Everything to Hide and Everything to Fear – Moral Panic in Concrete Revolutio

[HorribleSubs] Concrete Revolutio - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.25_[2015.10.27_08.08.34]

Concrete Revolutio is a series which is complex, holding the cards of its main plot close to its chest; eight episodes in it is hard to see exactly where the endgame will be despite Shin Mazinger-esque flashforwards showing some dystopian, uncertain future where alliances made during the main episodic plots seem inverted and the utopia that the heroes want to fight for has failed. It is clear from these main plots that the hoped-for utopia is based on a faulty premise, but there is the hope that the characters will realise this; each story has their faith in the world shaken a little more, but how this ties into a future where their actions are framed almost villainously is as yet unclear. This is fitting; it is a series about the people who control the image of, and perception of, heroism and justice. It is a series that calls into question the popular perception of justice, and it is perhaps for this reason I find myself comparing it repeatedly to Giant Robo.

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Family, Brotherhood and Motherhood in Eureka Seven 46


The overwhelming theme of episode 46 of Eureka Seven is family and the ability of familial ties to overcome grief and disagreement. It is not limited to traditional familial units, picking up on the series’ emphasis on nontraditional families and family-like entities and exploring how within close-knit social and professional groups like military units a certain kind of familial piety can exist. It would be easy to say that it is examining friendship more than family, but the constant theme throughout the series has been how, for people who lack biological parents, these social groups become a new family. What matters more than blood ties is that there are dependable – even if they are flawed – people to offer advice and support if needed.

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Iron Blooded Orphans Is, Unsurprisingly, Not as Good as Turn-A Gundam

[HorribleSubs] Mobile Suit Gundam - Iron-Blooded Orphans - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.11_[2015.11.15_12.06.51]

As G-Tekketsu proceeds into its seventh episode, it is a conflicting series; it hints at some very interesting ideas it has yet to satisfactorily develop, some other details have turned into a very interesting character study and it sits in an uneasy place between lazy formula and a genuinely interesting take on well-worn ideas. In my initial writing on the series I highlighted its subtlety and willingness to use body language and implicit bits of character development as strengths; it was setting up a contrast between a cynical and pragmatic yet ultimately ignorant hero, and an idealistic yet out-of-touch privileged woman trying to reach out to him. This continues for a while; during the series’ episodes on Mars, the protagonist, Mika, is shown to be illiterate and able to fight only by the muscle memory of his life as a tank driver – in time he admits this and tries to learn to write, but before then it is shown by his refusal to read manuals or instructions. Mika – and his superior officer Orga – remain the most interesting characters even as the series falls into a slump; their dynamic has become a strange inversion of the usual machismo of robot anime.

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NaNoWriMo Short Story – On-Site Procurement


I have not written action, pure, enjoyable action – not a deconstruction or a subversion or any such thing – for a very long time. Whenever I try I find I want to subvert expectations – and so, in this season of writing short stories against my grain I thought I would write a simple cyberpunk-esque fight scene. There is not much to comment on – my intent was to simply try and write an exciting vignette rather than an in-depth dissection of a genre.

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NaNoWriMo Short Story: Teacher of Love and Justice (愛と正義の先生)


After my last story ended up a very dark one, all about the horrible secrets behind something innocuous, I wanted to write something very lighthearted. One of my favourite animated films is Kiki’s Delivery Service, mostly because of how amiably it presents the idea of magic in everyday life and how it talks about ideas of the expectations placed on young people. I was thinking about it recently, along with other nonviolent magical girl anime; series like Creamy Mami about trying to use magic for fun. A lot of the ways in which magic is depicted in such fiction are as wish-fulfillment opportunities. They give a girl the chance to do what she has always wanted to, to not want for things. Even in the more combat-oriented series like Sailor Moon, it is someone on the bottom rung socially given the power.

If you think about it, magic, as the power to become something else, is effectively wealth and privilege. So, I began thinking about turning this around; what if a good-hearted person of comfortable means was given magic? How would they use it well? The answer, I felt, was this…

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NaNoWriMo Short Story – The Struthiotitan Incident

I do not want to give this story the usual lengthy explanation of my inspirations and intentions, because it is intended to be interpreted by the reader. This sounds perverse – usually I relish the opportunity to explain my thought processes in these stories – but in this case, as part of my intent this NaNoWriMo to experiment with my writing, I am leaving the interpretation of events to the reader.

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NaNoWriMo Short Story – The Best of Us

This year, for National Novel Writing Month, I am not writing a novel. I aim to use it to write more short stories, and try and write more challenging ones for me. Ones that try to be more ambitious in their scope, or explore ideas I am interested in in some new way. This is one of those, a response to what is best called cyborg fiction – that introspective science-fiction about the meaning of humanity in a transhumanist world, about being a machine. I dearly love Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell and even, in lighter handlings of the story, Full Metal Alchemist, Astro Boy and Robocop. I think these stories are if anything even more timely the closer science comes to the science-fiction prosthetics they depict – in a real life where transhumanism is discussed seriously as a possible future for mankind, asking questions about whether it is morally acceptable, and where boundaries should be drawn is vital.

My perspective, which comes across very plainly in this piece, is that transhumanism is entirely the wrong attitude to approach this technology from; rather than considering the idea that “mankind” (as argued generally from positions of privilege, and at times implicitly referring only to those privileged humans) needs uplifting to something beyond human, a better use of technology would be to give everyone equal opportunity. Before one can even begin considering what comes after humanity, humans should try to give everyone a fair opportunity in the world as it is – rather than creating an introspective circle dedicated to “improvement” of the lives of the already affluent and healthy.

Thus I wrote my own, arguably Oshii-esque, internal monologue of a cyborg. It is more than a little Robocop…

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Short Story – Rune Saber Clare

After stories exploring fairly conceptual things like a robotic artist’s creative process, or a cyberpunk desert colony’s carefully controlled economic oppression, I found myself wanting to return to a more lighthearted story. I find that an amiably sarcastic narrative voice is one I like to fall back on, critical without being necessarily deconstructive, amusing without intending to belittle a genre or its fans. I quite like the humour of matter-of-factness and bathos.

This story came, as a few of mine do, from a mental image around which I derived a story. I wanted to write a story about a David and Goliath situation that had something of a quirky ending but which was not a dull “gotcha” like the fight involving the Prince of Dorne in Game of Thrones, or the very smug “unexpected” idea of an innocuous character being a cold killer (as Arya’s story skirts). As it happens, I quite enjoy fencing despite not being particularly good at it, so a “safe” duel like a fencing-match or practice fight seemed a perfect place for this kind of narrative. I lose regularly whenever I fight a match, but the joy is in trying to do as well as I can even if I should lose – and the real pleasure is in being able to engage in banter with my opponent and coach about our failings, to try and improve and spot our weaknesses. So all these ideas crystallised together – an inexperienced but enthusiastic fighter takes on an immensely skilled veteran who genuinely wants to have them learn from the inevitable defeat.

All that remained was the aesthetic, and that was a simple derivation from two fantasy styles I dearly love. Firstly the grim, oppressive look of something like Dark Souls or Warhammer Fantasy Battle, of even heroic figures looking menacing and gothic. Thus was Radec, the veteran knight of this piece. Secondly the colourful, cute fantasy style of something like Grandia or Magic Knight Rayearth or Fire Emblem, all about enthusiasm and doing one’s best and facing adversity with adventurousness. Thus was Clare, the bounty hunter and adventurer (in the D&D sense) out of her depth but determined to do her best.

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Short Story – The Objective Reviewer


There’s a lot of backstory to this that perhaps the title doesn’t communicate in its efforts to be satirical. This isn’t purely a satirical story, fixed in its aims at deflating some specific wrongheaded viewpoint, although as I wrote it I realised it could definitely be read as one. In fact I quite like that reading of it, because as someone who cares quite a bit about literary criticism I hate the idea that one can have a useful piece of “objective” writing about art. Even if one takes the author to be very much not dead, communicating authorial intent is – like communicating any information – going to be shaped by the writer’s subconscious biases.

That was a reading I realised I was subconsciously writing into this story, but when I set out to write it my thought process began with two things. Firstly writing an artificial intelligence’s voice that was not merely emotionless, but trying to communicate the thought process of something with a completely different set of values. A great inspiration here was Ann Leckie, who does this very well in her novels and is highly recommended. The second thing was trying to communicate the emotional response I have to the weird, introspective musical genre called vaporwave. Something of a pop-cultural joke at times, vaporwave is like the opposite of the retro electronica revival that I dearly love, not dwelling on cyberpunk and grinding industrial synths and found sounds but making something truly odd and ethereal with synthesisers. Listening to This by Hong Kong Express gives a sense of what vaporwave is. I wanted to see if I could get that sometimes familiar, sometimes uncanny sound across in a piece of written description, and so decided the best subject for such a tone would be something inhuman, inscrutable and distant.

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Short Story – The Means of Production


I am something of a fan of the “lived-in” future, the grimy industrial look of things like Alien, Star Wars and so on. It seems an aesthetic that quite suits a pseudo-cyberpunk world, one of technology abused for the purposes of perpetuating inequality. That’s where this story came from – a series of aesthetic inspirations from the deserts of Dune and The Phantom Pain to a kind of indistinct mix of Mad Max‘s post-apocalypse and Michiko & Hatchin‘s sunburned South American favelas, tied together with the voice of a character trying to maintain a punk, anti-authority facade but – like I think many people do – finding their thoughts tend to the melancholy and introspective when they are alone with them.

After all, it is easier to be angry that the water is out again than to really do something about the ownership of the means of production when the bourgeoisie are millions of miles away on another planet.

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