing, because I just wasn’t feeling it.

I feel like that’s a big problem with this draft, is that while some scenes I’m really into (mostly the ones with the two male leads interacting and developing the possibility of the relationship I originally intended them to have before I started the initial draft) and then there’s scenes like this one that feel like a chore to write (mostly, these are purely story scenes that don’t develop their relationship, even though they do tend to develop their characters).  I think if I was going back to my fanfic, I probably wouldn’t be in this slump, but I don’t want to stop halfway through this kind of re-write, because I feel like if I did, I’d never finish it.

*sigh*

It’s very frustrating, because I feel like there are a lot of wrong answers about what I need to do right now, and no right answers.

Another thing that’s bugging me is the world-building.  Specifically, the world’s religions.  I’ve based each culture loosely on a real world culture, and I’ve tended to have the characters just toss off mentions — generally in the form of oaths — to their gods, pretty much on the assumption that they’re identical to their Earth counterparts.  (To the extent that some of them don’t even have their own names yet, and just get [Athene] or [Aten] or whatever for now.)  I’m thinking of using this November’s NaNo to write up the mythology of their world, so I can have them more organically reference their myths and stuff.  Since I’m planning on releasing the final book (for free via LeanPub) when the re-writes are finally done, I could just release the myths as well, either before, after or simultaneously.  I haven’t at all started planning it yet, aside from trying to decide some of the details of what kind of myths I want to write (cosmogonies and theogonies, first off, then stories of the gods and major heroic tales for the cultures of the three leads), but I feel like it’s probably a good idea.  I hope.

The idea is that what I’ll be writing will be a book from that world, specifically a book on world mythology.  I’ve already set up a character in the novel who’s a professor studying mythology, so I can have him be the “author,” and that way I don’t have to worry about setting up extremely different voices for the myths from the different cultures, because they’re all being re-told by the same author.

Given the way my writing seems to go, the myths will probably make better reading than the novel.

*sigh*

Aaaaaaanyway, it’s not that I’m running out of ideas.  It’s just that almost none of my ideas are about how to approach this rewrite.

However!  I had a great idea the other day (at least, I think it’s a great idea) for a movie musical, and I wanted to share it, on the off chance that someone might read this who happens to be (or know) a screenwriter.

The movie would be a musical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.  Now, it’s been a very long time since I read the novel, but I seem to recall that Big Brother never showed up (in fact, the way I remember it going, I’m not sure he even existed) and I’d want that to stay the case in the movie adaptation…but he’d still get a theme song.  The way I envision it, the Big Brother posters would feature an artist’s rendition of Sting at whatever age seems appropriate for Big Brother (I’m picturing him the way he looked in the mid-’90s, but that might not be old enough), and the theme song would, of course, be “Every Breath You Take.”  Possibly with new lyrics that removed the lines that make some people mistake it for a love song.

I can honestly say that I think Sting would sign on.  (Of course, I don’t actually know much (or anything) about the man aside from his lyrics (mostly from the ’70s-’80s) and a couple of quotes I’ve seen.  But those lyrics lead me to believe he would be receptive to the idea.)

So, if anyone reading this happens to work in the movie industry (or know Sting), please think about this idea seriously!  I think that if the movie hewed as closely to the book as possible (using actual novel text for the lyrics of the new songs, etc) it could be quite something.  I give you this idea freely, and I want neither compensation nor credit should it be made.  I totally want to see it if done right, though.

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IWSG – Wednesday snuck up on me!

Published August 1, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Not used to the first being a Wednesday!  *cough*

*ahem*

So, this month’s suggested question is about the journey to publication, and I detoured off that road years ago, so I have nothing to say about it, and will instead talk about how July CampNaNo went for me.

It was a very up-and-down kind of thing, honestly.  As I said last time, I had a draft with an alpha reader, and I couldn’t really address any big issues until I heard back from him to get an outside perspective on those big issues.  (It’s very annoying:  I could tell there were problems, and that they basically had to do with the structure and one of my three leads, but I couldn’t figure out what the actual problems were.  Too close to it, y’know?)

So until I got that feedback, it was mostly just me reading over it to see if anything leapt out at me as wrong, and adding a few scenes I knew needed to be there.  (Like a scene that actually contained the series’ big bad…)

And then I actually heard back from him.

Wow.  I mean, it’s amazing just how many blinders I had on, you know?  The lead I knew was a problem was 100% broken; he was supposed to be the reader’s entry point character, the easy-to-empathize with guy, and instead he ended up being the one character the reader absolutely couldn’t stand.  And all his points made sense.  (In fact, most of the particular things he pointed out as being problematic were things I had added in late in the planning stage to try and cover up for other problems that seemed much worse to me at the time.  I wonder how he would have reacted to the character if I’d just been like “screw it, who even cares?” and left him as originally envisioned?

After processing his feedback for a while, I decided to start a comprehensive re-write, replacing the broken lead with another character with the same name and hitting a few important details for plot progression (he still needed to be associated with the original version’s home town, for example), and to completely excise the “sub-plot” that ate up most of the novel.  (And which had caused one of my big structural problems, where the cast sat around on an island for two weeks so the problem guy could learn to read and one of the other leads could read a dead man’s diary.  So that problem goes bye-bye surprisingly easily, it turns out!)

Obviously, since he got back to me relatively late (I think it was around the 20th?), I haven’t gotten all that far in the new version, and the replacement lead is still not even in his characterization, because I’m sort of inventing him on the fly (sometimes being a pantser is a curse), but I think he should be more interesting this time around.  And the plot’s not going to be bogged down by my really pathetic attempts at “the feels.”

Overall, a very weird experience, because I went through the first half+ of the month barely able to think of anything to do to fill out the minutes for my daily goal, and then suddenly I had so much to do that there was no way I could finish it in the month.  (Well, okay, I might have been able to if I hadn’t had to do things like going to work.  And playing video games.  *cough*  Not that I exactly have to do that, but…)

I do feel a bit like I’m floundering in the new version, I have to admit, but that’s largely because I can’t quite nail down what the new personality is.  I should probably stop writing and figure that out before I go any further, now that there’s no longer a daily goal to meet…

One thing I did think of is that since I’m going to release it in a .pdf via LeanPub, maybe I can do some fun stuff with some of the extra-textual materials.  I’ve got things like a recruiting waybill for a British East India-type company (only without the imperialism, because that doesn’t exist in this world) and I thought I’d actually do it up like a handbill pasted on a wall, complete with curling corners and font flourishes and stuff.  And another thing is someone’s journal from a thousand years earlier (not what the other character was reading in the original version, btw), and I thought I might use one of the more legible handwriting fonts and put it on a rough paper-looking background, that kind of thing.  I may do the preliminary work on that (obviously, the final work will have to wait until I’ve finalized the text to go on the special pages) while I’m trying to figure out the new personality.  Not sure.  I mean, it’s not the most productive use of writing time, but now that I’m no longer on a NaNo deadline, why not?

Book Reports: Things I Wanted to Review During Pride Month

Published July 28, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Yeaahhhhhh, so the lengthy I-can’t-type thing has really caused book reviews to backlog.  Although actually the YA book took me so long to read that there aren’t as many as there might be, and I’ve been focusing on my backlog of manga and Kickstarter-backed graphic novels rather than reading, you know, real books since.  Partly because I wanted something different, and partly because I spent money on these things, so I’m darn well gonna read them!  I’m starting with the graphic novels, though, rather than the YA book.  I’ll get to that one next time.  But one of these manga volumes counts for Read Harder 2018 (actually, all of them could count for the same challenge), so we’ll start with that one.  (Also, I actually read some of them after June ended, but I figured I’d just put them in this post, because otherwise I might not post anything about them at all, and they all fit into the theme so nicely!)

The challenge in question is number 4, “A comic written and illustrated by the same person,” and the manga I’ve chosen for that slot is…

Yes, that title says “The Bride was a Boy.”  And no, it’s not about a same-sex marriage.  (Last I heard, those are still illegal in Japan.)  And yes, that is an accurate translation of the original Japanese title.  (As far as I can tell.)  This manga is a very cute memoir (of sorts) in manga form, in which the mangaka (graphic novel author, for those less otaku-ish readers) Chii explains how she was assigned the male gender at birth, but transitioned as an adult.  This is a rare case where I actually did read reviews first, and I do agree with them that the tale is quite simplified and lacking in drama, because if there were any objections among Chii’s family and friends, she chose not to tell us about it.  Thus while I feel their complaints of “unrealistic” are not necessarily correct (if it’s actually what happened in her case, then it by definition is realistic), but it’s definitely not representative of the typical experience of trans individuals, so far as I know.  (Which is admittedly not far, but given all the reports one hears, I think it safe to say that most do not have the easy acceptance Chii found among family and friends.)

The art throughout is pretty much exactly like what you see on the cover:  cute, but not terribly distinctive.  And that’s fine, because I don’t think this was intended to launch a manga career for Chii.  Rather, I would say that this was intended to be educational.  At the end of every chapter, Chii explains a term and/or clears up a misconception about trans individuals, and I think that was the real intention of the book, to spread more accurate awareness.  Some of the moments I found most interesting were the insights into what it’s like to be trans in Japan:  for example, before Chii transitioned on paper, but after she was living as a woman, she would have trouble getting some official business done, because the officials on the other side of the desk would look at the paperwork for a man and say that they needed to talk to the person in question.  (Which sounds really complex, but that’s because it’s hard to phrase it.  It was actually only a single panel…)  Or, in a less convoluted example, how reassignment surgery is necessary for trans individuals who want to get married, because of the above-mentioned ban on same-sex marriage.  (Um, rather for heterosexual trans individuals.  For gay or lesbian trans individuals, reassignment surgery would actually mean they couldn’t get married.  I don’t think Chii really went into that, but…logically, it follows, since in Japan they can’t transition on paper without the surgery.)

So, at the end of the day, it’s a sweet and charming little book with some educational content, some laughs, and a lot of warm fuzzies.

Now, changing gears and yet staying on the same subject, I want to talk about an anime.  (Yeah, I know, that’s not a book report in any way, but…well, it’s based on a manga!  I just haven’t read the manga; I’ve seen the anime.)

This is the promotional image on the Crunchyroll page for the anime Hourou Musuko, which translates as “Wandering Son.”  It’s really hard for me to get a bead on how to even discuss this, mostly in terms of pronouns.  (Something that isn’t an issue in Japanese, because the language doesn’t have pronouns like those in English.)  The protagonist of this anime is Nitori Shuichi, a boy in middle school.  That’s him on the image, the one in the wine-colored dress.  And here’s where my uncertainty about pronouns come in:  Shuichi feels he should be a girl — that he is one, rather — but he hasn’t transitioned, and only periodically wears dresses and a long wig.  So, should I be using “she” to reflect Shuichi’s self-perceived gender, or “he” to reflect the socially-perceived gender that has yet to be fully rejected in Shuichi’s behavior?  I’ve been using “he” because Shuichi hasn’t actually transitioned yet, but I’m not sure if that’s right.  (I welcome correction if I’m wrong.)  As you’d expect from someone only in middle school, Shuichi isn’t entirely sure about a lot of other aspects of his identity, particularly his sexual identity.  He has romantic interest in his best friend, Takatsuki Yoshino (the other kid in the picture above), a girl who hasn’t yet transitioned to being a boy, but he also shows interest in girls who do self-identify as female.  So Shuichi doesn’t seem quite sure if his ideal self is a straight, bi or lesbian trans woman.  And I think that makes him feel much more real, because how many people have themselves fully figured out at that age?  (I didn’t come to understand that I’m asexual until I was 40, for cryin’ out loud!)

Hourou Musuko is what’s known as a “slice of life” anime, following Shuichi and a few other students at his school as they go about their daily lives.  Unlike most of the “slice of life” anime I’ve seen, it’s quiet, subdued, and you feel like these could be real kids.  (Most of the “slice of life” anime I’ve seen have been more in the “zany comedy” neck of the woods…)  The show never telegraphs what’s going on in the heads of the characters — though Shuichi’s reasons for doing things are usually spelled out fairly well, as the lead — and although you can often figure out, or at least speculate, what motivates the other major characters, you’re never completely certain, as you wouldn’t be with real people.  For example, there’s a scene in the first episode when Shuichi’s sister says something so horrible to him that if it had been a movie and not the first episode of a television show, I would honestly have been afraid he would kill himself over it.  It was that bad, and his reaction to it was that powerful.  But it’s not that she hates him, and in later episodes she is sometimes tolerant and even sweet to him.  The other students in Shuichi’s class are the same way:  you can’t always guess how they’re going to react to something, but afterwards you see how it all fits together with their earlier behavior, and you get a better idea of who they really are.  And none of the students you get to know well are typical; there’s something that makes them each unique, and most of the ones we get to know well either are aware of being LGBTQ+ in some way, or are displaying signs that they probably are, even if they haven’t figured themselves out yet.  (Before anyone thinks there is something exceptionally unusual about Shuichi’s school, it should be noted that the characters we spend the most time with are only a handful of students out of a fairly large class.)

Overall, it’s a very subtle, very genuine-feeling look into the complicated lives of today’s youth in their early/mid- teens.  (The pace is definitely not fast, however.  Don’t expect a thrill ride.)

And, even though it’s the one I read most recently — and yet the oldest of the lot — we’re switching back to manga for

The title you might have trouble reading because of that script font is Claudine, the name of the lead.  The mangaka, Ikeda Riyoko, is that shaper of modern manga and anime responsible for the classic The Rose of Versailles.  (Which I shamefacedly must admit I still haven’t finished watching.  I went into it knowing how it ends (who didn’t, though?  Marie Antoinette is one of the major characters!) and then I got to the episode where Oscar weirdly decided that she was in love with a man who wasn’t Andre, and even wore a dress for him, and I was just like “What is the matter with you, woman?!” and had to set it aside for a while and then kind of forgot to go back.  *cough*  I’d been enjoying it up until then, though.)  It should not, therefore, surprise you to learn that Claudine was first published in Japan in 1978.  So, yes, they didn’t translate this until it was forty years old!

Why the 40 year delay, you might wonder.  (Or you might not, given the context in which I’m discussing it…)  Translating it right away was not going to happen, of course; manga was not being brought over to the US in the late ’70s, so far as I know.  (Then again, how would I know?  I was only three years old in 1978.)  Let me answer the question in a slightly round-about fashion.  The Rose of Versailles, for those who don’t know, is the story of Oscar Francois, the youngest daughter of a French noble who was so tired of having daughters that he named his last child while still in the womb, and didn’t change it to a girl’s name even after she wasn’t a boy.  And she lived up to having a man’s name, dressing as a boy, learning to ride and fight like a man, and even joining the royal guards (by special royal dispensation), where she was made bodyguard to the Dauphine-to-be as soon as she left Austria.  Although Oscar dresses as a man, she doesn’t self-identify as one (though everyone routinely mistakes her for one at first glance, and one woman fell for her so hard as to literally commit suicide) and her servant/friend/military-right-hand-man Andre Grandier is, of course, passionately in love with her.  So, it didn’t just shape shoujo melodrama for decades to come, but inspired both shoujo-ai/yuri and shounen-ai/yaoi, even though it doesn’t technically fall into either of those categories.  And if you have ever seen a zany comedy anime, you have probably seen Ikeda’s art style mimicked at some point or other, because it’s just that iconic.

With all that said, Claudine goes much further than The Rose of Versailles.  The narration is from a psychiatrist (or psychologist) in Paris, sometime in the first half of the 20th century, reminiscing on the life of Claudine de Montesse, who was first brought to him as a patient at just 10 years old…because at eight years old, Claudine had self-identified as a boy.  It’s not clear exactly when the action of the manga is taking place, but I’d say the finale is probably before the outbreak of World War I, since it’s never mentioned.  (But I don’t know how much weight we should put on details of timing; I don’t think exactly when it was taking place was a high priority in Ikeda’s thought process on this one.)

For the rest of this discussion, I’m going to do something for Claudine that the manga itself never does:  I’m going to use the proper pronouns for him.

Claudine is very much a proper gentleman, but not so proper that he’s overly concerned by the social standing of the women he falls in love with.  His case is an odd one when viewed from the modern perspective where society is starting to accept and understand trans individuals:  he dresses and acts like a man, views himself as a man, but never changes his name to “Claude” and when he goes off to college, he doesn’t tell his new acquaintances that he’s a man or try to live as one.  Looking at it in context of Europe at the time it’s set…honestly, I guarantee there are cases more or less exactly like Claudine’s, but I know there are also cases of trans men born in Claudine’s situation who simply moved to a new city (or even country) where they weren’t known, changed their name and never admitted to anyone that they were not biologically male.  Though the story provides several incidents that could “explain” why Claudine self-identified as a man, they’re not accepted as explanations by Claudine himself, and actually wouldn’t explain it even if being trans was something that could be (or even needed to be) “explained” in those kinds of terms.

The fact that a manga like this with a trans lead was written in 1978 is frankly astonishing, especially given that Japan is a bit behind the curve on LGBTQ+ issues.  (Though certain people in this country are trying to push us back to the freakin’ Middle Ages, but that’s not something I should go into detail about.)  Of course, there are down sides to this amazing manga.  Like a lot of LGBTQ+ stories written before the 21st century, it has a tragic ending.  (And that’s not much of a spoiler, because the narrator’s tone quickly makes you assume something terrible happened, not to mention that the back of the book describes it as “heart-wrenching.”)  Unfortunately, it’s a very believable one.  Melodramatic, but people in love (regardless of gender or sexual orientation) can be very melodramatic in real life.

It’s not a feel-good read, but the art is gorgeous, and the characters who weave their way in and out of Claudine’s story feel like they lead full lives off the page (well, some of them do), which is very impressive in such a remarkably short volume.  It’s a pity it’s not longer, because I think Claudine’s story could have easily filled several regular-size volumes of manga without feeling padded, while this is a single, very thin volume.  And if Ikeda hadn’t been writing it back in 1978, it probably would have been several volumes long.  But I doubt 1978’s manga market was willing to support such a revolutionary story over a long period of time.

This one, btw, could also qualify for Read Harder 2018 challege number 3, “A classic of genre fiction,” as manga hasn’t been around as long, so it doesn’t have to be as old to count as “classic.”  I’m not counting it for that challenge (I’m reading some H.G. Wells for that), but I think it would qualify.

So, from a landmark manga of incredible depth, complexity and beauty, let’s move to another landmark manga which lacks pretty much all of those qualities.

What you see above are the covers of the first six volumes of the manga Gravitation, one of the first really major shounen-ai/yaoi titles to be brought to the US.  When I picked them up used at the local anime store, I thought the manga was only six volumes long.  I’m still not sure if I want to track down the other six, or just say “to heck with it!”

Which isn’t to say that it’s bad, per se.  I mean, I was enjoying reading it.  But the characters are pretty one dimensional, they all look pretty much the same (I frequently said “wait, who is that?” sometimes in cases when the person in question was the hero’s best friend/bandmate, who’s been in the story from the very first chapter), and the plot is running at full tilt with no indication that the mangaka had any idea where she was actually going with it.  This is not the highly polished work of art that Claudine was, but it’s not really trying to be, either.

So, the plot of this one, as described on the back of the first volume, is roughly as follows:  Shindo Shuichi, high school senior and frontman of an amateur band, drops a sheet of his lyrics in the park one night, and they’re picked up by the handsome-but-aloof Yuki Eiri, who takes one look at them and pronounces them utter garbage.  After this encounter, Shuichi becomes obsessed with Yuki, entering into his gravitational field (hence the title), circling ever closer in his obsession.

Now, my understanding had been that Yuki was part of a competing band, and that as their bands played against each other over and over again, they grew closer and closer together until they became romantically entangled.  That could not be further from the case.  (Though it does come very close to describing something else I’ll be reviewing below…)

The actual case is that Yuki Eiri is a novelist who writes romance novels aimed at teenage girls/women in their twenties, and Shuichi basically hunts him down to demand an apology, which prompts more insults.  When Shuichi is fuming about that later, his best friend/bandmate tells him to just let it go, and says something about “it’s not like you’re in love with him or something” which somehow prompts Shuichi to realize that he is, in fact, in love with Yuki.  Even though he’s not gay.  (Or he never was before, anyway.)  Before the first volume is over, they’re already sleeping together, even though they both insist that they’re straight.  (I think, given that they’re sleeping together, they have to realistically be considered bisexual, but…hey, I’m not the one who wrote it.)

It goes all over the place from there.  Shuichi’s band getting a big break, competition against other bands, risks of discovery, and (of course!) basic romantic melodrama.  Throughout all of this, Shuichi is a crybaby, a moron, and rattles back and forth between melodrama, manic happiness, hysterical tears, and extreme passion like a pinball on speed.  (If you’ve seen or read Sailor Moon, imagine Usagi magnified about ten times, and that’s Shuichi in a nutshell.)  Yuki, on the other hand, has only one setting:  sullen.  He’s even sullen about having sex.  (Uh, what?)  Volume 6 introduced a new character who seemed to be a bit of a sadist, or maybe even a proto-yandere, which might lead to interesting places, but I’m still not sure it’s worth hunting down the other six volumes.  (And I can’t just hunt down the anime, because according to Wikipedia, it only covers volumes 1-7.)

The main thing I wanted to say about this is that it’s a weird mix.  On the one hand, Shuichi is very much the distillation of the problem that plagues a lot of yaoi (and shounen-ai, but less so there):  as the passive partner in the relationship (the uke in yaoi terminology), he is presented with many feminine/feminizing mannerisms.  On the other hand, he isn’t the typical feminine uke:  most of the female characters are tougher and more mature than he is, and pretty much every other character in the manga (including Yuki) considers him a freak, so he’s certainly not embodying the usual “a passive gay man is a girl in a male body” that is such a problem not only in yaoi/shounen-ai fiction, but also some fanfiction written by non-Japanese women.  I think what perplexes me most about it is that I’m not quite sure what the goal was here.  If it was just to write a funny manga about the “wacky” lead singer in a band falling for a grumpy and withdrawn writer, what was the point of them both being men?  It’s not as though the people around them react realistically when they learn about their relationship.  If the romance between two attractive men was supposed to be titillating to the (almost entirely) female target audience, then why make Shuichi behave like such a weirdo?  He spends more time in SD “I’m being an idiot” mode than in standard “see, I’m a good-looking guy, too” mode.  I knew it wasn’t going to be proper representation in any way, but I still find myself baffled as I try to suss out exactly what it really is.

Okay, since I teased it already, let’s change gears dramatically, and take a hop across the Pacific Ocean for…

This is one of those Kickstarter-backed graphic novels I mentioned.  (I keep on backing them, even though it takes me a long time to get around to reading them…but no, I’m not going to start reviewing all of them.  Just some of them.)  Band vs Band Comix is the collected edition of a webcomic by Kathleen Jacques.  (The webcomic version is here.)  Sadly, this is one of the ones I backed before I broke my iPad, so I backed for the .pdf version instead of the physical, which meant I was trying to read it on my phone, which was really hard to do.  *cough*  Anyway, the plot here is similar to what I thought the plot of Gravitation was:  two rival bands, the sugary Candy Hearts and the goth Sourballs, are always running into each other, playing against each other in competitions, etc.  The lead singers, Honey Hart and Turpentine, slowly draw closer as the story continues, and the audience sees that they’re made for each other long before they do.  (Isn’t that always the way?)  It’s got a lot of LGBTQ+ representation–lesbian (obviously), gay, bi, and trans, just among the primary cast–and it’s both sweet and really funny.  A lot of the art has a very retro feel (’50s and early ’60s for the Candy Hearts, and more of an ’80s feel for the Sourballs) and it does really unusual things with the color that bring out the slight surreality of the setting.  The only complaint I can think of (aside from how hard it is to read on a phone, lol) is that the setting is so utopian that it makes the real world seem even worse than it actually is:  despite the mid-century aesthetics on display, the only homophobia I can think of anywhere in both volumes combined is in some flashbacks to one character’s childhood.  (Maybe I’ve just forgotten, but I think that was really the only example.)  I’m not saying I think they ought to encounter hate (outside of the understandable distaste engendered by Turpentine’s behavior (like stealing other bands’ awards, for example)), just that its so paradisaical that when you stop reading and step back into reality you’re like “oh, right…all that horrible stuff still exists…”

Okay, actually, I do have a different, much bigger complaint:  based on the Kickstarter page, it took four years to accumulate the material in Volume 2.  That puts Volume 3 a long way off!  (I mean, okay, yeah, I could just read it online as each page goes up, but…)  At least there should be another Kickstarter to reprint Volume 1, though, so hopefully I can snag physical copies of both volumes then…

And back across the Pacific for one last manga, also with a very retro visual style…

If anyone reading this is as familiar with anime as I am, they’re probably having loads of early Takahashi Rumiko flashbacks looking at that cover art.  And that is absolutely what the art is like:  I could easily imagine Ranma running past this school in training (or Ryoga wandering into the building, lost as usual).  I honestly spent most of the manga assuming that the art style was a conscious decision to show that it was taking place in the late ’80s/early ’90s, especially when someone talked about “running out of film,” but then later on someone else was using a digital camera, so I guess it’s actually supposed to be modern after all.  (Cell phones are referenced once, but never appear.)

Anyway, chronological setting aside, Go For It, Nakamura! is about as far removed from Gravitation as you can get, despite a few similarities in the starting place.  Okay, actually, there’s really only the one similarity.  And it’s not that similar.

Let me start over.

Nakamura Okuto, our hapless hero, is an introverted student who’s head-over-heels in love with his classmate, Hirose Aiki, one of the most outgoing and popular boys in the class.  Nakamura already knew he was gay before he met Hirose, but he’s never been involved with anyone, and is not out to anyone.  He wants desperately to actually meet Hirose (yes, they’ve never even spoken when the manga starts), but is terrified of screwing up and making the object of his affection hate him.

A lot of the gags are the kind of thing you might have seen in straight romantic comedy manga/anime, most of them with little to no change from their straight counterparts.  What sets Go For It, Nakamura! apart in this, however, is the fact that Hirose, apart from a pretty, mildly feminine face, is in no way feminized; his behavior is typically masculine.  Likewise, there’s nothing feminine about Nakamura (aside from his attempts to get dating tips from shounen-ai manga), so what we have here is a romcom between two teenage boys who actually act like teenage boys.  (Well, the manga definition of acting like teenage boys.)  Also, a lot of the ways Nakamura screws up are new takes on classic potential gaffes.  (Like, how many romcom leads can you think of who are so into octopi that they have a pet octopus in their bedroom?)

From the mangaka’s afterword pages, it seems that this was being used as a page-filler in a manga magazine when it didn’t quite fill its usual length.  That being the case, though the story does progress from chapter to chapter, each one is also designed to be a stopping place of sorts, which prevents any massive dramatic events, but also means that there could conceivably be another volume someday.  (Or not.  I don’t know.)


Whew!  That was ridiculously long!  (And I’ve been working on it on-and-off for like ten days….in part because I’ve been dedicating most of my writing time to Camp NaNo, of course…)

Future book reviews will be the usual “one book per post” format, naturally.  (In addition to that YA book, I’ve almost finished the classic of genre fiction, too.)  And I plan to have a “future of this blog” post soon, as I’ve come to a decision I want to share, and had an idea I wanted to toss out there.

IWSG – Still Frustrated (But a Bit Less So)

Published July 4, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

The pinched nerve situation I talked about in last month’s post (also the last post before this one *shame*) is still not completely resolved.  There are probably a lot of reasons for that, but most of them, I fear, stem from the fact that I didn’t want to take an indefinite break from work, and almost everything I do at work exacerbates the situation and prevents it from healing properly.  But at this point I can type for a little while as long as I have the computer directly on my lap; putting it on a desk (like at work *cough*) continues to pinch the nerve and my entire right arm goes all tingly within about 30 seconds.

So, due to the fact that I can kind of write again, I did take the risk of signing up for July CampNaNo, still revising last year’s NaNo novel, just like in April’s Camp.  But this time it’s a bit more…lazy.  I’m counting re-reading time as revising time.  (I’m measuring my goal in minutes, rather than words.)  My goal at first is to go through and try to standardize the characterization of one of my two leads.  That and add any major stuff I can think of that’s still missing.  There’s also a draft with an alpha reader right now, who will hopefully let me know how I can fix up the novel’s structure, though goodness knows it may not be salvageable.  (Since I don’t plan on typical publication, if it’s that bad, I may just release it into the wilds with broken structure.  As long as the characters are solid, the dialog good, and there aren’t any horrific grammatical errors, I figure bad structure is probably okay in the particular context of this novel.)

I’m still frustrated by my lack of physical ability to write, though, because I had all sorts of cool plot ideas during that no-writing down time, and I wasn’t even able to write them down, so now I’ve forgotten a lot of them, or they’ve at least grown cold and fuzzy, which isn’t much better than being forgotten.

I’m hoping to get back to writing short blog posts sometime this month, though.

But unfortunately I’ve hit my limit for now, and have to stop.

*sigh*

IWSG – Frustration

Published June 6, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Late post, and 1st time trying to compose a post on my phone. (If my tablet wasn’t still broken, this’d be easier!)

I can’t type right now. Pinched nerve in my shoulder; my whole arm goes tingly if I try. (Fortunately, the phone is okay(ish) because of the different poses it allows.)

Haven’t been able to use my computer in a week. I may actually go insane at this rate.

Worst part is, I had just started getting the project from NaNo and April Camp ready to beg on the NaNo forums for a beta (alpha?) reader to help me figure out the structural SNAFUs before July Camp.

That is looking less and less likely now. 😦

Wear Orange Weekend

Published June 1, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Rather than a new post, a reblog. Obviously, the hiatus affects Misding Letter Mondays, as well as my doll blog’s weekly feature.

Crazy Doll Lady

Today and the next two days make up Wear Orange Weekend, where the idea is to wear orange (the color of visibility) for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.  In light of all the recent mass shootings, this is more important than ever this year.  But I have no desire to turn this blog political, so I’m not going any further with that.

Instead, I’m going to explain that my blog is going on a brief hiatus.  Probably not more than a week, but…it’s hard to say for sure.  And the hiatus is going to include Blind Box Mondays.

The reason for the hiatus is that I hurt my shoulder.  It’s just a strained muscle, but in order to let it heal, I need to stop doing…well, pretty much everything I usually do.  (I have no idea how I’m going to survive!)  Not supposed to type or otherwise use computers…

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Book Report: Compendium of North American Cryptids

Published May 23, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

You can already tell two things from the image I started out with.  One, this isn’t for Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge, and two, I took the picture of the cover myself.  Now, technically, that turned out not to be necessary, as (just now) I looked it up on Goodreads and found that it does actually have a listing (though it doesn’t have any reviews) so I could have downloaded the cover image from there.  But since I’d already taken my own photo, I figured I’d just go with it.  (Please ignore the sheet beneath it.  When your preferred method of buying new bedding is “on clearance at Target,” you don’t have as much choice of patterns as you might like.)

The full title of this book had no hope of fitting into the title of the post.  I could say “click on the thumbnail and read the photo for yourself” but then you’d have to wait while it loaded, so I’m just going to transcribe the text on the cover of the book, line by line:

Compendium of
North American Cryptids
& Magical Creatures
The Official Magimundi Guide
*
150th Anniversary Edition
Written by Foxfire Castellaw
Annotated by Wyn Diego

By Mike Young, Maury Brown & Ben Morrow
Illustrated by Ffion Evans

As you can guess from all that, this is roughly the equivalent of buying Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander, but actually by J.K. Rowling.  (My mother, I might add, actually did buy that.  In a three-pack of books that were produced to benefit charity.  I actually used the one on quidditch for my Read Harder book on sports last year, in fact.)  The biggest difference here, though, is that I didn’t realize that was what I was getting.

See, I was backing a Kickstarter called “Cryptid Cuties” that was enamel pins (soft enamel, unfortunately) of various cryptids.  As add-ons, you could get a copy of this book, a plush cactus cat (very cute and cuddly, but mine has a slight factory defect, which is sad) and when I added it on, I thought I was getting a Faeries-like book compiling all the different regional folklore/urban legends of mysterious critters.  So I was pretty surprised when I got it out of the package and read that cover!  (Though I’d already been confused by the return address on the package, which was from Learn Larp, LLC, and I was sitting there going “what the heck is this?  I didn’t order any cosplay supplies, and I don’t even have the social skills to play a tabletop RPG, let alone a LARP!”)

It turns out that this book is a sort of bestiary for a particular LARP (that’s Live Action Role Playing for those of you who aren’t geeky enough to know the term), but rather than being written as a collection of stats and such, it’s written as if it was an actual book for within the fantasy world, so it’s a perfectly entertaining read even for people like me who have no intention of ever playing the associated game.  (It does, however, mean I won’t be using it as fodder for any future April A-to-Z sessions, though!)

The creatures covered in the book fit into four categories:  “actual cryptids,” “general mythic/legendary monsters,” “definitely made up for this,” and “wait, is that a real cryptid or did they make it up?”  With a few outliers that are hard to categorize, like the Fiji Mermaid, which isn’t really any of the above, having been a carnival hoax.

The first category includes old standbys like the Jersey Devil, the Mothman, chupacabra, jackelopes, and sasquatch.  The second category has things like thunderbirds, golems, homunculi, werewolves and vampires.  The third category has things like gobwins (no, that’s not a typo) and humfaeries (both of which were actually designed by Kickstarter backers from a previous campaign, it turns out)  The final category ranges from things that really sound made up, like the cactus cat and the wampus cat (picture a centaur with a puma’s body instead of a horse’s), to things that I could believe are actually folkloric, like duwende, fiddle spider and lightning snake.

Each entry has an illustration, and they’re all quite nice, though of course the artist is no Brian Froud (then again, who is?).  The entries themselves vary in entertainment value, since not all the concepts can be described in a particularly entertaining manner.  That, however, is where the annotations come in:  the annotator is snarky, thinks he knows everything, and has a very low opinion of the author.  In the course of his annotations (which are not, admittedly, on every entry) you get a good sense of what kind of character he is, and his attitude towards the author is almost always entertaining.  I think the annotations are what really sets this apart from other books of the type.

I don’t know if the book is actually available for purchase anywhere, because of the three web addresses printed inside the book, I only actually visited one, http://www.magimundi.wiki, which obviously is not set up to sell merchandise.  The more official-sounding one, http://www.magischola.com, I couldn’t access, because my anti-virus software was adamant that it was a phishing site.  I have no idea why they would think that, but…when it gets that screechy about it, I tend to chicken out.  The third web address was http://www.learnlarp.com, which sounded more like it was about the LARPing aspect than about the magical world that had been created as the setting for the LARP games.


I actually finished this on Monday and haven’t started a new book yet, because I’ve been too glued to my 3DS to figure out what I want to read.  (That’s the problem with MegaTen games:  they really sink their tentacles into me.)  I’m disappointed that they didn’t add any 3D elements, but I cannot begin to express how grateful I am that they didn’t dub it!  (I’m gonna freak if they don’t give us a voice cast in the end credits, though.  The computer’s AI sounds to me so much like a particular seiyuu that it’s driving me crazy wondering if it’s really him, but noplace I’ve looked online, so far, has had a cast list for it.)  What I’ve seen of the new material, so far, has left me a bit uncertain:  the new human character looks like a female Vincent Valentine, and seems to have the same exact motivation as the villain of Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army, which could be good or bad, and they introduced a new “demon” in the form of a lolita Persephone/Kore who for some bizarre reason is calling herself her own mother.  (Seriously, that is not Demeter.  No.  Freaking.  Way.)

I realize no one cares about any of that, but I just had to get it out there.

Also, I found a line really hilarious because they didn’t quite think through the overtones of the way they localized it:

D’you have any idea what you’re saying, Jimenez?

*cough*

Sorry, I meant to talk about what I’m gonna read next.  Probably 16, because I have something picked out that’s been sitting on my “to read” shelf for like three years.

Missing Letter Monday No “N”: (Untitled)

Published May 21, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Why do I always press some key but the key I desire?

Over & over, I pressed “L” though it was supposed to be “:”

HOW?!

They’re — oh, wait, they’re right beside each other.  Well, that’s more…yeah, I guess that’s less odd.

It’d probably help if all my keys still had letters.

(Really, “C”, “V”, “A”, “S”, & “L” are all without letters.  “E”, “M” & this week’s letter are about half obliterated, too.)


 


Meh.

Half-assed is half-assed.

(I was playing with my 3DS all day.  What else is there to say?)

So, what do you think about Kickstarter posts?

Published May 20, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

I’ve at least once posted here to spread the word about a Kickstarter that I was worried wouldn’t make its funding (and a few more times on my other blog), but what do people think about more frequent posts about Kickstarters I’m backing?

I’m not talking about a weekly thing, naturally.  Just a “when it seems appropriate” thing.  When a campaign thematically ties to some of my frequent blogging themes (like this visual novel based on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, for example), or when I’m really worried it won’t fund or won’t reach an important stretch goal.

See, Kickstarter campaigns are always asking their backers to spread the word on social media, but I’m not on any social media other than WordPress, so there’s not a lot I can do about it.  (Frustratingly, some of them have contests and/or special stretch goals that require their link be liked or re-thingied or whatever.  (Hey, I’ve never even used these things, I don’t know how they work!)  And I really can’t do anything about that.)  Posting about the campaigns on my blog(s) is about all I can do, but I don’t want to annoy anyone with unrelated posts that will just come off as asking for money (even though I’m not the one getting the money).

The types of Kickstarter campaigns I might post about on this blog could include games (board and video), books (mostly graphic novels, but also some regular novels), various campaigns working to protect the environment (replanting trees, buying virgin forest to protect it, that kind of thing), short films and documentaries.  Possibly other stuff, too, but these are the only ones I can think of.  Though maybe the games would be a better fit on my other blog.  That might be a case-by-case thing.

I won’t start posting about Kickstarter campaigns (outside of exceptional circumstances) without direct confirmation that people actually want to read those kind of posts.  So please, if you have an opinion one way or the other, voice it.  (Preferably within a week.)

Just one more thing…

Before I close off this post, I want to post links to some Kickstarters that are going to end before the week is up.  And a few that will only have a day or two after that week, thus not having much time left to benefit from a post.

Two documentaries, one about Helen Keller, and one about a student protest a few years ago against their university deciding to permit concealed carry on campus.

A graphic novel that’s calling itself a “visual novel with no choices and in print!”  The campaign page is a bit lacking in a proper summary, but the “demo” is very entertaining, and I think if the book itself maintains that level of quality, then it’s going to be a fun read.  (All I can tell for sure is that it involves a college student, his boyfriend, time travel, and possibly some magical girl parody elements?)  Honestly, even though I’m not 100% sure what’s in it, I know I want to read it.

And one visual novel, that’s very hard to describe, but really amazing.  (There’s a demo posted, which will give you an idea of how amazing this game should be!)  It’s a bit dystopian cyberpunk, a bit urban fantasy, and the final game will have sexual content featuring a body positive, diverse lesbian cast.

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