Short Story – If War Should Come
Recently I thoroughly enjoyed the televised adaptation of War and Peace – it was a tremendously entertaining piece of drama. It got me thinking back over the fantasy setting I devised some time ago, one focused on elven city-states and a strange theocracy. Specifically, it made me think about two things – the feeling of uncertainty that an impending or distant war brings, and the harshness of a Russian winter. I always imagined in this fantasy setting that the kingdoms I described would have a harsh winter; the so-called “high winter” that has the beauty of freshly-fallen snow and frozen lakes, but the almost-lethal cold that comes with it.
It is something of a cliche to say that the Russian winter defeats invaders, but it is nevertheless true; a geographically vast nation with particularly bad weather is not easy to invade. Something of this inspired this story – not the problems of invading a country like Russia, but the opposite – what if a nation in the depths of its own harsh winter is called upon, by a treaty, to mobilise for war against an invader attacking a neighbouring ally?
In War, No-one is Apolitical (Thoughts on Two Novels of JG Farrell)
In my previous article, concerning the genre of what is ultimately pulp, soapish historical fiction, I discussed the idea that it is impossible for a work dealing with an elite and a dispossessed to be be apolitical. By extension, a work which downplays or mocks the downfall of an elite for comic value – by presenting socialists or reformists as figures of fun and inconveniences – can not unreasonably be read as sympathetic to that elite. Downton Abbey, the aristocratic soap popular on British television of late, is a good example; modernity, and a world where the landed gentry are no longer so comfortable, is presented as something annoying and the humour is drawn from how the most posh members of the society are inconvenienced by it.
All Historical Fiction is Political (Thoughts on Rose of Versailles, Downton Abbey and Poldark)
From the start, Rose of Versailles has a menace hanging over it – that of the French Revolution, constantly alluded to by the narrator and gradually brought into the main plot by the exposure of its privileged protagonist to the injustice of the world she fights for. The shoujo aspects of it – Marie Antoinette as the privileged adolescent involved in social spats with her rivals at court playing out like schoolgirl bickering – fade away through a move towards genuine threat. It goes from two women arguing about talking to each other to attempted fraud, efforts to undermine the monarchy and even assassination plots before the story as a whole pulls away from Marie herself to the possible downfall of the French nobility as an institution. Oscar is a confidante in this story, the woman in which Marie can put her faith as a friend, and yet this is set against her growing revulsion at the injustice of the system itself.
Talking About Legend of the Galactic Heroes by Talking About Arslan
Although The Legend of the Galactic Heroes is an anime I greatly enjoy, its immense scope (110 episodes, detailing the rise and fall of immense superpowers through the lens of two men who emerge as their figureheads) makes it a challenging prospect to write about. It is not just epic in terms of its plot – epic in the sense of scale, with planets and star systems changing hands and yet also in the sense of character, talking about the rise of charismatic leaders of men with ambitions to bring down political entities centuries old – but in terms of ambition as a piece of fiction. It presents two entire ideologies embodied by its warring factions, in a sense – monarchy (and a quasi-respectable monarchy under an “enlightened” ruler at that) versus democracy (a corrupt, self-serving democracy that is no more enlightened than the monarchy it fights againt) with capital – the private sector and corporate interests represented by Phezzan – and religion, via both the spirituality of the Empire and the mysterious, destabilising Earth Cult – as third-parties who play both sides. This scale makes discussion of the series as a whole less fruitful than character studies or discussion of individual plot arcs – but these are still articles I have trouble beginning to write. More accessible is the creator of The Legend‘s, Yoshiki Tanaka’s, more recently adapted work, The Heroic Legend of Arslan. Currently two episodes into its 2015 adaptation, Arslan presents the same thematic intent as Galactic Heroes but within a different context.
Short Story – Not A Lot Changes
I really liked the setting I created in The Usual, For Two – the dusty, well-worn, questionably corrupt city of Cana Luz which sat on a mountainside overlooked by the grotesque governor’s residence. So, I decided to revisit it some time after the change of government the previous story depicted. Much like The Usual, this was a very easy and fun story to write – the basic conceit was not particularly complicated and the challenge and joy for me as a writer came from trying to get an appropriately satirical tone. The picture above is an illustration of the now-named Governor from The Usual, for Two, by an artist who remains sadly anonymous.
The Disquieting “Yatterman Night”
Yatterman Night is a curious series, a reimagining or sequel of an archetypal children’s television program that tries to bring it “up to date” with political themes and an often more “mature” tone. At first sight, read literally, it is effectively a philosophical or thematic “next step” for an audience who perhaps watched Yatterman as children and are now teenagers looking for something more morally in-depth. Yatterman, as Night continually restates, is about two heroes and a mechanical dog fighting a group of thieves who are dumb, violent, avaricious and lewd. Good wins, evil is defeated, and that is that. Yatterman‘s evil archetypes are so iconic in their lack of threat they are the model for countless subsequent sympathetic or comic villains – Pokemon‘s Team Rocket, Nadia‘s Grandis Gang, Wario and Waluigi from the Mario games – any set of villains involving a stylish lady, a fat idiot and a thin scheming man, of which there are many.
Thinking Points (XII) – Educational Games
Recently what seems to me to be a perennial debate has resurfaced; the value of educational games in raising awareness and increasing understanding of contemporary events. This has become more significant as the prevalence of independent computer games and new games formats such as mobile phones and tablet computers, as well as the increasing move towards computer games becoming more than simple entertainment.