[INFO] - Tips on World-building, Narratives, and Other Forms of Storytelling.

Discussion in 'Out-of-Character' started by Brijesha, Feb 22, 2014.

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If you're a story teller of sorts, did you find this article useful?

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  1. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
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    NARRATIVES OF THE SELF
    WRITTEN BY :: Kenneth J. Gergen and Mary M. Gergen | SOURCE :: WWW.PASADENA.EDU

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Andrew Brown (2005) Figure. Oil pastel, ink and charcoal on paper.

    "Man is always a storyteller! He lives surrounded by his and others' myths.
    With them he sees everything in his life, no matter what befalls him.
    And he seeks to live his life as though he were telling it." --- Sartre

    Traditionally; inquiry into self-conception has been concerned with states of being, that is, with the individual as a stabilized entity. The research concern has been essentially triadic. It has first entailed the development of a wide variety of measuring instruments designed to tap the structure, content, and evaluative underpinning of the individual's self-conception at a given time. Second, it has focused on various factors that could figure in the determination and alteration of the individual's conception of self. Finally it has been occupied with the effects of a given configuration of self-conception on subsequent activity. Thus, for example, researchers have developed instruments for assessing self-esteem, have examined a range of formative influences, and explored the behavioural implications of possessing various levels of self-esteem. Yet, in spite of the many insights generated in this traditional orientation to self, it is important to recognize its limitations. In doing so, we may become sensitized to significant lacunae in theoretical development. It is just such limitations in the traditional orientation that set the stage for the present undertaking.

    Traditional research on self-conception is earmarked by two widely prevailing characteristics: such research tends to be both mechanistic and synchronic. It is mechanistic in its assumption of an internal structure governed in mechanical fashion by external inputs, and it is synchronic in its concern with the causes and effects of the individual's characterization of him or herself at a given moment. Thus the individual is generally imbued with a structure of self-descriptions (concepts, schemata, prototypes) that remains stabilized until subjected to external influences from the social surroundings. While revealing in certain respects, such orienting assumptions are myopic in others.

    First, they ignore the individual's capacity to shape actively the configuration of self-conception. They deny the potential of the individual for reflexive reconstruction of self-understanding. Needed then is attention to the ways in which the individual actively constructs his or her view of self not as a pawn to social inputs, but as a constructive agent in social life. Second, the traditional views fail to appreciate the individual's understanding of him or herself as a historically emerging being. It may be argued that one's view of self in a given moment is fundamentally nonsensical unless it can be linked in some fashion with his or her past. Suddenly and momentarily to see oneself as "fat," "poetic," or "male," for example, might seem mere whimsy unless such concepts could be attached to a temporal context revealing their genesis. How did it come about that such terms are being employed in the present context?

    The fact that people believe they possess identities fundamentally depends on their' capacity to relate fragmentary occurrences across temporal boundaries. The present analysis, specifically concerned with the individual's active construction of personal history, is thus reflexive and diachronic. It is concerned with states of active becoming as opposed to passive being.

    We shall employ the term "self-narrative" to refer to the individual's account of the relationship among self-relevant events across time. In developing a self-narrative, the individual attempts to establish coherent connections among life events (Cohler, 1979; Kohli, 1981). Rather than seeing one's life as simply "one damned thing after another," the individual attempts to understand life events as systematically related. They are rendered intelligible by locating them in a sequence or "unfolding process" (de Waele & Harrk, 1979). One's present identity is thus not a sudden and mysterious event, but a sensible result of a life story. As Bettelheim (1976) has argued, such creations of narrative order may be essential in giving one's life a sense of meaning and direction.

    It is the purpose of this article to open consideration of the manner in which people construct narratives for the self. Our analysis is divided into two parts. First we shall consider narrative forms, in both their temporal and dramatic aspects. The attempt in this case will be to develop a means of characterizing forms of narrative. Using this analysis as grounding we can turn to the relationship of self-narratives to social interaction. Although self-narratives are possessed by individuals, their genesis and sustenance may be viewed as fundamentally social. The function of differing narrative forms along with their construction in social interaction will be of particular concern.

    Before embarking on this analysis, a word must be said about the relationship between the concept of self-narrative and related theoretical notions. In particular, the concept of self-narrative bears an affinity with a variety of constructs falling generally within the domains of rule-role and dramaturgical theory. However, there are significant distinctions. The concepts of rule (Harre & Secord, 1972), role prescription
    (Sarhin & Allen, 1968-1969), interaction ritual (Goffman, 1974), and scripts (Schank & Abelson, 1977) have all been employed in dealing with the psychological basis for sequences of action across time.. Further, in each case, theorists have generally assumed an autonomous base for human action. In these respects, such terms are similar to the concept of self-narrative. However, unlike the latter concept, theorists in each of these cases have tended to assign governing or directive functions to the various structures. That is, the individual is said to consult or interrogate the relevant rule, role prescription, ritual understanding, or script for indications of proper or appropriate conduct. The individual thus carries with him or her a psychological template relevant to interaction sequences, and assesses the propriety of his or her behaviour in accord with the template. In contrast, we view the self-narrative as possessing no inherent directive capabilities. Rather, it may be viewed as a construction undergoing continuous alteration as interaction progresses. The individual in this case does not consult the narrative for information. Rather, the self-narrative is a linguistic implement constructed and reconstructed by people in relationships, and employed in relationships to sustain, enhance, or impede various actions. In this sense, self-narratives function much as histories within the society more generally. Histories do not in themselves have directive capacities. They are symbolic systems used for such social purposes as justification, criticism, and social solidification.


    • DIMENSIONS OF NARRATIVE FORM

    To argue that individuals attempt to knit their life events into coherent sequences is to open the door to a variety of interesting and important issues. What functions do self-narratives play in the life of the individual; can self-narratives be distinguished in terms of their functional as opposed to dysfunctional capacities; what are the origins of self-narratives; and what relationship do such narratives bear to social life more generally? Inquiry into such issues depends importantly on the existence of a differentiated vocabulary of narrative form. Without distinctions among narrative forms; theoretical explorations of these various issues may remain shallow or constrained. Although a full elaboration of narrative form is beyond the scope of this chapter, our later discussion of the social context of narrative will benefit from consideration of two major aspects of form: the temporal and the dramatic.
    • TEMPORAL FORM OF SELF-NARRATIVE

    One essential aspect of narrative is the capacity to generate directionality among events; that is, to structure the events in such a way that they move over time in an orderly way toward a given end. Our initial question concerning this temporal aspect of narrative concerns that of variations in form. On what grounds can one distinguish among forms of temporal sequence There are few available resources on which to draw in answering this question. The most extensive accounts of variations in narrative form are found in the analysis of drama and literature. In his analysis of mythical forms, for example, Northrup Frye (1957) argues that there are four basic forms of narrative, each of which is rooted in the human experience with nature and most particularly with the evolution of the seasons. Thus, the experience of spring and the uprising of nature gives rise to the comedy. In the classic tradition; comedy typically involves a challenge or threat, which is overcome to yield a happy ending. A comedy need not be humorous. Rather, it is similar to what is now popularly called a melodrama. Problematic situations develop and are overcome. In contrast, the free and calm of summer days give inspiration to the romance as a dramatic form. The romance in this case consists of a series of episodes in which the major protagonist experiences challenges or threats and in each case emerges victorious. The romance need not be concerned with attraction between people. During the autumn, when one experiences the contrast between the life of summer and the death of coming winter, the tragic form is born; and in winter, with one's increasing awareness of unrealized expectancies and the death of dreams, irony and satire become relevant expressive forms.

    Joseph Campbell's (1949) analysis of primitive myth is helpful. As he proposes, there is one central "monomyth" from which a myriad of variations have been drawn in primitive mythology. The monornyth, rooted in unconscious psychodynamics, concerns the hero who has been able to overcome personal and historical limitations to reach a transcendent understanding of the human condition.
    [​IMG]

    For Campbell, heroic narratives in their many local guises serve vital functions of psychic education. For our purposes, we see that the monomyth carries a form similar to that of the comedy-melodrama. That is, negative events (trials, terrors, tribulations) are followed by a positive outcome (enlightenment).

    These discussions enable us to shift to a more abstract perspective. What is common to the sequential shift we find in the tragedy, the comedy-melodrama, the romantic saga, and the monomyth are shifts in the evaluative character of events over time. Essentially, we seem to be confronted with alterations in a primary dimension of human experience, the evaluative (cf Gordon, 1968, 1976; Osgood, Suci & Tannenbaum, 1957; Wells & Manuell, 1976). That is, in linking experiences the dramatist appears to establish directionality along a good-bad dimension.

    Or, as Alasdair MacIntyre (1977) has put it;
    Do such alterations have a counterpart in the person's attempt to understand his or her cross-time trajectory? It would appear so, as attested to by such common queries as:
    or
    To answer such questions, the individual selects discrete incidents or images occurring across time and links them through evaluative comparison (cf Hankiss, 1981; Labor & Waletzky, 1967). Given what appears to be a fundamental means of generating coherence and direction over time, we can proceed more formally to consider the problem of narrative types. At the most rudimentary level we may isolate three forms of narrative.

    The first may be described as a stability narrative, that is, a narrative that links incidents, images, or concepts in such a way that the individual remains essentially unchanged with respect to his/her evaluative position. As depicted in Figure 12-1 *(image not shown here), we also see that the stability narrative could be struck at any level along the evaluative continuum.

    At the upper end of the continuum, the individual might conclude, for example;
    or at the lower end;
    As can also be seen, each of these narrative summaries possesses inherent implications for the future. That is, they furnish an indication or anticipation of forthcoming events. In the former case the individual might conclude that he or she will continue to be attractive for the foreseeable future and, in the latter, that feelings of failure will persist regardless of circumstance.


    This rudimentary narrative may be contrasted with two others of similar simplicity. The individual may link together experiences in such a way that either increments or decrements characterize movement along the evaluative dimension over time. In the former case we may speak of progressive, and in the latter regressive, narratives (see Figure 12-2)*(image not shown here).

    For example, the individual might be engaged in a progressive narrative with the surmise;

    or a regressive narrative with the thought;

    Directionality is also implied in each of these narratives with the former anticipating further increments and the latter further decrements.

    As should be clear, these three narrative forms; stability, progressive, and regressive, exhaust the fundamental options for the direction of movement in evaluative space. As such they may he considered rudimentary bases for other more complex variants. Theoretically one may envision a potential infinity of variations on these rudimentary forms. However, for reasons of social utility, aesthetic desirability, and cognitive capability, the culture may limit itself to a truncated repertoire of possibilities. Among this limited set we may place the tragic narrative, which in the present framework would adopt the structure depicted in Figure 12-3 *(image not shown here). The tragedy, in this sense, would tell the story of the rapid downfall of one who had achieved high position. A progressive narrative is thus followed by a rapid regressive narrative. In this sense of comedy-melodrama is the reverse of the tragedy: A regressive narrative is followed by a progressive narrative.

    Life events become increasingly problematic until the denouement, where upon happiness is rapidly restored to the major protagonists. Further, if a progressive narrative is followed by a stability narrative, we have what is commonly known as the happily-ever-after myth, which is widely adopted in traditional courtship. And we also recognize the romantic saga as a series of progressive-regressive phases. In this case, for example, the individual may see his or her past as a continuous array of battles against the powers of darkness.

    Before considering a second aspect of narrative form; two matters deserve brief attention. First, as should be apparent from this discussion, narrative forms are in no way to be construed as objective reflections of one's personal life. The individual should be able to use virtually any form to account for his or her life history. Particular narratives may be implied by the manner in which one evaluates the events entering into the narrative construction. However, events themselves do not contain inherent valuational properties. Such properties must be attributed, and the attributions are contained within the particular constructions one makes of the events. Whether any given event is good or bad depends on the framework one employs for understanding, and the potential array of frameworks for rendering events intelligible is without apparent limit.

    Second, although many illustrations of these narrative forms can be found in the arts, this is not simultaneously to accept the enticing, but problematic view that life accounts are merely reconstituted forms of art. To be sure, from children's fairytales to television serials, from primitive religious myths to the most sophisticated novel, the narratives outlined thus far recur with great regularity. And, one can scarcely imagine that those who are frequently exposed to such forms could remain unaffected by them. Bettelheim's (1976) analysis of the profound effects of fairytales in the life of the developing child is quite compelling in this respect. Yet, at the same time such forms are not necessarily the inventions of autonomous storytellers, witch-doctors, or literary craftsmen. Such individuals are also members of their culture and can scarcely remain unaffected by the narrative forms that are already embedded therein.' Life and art are thus interdependent. However, that similar narrative forms may be found over many historical periods and differing contexts suggests that their fundamental genesis may he furnished by the requisites of human interaction. We shall return to this issue in treating the social utility of narrative forms.

    • DRAMATIC ENGAGEMENT IN NARRATIVE FORM

    We now see how coherence among events may be produced through evaluative contrasts. However, we have said little about one of the most phenomenon logically salient aspects of narrative form: the capacity to create feelings of drama or emotion. We may refer to this aspect of narrative form in terms of dramatic engagement. In the same way that theatrical productions vary in their capacity to arouse and compel an audience, so may the individual's selection of narrative vary in its capacity to generate or reduce dramatic tension in one's life. How are we to understand the elements giving rise to these variations in emotional engagement? Of course, dramatic engagement cannot he separated entirely from the content of a given narrative. Yet, segmented events in themselves appear limited in their capacity to sustain engagement. For example, a film depicting the continuous, random juxtaposition of startling events (a gunshot, a sword waving, a horse jumping a wall, a low-flying aircraft) would soon produce tedium. It is the relationship among events, not the events themselves, that seems chiefly responsible for sustaining dramatic engagement, and a theory of narrative form is essentially concerned with such relationships. What characteristics of narrative form are necessary, then, to generate dramatic engagement?


    At this preliminary juncture, one must again look at the dramatic arts as a source of insight. In this case, it is of initial interest that one can scarcely locate a theatrical exemplar of the three rudimentary narratives proposed above. A drama in which all events were evaluatively equivalent (stability narrative) would scarcely be considered drama. Further, a steady but moderate enhancement (progressive) or decrement (regressive narrative) in a protagonist's life conditions would also seem to produce ennui. At the same time, it is also interesting to observe that the tragic narrative depicted in Figure 12-3 *(image not shown here) hears a strong resemblance to the simpler, but unarousing regressive narrative. How does the tragic narrative, with its consistently powerful dramatic impact, differ from the more rudimentary regressive narrative? Two characteristics seem particularly significant. First, we note that the relative decline in events is far less rapid in the prototypical regressive narrative than it is in the case of the tragic narrative. Whereas the former is characterized by moderate decline over time, the latter organized events in such a way that decline is precipitous. In this light, one may conjecture that the rapidity with which events deteriorate in such classic tragedies as Anliqone, Oedius Rex, and Romeo and Juliet may be essential to their dramatic impact. More generally, it may be suggested that the rate of change, or more formally the acceleration of the narrative slope, constitutes one of the chief components of what is here termed dramatic engagement.

    A second major component is also suggested by the contrast between the regressive and the tragic narratives. In the former case, there is uni-directionality in the slope line whereas in the tragic narrative we find a progressive narrative (sometimes implied) followed by a regressive narrative. It would appear to be this "turn of events," or more precisely the change in the evaluative relationship among events, that contributes to a high degree of dramatic engagement. It is when the individual who has attained high goals, has reached the apex of ecstasy, or has at last discovered life's guiding principle, is brought low that drama is created. In more formal terms, the alteration in narrative slope may be considered a second major component of dramatic engagement. When we consider both alteration in and acceleration of narrative slope as basic components of dramatic engagement, we are led to a more general conclusion. Both of these components are similar in one respect: they both point to some aspect of phenomenal change as a basis of dramatic tension. Acceleration and alteration in slope may be viewed as two realizations of this more fundamental experience.

    • MACRO-, MICRO- AND MULTIPLES IN NARRATIVE FORM

    Thus far we have attempted to outline a number of rudimentary narrative forms, along with some of their more common derivatives, and to open discussion on differences in dramatic impact. We must now turn our attention more directly to the operation of narrative forms in daily life. This account will have two aspects. In the first instance, we may consider the normal capacities with which the individual enters social relationships, and in the second, the function and development of narratives in interpersonal encounters. In inquiring into personal capacities, it is important to appreciate the individual's exposure to a milieu of multiple narratives. Normal socialization will typically offer the individual exposure to a wide variety of narrative forms, from the rudimentary to the complex. Thus, the individual typically enters relationships with a potential for employing any of a wide number of forms. In the same way an experienced skier approaches a steep incline with a variety of techniques for effective descent or a teacher confronts a class with a variety of means for effective communication, so the individual can usually construct the relationship among life experiences in a variety of ways. At a minimum, effective socialization should equip the person to interpret life events as constancies, as improvements, or as decrements. And, with little additional training, the individual should develop the capacity to envision his or her life as tragedy, comedy-melodrama, or a romantic epic.

    Not only do people enter social relationships with a variety of narratives at their disposal, but, in principle, there are no temporal parameters within which events must be related through narratives. That is, one may attempt to relate events occurring over vast periods of time, or determine the relationship among events within a brief period. One may find it possible to see his or her life as part of an historical movement commencing centuries ago, or as originating in early adolescence. At the same time, the individual may choose to describe as a comedy-melodrama that which has unfolded as friends select their positions at the dinner table. We may use the terms "macro" and "micro" to refer to the hypothetical or idealized ends of the temporal continuum within which events are related. Macronarratives refer to those events spanning broad periods of time while micronarratives relate events within brief duration. The historian typically excels in the
    macronarrative, while the comedian who relies on sight zags may be the master of the micronarrative.

    Given the capacity to relate events within different temporal perspectives, it becomes apparent that people often engage in the construction of nested narratives, or narratives within narratives. Thus, they may come to see themselves as part of a long cultural history, but nested within this narrative they may possess an independent account of their development since childhood, and within this account establish a separate portrayal of their life as a professional, or the development of their image within the few preceding moments. A man may view himself as bearing the contemporary standard for a race that has struggled for centuries so that he may live (a progressive narrative) and at the same time see himself as one who was long favoured by his parents only to disappoint them with increasing frequency as he grew older (the tragic narrative), and simultaneously see how he managed to rekindle the waning ardor of a woman friend on a given evening (the comedy-melodrama).

    The concepts of nested narratives raises a variety of interesting issues. To what extent may we anticipate coherence among nested narratives? As Ortega y Gasset (1941) has argued in his analysis of historical systems;


    Yet, on the basis of the wide range of social psychological work on cognitive consistency, one might anticipate a general tendency for people to strive for consistency among nested narratives. There are also many social advantages to "having one's stories agree." To the extent that consistency among narratives is sought, macronarratives acquire preeminent importance. Such narratives seem to lay the foundations within which other narratives are constructed. One's account of an evening with a friend would not seem to dictate one's account of one's life history; however, one's life history does constitute grounds for understanding the trajectory of the evening. To extrapolate, it may be ventured that those people with an extensive background in the history of their culture or subculture, or with an elaborated sense of their place in history, may possess more coherence among narratives than those with a superficial sense of their historical position. Or, placed in a different light, people from a young culture or nation may experience a greater sense of freedom of momentary action than those from cultures of nations with a long and prominent historical narrative. The former may experience a lesser degree of strain to behave in a way that is coherent with the past.


    • THE SOCIAL UTILITY OF NARRATIVE FORM


    Having outlined a range of narrative forms within the common repertoire, we are in a position to inquire more directly into the relationship between self-narratives and social interaction. This analysis can proceed in two parts. First, we can examine the social origins of various narrative forms. We can then turn to the manner in which such narratives are moulded within social interaction. In the first case, we have seen that although a variety of narrative forms are potentially available to people, the individual usually relies on a delimited subset. We may advance our understanding of why we do not find an infinity of formulations if we consider functional needs within organized society. The viability of complex social institutions, large or small, benefits from the widespread capability of its members to employ a circumscribed range of narrative forms. This is to argue that a major source for narrative form resides in the social sphere and particularly within the requirements for adequate social functioning.

    Consider first the primitive narrative of self-stability. Although generally void of dramatic value, the capacity of people to identify themselves as stable units has vast utility within a culture. One's capacity to act functionally within society depends largely on the degree of its social stability. If others' conduct shifted randomly from one moment to the next one would be rendered helpless. There would be little way of knowing how to achieve any goal (including sustaining life) that depended on others' actions. Thus, much effort is expended by people in establishing recurring or stabilized patterns of conduct, and ensuring through various sanctions that they are maintained. This broad societal demand for stability of conduct finds its functional counterpart in the ready accessibility of the stability narrative on the personal level. Negotiating social life successfully requires that the individual is capable of making him or herself intelligible as an enduring, integral, or coherent identity. For example, in certain political arenas, it may be of great functional value to present oneself as a "born Southerner, raised in the South, married in the South, and part of its
    future." Or, on the more personal level, to be able to show how one's love, parental commitment, honesty, moral ideals, and so on have been unfailing over time, even when their outward appearances have seemed more variable, may be of exceptional importance in retaining ongoing relations. In most relationships of importance, people wish to know that others "are what they seem," which is to say that certain characteristics are enduring across time. One major means for rendering such assurances is through the construction of stability narratives.

    It is important to note at this point; a major way in which the present analysis conflicts with more traditional accounts of personal identity. Theorists such as Prescott Lecky, Erik Erikson, Carl Rogers, and Sevniour Epstein(?) have all viewed personal identity as something akin to an achieved condition of the mind. The mature individual, on this account, is one who has "found," "crystallized," or "realized" a firm sense of self or personal identity. In general this condition is viewed as a highlv positive outcome, and once achieved, variance or inconsistency in one's conduct may be minimized. However, from the present vantage point, the individual does not arrive at a stabilized state of mind. Rather, he or she develops the capacity for understanding him or herself in this manner and to communicate this understanding creditably to others. One does not acquire a "genius" or a "true self' but a potential for communicating that such a state is possessed.

    This latter position becomes fortified when we turn to the social functions of the progressive narrative. On a general level there appear not only a pervasive need for stability but also a contrasting need for change. Given that any action has both positive and negative consequences according to some standard, and assuming that positive consequences are to be preferred over negative, it follows that an improved or enhanced
    quality of any action may be desired. In this way people can see themselves, their world, and their relations as possessing the potential for positive change. They can see their poor condition as subject to alleviation, and life as promising brighter horizons. For many people indeed, this hope furnishes a chief motivational source. Careers are selected, sacrifices endured and many personal pleasures (including one's most intimate relations) are sacrificed in the belief that a progressive narrative can be achieved. And, it is clearly of great functional value to be able to construct such narratives for others. For example, a political leader may wish to argue that although the economy was depressed when he or she took office, it has shown steady improvement. Or, on a personal level, the success of many relationships depends importantly on the ability of the participants to demonstrate how their undesirable characteristics have diminished over time, even if they appear to be continuing undaunted. In effect, the general investment in positive change is best expressed through a narrative that demonstrates the ascending relationship among events over time.

    As should be evident from this analysis, one must be prepared in most relationships to render an account of oneself as both inherently stable, and yet, in a state of positive change. Functioning viably in a relationship often depends on one's ability to show that one has always been the same, and will continue to be so, and yet, contrapuntally to show how one is continuing to improve. One must be reliable but demonstrate progress; one must be changing but maintain a stable character. Achieving such diverse ends is primarily a matter of negotiating the meaning of events in relationship to each other. Thus, with sufficient skill one and the same event may figure in both a stability and a progressive narrative. For example, graduation from medical school may be used as evidence that one has always been intelligent, and at the same time demonstrate that one is on
    route to high professional status.

    Can a case be made for the generalized social value of regressive narratives? In as much as increments of one kind are tantamount to decrement of another, the necessary counterpart of the progressive narrative in the first case is the regressive narrative in the second. In order for one's nation to gain hegemony in world politics it may be necessary to interpret the power of other nations as declining. An increase in feelings of community safety may depend on one's assessment of a decline in juvenile crime. And, on the more personal level, one's account of self as increasing in maturity of judgment, on the one hand, may entail the contrary perception of a reduction in youthful impetuosity on the other. In effect, regressive narratives are logically tied to the creation of progressive narratives.

    One may object to this argument: although regressive narratives serve as the logical inverse of the progressive, they are not genuine regressions according to the evaluative criteria, proposed above. That is, repressive relations are derived, but the evaluative connotation in such cases is positive as opposed to negative. Can a case be made for regressive narratives in which the evaluative experience is a negative one? What needs might be served by seeing the world or oneself as in a state of degeneracy? At least one compelling answer to this question is furnished by taking account of the common effects of regressive narratives. In particular, when people are informed of steadily worsening conditions they often attempt to turn a potential tragedy into a comedy. Regressive narratives furnish an important means, then, of motivating people toward achievement of positive ends. This means is employed on a national level when a government demonstrates that the steady decline in the balance of payments can be offset only with a grassroots commitment to purchasing locally-manufactured products. The same technique may be employed by the individual in attempting to bolster his or her enthusiasm for a given product. Otherwise wishing to avoid effortful activity, people goad themselves into action by bringing to mind a regressive narrative.

    In sum, we see that the development of certain rudimentary narrative forms is favoured by functional needs within the society. Stability narratives are favoured by the common desire for the social world to appear orderly and predictable; progressive narratives offer the opportunity. For people to see themselves and their environment as capable of improvement; and regressive narratives are not only entailed logically by the development of progressive narratives, but have an important motivational function in their own right. Given a social basis for a variety of narrative forms within the individual's repertoire, we turn finally to the manner in which specific narratives are constructed in ongoing relations.

    http://www.pasadena.edu/library/reserves/tfkeeler/engl1c/GergenNarrativesSelf.pdf
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2014
    calmchaos likes this.
  2. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
    For your fantasy novel to truly work, you need to develop the world as fully as possible. This does not mean you need to spend half the novel describing the geographic formations, the flora and fauna, the rainfall and plate tectonics, of course, but it does mean that you need to have at least some inkling of what it is going to be like, so that your story remains consistent and becomes more vividly alive in the reader's mind.

    Now, although I have written a number of stories, very few of them actually involve fantastical worlds - or at least, very few involve fantastical worlds that do not bear a resemblance to Earth. My latest novels, and first trilogy: "Lemurs: A Saga", is set in an alternate-world Madagascar, where the sentient life forms are primates - in the case of the island of Madigaska, lemurs, but there are also monkeys over on the mainland and that once played the part of Missionaries (but I decided not to make them following our world religions: although the irony was amusing, I do not wish to cause that sort of controversy). I also have a futuristic Furry/Steampunk/Magic School novel in the works - which required me to figure out a post-apocalyptic environment for earth, and which I keep abandoning because my scientific brain keeps pointing out problems with the fact that the characters are anthropomorphic animals of various species.

    Anyhow, as someone who has studied ecology, I feel I can at least look a little authorative on the topic, so let us begin:

    Designing a Convincing Ecology for your Fantastical World

    Firstly: What is Ecology?
    Ecology is the scientific study of how living organisms interact in their natural environment.

    Ecology is made up of various parts, the simplist components of which are:
    Habitat + Flora (plant and tree life) + Fauna (animals)

    For the purposes of this, let us assume that Habitat refers to both the fixed geographic features (desert, swamp, grassland etc) and the variable features (weather patterns).
    To begin creating your fantasy world, you must first decide on these geographic features and determine what the general environment involves - is it a tropical forest? Savannah? A post-apocalyptic future where the world has been wiped clear of most sentient life?

    Habitat:

    Sticking with environments that we have on Earth will make this easier, and also more convincing to the Reader. Essentially, the closer you make your world to the world we all know and love, the easier it will be for the Reader to delve into the world and better experience it. This doesn't mean that you need to make it a carbon copy of Earth - just that some facts like: rain falls down from the sky, there are day/night cycles, the world is round (or flat)* etc, will make for more time for the actual plot and less time spent on trying to make the Reader understand what the heck is going on. I am an avid Reader, but I struggle with books that distort reality out of my comfort zone - such as Graham Edwards' "Stone" series where the world is essentially a wall, and any books where the main setting is a house where each room is somewhat like a different kingdom. Discworld, however, I am fine with. And you might be able to make a world of floating rocks over a lake of molten lava** work - and if so, kudos to you! There are Fantastical Worlds compromised of islands (Clive Barker's Abarat), set in a carpet (Clive Barker's Weaveworld), shaped like a ring (Larry Niven's Ringworld) and I'm sure there is at least one that is the inside of a sphere, not to mention various worlds made of houses (Garth Nix's House, plus another that is so obscure I can't remember it, except that it was weird), the aforementioned Wall series and many, many more. But essentially, I prefer ones that mirror Earth, at least insofar as general environment goes.

    Tundra:
    - Cold, barren.
    - Low plants, no trees (environment doesn't support tree growth - too cold for most of the year).
    - Either frozen or wet, depending on season.
    - Few animal species.
    - Dark and cold for a lot of the winter months, food scarce.
    - In spring, everything comes suddenly to life, and many birds come here to breed, then migrate away for the colder months.

    Taiga:
    - Temperate woodland
    - Supports trees and plants, but not a great range of species.
    - Range of different species, much of it fairly large - wolves, bears, deer, along with rodents and birds.

    Alpine Tundra:
    (High Altitude scrubland)
    - Harsh, windy conditions.
    - Does not support much tree growth - trees stunted and windswept.
    - Animals hardy and opportunistic (in New Zealand, we have the kea, the only alpine parrot in the world).
    - Some are drier than others, leading to high altitude grasslands.
    - High altitude - air is thinner, making it harder to breathe.
    Temperate Grasslands similar but less harsh. Warmer, but still cold in winter. (Prairies)

    Temperate Forest:
    - Wet and cool.
    - Produces lush forest, with a variety of different Evergreen tree and plant species.
    - Range of different animal species.
    - Two layers - overstory and understory.
    Temperate Rainforest similar but with three levels and supporting more range of species. Wetter and warmer.

    Dry Woodland
    - Warm and dry summers.
    - Wet winters.
    - Diverse range of plants and species.

    Tropical Rainforest:
    - Wet and warm.
    - Lush rainforest, with a vast range of Evergreen tree and plant species.
    - Diverse range of different animal species.

    Savannah (grasslands and shrublands):
    - Dry and warm.
    - Predominent vegetation is grass or small shrubs, occasional trees.
    - Trees are deciduous to conserve moisture (acacia), or store water in their trunk (baobab).
    - Plants have thorns (to protect them from plant predation), not leaves (which lose moisture).
    - Support a large range of animal species, some of which can be quite large.
    - Rainfall seasonal, often all occuring in a short period of time.

    Desert:
    - Hot, barren, dry.
    - Not many plants.
    - Few animal species, most of which are nocturnal.
    - Lots of rocks.

    Wetlands/Swamp:
    - Wet.
    - Warm or cool, depending on latitude.
    - Considered the most biologically diverse ecostystem.

    Other environmental effects that may affect your environment:
    Volcanoes: volcanic soil is very rich in nutrients, but lava rock from recent eruptions radiates heat and almost forms a barren desert of its own.
    Fire: can do great damage to the wetter forests, which are not adapted to survive its onslaught, leaving the landscape barren - and in some cases (as in Madagascar), almost infertile. This can also lead to soil erosion, which leads to the hills sliding into the lakes.
    Earthquakes: The moving of tectonic plates shapes mountains.

    After determining what your habitat is like, select a real world one that resembles it. In the case of the rainforest above, this is easy, but what of more complex worlds - what if, say, your habitat is a barren, frozen wasteland or bubbling pools of molten rock? Well, there are real life equivalents to those too!

    My Furritasia world - the futuristic one with the anthro animal-people, is set in a post-nuclear world. Vast tracts of land were rendered barren and poisonous by the nuclear radiation***. Whilst I cannot, yet, come up with a plausible explanation behind the animal-people, a coral-life fungoid now blankets the post-nuclear wasteland and the main natural inhabitants were various species evolved from cockroaches, including several massive fungus eating species, and a carnivous type that hunt in pairs or packs. Cockroaches, it is said, can survive anything, and even radiation will not defeat them.

    Fauna:

    All animals living in the same habitat must interact in some way or another and will come into conflict with one another. This could be in a predator/prey relationship or clashing over a limited resource, such as food or denning space. There are various ways to control conflict - sometimes when two animals both share the same diet and niche, they will have different active times, ie: one is nocturnal, the other diurnal (for example, tarsiers, lorises and bushbabies are all nocturnal, which stops them being in conflict with the dangerous, but diurnal, monkeys); in other cases the conflicts and clashes will be violent (lions vs hyenas). In most terrestrial environments, there will be more "prey" species (deer, rabbits and other herbivores) than predators. So, although lions and tigers and wolves and the like may seem far more interesting, they do need to be able to have enough food to feed them.

    Big predators hunt big prey. So if you have giant wolves or massive lions, you will need large mammals too.
    Essentially, you need to create a food chain for your fauna.

    Herbivores: Eat plant matter (rabbits, ungulates, geese etc)
    - Low energy food, need to browse (eat leaves) or graze (eat grass).
    - Often are prey species
    - Often live in groups (more eyes to watch for predators)
    - In mammals, eyes are located more centrally along the side of the head, allowing them greater peripheral vision.
    - Not generally nocturnal.

    Fructivores: Eat fruits and nectar (many birds, lemurs, fruit bats etc)
    - High energy food, important in seed dispersal/pollination.
    - Birds have a high metabolism and thus need to eat high energy food regularly.
    - Arborel (tree living) mammals have their eyes located at the front of their head, allowing them better spatial judgement.
    - Birds are diurnal.

    Carnivores: Eat the flesh of vertebrates (felines, canines, seals, mustelids, raptors etc)
    - High energy food, requires effort to obtain, one large meal can sustain a carnivore for several days.
    - Some species live in groups - packs/prides - and hunt cooperatively for larger prey.
    - In mammals, eyes usually positioned towards front of face, allowing better spatial judgement and thus better control over catching their prey.
    - Many diurnal, but some nocturnal.

    Insectivores: Eat invertebrates (hedgehogs, moles, aardwolf, mongoose, some birds etc)
    - High energy but need to eat a lot to sustain the animal.
    - Many insectivores also occasionally eat meat or fruit.

    - Generally solitary or live in pairs (especially if nocturnal as well).
    - Many are nocturnal, but not all. Depends on other factors - like predators and active behaviour of the insect food sources.
    - Birds are diurnal (mostly)

    Omnivores: Eat anything (pigs, weka, rats etc)
    - The best generalists, because they can adapt to survive in most situations.
    - Highly destructive when introduced into new ecosystems.
    - Some are social, others solitary or live in pairs.
    - Some are nocturnal, some are diurnal.
    - Can be a predator, but can also be prey.

    Scavengers: Eat dead things (vultures, blowflies etc)
    - Work as nature's "clean up" crew by eating things already dead - including stuff well past its expiration date.
    - A very important part of the ecosystem, even if they are kinda dirty and "gross".
    - Vultures have naked heads so that they can stick their heads into the carcass without getting their feathers matted with blood - this could lead to problems with the "waterproof" qualities of their feathers and lead to them dying. They also do not have very strong talons.
    - Some scavenger species are actually very effecient hunters (ie: the spotted hyena). Just as some predators rely on scavenging or stealing their kills from other hunters.

    Now, how about making up your own species? Sounds like fun?
    It sure is!

    Here are some ways you can make your native wildlife distinctively different from those on Earth:

    1. Focus on birds, reptiles or invertebrates rather than mammals

    Consider a world like ours in which there are no mammals - what habitats are there for the reptiles (or birds) to fill? How might they evolve to better exploit these habitats. It might help to study island ecology - looking at places like New Zealand and Hawaii where native mammals were never prevalent. Consider changes the birds might make to fit in here - losing their ability to fly, growing bigger, living in burrows, behaving more like monkeys... etc. Another thing to consider is that mammals hunt by scent (and many have poor colour vision), whereas birds and lizards both have colour vision - so what role might this play in how the native wildlife looks? New Zealand birds are generally drab in colour - which allows them camouflage and protects them from avian predators. This defence proved ineffective when mammals were introduced, and annihilated them.

    2. All vertebates on Earth have four limbs - why not give yours six? ****
    This is where gryphons and the typical "Western" dragon fit in, any animal that has four feet and wings is a hexapod. I once made an ecology up for a world in which everything had three pairs of limbs. It was not nearly as impressive as that found in "Avatar".

    3. Hybridise Earth animals - combine random species to create Chimeras *****
    See also TV tropes: Mix and Match critters
    This also explains gryphons and their ilk.
    Chimeras don't make scientific sense, since different species cannot interbreed. Although, some realworld species are bloody strange - anyone looking at a platypus might consider it a duckmole (that's what I imagined Tarmora Pierce was doing in her "Immortals" series). But hey, it's your world, so it doesn't really matter if it's not entirely scientifically sound. Maybe there's a mad scientist on the lose, or maybe the rules of genetics are different.

    Making up names for chimerical critters is always fun. When naming hybrid real-world animals, half of the father's species is taken first, and connected with the second half of the mother's species. Hence a Liger is the result of a male lion and a female tiger. It looks quite different from a Tiglon, which has the opposite parentage. Generally, I just go with what works best - or start with the head and work my way back. Or you can just join the two names together, as they do in the "Avatar:The Last Airbender" tv series.

    Hybridising in this sort of way does, however, cause complications - because no two animals will ever look the same, or even necessarily be the same species - if any animal species can produce viable offspring with any other species, then what happens when two hybrid animals breed together? Will everything just end up looking really weird, or will they eventually converge to a sort of homogenised point?

    However, you can use this method to make some really original looking critters that might not *actually* be caused by the two species breeding together.

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    4. Take Real World animals and alter them to fill different niches
    This is particularly fun for Post-Apocalyptic variants of our own world. Okay, assuming the world faces a nuclear holocaust, or climate change or whatever it is that entirely reshapes the face of the world as we know it - what animals will survive?

    Probably the hardy generalists and omnivores. The rats, the pigs, the foxes and maybe the cats. Animals such as lemurs, aardvarks and anything with a highly specialised diet or life cycle will be doomed. So, with those animals gone, and the world reverted to its wild self, how might the surviving species change to fill the niches that are left?

    Speculative Zoology is fun and challenging. There are several online sites I have found, so here are a couple of links:
    Neocene Project

    Also worth looking into is Douglas Dixon's "After Man" - published in 1981, so maybe a bit hard to get nowadays. I picked mine up second hand.

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    From Budgerigar to Budgieraptor!
    5. Take real world animals and give them elemental powers
    They might be mistaken for Pokemon.

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    6. Dragons
    Dragons are something I often have trouble with in fantasy novels. Ignoring the fact that they're not really mammals, birds or even reptiles, they are, for the most part, massive carnivores. And something that massive is going to need a LOT of food to fuel it. It might not need to eat frequently, but it will need large meals on a semi-regular basis. So if you have a situation where you have a world with large amounts of massive dragons, you better have enormous herds of some sort of herbivore for them to eat. Of course, you could also make them herbivorous.

    Since dragons are a mythological species with no basis on any particular real animal, authors (and artists) have had a lot of fun developing them in a variety of ways. The typical Western dragon is reptilian, huge and scaly - often with wings - and this seems to have perpetuated throughout many fantasy novels - although sometimes they have three pairs of limbs (four legs, two wings) and other times two (2 wings + 2 legs). Often they also have elemental powers.

    My two favourite Western-ish dragons in literature are Patrick Rothfuss's in "Name of the Wind" and Robin Hobb's dragon ecology in her "Liveship Traders" series.

    In most novels, when a human bonds with a dragon, the two are able to communicate either via telepathy or verbally. This was nicely avoided in the movie of "How to Train your Dragon" which is one of the many things that made that movie original and wonderful.

    I personally have several dragon characters, none of which resemble this phenotype:

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    Rhapsody the Sea Dragon (top)
    Pippit the Rainforest Dragon (bottom)
    There are NUMEROUS tropes used in fantasy for designing new species, I have engaged in intensive research at tvtropes to bring you a summary of some of their most relevant ones:

    Call a Rabbit a "Smerp": Which refers to taking standard critters and giving them unusual and original names. This can be especially effective if the Writer wishes to convey an otherworldlyness to their story, or set the culture of the protagonists separate from the typical one. I, for example, generally have used the Malagasy names for the variety of lemur species featuring in my stories, as I feel this adds to the authenticity - as the Malagasy people were there first (likewise, I always list the Maori names on my NZ animal illustrations, when I can find them). It can give the ordinary a somewhat fantastical feel.

    Call a "Smerp" a Rabbit: Which refers to having bizarre a variations on the typical - such as giant riding lizards or small wild birds but referring to them as their Earth equivalent - leading to confusion and disorientation on the part of the Reader. If your "cows" are really stocky dragons that eat grass, it might be best to find another name for them. If you do wish to go this route, make it very clear from the start that your cows are not like our cows! This is found in reality too, when early explorers named everything based on what they previously knew - hence the presence of "robins" and "wrens" in New Zealand, despite the fact that they are not closely related to the European birds by the same name.

    For more tropes (and before I get off topic) - visit this page here.

    Flora

    I'm not much of a botanist. On Terrestrial Ecology field trips I spent too much time looking at the birds and not enough time looking for the plants we were supposed to be studying, but I will do my best to write a bit about flora here. This is also why I have left it until last, when you've probably already given up reading.

    Flora is directly linked to the climate and helps create the habitat. Plants, for the most part, require moisture, nutrients and sunlight to thrive. Fungi are not a plant, and do not require sunlight, and can be useful if you need something for your cave dwelling humanoids to farm. Some fungi also display bioluminescence which can be useful when your hero is making their way through the deep dark caverns and have lost their fire source. The real world fungi, various species of Armillaria, often grow in the same place as moss, to create Foxfire. (Thanks for that, Yahoo Answers).

    Your flora is very important - as it is what your herbivores and fructivores will eat as will the insects that feed the insectivores. Generally speaking - the wetter the environment, the greater the variety of plant life. On Earth, the humid (wet and warm) areas provide the greatest range of plants and trees and therefore support the widest variety of life. There are more animal species in a rainforest than on the tundra or in a desert.

    The more moisture in the air, the more leafy and green the plants will be. Plants in a desert tend to have spines instead of leaves - because the surface area of leaves allows water to evaporate from them and also because desert plants store water, making them a desirable water source for the various desert animals. The thorns protect them somewhat from plant predation.

    Tropical rainforest trees tend to be evergreens - that is to say, they keep their leaves all through the year. Trees from more temperate environments - where the winters are very cold, are often deciduous. By shedding their leaves, they can conserve moisture in their trunk and branches. Leaves are also likely to suffer damage such as frostbite. The leaves that fall form a compost around the trees roots, trapping moisture and also providing fertiliser.

    Leaves are used for photosynthesis, and in the cold winters this does not work well in the plant - the light levels are often not bright enough for long enough, and the tree's metabolic rate has also slowed and photosynthesis is no longer a productive means, thus the tree becomes somewhat dormant.

    Flowers sprout in spring, and are the means that many plants use to reproduce. Although some plants can reproduce asexually, others require fertilization. To facilitate this, the pollen must be transferred to the ovary. To do this, the plants either use wind or wildlife - generally insects. To attract insects, they often produce sweet tasting nectar which they advertise by being distinctive colours, that the insects have evolved to recognise. If you wish to have flowering plants in your world - you must also remember to include pollinating species. Bees and butterflies are common Earth pollinators, also hummingbirds and other nectar drinking birds, also some lizards, can aid in this cycle. Pollinators are generally small and have often evolved certain features that aid them in gathering the nectar (and also collecting the maximum amount of pollen on their fur, feathers or hair - not that they care about this service that they are also providing!).
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2014
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  3. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

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    Why is J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy so compelling? How about The Matrix or Harry Potter? What makes these disparate worlds come alive are clear, consistent rules for how people, societies -- and even the laws of physics -- function in these fictional universes. Author Kate Messner offers a few tricks for you, too, to create a world worth exploring in your own words.

    Lesson by Kate Messner, animation by Avi Ofer.



    The world building strategies of popular books like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter have been analyzed in great detail by writers and critics alike. The NPR piece “At Home in Fantasy’s Nerd-Built World” continues the conversation, taking a look at the magical creation of George R. R. Martin’s world in Game of Thrones.

    If you’re ready to create your very own fictional world, it’s great to start by reading lots of examples – and read like a writer, studying the craft of world building. Pay attention to the details and ask yourself why the author might have made the choices he or she did. The International Reading Association Beyond the Book feature “Let’s Build a World Together” will give you lots of ideas for where to start.

    When you’re ready to move forward, you may want to use author Kate Messner’s world building worksheet as a guide. Part I takes a look at the basic setting for a work of futuristic fiction. Part II challenges you to dig deep with a close look at the society – its rules and its power structure. And Part III casts a spotlight on everyday life.

    Author/educator Kate Messner’s science thrillers Eye of the Storm and Wake Up Missing may serve as additional mentor texts for writers who want to build their own futuristic worlds. Kate’s TED Talk, “Building Dark Worlds to Make a Better One,” takes the conversation to the next level. How might we use these world-building strategies to create not only fictional worlds to but improve upon the real world in which we live today?
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  4. SaguraKirux

    SaguraKirux Well-Known Member Senior Member

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    The thoroughness of this thread is astonishing. My deepest thanks for investing the time and energy to share all of this.
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  5. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

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    No problem! Creators need their resources. My only hope is that more users post their findings here in the future, this way the compendium will grow faster and be more diverse with articles. ^-^
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
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  6. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

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    5:41 PM
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    "Periodically in the history of human observation -the world of external reality has been rediscovered, reclassified, and redescribed. It is difficult for us to understand the reality of Democritus, of Aristotle, of Pliny, for they did not see what we see and yet we know them to have been careful observers. We must concede then that their universe was different from ours or that they warped it and to a certain extent created their own realities. And if they did, there is no reason to suppose that we do not. Possibly our warp is less, owing to our use of precise measuring devices. But, in immeasurable, we probably create our own world.

    The process of rediscovery might be as follows: a young, inquisitive, and original man might one morning find a fissure in the traditional technique of thinking. Through this fissure he might look out and find a new external world about him. In his excitement a few disciples would cluster about him and look again at the world they knew and find it fresh. From this nucleus there would develop a frantic new seeing and a cult of new seers who, finding some traditional knowledge incorrect, would throw out the whole structure and start afresh. Then, the human mind being what it is, evaluation, taxonomy, arrangement, pattern making would succeed the first excited seeing. Gradually the structure would become complete, and men would go to this structure rather than to the external world until eventually something like, but not identical with the earlier picture would have been built. From such architectures or patterns of knowledge, disciplines, ethics, even manners exude. The building would be complete again and no one would look beyond it-- until one day a young, inquisitive, and original man might find a fissure in the pattern and look through it and find a new world. This seems to have happened again and again in the slow history of human thought and knowledge.

    There is in our community an elderly painter of seascapes who knows the sea so well that he no longer goes to look at it while he paints. He dislikes intensely the work of a young painter who sets his easel on the beach and paints things his elderly mind does not remember having seen.

    Modern science, or the method of Roger Bacon, has attempted by measuring and rechecking to admit as little warp as possible, but still some warp must be there. And in many fields young, inquisitive men are seeing new worlds. And from their seeing will emerge not only new patterns but new ethics, disciplines, and manners. The upheaval of the present world may stimulate restive minds to new speculations and evaluations. The new eyes will see, will break off new facets of reality. The excitements of the chase are already felt in the fields of biochemistry, medicine, and biology. The world is being broken down to be built up again, and eventually the smallest living techniques and habits of the whole people.

    This book of Ricketts and Calvin is designed more to stir curiosity than to answer questions. It says in effect: look at the animals, this is what we seem to know about them but the knowledge is not final, and any clear eye and sharp intelligence may see something we have never seen. These things, it says, you will see, but you may see much more. This is a book for laymen, for beginners, and, as such, its main purpose is to stimulate curiosity, not to answer finally questions which are only temporarily answerable.

    In the laboratories, fissures are appearing in the structure of our knowledge and many young men are peering excitedly through at a new world. There are answers to the world questions which every man must ask, in the little animals of tidepools, in their relations one to another, in their colour phases, their reproducing methods. Finally, one can live in a prefabricated world, smugly and without question, or one can indulge perhaps the greatest human excitement: that of observation to speculation to hypothesis. This is a creative process, probably the highest and most satisfactory we know. If only in the process one could keep the brake of humour in operation, it would be even more satisfactory. One has always to keep in mind his own contribution to the world of reality. Aristotle built a world and we are building one. His was a true world, and our is. And the two need not meet and quarrel. His world worked for him and for his people and ours works for us. A Greek thinker built a world that operated, and, given that man and that society, it would still work. We build a motor and it runs. It will always run if the principle involved is followed correctly, but it is not now impossible to imagine a world wherein the principle of the internal-combustion engine will become inoperative because it is no longer important.

    The book then says: "There are good things to see in the tidepools and there are exciting and interesting thoughts to be generated from the seeing. Every new eye applied to the peep hole which looks out at the world of the human mind must be enriched by such fishing.""

    --- Foreword for the book, 'Between Pacific Tides'
    by; John Steinbeck, 1948.
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  7. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
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    Take a closer look at the workings of androids, cyborgs, and giant mechanical beasts with this collection of technical—but fictional—illustrations. Everyone from the lowliest droid to the most murderous Termintor breaks down to hydraulics and wire.

    We've gathered blueprints, schematic drawings, and cutaways that dive into the mechanized nuts and bolts. These Jaeger blueprints were drawn up for the Pacific Rim marketing campaign:

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    There are loads of diagrams for various Star Wars droids, such as this one from Star Wars Blueprints: The Ultimate Collection:

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    But we also enjoy some of the artsier schematic breakdowns, such as this one that Kevin Tong made for Mondo:
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    Getting into cyborgs, a Japanese book about the making of RoboCop (the original), offers a peek at the inner workings of Detroit's metal law enforcement officer:
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    Osamu Tezuka was never shy about showing us Astro Boy's insides, but the robot hero received a full limited edition print of his inner workings for the Atom Dream Project (via).
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    And his design appeared in the CG Astro Boy movie:
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    These blueprints for the T-800's skull appear in the 1991 Making of Terminator 2 featurette, via James Cameron Online:
    [​IMG]

    Bender's workings are much simpler, at least according to Futurama fan Enrique Guillamon:
    [​IMG]

    The X-Men-terrorizing Sentinels have shown off their innards in comics:
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    And most recently in the promotional materials for X-Men: Days of Future Past:
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    And the Doom Patrol's cyborg Robotman has gotten a similar comics treatment:
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    Last edited: Jun 27, 2014
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  8. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
    Rockman, a.k.a. Mega Man, is still pretty cute without his skin:
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    And here's a cutaway sculpture by toy modder KodyKoala:
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    Data got a very rudimentary and not terribly official android anatomy in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Officer's Manual:
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    While a later moment on the show hinted at what his insides were actually supposed to look like:
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    Behold the RX-78-2 Gundam beneath the plating:
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    And Mechagodzilla:
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    And the somewhat less famous Robot Kong or Mechani-Kong (via Pink Tentacle):
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    reddit user fancymenofcornwood took a stab at a technical drawing of Wheatley, the intelligence dampening core from Portal 2, though we can't see what's inside:
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    And deviantART user Mspadfoot333 took apart Portal's turrets:
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    Here we peer inside one of Robotech's Spartans:
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    And next is the VF-1 Valkyrie from Macross in Battledroid mode (the credit should actually read Kiyomi Tanaka rather than Seibi Tanaka):
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    Adventure Time's BMO is fully exposed in this image by Zureev, also available as a shirt from We Love Fine:
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    And going back to cyborgs, here's a pretty, but not particularly informative, technical drawing of a Dalek:
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    But this image from Terry Nation's Dalek Special offers a better look at their anatomy:
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    SEE ALSO:
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    Last edited: Jan 7, 2015
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  9. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
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    Science fiction is the literature of discovery — and there are tons of great ways to come up with stories worth telling. But a lot of the most compelling stories are based on actual cutting-edge science. But how do you turn real science into science fiction? To find out, we asked hard SF writers and scientists.

    Here's what they told us!

    Images via NASA.

    1) How do you look for story ideas?

    Is there a particular journal that you should make sure to read? Should you actually try to talk to scientists? And how do you find a story that hasn't been done before?

    Read science journalism. "We really do live in a Golden Age of science outreach, journalism and commentary," says Paul McAuley, author of the Quiet War series. From magazines likeNew Scientist and Scientific American to science news websites, to journalists like Carl Zimmer, Ed Yong and the Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla, there are tons of resources out there on the latest science discoveries. Plus Nature and Science magazines run good general-interest articles on their sites, and so do NASA and the Smithsonian.

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    "Much of the stuff you can find in these places is published with, or just before, important and interesting papers, and unless you have been trained as a scientist [they] are your best bet for keeping current," says McAuley.

    Check out abstracts. You may not want to read scientific papers, which are "formal" and "condensed," says McAuley. "Most research is of interest primarily to specialists in the field," adds physicist Sean Carroll. But you can read abstracts online — and those usually give "a quick overview of what the researchers were trying to find out, how well they succeeded, and a bit of the context," says McAuley.

    Read specialized science sites. For example, says McAuley, "when I was writing the Quiet War series, I haunted the Cassini spacecraft web site, an invaluable resource on images and research on the Saturn system."

    Just read tons of stuff without a particular story in mind. " What works for me is simply to read a lot of stuff throughout the year, not with a particular story or theme in mind, but just because you never know what might be useful or interesting in the long run," says Alastair Reynolds, author of On the Steel Breeze. "I much prefer to just absorb a lot of stuff and let the old unconscious chew down on it over time."

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    Yes, it's okay to talk to scientists. There's no harm in contacting a scientist directly to ask about his or her research, says Tiffany Trent, author of The Unnaturalists. "Many of them are happy to talk to you, because they really want you to get the science right."

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    But when you talk to a scientist, do your homework first — asking vague questions like "So what's new in your field?" is a waste of time all around, says McAuley. "But I've usually found that researchers are open to serious enquiries. I was once given a fantastic tour of the British Museum store when I was writing about Neolithic culture in Mind's Eye."

    Go to lectures and conferences. If you're lucky enough to live near a university, check the calendar of events, advises Trent, and see which scientists are coming to speak. " Then, you get to hear the scientist explain in his or her own words, and you might even get to ask them questions."

    "In a world of infinite resources, the best thing would be to actually go to conferences, hear what people are interested in, and talk to them about it," says Carroll, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology who blogs at Preposterous Universe. "In a finite-resource world, the next best thing is to follow blogs and Twitter feeds of working scientists."

    Or just try collaborating with a scientist. Actually, the very best option would be if you can find a scientist who's interested in working with you directly, says Carroll. That way you can "bring them into the creative process and come up with ideas together."

    Look at transdisciplinary science. Says Trent, "That’s where you’ll find teams of scientists from many different fields coming together to work on a particular problem from many angles. That’s where science is fresh, interesting, and cutting-edge."

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    Spark your imagination. "What you’re looking for is the concept or innovation that sparks your individual imagination, suggesting characters that can be involved in the idea," says Nancy Kress, author of Beggars in Spain.

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    "Good science and good science fiction proceed from the same point: start with what you confidently know, and extrapolate from there," adds Jim Kakalios, professor of physics and astronomy at University of Minnesota and author of The Physics of Superheroes. "This was, after all, how Jules Verne did it."

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    2) Once you have a cool idea, how do you turn it into fiction?

    So you've found a neat scientific discovery, that opens up all sorts of story possibilities — how do you actually jump off from the science into fiction? How do you turn scientific research into a story about characters doing something?

    "Three questions are helpful in turning an idea into a story," says Kress:

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    Carroll says that turning an idea into a story is "infinitely harder" than finding an idea in the first place. One tip he offers: take a particular type of story (romance, murder mystery, etc.) and see how it would be changed by this scientific development.

    Follow the Characters. McAuley says he sticks pretty close to the point of view of his characters. "How does something hurt them, change them, offer something they need or want? How, to borrow a phrase, would the street find uses for a new technology?" He adds: "A lot of stuff is in the background or as texture — squid proteins in camoflague clothing for instance. And science writing is full of found poetry, as well as ideas."

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    Work backwards from the story. Reynolds says he never starts with a scientific premise and then builds it into a story. Instead, he might get an idea for a story and then realize that "a bit of science might fit into it somewhere."

    For example, there's Reynolds' story "At Budokan," about a genetically engineered T-Rex. "Halfway through the story, but with the shape of the thing already defined, I remembered that I'd read about the role of homeobox genes on the development of limbs and digits in different animals, which would be just the thing you needed to tweak if you wanted to make a T-Rex that could play electric guitar," says Reynolds. But he didn't start out by thinking that he knew some cool stuff about homeobox genes, that he wanted to build a story around.

    Adds Reynolds: "I'd only come across the homeobox stuff as a side-product of realising I knew next to nothing about recent ideas of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) and realised I needed to read a good pop science book to get up to speed. It shouldn't ever feel like a chore, to learn new science."

    Reach for a metaphor. "There's no algorithm, but the trick is to find the right resonance between the possibilities opened up by the new idea and the human story driving it," says Carroll. For example, there are tons of stories about interstellar travel and time dilation — but Joe Haldeman managed to turn this idea into a metaphor for the experiences of soldiers coming home from Vietnam, and this became The Forever War.
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  10. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
    3) Is there a line that people shouldn't cross, when it comes to turning science into fiction?

    How far can you go in fictionalizing real science, before you're no longer writing "hard science fiction"? How do you tell the difference between "extrapolating" and "spinning real facts into ludicrous nonsense"?

    "It's fiction, not science journalism, so you can break any rule you like — as long as you are aware of breaking them, and what the implications are," says McCauley. The truth is, science is "often weirder than much science fiction, these days," he adds. For example, "cosmologists speculating that the Universe is spume blown off from the collapse of four-dimensional star into a hyper-black hole."

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    Reynolds concurs that there's "no such line" that must not be crossed. At the same time, though, it's up to the writer to "plant some kind of narrative flag on the 'real science,' and another on the extrapolated or wildly wacky stuff, to make it clear where one starts and another begins." You can do this pretty unobtrusively, he says.

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    Adds Reynolds, "It's really no different in kind than the challenges faced by historical novelists, when they move from the historical record into fictional speculation, or when they bend facts to suit the narrative."

    "There should only be one criterion: is it a good story?" says Carroll. "The reason to try to get the science as right as possible is that, all else being equal, it makes the story better, not because you're secretly making a science documentary." He adds that the problem with "red matter" in 2009's Star Trek "wasn't that it violated the laws of physics, it was that they didn't even try to have it make scientific sense, and as a result there was no real tension or engagement with the audience's imagination."

    "There’s a point where the suspension of disbelief can be broken, and then you’ve really lost your reader," says Trent.

    Trent adds:
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    4) The biggest mistake people make in using science in their science fiction

    Finally, we asked our experts: What's the biggest mistake you see people making, when they try to turn real science into science fiction?

    In a nutshell, there's a failure to extrapolate fully. Says Kress:

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    McCauley says the biggest problem he sees is authors buying into the scientist stereotype of the "megalomaniac, or [the] lone misunderstood genius." McCauley worked in the biological sciences and never met anyone like that. "Research science is a vocation with a long apprenticeship, and it's also a very human and social affair," says McCauley. "The triumph of science is, after all, its culture of open source: research papers are written to the principle that others can replicate the experiments they describe."

    And most scientists rarely experience "eureka" moments or immediately prove that their vague hunches are correct, McCauley adds.

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    The biggest mistake people make, says Reynolds, is not drawing on real science enough. "There is so little SF drawn from modern scientific thinking, in any discipline, that I'm much more cheered by the successes than the failures, most of which are forgivable."

    The biggest pitfall of using real science might actually be "trying to explain the details too much," says Craig J. Rodger, a physics professor with the University of Otago in New Zealand. "Most of us don't want to know the detailed orbital mechanics at every point, or the finer workings of a technology that's clearly under-pinning the societal changes which drive the story. Just get on with it!"

    Another pitfall that Rodger notices: Sometimes authors tie their stories too much to real science — and then the science changes. Larry Niven has run into this problem a few times in his Known Space universe, relying on a theory of micro black holes that's been disproved, and also giving Mars an atmosphere we now know it can't possibly have, due to some initial chemical measurements from the first Mars probes.

    This must be frustrating, says Rodger: "You are trying to write hard science-fiction, and the scientists change the game rules on you midway, and then get pissy about how wrong you are!"

    In any case, this is a two-way street, says Rodger: "A lot of scientists I know are inspired and excited by science fiction, and a certain amount of imagination is a core part of moving science forward."

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  11. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
    (Wow, I haven't posted in this thread since July.. WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING WITH MY LIFE!?)
  12. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
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    If there was any doubt that post-apocalyptic fiction rules the book world, it was probably erased when Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven became a National Book Award finalist. But why do today's hottest writers write stories set after the end? We talked to Mandel and four other post-apocalyptic authors, to find out.

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    What Made You Want To Write Post-Apocalyptic Fiction?
    We asked this question to five different authors, and here's what they told us:

    Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars:
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    We're in the middle of the Sixth Great Mass Extinction, this one caused by us. We're losing species at a rate comparable to the dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago. Two-thirds of flowering plants are endangered, 20% to 25% of all mammals. We've lost half our wildlife in the last forty years. Jesus. This is unequivocally the Story of Our Time. You don't need to know the stats to feel the accelerating losses. We all do, every day. We are overwhelmed, bewildered, unmoored. We have committed a crime as a species — no, a sin — for which we can never be redeemed. Literature, which is the canary in the coal mine of our inner landscape, has to respond. And of course the Apocalypse makes for the best stories — the higher the stakes the greater a poem or a novel can be
    .
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    Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven:
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    My starting point with Station Eleven was that I wanted to write about the life of an actor. I'm interested in film and theatre, and I'm interested in what it means to devote a life to art, the costs and the joys of that. I'd thought I'd write a book about an actor in a traveling theatre company in present-day Canada. At the same time, there's something I'd been wanting to write about for a while now, which is the awe I feel—I don't think awe is too strong a word—at this incredible world in which we live: this place where rooms are flooded with electric light at the flick of a switch, it's possible to cross the Atlantic in hours, and speaking to someone on the far side of the world is as simple as entering a series of numbers into a handheld device.

    One way to write about something is to consider its absence, which is why I set much of the book in a post-apocalyptic landscape. I thought of the book as a love letter to the modern world, written in the form of a requiem. Also, I really like post-apocalyptic fiction — THE DOG STARS and THE ROAD are particular favourites — and I thought it would be an interesting landscape for a traveling theatre company.


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    Hugh Howey, author of the Wool series*:
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    I'm an optimist. From my reading of history and current events, I see a world getting better over time. But I think part of the reason the world improves is because we demand that it does. Activism and raising the public's awareness on social, political, and environmental issues must help create some forward-driving pressure. The challenge is to remain positive while issuing warnings and demanding change. You can't give up hope or get dire about tomorrow. You have to appreciate the progress we've made thus far.

    So for me, writing about a broken future is a way to satirize or comment on the mistakes we're making today. Most of them are the same mistakes that we make over and over. And that's what Wool is about, the challenge of breaking that cycle and making the world a better place.


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    Edan Lepucki, author of California:
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    What really got me excited about writing California was the idea of writing a "post-apocalyptic domestic drama," a phrase that popped into my head one day and wouldn't go away. I was inspired by the idea of telling an intimate story of a married couple against a high-stakes backdrop of a ruined world. I loved that mash-up of the private/small with the public/big. I had never tried to write anything speculative or apocalyptic before, so what I focused on in the early drafts was this interpersonal relationship, the way they communicate, the way their pasts affect their present behaviour, and how their dynamic is altered by other people. My interest is in smaller moments between people, and with all my work I want to depict human consciousness on the page.


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    M.R. Carey, author of The Girl With All The Gifts:
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    In some ways it's the narrative application of an industrial process testing to destruction. If you put something under extreme stress, you find out a lot about its make-up and that goes for people as much as for anything else.

    But I suspect that's not primarily what draws us. Endings, things falling apart… that's fascinating in its own right. Especially at a time like this, when so many kinds of catastrophe (environmental, economic, epidemiological, et cetera) seem to be stalking us. When you write about the apocalypse these days, it feels a lot like documentary reportage.

    And even more than that, it's appealing. This is sick, but it's true. We're drawn to the idea of civilisation coming crashing to the ground because it would make most of our day-to-day worries irrelevant at a stroke. You'd never have to fret about going into the office again, about traffic or money worries or noisy neighbours or political corruption or your kids getting on at school. It's like what Renton says about heroin addiction in Trainspotting it just gives you the one BIG thing to worry about, so all the scary complexity of life fades away.

    And in the same way, for a writer, a post-apocalyptic setting can clear away a lot of unnecessary clutter and let you focus on the big, important stuff however you personally define that. You can use the apocalypse for triage, exploring which aspects of our nature are situational and which are inherent and unchanging.


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    Why is Literary Fiction Going Post-Apocalyptic?
    It may have gone more high-profile with Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but literary fiction has been in love with the apocalypse for quite some time now. Books like California, The Dog Stars and Station Eleven have joined The Passage, Zone One and a slew of other post-disaster books that gained literary acclaim and awards. Not to mention Margaret Atwood.

    So why are literary authors, in particular, going post-apocalyptic? Mandel says she keeps getting asked "why there have been so many post-apocalyptic novels lately. The short answer is, I don't know." One possible explanation, she says, is that it reflects our real-life anxieties as Heller suggests — but then again, "When have we ever not believed that the world is ending?" She adds that it's just possible that "The Road inspired a generation of novelists to try their hand at post-apocalyptic literary fiction."

    One thing's for sure, says Lepucki: the rise of literary post-apocalyptic novels is part of a broader trend of genre divides being erased. "In the last few years we've seen a real explosion of literary fiction influenced by genre," says Lepucki "The demarcations are just not that clear cut anymore, and people who grew up on straight-up genre are letting those influences inform their work."

    "I think the literary novel is moving away from a 'nothing happens' model, and more toward one that revels in story," Lepucki adds. "And the apocalypse is a big story — maybe one of our oldest as a species." She wonders if the pendulum will eventually swing back towards the "more quiet story," or the "more formally-challenging, fragmented Modernist model. Time will tell, I guess."

    Writing California felt really good to Lepucki, because "I could write about people talking in a room, but suddenly everything felt so much more significant and important. I loved the tension of smaller issues between Frida and Cal next to larger issues about staying alive, bringing kids into a ruined world, and so on."

    Is there a particular style that a post-apocalyptic story demands, as distinct from other types? Mandel says you might want to keep it subtle.

    "I think that to be truly effective, the form demands a certain lightness of touch," says Mandel. "My personal opinion is that if you're writing about something so vast and dark as the end of civilization, your book will be more effective if you don't hit your reader over the head with the horror."

    * Full disclosure: Howey is also co-editor of The Apocalypse Triptych, a three-volume series that serializes my novella "Rock Manning Can't Hear You."
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  13. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
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    "We ourselves have been seen as different, as otaku.
    We should be among those who lead the way in an
    investigation of the new limits of the human."

    Dramatic advances in genetics, cloning, robotics, and nanotechnology have given rise to both hopes and fears about how technology might transform humanity. As the possibility of a post-human future becomes increasingly likely, debates about how to interpret or shape this future abound. In Japan, anime and manga artists have been imagining the contours of post-humanity for decades, creating dazzling and sometimes disturbing works of art that envision a variety of human/non-human hybrids: biological/mechanical, human/animal, and human/monster. Anime and manga offer a constellation of post-human prototypes whose hybrid natures require a shift in our perception of what it means to be human.

    Limits of the Human —the third volume in the Mechademia series— maps the terrain of post-humanity using manga and anime as guides and signposts in order to understand how to think about humanity's new potentialities and limits. Through a wide range of text —from the folklore-inspired monsters that populate Mizuki Shigeru's manga to Japan's Gothic Lolita subculture and the notion of the uncanny in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence— the essays in this volume reject simple human/non-human dichotomies and instead encourages a provocative rethinking of the definitions of humanity along entirely unexpected frontiers.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    ix - - - - - Preface: The Limits of the Human
    - - - - - - -
    [FRENCHY LUNNING]

    Everyone, regardless of his or her position in culture or location on the earth, is aware of a distinct shift in the idea of what is human. Those who fear this change rage against science and technology as the harbingers of what is, from another point of view, the inevitable evolution of humanity. Those who embrace this change are unsure of what to call this moment, how to summarize the movement, when to say, "This is it." And within this rupture in history, wars are being fought with these changes as the unspeakable, unsayable, unrecognizable, and unpronounceable subtext.

    -----In our game, evidence of change and expanded notions of the human abound, and have for at least three decades. Japanese anime and manga have offered innumerable narratives of humans in transition and postulated brave new human concepts with a quietly profound creativity and dazzling art. There is a constellation of prototypes: from the cyber-person, whose amalgamation with technology offers a myriad of possibilities as well as certain pitfalls, to the grotesque, whose fuzzy yet noble additions require us to look differently towards ourselves and our fellow inhabitants, to the more subtle, more metaphorical (and often meta-fictional) intellectual and perceptual shifts that have dominated Western fiction in the past two decades.

    -----This volume of Mechademia asked for a map of the terrain of the new humanities, using the cast of characters created for anime and manga as guides and the narratives as signposts to begin to discover how to speak, say, recognize, and pronounce out loud these new limits and potentialities. The artists and authors of this issue speak from different positions and locations, but sing of this evolutionary shift in a condensation of voices inspired by the narrative and artistic power of Japanese manga and anime.

    -----With this map in hand, we hope for a new understanding and a new level of compassion for the Other, that the different, the emerging, the transitional be accorded a place at the table. We ourselves have been seen as different, as otaku. We should be among those who lead the way in an investigation of the new limits of the human.

    This book owes its wonderfully crafted form to Mechademia's associate editors, Christopher Bolton and Thomas LaMarre, who worked especially long and hard, beyond the call of duty, to assure its high quality and fascinating content.
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    ix - - - - -Introduction: The Limits of "The Limits of the Human"
    - - - - - - - [CHRISTOPHER BOLTON]
    As Frenchy Lunning points out in this volume's opening statement, the limits of the human constitute a theme that has been at the centre of manga and anime for quite some time, but it is only relatively recently, with the explosion of academic interest in the post-human, that criticism's attention has turned to this question, or at least to this formulation of its perennial questions.

    -----It is tempting to summarize post-human studies by enumerating various human/non-human dichotomies that characterize its different branches: biological versus mechanical, human versus animal (or monster), bounded self versus distributed field. If the machine, the creature, and the network constitute a trio par excellence of non-human others, then post-human criticism might be defined as that which seeks to revise or overcome conventional notions of the human by blurring or erasing the lines that divide us from these non-human alternatives. Lunning's trio of the cyber-person, the fuzzy, and the otaku represent three of these post-human hybrids, but these are points of excursion rather than destinations. While the essays in this volume are grouped largely according to these familiar hybrids and dichotomies, we note at the outset that enumerating the varieties of the non-human is an act that often threatens to reinstate convention and solidify the contours of the human rather than expand its boundaries. What Lunning and all the authors in this volume call us to do is to be open to the expansion or contraction of the human along entirely unexpected frontiers. This is the impulse behind the headings of the book's three sections: "Contours," "Companions," and "Compossibles." Each is intended to be descriptive in ways outlined below, but also unfamiliar, counter-intuitive, and productively strange. The critical manga that come between sections function in the same way, shifting media to shake loose new ideas: The Signal of Noise is an original reading of Serial Experiments Lain by Adèle-Elise Prévost, recast as a manga by Prévost and MUSEbasement. And Natsume Fusanosuke's pioneering critical manga Komatopia is an effort not just to illustrate a textual argument, but to think and argue visually.

    -----The uncertain territory of the post-human is the space Mark C. Taylor attempts to chart in the volume's first conceptual essay. Along with the volume postscript by Cary Wolfe, Taylor's is one of two provocations on the general nature of the post-human Mechademia solicited to place the other essays in a wider intellectual context. Taylor's map of the contours of the human is a Venn diagram, and his overlapping sets suggest that none of the dichotomies mentioned above is ever permanent or complete: the intersecting systems we now delineate as nature, culture, society, and technology are part of a network, and each is in turn composed of smaller networks, with products emerging and evolving through the spontaneous organization of connected elements. The changing, aleatory quality of these emerging phenomena and the fractal nature of this structure —in which there is no universal metanetwork, and each sub-network subdivides infinitely into still smaller ones— combine to ensure that no division will ever be permanent or absolute. Information itself emerges only in the interval between too much and too little change.

    -----So, following Taylor, the meaning of the texts in this volume should emerge less from the groupings imposed by the editors (or the meta-language of this Introduction) than from the spontaneous interaction between the various pieces. With that caveat, we attempt to trace some of the larger relations linking the different essays.

    -----The chapters that follow Taylor's in the first section all revolve around the notion of the monstrous, a space that defies the contours of the human by lying on the other side of some perceived supernatural divide. Michael Dylan Foster's essay on manga artist Mizuki Shigeru traces the link between Mizuki's own life and his monstrous yōkai subjects like his classic character GeGeGe no Kitarō (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎). Foster shows how Mizuki constructed an autobiographical mythology alongside his manga and anime fictions and his semi-fictionalized studies of yōkai folklore: in all three narratives, Mizuki seemed to hold out to his urban readers the promise of a vanished primitive past to which modern humans might return through the gate of yōkai culture.

    ----Laura Miller also traces the meeting of the modern and the pre-modern with a chapter on Abe no Seimei. Starting in the 1990s, this tenth-century court magician was transformed into a pop-culture icon in Japan, the supernatural hero of manga and films, and the mascot for a wide array of consumer products. Extending her previous work on beauty culture and girl culture into the realm of the supernatural, Miller shows that Abe no Seimei's cultural metamorphosis was accompanied by a physical transformation from a portly Heian gentleman to a beautiful male hero. Miller relates this to the power young girls now have as a cultural consumers, the power to remake distant historical figures in their own (desired) image.

    -----Theresa Winge continues this theme with a chapter on Lolita fashion. The Gothic Lolita style that has attracted so much attention in the West links thematically to the theme of the monstrous (or at least the Gothic), but Winge describes a fuller range of Lolita subcultures and concludes, not unlike Miller, that this fashion represents a kind of empowerment for its adherents, who achieve agency by setting themselves outside conventional Japanese culture with dress perceived by others as monstrous or childish or both.

    -----In the second section of the volume —"Companions"— we combine essays that treat animal and mechanical others and try to conceive relationships that are intimate-but not anthropomorphized, complementary, but distinct. Thomas LaMarre contributes the first part of a two-part theorization of "speciesism," which in his usage represents the displacement of race and racism onto relations between humans and non-human animals. Looking at pre-war and wartime anime like the Norakuro series, LaMarre shows that in these films, the world's different races are differentiated by often racist associations with different species; at the same time, the plasticity of animal depiction provides the opportunity for new blurrings and associations that move beyond naive humanism. The result is a remapping of racial and species difference that offers new risks as well as new opportunities.

    -----There follow two essays by noted Japanese manga critics writing on Tezuka Osamu's original cyborg hero, Atom. Yomota Inuhiko links the animal and mechanical nonhumans in Tezuka's work by comparing the boy robot Atom with the extraterrestrial and animal characters in Lost World and Tezuka's other series. If humanity in these works is always defined by its exclusion and domination of non-human others, Yomota argues that Tezuka's heroes often occupy a liminal state between human and non-human that allows them to perceive and critique this state, even if they can never overcome it. Ōtsuka Eiji considers Atom in the context of the American occupation and the renunciation of war in the postwar constitution that the United States forced on Japan. Ōtsuka sees Atom as liminal not only in his almost human status, but because in formal terms, he is part of a new style that mediates between the scientific realism of wartime manga that portrayed military technology and the property LaMarre notes: the Disney-esque American style of plastic bodies that were both indestructible and subject to endless violence.

    -----Finally, the chapters by Lawrence Bird and Sharalyn Orbaugh continue to treat the interface between the human and the machine, but they also form a bridge to the next section of the volume, which traces the expanding network in which "human" is but one of many interconnected nodes. Combining architectural and film history, Bird looks at the relationship between humans and their urban environments in three versions of Metropolis: Fritz Lang's 1927 film, Tezuka Osamu's later manga, and the more recent anime written by Ōtomo Katsuhiro and directed by Rintarō. Bird reveals how the traces of power are mapped onto the three cities and their human and robotic inhabitants, and he sees in the crises and destruction of these cities a dissolution (alternatively apocalyptic and revolutionary) of human bodies and boundaries.

    -----While Bird looks to the architecture of the city to illuminate the relationship between human and robotic characters, Orbaugh does the reverse for Oshii Mamoru's Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Urban power networks in Oshii's film are already all too clear, but Orbaugh discovers a concealed social/human network of affect (what she theorizes as a shared, sensed emotion that links the human, animal, and mechanical characters and viewers with one another). The blurry distinction between body and mind or soul implied by the film's title has been examined by any number of critics in the context of the first ghost trapped in a mechanical shell, she suggests that feeling (the characters' feeling and the feeling we have for them) is always already part of a field that floats around and between them and us.

    -----The third section of the volume turns on compossibility, which might be further glossed as a kind of coexistence in which the human and inhuman are spaces we inhabit with others, or even put on and take off. The classic example is the robot battle suit, but the principle extends to dolls, puppets, and plastic models as well.

    -----Takayuki Tatsumi's essay on the Gundam discusses the powered suit, its rosy promise on transparently magnifying and extending human power, and the resonance between that fantasy and Japan's political situation from the time of Gundam's debut down to today. This balance or imbalance between the technical, the ethical, and the political is like the situation Ōtsuka traces for Atom; and in characteristically encyclopaedic style, Tatsumi shows how Gundam's web of influence extends even further, back to Robert A. Heinlein and forward to contemporary Japanese art. The essay turns the monolithic individual robots of the series, images of human magnification and containment, into a complex web of interrelated figures and ideas.

    -----Teri Silvio traces a congruent process in her anthropological study of character-toy collectors in Taiwan. Silvio compares the toys with religous icons: while icons are believed to embody or enclose the spirit or personality (the ling) of the god, the production and duplication of icons also permit the god to multiply and spread—a process Silvio compares with global consumer culture and the spread of character dolls and action figures. Silvio sees these processes and the link between them not as a fading belief (in the human or the divine), but as part of a transition in the formation of the human from the realm of history, biology, and race to the realm of imagination. And for an alternative or dissenting approach that also takes religion and robots as its starting point, see the long interview with voice actor Crispin Freeman in the Torendo section. Instead of the non-human, Freeman focuses on the superhuman, which he explores through the notion of enduring religous and mythic archetypes. Freeman's search for stable conventions that illuminate human limits could be interpreted as a rejection of the post-human perspective and an effort to assert the ongoing importance of a more traditional, humanistic one.

    -----Steven T. Brown's reading of Innocence begins from the related notion of the doll, but it ranges widely enough to recapitulate themes from many of the previous essays. Brown examines the notion of the uncanny in this film, especially with respect to the dolls that are so important to the film's imagery and plot. Like Orbaugh, he views the films as inverting the geometry of human interiority: as the robot dolls are opened up and taken apart, their fleshly striptease promises to reveal their interiors, but they are all finally empty. Brown relates that image to Hans Bellmer's doll photography from the 1930s. In one reading, Bellmer's fetishistic photographs portray a degeneracy that opposes the mythological human form promoted by the Nazis, much in the same way Rintarō's Metropolis destroys the heroine's body and the surrounding city in order to resist authoritarianism of Lang's original film. If there is a positive ideal in Innocence, Brown sees it in Batō's canine companion. But this is a "companion" in Donna Haraway's particular sense of the term: thatwhich transforms both the human and the animal into something else. Even Taylor's ideas appear here, in Brown's notion that the déjà-vu-like repetitions in Innocence constitute a kind of aleatory meta-fictional machine that generates new meanings with each iteration.

    -----This last point is reiterated in Cary Wolfe's brief, suggestive statement that our changing understandings of life and information increasingly invade and challenge one another. Wolfe makes explicit the issue that all the essays have treated implicitly:
    once we've pushed the limits of the human out (or in.. or back?) on all these several fronts, the issue becomes not just the nature of the human, but the nature of life itself.

    -----As these rising states suggest, a volume introduction like this one must quickly reach its own limits. By the nature of the subject, there is only so far that a map like this can or should extend. So we now invite our readers to forge ahead and explore this new territory firsthand.

    ----- ----- ----- -----

    [Want to buy the book?]

    upress.umn.edu
    amazon
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2014
    calmchaos likes this.
  14. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
    M A R K C . T A Y L O R

    Refiguring
    the Human
    We are always posthuman. The human is never separate and closed in on itself but is always implicated in open systems and structures that expose it to dimensions of alterity that disrupt stability and displace identity. Recent developments in media and networking technologies as well as bio-informatics disclose the inadequacies of taxonomic schemata that have long been used to define the human by distinguishing it from that which appears to be other.

    Self/World
    Human/Non-human
    Organism/Machine
    Culture/Nature
    Information/Noise
    Negentropy/Entropy
    ----Far from exclusive opposites, these binaries are coemergent and codependent: each presupposes the other and neither can be itself apart from the other. When fully elaborated and deployed, structures of codependence form complex adaptive networks in which the reciprocal relations issue in co-evolutionary processes that perpetually figure, disfigure, and re-figure every identity that seems to be secure (see Figure 1).

    mechademia3contoursfig1 001.jpg
    ----The interplay of nature, society, culture, and technology forms the shifty matrix within which reality as we know it is constituted.

    All such relational webs have the following characteristics.

    1. They are composed of many codependent parts connected in multiple and changing ways.
    2. They display spontaneous self-organization, which occurs with parameters of constraint that leave space for the aleatory.
    3. The structures resulting from spontaneous self-organization emerge from —but are not necessarily reducible— to the interactivity of the components in the system.
    4. Self-organizing structures are open and, therefore, are able to adapt and co-evolve with other structures.
    5. As connectivity increases, networks become more complex and move toward a tipping where a discontinuous phase shift occurs.

    ----It is important to stress three important points in this context. First, the structure of these networks is fractal; that is to say, they display the same structure at every level of organization. Since networks are always networks composed of other networks, there is no underlying or overarching meta-network. Second, networks are isomorphic across media. Natural, cultural, social, and technological networks have the same structure and operational logic. Third, and finally, networks are self-organizing—order emerges from within and is not imposed from without. Within the ever-changing web of relations, nothing is fixed or permanent. Patterns are transient, and survival depends on adaptivity to fitness landscapes that are themselves subject to co-evolutionary pressures.

    ----The currency of exchange in complex adaptive networks is information. In their 1949 ground-breaking book The Mathematical Theory of Information, Claude Shannon and Waren Weaver develop a notion of information that differs significantly from the common sense of the term. "The word information, in this theory," Weaver explains, "must not be confused with its ordinary usage. In particular, information must not be confused with meaning."[1] Meaning arises at a different level of organization. Information, in the strict sense of the term, is inversely proportional to probability: the more probable, the less information; the less probable, the more information. Gregory Bateson offers a concise definition of information when he claims: "information is a difference that makes a difference."[2] The domain of information lies between too little and too much difference. On one hand, informations is a difference, therefore, in the absence of difference there is no information. On the other hand, information is a difference that makes a difference. Not all differences make a difference because some differences are indifferent and hence inconsequential. Both too little and too much difference creates noise. Always articulated between a condition of undifferentiation and indifferent differentiation, information emerges along the two-sided edge of chaos. The articulation of difference brings about the emergence of pattern from noise. Information and noise are not merely opposites but co-emerge, and, therefore, are codependent: information is noise in formation. Noise, by contrast interrupts or it interferes with informative patterns. When understood in this way, information stabilizes noise and noise destabilizes information. This process of destabilization is not, however, merely negative, because it provides the occasion for the emergence of new informative patterns.

    ----Insofar as complex adaptive networks are isomorphic across media, information processes are not limited to either computer and media networks or mental and cultural activities, but are distributed throughout all natural and social systems. Biological and chemical as well political and economic processes are, for example, distributed information processes, which have the same structure and functionality as cognitive processes. The isomorphism of these processes is the condition of the possibility of their interoperability. Borders are not fixed, membranes are permeable, and lines that once seemed precise become fuzzy. As opposition gives way to relation, self and other fold into each other in such a way that social and natural worlds come to self-consciousness in and through human awareness, and human consciousness and self-consciousness are realized in and through natural and social processes. The play of differences that make a difference is the infinite process of emergent creativity in which everything arises and passes away.

    ..................................................................................................................................


    NOTES

    1. Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communication
    ---(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1949), 99.

    2. Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind
    ---(New York: Ballantine Books, 1972), 453.
    ..................................................................................................................................

    M I C H A E L - D Y L A N - F O S T E R

    The Otherworlds
    of Mizuki Shigeru
    Shape-shifting foxes, tengu mountain goblins, kappa water spirits, and a panoply of other fantastic beings have long haunted he Japanese cultural imaginary. In contemporary discourse, such creatures are generally labelled "Yōkai," a word variously understood as monster, spirit, goblin, ghost, demon, phantom, spectre, supernatural creature, lower-order deity, or more amorphously as any unexplainable experience or numinous occurrence.[1] Such weird and mysterious things emerge ambiguously at the intersection of the everyday and extraordinary, the real and the imaginary, questioning the borders of the human, and challenging the way we order the world around us. Despite its historical longevity, the notion of yōkai is neither monolithic nor transcendent; rather, as has been said of the "monster" in the West, the yōkai "is an embodiment of a certain cultural movement—of a time, a feeling and a place."[2] That is to say, the meaning of yōkai is always changing—shape-shifting, as it were—to reflect the episteme of the particular time and place. By interrogating this meaning we uncover some of the hidden philosophies and unconscious ideologies of the given historical moment.

    ----In the following pages, I focus on some of the yōkai images created by manga/anime artist Mizuki Shigeru (b. 1922), whose work has shaped the meaning and function of yōkai within the popular imagination of late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century Japan. Mizuki's anime and manga are familiar to nearly every Japanese person who grew up watching television or reading manga since the late 1960s, and today he continues to make an impact on a whole new generation: in April 2007, a live-action movie based on his GeGeGe no Kitarō (Spooky Kitaro) series opened in theatres nationwide, the latest film-making venture in a list that also includes the 2005 blockbuster The Great 'Yōkai War (Yōkai Daisensō) directed by Miike Takashi.

    ----Here I would like to treat not only Mizuki's anime and manga, but also some of his writing in other genres. Mizuki researches and writes
    extensively on yōkai catalogues that recall the Edo-period bestiaries of two hundred years ago. He has also penned several memoirs, some recounting his experiences during the Pacific War and his role as a sort off accidental ethnographer of the people he came in contact with in the South Pacific. In all of these writings—memoirs, yōkai encyclopaedias, and anime and manga like GeGeGe no Kitarō—we find similar strains of nostalgic longing for a purer, more authentic world. And as Mizuki's personal history becomes metonymic of the Japanese postwar experience, both he and the yōkai he describes and produces are implicated in the formation of Japan's identity as a nation.

    YŌKAI DISCOURSES
    In order to grasp Mizuki's place within the cultural imagination of postwar Japan, it is important to know something about his precursors in the discursive history of yōkai since the Edo period (ca. 1600-1868). One of these key figures is Toriyama Sekien (1712-1788), a yōkai cataloguer whose work emblemizes Edo consciousness with regard to fantastic creatures. Between 1776 and 1784, Toriyama produced four sets of illustrated bestiaries that collectively document over two hundred different species of yōkai.[3] These texts represent the coalescence of two modes of expression that were particularly prominent during this period: the encyclopaedic and the ludic. The encyclopaedic entails processes of collecting, labelling, and cataloguing that were influenced by neo-Confucian ideas and led to the publication of numerous natural history texts, pharmacopoeias, and encyclopaedias. The ludic mode, on the other hand, denotes a sensibility that values recreation and play, and was manifest in such practices as comic versification (kyōka and senryū) and the spooky tale-telling sessions known as hyuku monogatari. Sekien's yōkai catalogues creatively combined the encyclopaedic and ludic modes of expression: each page featured an illustration of a particular yōkai, often complete with description just like a natural history text; at the same time, however, the accompanying text and often the illustration itself contained lively word and image play. That is to say, Sekien may have been cataloguing yōkai, but he and his readers were having fun in the process. In fact, it is likely that Sekien, while clearly knowledgeable about traditional yōkai beliefs, was not at all averse to inventing his own creatures to add to the panoply.[4]

    ----Sekien never explicitly questioned the ontological veracity of yōkai. During the Meiji period (1868-1912), however, the importation of Western scientific principles inspired bunmei kaika (civilization-and-enlightenment) ideologues to actively interrogate the supernatural and debunk phenomena like yōkai. In particular, philosopher and educator Inoue Enryō (1858-1919) created the discipline of yōkaigaku (Yōkai-ology) with a specific objective: to rationally explain away supernatural beliefs so that Japan could become a modern nation-state. To this end, Enryō collected volumes of data on yōkai-related folk beliefs from around Japan and developed an analytical framework to categorize yōkai and systematically filter out "superstitions" from what he defined as "true mystery."

    ----In the early twentieth century, Yanagita Kunio (1875-1962) appropriated yōkai for his own burgeoning discipline of folklore studies or native ethnology (minzokugaku). One of modern Japan's most influential thinkers, Yanagita did not debunk yōkai as superstitions but rather set out to collect and preserve them as disappearing relics of earlier belief systems. One result of this process was "Yōkai meii" (Yōkai glossary); published over several months between 1939 and 1939, this short text lists and describes yōkai from around Japan, with information culled from a variety of local gazetteers and folklore collections.
    [5] For Yanaita and his followers, the collecting of yōkai represented a recognition of their value as cultural commodities evocative of an idealized past. Classifying yōkai may have been a way to demarcate an "authentic" Japan, but it also converted them into lifeless historical relics, fossilized specimens from another time. In a sense, yōkai were shorn of their living mystery, remaining only as weird pre-modern forms stored in the folkloric archives of the modern nation.

    ----Although many other voices participated in the discourse of yōkai from the Edo period to the present, Sekien's catalogues
    , Enyro's yōkaigaku, and Yanagita'a folkloristics are paradigmatic of shifting historical attitudes toward weird and mysterious phenomena. By the time Mizuki Shigeru arrives on the scene, yōkai are generally conceived of as nostalgic icons from a purer, more authentic, prewar—if not pre-Meiji—Japan. They are interesting artefacts, to be sure, but ultimately empty and irrelevant to urban and suburban life in modern Japan. Starting in the 1960s, Mizuki would almost single-handedly revitalize the image of yōkai in the popular imagination, breathing life into their weird forms so that they would once again playfully enchant children and adults alike, but at the the same time retain their nostalgic association with an earlier Japan.

    MIZUKI-SAN AND KITARŌ
    In many ways the yōkai phenomenon comes full circle with Mizuki's yōkai catalogues and fictions: like Sekien, he exploits the popular media of his time while carefully treading the line between ludic (commercial) endeavours and the encyclopaedic mode. Of course, the Sekien-Mizuki comparison can only be taken so far, as the radically different historical contexts of the eighteenth and the late twentieth centuries endow their yōkai with distinct functions and meanings. But one of thing is clear: by the promulgation through a variety of media, Mizuki`s images and narratives are very much a part of the popular imagination of Japanese children and adults today.[6]

    ----One character who appears frequently in Mizuki's manga is a somewhat comical-looking, bespectacled man who represents the illustrator himself. By inserting this self-depicting image of himself (often referred to as "Mizuki-san") into his own narratives, Mizuki infuses them with a light-hearted self-referentiality and also contributes to a biographical narrative that has come to be as much a part of his personal mystique as the yōkai world he illustrates. Adding to the autobiographical material in his anime and manga, Mizuki has also described himself in a popular series of memoirs detailing his childhood in a country village and his experiences as a soldier during World War II. Together, these texts have created a persona that is intimately linked with the nostalgic image of yōkai and Japan's rural past.

    ----Born Mura Shigeru in 1922, Mizuki grew up in the rural village of Sakaiminato in Tattori prefecture. Although his own memoirs (and biographical blurbs on his books) often identify his place of birth as Sakaiminato, apparently he was actually born in Osaka, where his father was employed, returning to Sakaiminato with his mother one month after his birth.[7] This rewriting of his birthplace from a major urban centre to a small rural community is a minor point to be sure, but it underscores Mizuki's self-inscription as a person with authentic roots in the yōkai-infested countryside. (In the mid-1990s, this association became inscribed in the landscape of Sakaiminato with the creation of "Mizuki Shigeru Road," a street festooned with over one hundred bronze statues modelled on Mizuki's yōkai.) During the war, Mizuki saw combat near Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, where he suffered the loss of his lest arm. After returning to Japan, he studied at Musashino Art School and worked as an illustrator for kami shimi (picture-card shows) and kashi-hon manga, cheaply produced manga that could be borrowed for a small price at shops throughout Japan.[8]

    ----Mizuki first garnered critical acclaim and popular success with his 1965 manga "Terebi-kun" (Television Boy), which received the Sixth Kōdansha Jidō Manga Award. The narrative tells of a boy, Terebi-kun, who can enter into a television set and participate in the world beyond the screen. Appropriately for a period of rapid economic growth, Terebi-kun's television incursions seem limited to commercials for new products—from ice-cream to bicycles—which he is able to acquire before they appear on the market. He does not use his special skills for personal gain, however: he gives many of the objects he acquires to a classmate whose family is too poor even to own a television set. He then disappears for parts unknown, travelling with his portable "transistor" television and providing newly marketed products to needy children throughout Japan.[9]
    ----Although "Terebi-kun" does not concern yōkai explicitly, it plays with the notion of another world that interacts with our everyday existence, while also highlighting the intensely commercial nature of the medium. The program captured the tenor of the times with regard to the mystifying new phenomenon of television, and Mizuki's own continued success was tied to the rapidly developing TV industry: in 1968, his manga GeGeGe no Kitarō was made into a black-and-white animated television series. Subsequent series, in colour, ran 1971-72, 1985-88, and 1996-98, with numerous reruns, and a new version starting in 2007. The GeGeGe no Kitarō narratives concern the adventures of a yōkai named Kitarō and his cohort of yōkai characters. The progeny of a ghost family, Kitarō looks like a normal boy but for a shock of hair covering his left eye. His name, written with the character for demon (oni), might be translated as "demon-boy," a not-so-subtle reminder of his monstrous origins. As if to compensate for the missing left eye, another character, Medama-oyaji (Papa eyeball), represents the remains of Kitarō's dead father. Portrayed as a small disembodied eyeball with arms and legs and voice, Medama-oyaji serves as Kitarō's protective familiar and can often be found sitting atop his head or shoulder, proffering advice.[10]

    [​IMG]
    One of the many bronze figures of Kitarō and Medama-oyaji in Sakaiminato.
    Photo via [http://www.sakaiminato.net/foreign/en/mizuki.html]
    ----The self-referentiality of the GeGeGe no Kitarō character starts with the fact that Mizuki's nickname as a child was Gege, or Gegeru (his own childish mispronunciation of Shigeru).[11] Furthermore, it was Mizuki's left arm that was lost in the war, and one might posit that the mystical presence of that lost limb serves as an invisible guide in his work just as Medama-oyaji supervises Kitarō in his various pursuits. More to the point, Medama-oyaji's monocular vision provides Kitarō with critical insight into the otherworld of yōkai. One common theme in the GeGeGe no Kitarō series has Kitarō joining forces with his father and other familiar yōkai as a team of superheroes fighting for the survival of good yōkai and good humans against the forces of evil. In this way Kitarō serves as a corollary to Mizuki himself, struggling to protect yōkai and the (super)natural world from fading into irrelevance.

    ----Kitarō, Medama-oyaji, and other characters, such as the devious Nezumi-otoko (Rat-man), are original creations of Mizuki. But many characters in the series are derived directly from earlier yōkai documented by the likes of Sekien and Yanagita. In particular, Gegege no Kitarō visually presents a number of the creatures listed in Yanagita's "Yōkai meii." In one one short entry, for example, Yanagita explains that the "Sunakake-babaa" (literally "sand-throwing old woman") is "said to be found in various places in Nara Prefecture. [She] threatens people by sprinkling sand on them when [they] pass through such places as the shadows of a lonely forest or a shrine. Although nobody has ever seen her, it is said that she is an old woman."[12] Mizuki renders visible this yōkai that "nobody has ever seen," removing her from relative obscurity of Yanagita's academic writings to display her under the bright lights of popular culture.

    ----Another regularly featured yōkai from the series, Nurikabe (
    Plastered wall), similarly exemplifies this creation of character. In Yanagita's glossary Nurkiabe refers to a troubling phenomenon: while you are walking along a road at night, "suddenly a wall appears in front of you and you cannot go anywhere."[13] Mizuki converts this phenomenon—the experience of mysteriously being prevented from making forward progress—into an embodied visual representation: a large rectangular with eyes and legs (and personality). Where Yanagita simply states that a wall "appears," Mizuki illustrates the wall's appearance and an invisible local phenomenon is transformed into a nationally recognized character.[14]

    [​IMG]
    Bronze figurine of Nurikabe on Mizuki Shigeru Road in Sakaiminato.

    Photo via [http://en.gigazine.net/news/20081230_youkai_bronze/]


    MEMORY, MONSTERS, MANGA
    Gegege no Kitarō and other Mizuki manga are creative narratives. At the same time, however, Mizuki labels himself a "yōkai researcher" and has made a project of seeking out and illustrating yōkai from around Japan. As with Sekien's Edo-period codices, Mizuki's work often assumes an encyclopaedic format: catalogues and dictionaries that come in a dazzling variety of sizes and shapes. Illustrated with the same creative levity as his manga, they stand as autonomous collections but also interact with and supplement his narratives. Indeed, many of his yōkai circulate in and out of different expressive forms, sometimes presented as individualized characters in his manga and anime, other presented as "real" yōkai in his catalogues.

    ----I should reiterate that not all of Mizuki's yōkai are derived from tradition; Kitarō and his father, for example, are wholly original creations, and accordingly they do not generally appear in his catalogues.[15] The ontological status of other creatures—such as Nurikabe and Sunakake-babaa—is more ambiguous. Although they appear in his manga/anime narratives as distinct characters with individual personalities, they are also documented as "real" yōkai to be collected and displayed encyclopaedically. In a catalogue entry for Nurikabe, for example, Mizuki first duly references Yanagita, noting the specific location where the belief was collected in Chikuzen (present-day Fukuoka Prefecture), and then relates a personal experience with a Nurikabe-like encounter that occurred when he was away in the "dark jungles" of the south (nanpō) during the war.[16] As an admixture of previous reference and personal anecdote, there is nothing particularly definitive about Mizuki's entry, but its inclusion in a book entitled Nihon yōkai taizen, or the "Complete compendium of Japanese yōkai," lends it an unimpeachable sense of authority. Significant too is Mizuki's linking of a specific Japanese location in the past (Chizuken) to a non-Japanese place (the dark jungles). That is to say, the Nurikabe signifies a local/past experience as well as a universal/present experience, both of which somehow fit under the rubric of Japanese yōkai.

    ----Central to Mizuki's entry is the illustration, in which an invisible phenomenon is made into a viable creature. In one of his many short essays on yōkai, Mizuki addresses this critical issue of rendering the invisible world visible, suggesting that yōkai and similar spirits "want to take shape (katachi ni naritagatte iru). That is to say, they want to show their appearance (sugata) to people." Even as he elaborate the mechanism by which this works, Mizuki infuses yōkai with agency:

    As something that tries to take form, they hint by knocking on the brain of the
    artist or the sculptor. (In other words, this is the thing we call inspiration.) We
    often hear, "yōkai and kami [deities] are created by humans," but the funny
    thing is that the instant you believe this, the yōkai or the kami will stop
    knocking on your brain.

    You have to believe that yōkai and kami do exist.

    It is just that they are rather elusive because their forms are difficult to discover,
    difficult to feel.
    [17]

    ----Mizuki suggests that one must possess a certain sensitivity to the invisible world, a "yōkai sense," in order to endow these elusive creatures with form for all to see. Ultimately, it seems, yōkai are affective phenomena; illustrating their appearance is akin to articulating a particular emotion.

    ----Along with Yanagita's descriptions, Mizuki's other major source is the work of Toriyama Sekien. Mizuki refashions many of Sekien's yōkai, reinserting them into a context more relevant to his readers. This is the case with one of Sekien's original creations, the Tenjōname, literally "Ceiling-licker." Sekien draws a tall bony creature, seemingly suspended in mid-air, licking a wooden ceiling with an extremely long tongue. This strange creature appears in his Hyakki tsuzere bukuro of 1784. The title of the collection and the Tenjōname entry both reference Yoshida Kenkō famous essay collection Tsuzerugusa (ca. 1331, Essays in Idleness). In entry number 55 of this text, Kenkō suggests that "a house should be built with the summer in mind. In winter it is possible to live anywhere, but a badly built house is unbearable when it gets hot... A room with a high ceiling is cold in winter and dark by lamplight."[18] Sekien's Tenjōname entry plays with the directive: "It is said that if the ceiling is high, (the room) will be dark and in winter it will be cold; but the reason for this does not lie with the design of the house. It is entirely through the machinations of this yōkai [kai] that you feel a chill in your dreams."[19] In other words, it is not the architecture that creates the darkness and chilliness, but the haunting of the Tenjōname.

    [​IMG]
    Toriyama Sekien's Tenjōname.
    Photo via [http://obakeforums.com/topic226.html]

    ----The same yōkai is found in Mizuki's catalogues, with an illustration that is remarkably similar to Sekien's drawing. Mizuki's description of the creature, however, is different:

    There is a yōkai called "Tenjōname." You would think that it would be a great
    help for neatly licking clean the ceiling, which normally does not get cleaned—
    but this is not the case. It is fine that this "Ceiling-licker" licks the ceiling without
    being asked, but it actually causes dirty stains to adhere. When there is nobody
    around in an old house, temple, or shrine, it comes out and licks with its long
    tongue...

    It seems that if they found stains on the ceiling, people in the old days thought
    it was the handiwork of the Tenjōname.
    [20]

    ----
    Not only is there no mention here of Sekien (or Yoshida Kenkō), but Mizuki transforms the Tenjōname into a traditional yōkai that "people in the old days" invoke to explain the stains on their ceilings. In addition to inserting the creature into the discourse of folk tradition, he also goes on to enshroud the Tenjōname in a veil of personal remembrance, with a concomitant note of nostalgia. "When I was a child," he explains, "there was an old woman in the neighbourhood who was particularly knowledgeable about yōkai. On occasion, she used to stay at our place, and she looked at the stains on the ceiling of our house and said, "Look! The Tenjōname comes out at night and makes those stains."
    [21]
    ----Through Mizuki's re-inscription, the Tenjōname is transformed from a Sekien invention (a playful riff on Kenkō's canonical texts), to a traditional yōkai lurking in the rural hinterlands and embedded within the corpus of lore possessed by old people before the war. By inserting his own childhood memory into an encyclopaedic compendium of yōkai, Mizuki underscores his folkloric authority as somebody with an explicit personal connection to the traditions of the past. In this account, his own history is informed neither by scholarly familiarity with texts such as Sekien's and Yanagita's, nor by his years of activity within the urban world of his postwar mass media industy, but rather by a childhood spent in the rural village of Sakaiminato before the war. It was there and then, in an innocent, almost mystic atmosphere, that yōkai and the stories surrounding them inspired the imagination of old and young alike. Mizuki constructs his own home town as an authentic and idyllic space representative of all home towns; his manga, anime, catalogues, and personal memoirs bind postwar Japan to this desired prewar, prelapsarian, moment in much the same way Yanagita's writings linked early twentieth-century modernity with a mystical pre-Meiji imaginary.

    ----In one of his autobiographical texts, Mizuki establishes this nostalgic world and his own position as a child within it. The old neighbourhood woman mentioned in the Tenjōname entry, in fact, is one of the most memorable and lasting characters of his experience. She is called Nonnobaa (Granny Nonnon); her name, along with her knowledge of the otherworld, becomes indelibly linked with Mizuki in the title of his prose memoir, Nonnobaa to ore (Granny Nonnon and me) originally published in 1977.
    [22] The memoir relates anecdotes of his childhood in Sakaiminato, stressing his dubious performance as a student, his struggle to become a leader among the village children, and his relationship with Nonnobaa, purveyor of local knowledge.

    ----In his first section of the book, entitled "Childhood Years Liviing Amongst the Yōkai," Mizuki tells how he heard about the Tenjōname for the first time, and the language repeats and transforms the details from his catalogue entry:

    Along with knowledge of annual events and ceremonies, Nonnonbaa also knew all sorts of obake and mysterious stories.

    She would look at the stains in the dim light of the kitchen ceiling, and say with a serious expression on her face that they were made by an obake called "Tenjōname" that would come in the night when everybody was quietly sleeping. I would look at the ceiling carefully and think, well yes, those stains seem to be from that. There was no room for doubt. (20-21)
    ----By giving voice to Nonnobaa as the bearer of tradition, Mizuki links himself to a premodern Japanese authority. "Nonnon," Mizuki explains, was a local expression for somebody who "attends to the spirits" (16). He writes: "I came to have a sense of belief that there was another world in addition to the human world. As an interpreter of this other world, Nonnobaa was an absolutely indispensable person." As a medium between an older/other world and Mizuki's, Nonnobaa translates sounds and signs into oral pictures that the young Mizuki can imagine and that he will eventually render visually for others to see.

    ----Or so the autobiographical narrative would have us believe. Strictly speaking, in fact, many of Mizuki's illustrations, such as the Tenjōname, are overtly derivative of Sekien's images, problematizing the extent of Nonnobaa's influence on Mizuki's visual imagination.[22] (With regard to Sekien's image itself, Komatsu Kazuhiko points out that it is impossible to assess whether Seien illustrated the Tenjōname out of local tradition or whether he actually fabricated it from scratch and it was later introduced into oral tradition through his texts.[24]) In a biography of the manga artist, Adachi Noriyuki reports that according to Mizuki's older brother, Nonnonbaa "was just a completely normal rural old woman. As for outstanding abilities, or special knowledge concerning spiritual matters, she had nothing at all of that sort."[25]

    ----But by retelling the story of Sekien's monsters through the authenticating voice of Nonnonbaa, complete with explanations suited to a rural village, Mizuki redescribes these yōkai into the life of the countryside. Just as Nonnonbaa becomes the symbolic medium through which he is made privy to the secret workings of the supernatural world of the past, Mizuki himself serves as medium between the lost world of a country town and the (often) suburban or urban worlds of his readership. My point here is not to challenge the "authenticity" of Mizuki's recollections but simply to note that by sharing his personal memories, whether fabricated or not, Mizuki contributes to the postwar construction of a communal memory of a pre-modern cultural ecology. Whereas a century earlier Inoue Enryō had worked to efface the topography of the supernatural with his analytical yōkai studies, Mizuki's manga and yōkai compendia redraw the map of nostalgic landscape.

    ----The figure of Nonnonbaa acts as a guide through this terrain, teaching Mizuki to interpret sign, such as stains on the ceiling, traces and trail of the invisible,
    otherworldly creatures that have passed before them. Nonnonbaa herself has already lived out her time: her stories have no resonance for "rational" adults. But to preirational Mizuki, her teachings make perfect sense. The knowledge of the mystic skips the skeptical modern generation (and educated elite) of Enryō and Yanagita to be imparted directly to the innocent young Mizuki.

    761460.jpg
    Bronze statues of Nonnonbaa and young Mizuki in front of the Mizuki Shigeru Kinenkan (museum) in Sakaiminato.

    ----And Mizuki, as an adult, passes on this knowledge to the reader, invariably presenting it in a sentimental haze as something already no-longer available—and therefore, all the more desirable.

    ACCIDENTAL ETHNOGRAPHER

    ----The public persona Mizuki creates through his autobiographical writings complements the world of his manga and illustrated catalogues. His own life becomes paradigmatic of Japan's twentieth-century experience—or at least the experience of the "common" man in twentieth-century Japan. Raised in a country village, Mizuki was a reluctant conscripted soldier, who suffered— as did Japan—irreparable damage from the war. And yet, through his ordeals he discovers inner resources and otherworlds that fortify his future war-ravaged nation itself, ultimately overcoming his handicap to succeed in a competitive market.

    ----One of Mizuki's manga not related directly to

    [ T o b e c o n t i n u e d . . . ]
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015
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  15. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

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    Are Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki and Na’vi real languages?
    Published on Sep 26, 2013 | Lesson by John McWhorter, animation by Enjoyanimation.

    What do Game of Thrones’ Dothraki, Avatar’s Na’vi, Star Trek’s Klingon and LOTR’s Elvish have in common? They are all fantasy constructed languages, or conlangs. Conlangs have all the delicious complexities of real languages: a high volume of words, grammar rules, and room for messiness and evolution. John McWhorter explains why these invented languages captivate fans long past the rolling credits.



    View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/are-elvish-...

    How Languages Change & Evolve
    Published on May 27, 2014 | Lesson by Alex Gendler, animation by Igor Coric.

    Over the course of human history, thousands of languages have developed from what was once a much smaller number. How did we end up with so many? And how do we keep track of them all? Alex Gendler explains how linguists group languages into language families, demonstrating how these linguistic trees give us crucial insights into the past.



    View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-languag...
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2015
  16. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
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    What's the coolest thing about writing speculative fiction? Well, I guess there might be lots of answers to that question. But I'll bet there's one that falls in everybody's top ten list: Getting to create a whole new world.

    I mean, writing fiction is a lot like playing God anyway, right? You create people ex nihilo and make them do your bidding. Free will? Pshaw, I say. When you write speculative fiction you often find yourself creating from your imagination not just the people, but the very worlds the story takes place on. Suddenly you're thinking about geography and history and languages and tribal migration and systems of government. Stuff the author of a straight thriller doesn't need to bother herself with. But that's okay, because we're weird enough that we enjoy making up pretend worlds. With J.R.R. Tolkien as our patron saint, we plunge into our new world, fascinated by the possibilities (and complexities) involved with fashioning the heavens and the earth. God, it seems, was a busy Guy.

    Okay, so if creating brand new (brave new?) worlds is one of the coolest things about writing speculative fiction, what's the coolest thing about creating brand new worlds?

    Maps, of course!

    maps.jpg

    [Forgive the paraphrase of Oliver.]

    Maps! Magical maps! Wonderful maps! Marvellous maps! Fabulous maps! Maps! Glorious...maps!

    The CG List of Mapping Software:

    ------ Not Alphabetized after this point ------


    Character Generating Software
    Depending on your personality, creating story people might be just as fun for you as creating worlds. As far as I know, though, there is only one software utility that creates detailed characters for you.

    It's called
    CharPick.

    It won't do all your homework for you, but it will, at the click of a button, give you a very fun character to begin with. If all you need is a walk-on character, CharPick gives you everything you need. If you're looking to quickly populate a room or a spaceship or a den of thieves, CharPick is the way to go. Need an interesting Governor of the Planet Kyrolia? CharPick is your tool. And even if you're looking for idea-starters for your main characters, CharPick is a great place to begin.

    CharPick is a steal for $12. It's available right here in the WhereTheMapEnds Store.

    Far less detailed (but free) is this quick fantasy character creation utility. To develop fully realized characters who make your story memorable and rich, there is no shortcut. But I have given you a
    character-creation product to guide your work.

    Speculative Story Idea Software
    Again, WhereTheMapEnds comes to the rescue! This is your place for story starting software for Christian speculative fiction.

    Check out my absolutely free software utility for creating random story ideas; and here are some other generators for creating random SF or fantasy plot ideas.


    Real Physics Simulators

    Thanks to Meredith Efkin and her scientist husband for these. (Note that they require Java.)

    That Should Get You Started!

    If it doesn't... Well, then...yikes. Click around some more!

    Have fun, fellow world builders!
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2015
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  17. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
    thescienceinyoursciencefictiondoesmatter.png
    [​IMG]

    There's been a lot of debate lately over whether science fiction needs accurate science — or whether it's even worth discussing the accuracy of science in science fiction. What kind of person expects a science textbook instead of just a fun romp? But as a new essay points out, this is really a matter of suspension of disbelief.

    Top image: Shield by Poul Anderson

    Neil deGrasse Tyson, in particular, has come in for a lot of flak as a spoilsport, who nitpicks the science in movies like Gravity and Interstellar to an unhealthy degree. Why does Tyson have to take everything so seriously?

    In fact, the accuracy of the science is just one of many rubrics by which you can judge science fiction. You can judge a story by the believability of the plot, whether the story makes any sense, or the emotional and psychological depth of the characters. Or you can judge a story based on plausibility — and scientific accuracy is just one form of plausibility, which is a larger issue in fiction. If someone wrote a story set in the "real world," in which a person who has never learned to read or write goes to Harvard and becomes a famous professor, you might have a hard time buying the basic idea — and many of the scientific inaccuracies in today's science fiction are on that same level, for people with some scientific literacy. (The Moon's an egg, and you can fly from the International Space Station to the Chinese space station in no time, etc. etc.)

    Edited to add: And as I said above, this is just one criteria among many. Some people worry more about plausibility, some people worry more about character development. Also, it depends how much your story is foregrounding the science, and what kind of tone it's going for — comedy versus serious realism. But it's absolutely valid for people to care about the scientific accuracy in a story, just like it's valid for them to care about any other aspect.

    As an essay in the Berkeley Science Review points out, it's just a matter of suspension of disbelief — scientific ideas that run too wild make it harder to suspend your disbelief, just like that illiterate Harvard professor would. David Litt goes on to explain how some classic SF authors addressed this issue:

    There's tons more at the link, but the basic point stands — don't send people to a planet whose atmosphere is full of chemicals that would instantly explode in contact with each other, or people will have a hard time taking the story seriously. [Berkeley Science Review]
  18. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
    RPG World Building Series
    Presented by:
    sr2joker






    View the rest of the series by clicking here.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2015
    Cerberuspaw and calmchaos like this.
  19. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM

    Manga author Morohoshi Daijori is as obscure as the myths he writes about but he's every bit the legend. Tezuka Osamu couldn't mimic his style. Miyazaki Hayao wanted to use his art to tell stories. Anno Hideaki was haunted by his imagery. And yet, his works have eluded English publishers for decades. Read on to discover the man who touched some of the greatest minds in pop culture history.

    SHORT STORIES

    [​IMG]

    An office worker notices a robed figure on his daily commute and makes the mistake of following it…
    (A Sinister Specter, 1973)

    A traveler is led by a masked guide whose culture forbids him to look at the beauty of the world... (Distant Lands, 1978)

    A business is literally haunted by the spirit of its former executives… (Company Ghosts, 1982)

    A boy escapes into an alternate reality where his darkest fantasies come true with real world consequences... (Shadow Town, 1985)

    A plant that lives off dreams and feeds the host its own… (Beneath the Dream Tree, 1997)

    Morohoshi was born July 6, 1949 as a child of Japan's golden age of sci-fi. His imagination grew strong on a diet of kaiju, tokusatsu and Hayakawa SF Magazine with stories by Arthur C. Clark, Philip K. male reproduction organ and J.G. Ballard. His own plots incorporate these influences with results that range from whimsical to nihilistic, their settings either grounded as social commentary or floating as pie-in-the-sky parables.

    One of my personal favorites, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard (1983) showcases Morohoshi's dreamlike style. An elementary school boy befriends his awkward classmate Julio, a transfer student who insists he can communicate with UFOs. Julio says aliens sent him and his father on a mission to observe humans. Julio sounds like he's full of it, except he knows more about the area than the local boys, such as the location of an old bomb shelter that he uses as a club house. Maybe there's some truth to his claims after all.

    [​IMG]
    I think we all knew a kid like Julio growing up, someone you didn't exactly trust but kept around just to see what crazy thing they'd spout off next. “Spend enough time in the bomb shelter and the outside world changes, honest! Don't believe me? Count the number of smokestacks across the river. There used to be four. But now there's three,” he challenges. Would you count to prove him wrong? Or ignore him on the chance that he's right?

    [​IMG]

    Reality is putty in Morohoshi's hands, both thematically and visually. Bio City (1974), the tale of mankind and machine merging into one perfect being, landed him the Tezuka Award, a prestigious prize for breakout manga artists. In fact, the work was so original that readers accused him of plagiarism--he must of stolen the idea from a foreign sci-fi author! The irony wasn't lost on award committee member and sci-fi writer Tsutsui Yasutaka (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time,Paprika) who later vouched for Morohoshi's prodigious talent. A classy gesture, though Morohoshi was already in a position to defend himself.

    The Tezuka Award came with a fat two million yen prize purse and a coveted spot in the pages of Shonen Jump. His first serialized work, Yokai Hunter (1974-), would crush the magazine's slogan of “friendship, perseverance, victory” under the weight of eldritch horror and folklore gone wrong.

    YOKAI HUNTER

    [​IMG]

    The setup to Yokai Hunter is everything you could want from a weird tale. Stoic anthropologist Hieda Reijiro explores the dark corners of rural Japan driven by a hunch that academic journals don't tell the whole story. The quintessential gentleman scholar in the lineage of pulp heroes like Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder, Hieda keeps his necktie tight and his wits sharp as unspeakable events unfold around him before stepping in at the last minute to save the day with his mastery of arcane knowledge.

    Hieda takes you beneath megalithic kofun burial mounds, fireside at forgotten rituals and into mind-bending theories that tie world religions together. Each adventure will have you turn to outside reference material for better insight into the topic, be it the genealogy of Shinto gods, the different styles of prehistoric pottery or the dark truth behind a seemingly harmless nursery rhyme. You become an amateur researcher, Hieda's assistant into the realm of myth made real. By the end of a book you'll know more about the ancient history of Japan and its harrowing modern implications than your Japanese peers.

    [​IMG]

    Elder gods, cyclopean cities, strange cults--the parallels with H.P. Lovecraft are obvious. Morohoshi has even said as much. Yet there's a danger in equating "Lovecraftian" solely to cosmic horror, the gnawing realization that in the grand scheme of an uncaring universe, mankind is worth as much as a grain of dust on a pinhead. The concept, while slick, overshadows Lovecraft's importance as an antiquarian. The man committed far more ink to the proud gambrel roofs of Providence and musings on the region's past than to blasphemous horrors and indescribable nightmares.

    Morohoshi elicits a fear of the unknown while drawing upon the known--in this case, the shared experience of human history. This makes select works truly Lovecraftian, and all the more disquieting.

    THE DARK MYTH OF CONFUCIUS

    [​IMG]

    If Yokai Hunter has you clicking through Wikipedia to fill in the blanks, then The Dark Myth of Confucius(1977-1978) requires a minor in East Asian History to even understand the cast of characters--which makes you wonder how it slipped into the kid-friendly pages of Shonen Jump! The tale begins in China, 495 BC with Confucius in a journey of self-exile. He discovers an ancient imperial tomb and, while using the I-Chingto unravel its mysteries, reverses the Wu Xing--the five elements--which accidentally turns back time.

    Tampering with the laws of the universe revives Yang Huo, an ambitious regional political figure, as an immortal lich with the power to mess up your ying-yang on the physiological level. "The elements have reversed! Death now conquers life! And I wield the power of DEATH!"

    Meanwhile, in India...

    An "untouchable" possessed by Shiva, the Destroyer meets a boy who embodies Vishnu, the Protector. The two encounter the historical Buddha who takes them on a vision quest to see the Three Towers of Brahma, crystal spires holding a series of 64 gold plates that govern the life of the universe: once the hand of the cosmos moves all plates from one tower to another, without placing a larger one on top of a smaller one, existence as we know it will cease to be.

    Mathematicians have worked out how much time we have left--assuming one second per move, it's 590 billion years, or about five times longer than the current age of the universe. Nothing for us mortals to worry about. But what if there were a hidden fourth pillar? That would speed up the heat death of the cosmos something fierce. And Yang Huo, the Chinese lich, knows where to find it.

    [​IMG]

    The last act reassembles the cast in Japan to bind the Kojiki, Rigveda and Analects of Confucius under a single cosmic law. If that wasn't enough to pry your third eye open, Morohoshi reveals that all matter in the universe is built on binary code and with the right processing power you can know the true nature of existence and time itself. As if we needed another reason to be afraid of supercomputers.

    EVERYTHING ELSE

    [​IMG]

    Morohoshi's influence is felt more strongly than his presence. According to Gainax founder Okada Toshio, the deformed silhouette from Shadow Town (1985) gave Neon Genesis Evangelion director Anno Hideaki the idea for the show's oddly emaciated mecha designs. In an 1986 interview Miyazaki Hayao lamented to manga editor Takekuma Kentaro that Morohoshi should have been the one to draw Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

    [​IMG]
    In the same interview he marveled at the sense of scale Morohoshi imbued into the forest god of Mud Men (1975-1982), a story about the creation myth of Papua New Guinea tribes. Years later Miyazaki would attempt the same spectacle in his filmPrincess Mononoke with his own forest god and a plot that plays out like a gender-flipped Mud Men. And those are just the things he's owned up to!

    Even a jealous curmudgeon like Tezuka could admit that Morohoshi was one of a kind. In a roundtable discussion with Morohoshi and his contemporary, Hoshino Yukinobu, Tezuka quipped, “I could draw like Otomo (Katsuhiro), I could draw like Hoshino, but I couldn't draw like Morohoshi.” It's not that Morohoshi's art is somehow superior. Rather, it's ruled by aesthetics alien to manga.

    [​IMG]
    "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters," from Goya's Los Caprichos (1799)​

    Takekuma describes Morohoshi's style as the halfway point between gekiga realism and the post-war boy's adventure stories of Yamakawa Soji and Komatsuzaki Shigeru. Though given the heavy crosshatching and otherworldly subject matter, I bet his reference shelf is full of etchings by Goya, John Tenniel and Edward Gorey.

    By now you must have a mental image of Morohoshi as a grim madman bent over his drawing easel flanked by towers of moldy books, mumbling to himself as he crosshatches another page of crackpot theories. In reality, Morohoshi is a serious goofball.


    Shiori and Shimiko

    His one-shot gags are a portal into an alternate universe where toilets get constipated, kaiju-sized tapeworms attack and cats run companies. Then there's Shiori and Shimiko (1996- ), a sitcom about two girls who work in an occult bookstore that won the 2008 Japan Media Arts Festival manga prize for its absurd situations and black humor.

    That's enough material to take up a good of your bookshelf and I haven't even mentioned his take on Grimm fairy tales, recent fantasy anthologies or Saiyu Yoenden, his retelling of the Chinese epic Journey to the West. His output is staggering. More shocking still is the lack of English translations.

    As far as I know the only official translation is the short story A Sinister Specter, available in an anthology from Kurodahan Press. Further reading means plumbing the depths of the Internet. Dark Myth, the prelude to The Dark Myth of Confucius, has been scanlated and there's even an OVA with a so-bad-it’s-good early-90s dub. Yokai Hunter has two film adaptations, the fast-and-loose creature feature Hiruko the Goblin(directed by Tsukamoto Shinya no less!) and the more faithful (and sleep-inducing) Kidan. Shiori and Shimiko was adapted into a TV drama starring former AKB48 center Maeda Atsuko, which says everything there is to know. Slim pickings, I know. Supposedly there's an fan translation of Yokai Hunterin the works, but nothing through legit channels.

    To a western audience Morohoshi Daijiro is the manga equivalent of Atlantis, his stories a lost civilization of imagination and dreaming waiting to be rediscovered. When fragments wash up on English-speaking shores we're left to marvel at the secrets the untranslated volumes hold. For now, we must wait to see what the tide brings in. Or, if you're as adventurous and resourceful as one of his protagonists, you can take the plunge and search them out yourself. Who can say what you'll return with.

    [​IMG]
  20. Brijesha

    Brijesha Teller of Seasons Senior Member

    Local Time:
    5:41 PM
    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (/ˈvɒnɨɡət/; November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. His works, such as Cat's Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973), blend satire, gallows humor, and science fiction. As a citizen, he was a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union and a pacifist intellectual, who often was critical of the society that he lived in. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.

    The New York Times headline at the time of his death called him "the counterculture's novelist."



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