Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Re-do post: J-horror

I figured I'd expand a little bit upon the J-horror genre, since my first post for it was kind of short. So most typical contemporary J-horror has a very dull gray over-crowded city feel, that helps display the sense of emptiness and hopelessness within the society. However, the stories in Kwaidan relate back to old Japanese ghost stories from the Edo and Meiji eras. The context of these stories are much more traditional, and are based upon old historical spirits from legend, where as more contemporary stories are based off of tragic murders of women and or children. The environments in Kwaidan are also much more described than in modern Japanese horror. I think I respect both for what they are, and appreciate that they are both different methods of storytelling. However I think I am more personally interested in the traditional Japanese folklore. Hoichi the Earless for example was a poor musician who resided within a temple and played his biwa lute for the spirits. He had the kanji for heart sutra written all over him except for his ears, so when the samurai ghost came, the only part of him he could see was his ears. Therefore he cut them off. Despite Hoichi's pain, he still played the music. He eventually recovered from his wounds and became a famous musician. I love the ancient folklore that's referenced in this. Writing kanji scriptures on one's body refers to ancient buddhist culture that they actually used to do to ward off spirits. This is another genre that holds particularly high interest in me, and I look forward to reading more of it.

Brother from Another Planet

Brother from Another Planet was a movie we started watching in class that kind of sparked my interest, so I looked further into it. Its certainly different from the usual alien set up. The protagonist escaped from another planet and wound up homeless on the streets of New York. He's picked up by a local family, and doesn't speak or communicate much. However he does have telekinetic powers which he uses for various reasons. It's particularly humorous how the arcade owner uses him to fix all of the broken arcade machines with his alien powers. Its not often to see an alien character disguised in this manner in a movie. Also, the "Men in Black" which are typically an alien hunters are also kind of spoofed in this story as well. They are in fact aliens as well and are dressed undercover to take this brother back to another planet with them. What I found interesting too is that the men in black are oblivious to skin color unlike the human characters within the film. They reference "three toes" as a way to convey that people having different skin color is no different than people having different numbers of toes. I think it was a nice underlying meaning to promote racial harmony, considering I think there was still issues of that in the 80's. A very interesting representation of an alien story to say the least!

Big Fish

I remember seeing Big Fish several years ago, and it was probably one of my favorite films at the time. I think at the time my brother and I were really interested in movies that Ewan McGregor was in just because we enjoyed his acting that much. The story itself had a lot of elements of a sort of Gothic Fantasy set in the southern U.S. state of Alabama. (That must've been another reason why I liked the setting of the movie, because I have a sister that lives in Alabama.) The whole movie is told through a series of short folk-tale stories of the main character Edward Bloom's life as he lies on his deathbed. The story starts off at his son's wedding, where he mentions the story of how he caught an enormous fish using his wedding ring as bait on the day his son was born. His son was so disgusted with him thinking that his father was such a liar that he could never trust him with anything, and worried that he might be the same with his own children someday. The two of them wind up not talking for three years until Edward is on his deathbed. His son and now pregnant wife fly back in to Alabama to be by his bedside and hear all his tall tales. I loved the plot of this movie because it almost reminded me of a Brother's Grimm folktale in the way it used supernatural elements as plot devices to move from one scene to the next. This is definitely one of my favorite genres of storytelling, and if definitely inspires me to make stories of similar elements.


I've always been a fan of the Cyberpunk genre, and Neuromancer is quite the example of this particular narrative style. What appeals to me is the high technology and low life aspects of it. Often the characters within a cyberpunk society are so overcome with technology, to the point where its even integrated into their own bodies (i.e. cyborgs) that they tend to lose site of what's really important in their lives. What's nice about Gibson in particular, is that he has this environmental narrative sort of way of telling his stories. He spends a lot of time introducing the whole environment and how it socially describes what's going on in the scene. Although some people tend to think it may be a kind of slow and boring approach, I enjoy it for its vast imagery. Plus, I appreciate for it's different method of storytelling. This method of storytelling is really visible right off the bat the way the story starts off. The opening scene is introduced as a sort of cyber bar, with all sorts of vulgar characters and people with prosthetic limbs, which really establishes the style. Of course the story is also set in Japan, which is pretty common for this genre considering how densely overpopulated Japan is with not only people but also advanced technology. The lead male protagonist in Neuromancer is a washed up hacker with a drug addiction and a damaged nervous system by the name of Henry Case. He meets up with Molly Millions, who happens to be a reoccurring female lead in Gibson's stories, who offers to help Case end his drug addiction if he offers his hacker abilities to help her out. I should probably mention too that this lead heroine is certainly no damsel in distress. She pretty much sets the bar for the cyberpunk female lead: a total badass street-smart girl that can certainly take care of herself. The characters go on a series of hacking missions for Armitage, who they barely know and investigate as the story goes along. They eventually meet up with the artificial intelligent Wintermute, who is one half of the same Super AI when paired with Neuromancer. They discover that Armitage is kind of a split personality in a way, with is other half being his old self, Corto.

I love how the stories within this genre kind of have a puzzle-solving element with trying to figure out who's AI and who's not. It's like you're not sure who's a human being and who's not, and I think that really attributes to the whole "we're totally screwed" atmosphere. That's why typically the protagonist is the only person with any sense of hope in the whole Dystopian world. Gibson's stories really inspire me, and I'd look forward to reading more of them in lieu of working on my own stories.

A Scanner Darkly

Phillip K. Dick is one of the most well known authors of the Science Fiction genre, and he pretty much set the bar for a lot of science fiction that evolved from that not only in other books, but other media as well: games, movies, television series, etc. The story of A Scanner Darkly is instantly introduced in a very twisted and vulgar sort of manner, which all based off of Dick's own personal experiences of drug abuse and schizophrenia. I kind of noticed this write away when it mentions about him constantly trying to wash the bugs off of him, and all the bugs he sees all over his dog and his apartment. Seeing bugs like that is one of the symptoms of schizophrenia. I can imagine this novel not being for everyone, but I certainly enjoy stories about abnormal characters with different psychological disorders. He definitely captured the atmosphere of what heavy drug users were like at the time. A lot of his concepts within the book, such as the rehab centers that were really drug smuggling centers seemed like they were based off of his own experiences with paranoia. These concepts are referenced a lot in not only his other works, but also the works of other writers like William Gibson, and other stories. I think these particular concepts like these help to bridge good plot devices within the story. At least, that's why I find most interesting about it. This is definitely an interesting read if you can tolerate some of the vulgar dialogue and presentation. I'm rather intrigued by the concepts within Phillip K. Dick's books, and I have a feeling they'll have an influence on ideas within my own stories as well. I look forward to reading some of his other works such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and The Man in the High Castle.

Friday, March 5, 2010

日本の 恐れ

The title of this post is pronounced Nihon no Osore, or Japan's Horror.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Japanese culture in general, and Japanese Horror is no exception. Japanese horror differs from American horror in a number of ways. For one thing, its based more on psychological fear, as opposed to a gory slasher flick. It also has its roots in spirituality, which typically stem from some history behind the story.

Most elements of J-horror are composed of helplessness and depression. Typically the context of the environment is very dull and dreary. I think that part of that is attributed to Japan’s high technological standards. Sociological standards seem to be asphyxiated on this world of technology, that people often forget about the importance of their lives. They become so lost and stop caring to the point of near suicide. In fact, most of the “mosters” of Japanese Horror are typically associated with a tragic death of a woman or child. There aren’t usually rich luscious environments in J-horror either; mostly very gray dull mundane cities. All of this helps contribute to the psychological atmosphere of the subject matter. A lot of Japanese horror movies really exemplify this: The Ring, The Grudge, Pulse, and many others that have grown in popularity over the years.

I started reading Kwaidon for the J-horror assignment, and have yet to finish it. But so far, I’ve enjoyed it, and noticed some differences between it and typical modern Japanese horror. For one thing the context is described more through visual imagery, as well as the situations being based off of ancient Japanese folklore. I believe that’s mostly because these stories have been around since before Japan’s modern technological society started to influence its literature.

I’ll have more to say about this one when I finish reading it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mythic Fiction and Magical Realism

It didn’t dawn on me that Neil Gaiman was the original author of the Coraline novel until we watched the movie in class. I never realized that he had such expansive list of his works for not just his own novels, but also for film and television. The story is told very well, in a rather dreamy manner. I loved the movie when I originally saw it, and the transitions between worlds. (It makes sense that Coraline’s parents were writers, since he based all the characters off his own life.)

Neil Gaiman is a rather intriguing fellow. I agree with what he says about children’s fiction really being the best. Honestly, I started reading Anansi Boys and thought it was okay. I mean, the story seems like an interesting concept, and it’s introduced in a cunning way. Oh this apathetic guy named Fat Charlie leads a rather mundane life, until one day he figures out of his father’s passing in an unusual and embarrassing manner. Not that that was really any different from how he was embarrassed by his father while growing up. He also figures out that he has a long lost twin brother named Spider, who can only be summoned by asking an arachnid. Spider is the exact opposite of his brother, charming, witty. Fat Charlie’s life is therefore changed and has to adjust with all these changes. Oh by the way, did I mention his brother takes his fiancé away from him, as well as other facets of his life? The story is an interesting idea, but I find Gaiman’s children’s fiction to be so much more intriguing. I do enjoy the way he writes, as it is easy to get into. I really want to get his Graveyard Book, as well as read the original Coraline book.

Gaiman is definitely a traditional storyteller in the act of telling a mythical folktale without explaining how things happened. I’d like to see Mirrormask too, but apparently the actor that was casted to be the protagonist is older than the character calls for. She’s an older teen, when really a pre-teen should’ve been casted for the part. I’m definitely looking forward to checking out more of Neil Gaiman’s work, as well as others within the genre.

A Compass made of Gold

Phillip Pullman’s spiritual novel of education is becoming quite the delightful read. Stories of children growing up in double worlds of reality and fantasy are a personal favorite of mine. They’re similar to stories that I’d like to create.

It invokes a lot of underlying themes based off of religious references that spark my interest. The fact that each child has another spiritual being that they’re attached to in another realm, and how it translates as them being innocent until they grow up is really intriguing.

It exemplifies a lot of religious themes, albeit transcribed in a different manner from Pullman’s point of view. Even though the majority of religions look at Adam and Eve taking the fruit from the tree as the origin of sin, it seems more like Pullman’s point of view is that of humans first being exposed to the truth of wisdom. It’s as if even though he doesn’t side with religion, he still points out that mankind has the choice between sinning and not once he realizes knowledge of what sin is. And that knowledge of difference between sin and not is what makes us human. It’s a rather interesting opposition to make.

The main character Lyra still has her own decisions to make. When Lord Aston wants to remove her spirit animal so that she may not grow up into a tainted adult, she chooses to escape. Also when she gains the ability to use the compass (althieometer?) because she’s acquired enough Dust, it’s as if it symbolizes her growing knowledge of the adult world and how she can apply it to situations that help her. Also towards the end when Lord Aston jumps into the portal asking her to follow. She chooses not too. Lyra does not follow this symbolized Satan because she makes the right decision for herself.

The way Pullman presents themes within The Golden Compass is the part that intrigues me the most. I really thoroughly enjoyed this story.

The Heroic Journey of a Hobbit

I used to be obsessed with Tolkien in Jr. High into High School. I remember the first time I read the hobbit was in 8th grade. That was around the time that the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. Having experienced Bilbo’s Journey and the Fellowship of the Ring at the same time made me really interested into figuring out as much about this fictional Middle-Earth as possible. I recall one of my friends having a map, and how we’d look through it trying to pinpoint all the locations of where things happened in the story. Its things like that that really bring interest into younger adolescent readers. They get intrigued by the mythical adventure, but also grow to understand the story behind it. It’s interesting going back and reading The Hobbit again as an adult and realizing all the good plot devices that so many common fantasies lacks these days.

The story can be defined as escapist literature. You’ve escaped from the jail of your life into a fantasy adventure. Tolkien really builds the whole world of middle-earth. It’s not linear, it goes in a direction and then its like “oh that reminds me of …” It’s really reminiscent of ancient folktales in it’s storytelling.

The thing with the Hobbit over other medieval fantasy is its really cunning an intelligent. Because Bilbo is a hobbit, a small humanlike creature that’s the size of a child even though he’s a middle-aged man, he results to outsmarting his enemies with wit as opposed to having an epic battle. He can’t physically defend himself the best, but he tricks Gollum by asking him the question about the ring. Gollum goes crazy looking for his ring, and Bilbo asks him if he can guess what’s in his pocket. Gollum guesses incorrectly, and Bilbo slips on the ring and vanishes out of sight.

The Hobbit has always been a tale that I’ve most enjoyed, as well as any of Tolkien’s other middle-earth stories.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Impressions of a Vampire

So this past week’s reading was Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. Although the recent onslaught of vampires in mainstream culture – thanks Twilight – has built my distaste in vampires, I decided to give this story a fair chance.

Anne Rice’s vampires differ from that of the traditional Dracula. For one thing they’re immune to the whole garlic, holy water, stake in the heart kind of stuff. Also, instead of turning victims into fellow vampires upon biting them, victims are transformed when they feed upon a vampire’s blood. Now the story takes off as a young boy is interviewing Louis, who’s been a vampire for over 200 years. Louis’s character is portrayed as a teenager or young adult when he’s affected by life at the beginning of his told story.

Louis’s life is on its last rope. He’s pretty much at rock bottom when Lestat discovers him. Lestat takes advantage of Louis’s weakness and turns him into a vampire. He then shows Louis the way of life as a vampire as they prey upon unsuspecting victims that are both male and female. One thing that occurred to me while perusing through this story, although it’s not exactly mentioned, is that there is a sense of a bisexual dominance/recessive relationship between Lestat and Louis within this story. In a way it feels kind of like Anne Rice paved a pathway to making female pornography more popular, kind of like how it is in more modern culture today, particularly with Yaoi in Japan. It feels like Louis is trapped in this awful sort of relationship with Lestat in which he’s now forced to live forever as a vampire. Its not until he meets up with the old world vampires that he has his chance to leave. The story also sparks a lot of other interesting concepts, like Claudia for instance, who is pretty much like a child to Louis. She’s stuck as an immortal child, so that even though her mind matured to adulthood, her body never did. Also the Old world vampires are more like savages. They’ve been used to feeding on the living for so long, they’ve lost any sense of their human minds. Louis and Claudia tried to dispose of Lestat and failed. Its not really until after Lestat comes back to extract his revenge by killing Claudia that Louis is really fueled to get rid of Lestat. Also at the end of the story the interviewer, being the young naïve boy that he is, doesn’t realize any of the tragedy behind Louis’s woeful tales. Instead he thinks it’d be cool to be a vampire for the immortality and power. Louis angered at the boy’s ignorance, turns him into a vampire and flees. At that point the story ends with the interviewer wanting to seek out Lestat as well. In a way, this is kind of like a commentary about how people don’t realize the consequences of things as youth. They don’t tend to think things through, but rather learn the hard way because they do things that they think are cool.

Even though the whole male dominance relationship part of this book kind of creeped me out, I still think it provided some interesting points with the concept of being an immortal child and the mindless old world vampires.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Although I’ve never had any intention of reading any of Jane Austen’s books, I have to say that ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ provided a slightly different experience. At first I was really only inclined to read it because I’m a huge fan of zombies. After perusing through some of it, I admit that it is quite humorous seeing the book presented in a satirical fashion.

The story introduces the characters in what I’d assume is the same way they are brought about in the original story. I get the impression that it’s a very traditional early 19th century England. Even the way they first start talking about the “unmentionables” feels like it actually fits into the text. When I first saw “unmentionables” I felt like I wasn’t sure what it was they were talking about. And I feel like, that’s how it would be talked about in the early 1800’s because the word “zombie” wasn’t even added to the English dictionary until much later. These extra characters actually seem to fit quite well into the story. However when they start calling them “zombies” and describing their specific martial arts techniques, that’s when it starts getting ridiculous. There are certain snippets of the story like that where it makes sense up to a point, and then after that it’s kind of ridiculous. The first time a ninja actually showed up into the story I thought, “Wait, did that actually just happen?” It was kind of strange to see all these random Japanese elements of ninjas and karate fighting styles integrated into old English culture. It was at the point I realized, “Well, I can see why it’s described as a mash-up.” In a way, it kind of reminds me of the same satirical format you’d see in an Onion News Network article. They present it in a way that makes it sound believable, yet there are so many ridiculous things added to it which is what makes it so hilarious.

‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ was entertaining to say the least, and I feel that this book is one to keep for years to come. I’ve also researched the book and found information regarding it being turned into a movie. It’s rumored to be in pre-production now with directing by David O. Russell and Elizabeth Bennet being played by Natalie Portman. I have to wonder if they’ll keep the satirical format without ruining it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Frankenstein First and Foremost

So this blog was created for my Literature of Horror, Fantasy and Sci-Fi class taught by Dr. Steiling. Our first assignment was to read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I've heard widely about it, but this was my first time sitting down and actually reading the original novel.

I have to say the book was kind of hard to get into at first, given that it started out with these strange letters. I wasn't sure what the letters had to do with the story, but after the letters were finished I realized that it was just point of view of the storytelling. I actually quickly perused through the whole story to try and picture it as a whole. It helped to fundamentally put everything together, and then realize that it was actually shifting points of view between the main character of the story, Victor Frankenstein, and the eyes of a man by the name of Robert Walton that wrote the letters describing the experience of how he came about meeting Victor. After realizing that, I preceded to go back and read the more individual parts of the story and slowly realize the plot setup, symbolism and hidden meanings.

Victor starts off as any young college student would, so involved and passionate about his work with science, and curious about such taboo as creating human life. What he underestimates, is that his creation turns into a "monster". This monster is born a giant with the mind of an infant. He does adapt fairly quickly in terms of learning language by observing a nearby family. Even though the does accidentally kill them, it's not intentional. There's almost a level of innocence to it. What I think actually kept me interested in the story though was the paradigm shift in personalities. Character development is always my favorite part of stories, and this story is no exception. Watching Victor go from young and naive to desperate out of grief was rather interesting. Victor even argued with himself for a while as to whether appease his creation, which was pretty much like his son, the one thing he asked for, a female. After contemplating it for a while, he decided to go ahead with it, only to scrap it before completion and throw the parts out to sea. This really symbolized abortion. Not only was Victor a terrible and irresponsible parent to his first child, but he also aborted the second one. Meanwhile, his first creation has killed his best friend, to which he gets blamed for himself. Victor really evolved from a naive science practitioner into a complete narcissistic jerk. He was too worried about himself, and what would happen to people if he didn't kill his monster. The fact that he contemplated killing his creation, his only son, as opposed to accepting his responsibility for it really showed something about this character. It should also be noted that all the significant feminine roles in the story weren't very significant at all. The all didn't have very much dialogue time overall, and when they were killed they were rather accepting of it. It's more like it was all about Victor's reaction, and all about him being the center of the universe. The way I figure it, it's like Mary Shelley's social commentary on how unimportant women roles were looked upon in at least in her life, as well as the acceptable responsibility level of young parents. Overall, I feel that Shelley's story was very well conceived, even if it was kinda slow to start. It certainly gives some insight towards how she really felt upon roles in society, and I did enjoy the swap of roles between Victor and his creation. His creation was his innocent child, and Victor Frankenstein became the real monster.

If anything, this story certainly reaffirms my decision of waiting until I'm around 30 before I even have my own children. Although some young parents do a swell job, Victor certainly did not.