Category Archives: Japan

The race is on!

Zuni Folk Tales Frank Hamilton CushingNational Novel Writing Month is in full swing.  I have 30 days in which I can do nothing but write, write, write. The wheels are turning in my head, and my new story is flowing at a slow but steady rate. I know who I am writing about, and I know what his story is. I know what the action is and where it goes within the framework of the novel.

My only problem is I can’t key fast enough. When I do key fast it becomes illeggiebble…illegeabngle… .

Doh!

the Zuni EnigmaAnyway I have just received my newest textbook, The Zuni Enigma: A Native American People’s Possible Japanese Connection, written by Anthropologist Nancy Yaw Davis. I  have found some wonderful legends in the small book,  Zuni Folk Tales, by Frank Hamilton Cushing.

This book is an incredible departure for me.  Not only am I working in a world that exists in reality, I am working with a culture that is both known and unknown to me, and I must do it with respect.  This novel is a historical fantasy, but it is set in the 1890’s. I have to remain true to the period, to the two cultures this tale depicts, and I have to make my character real.

Zuni frank hamilton ushingWhat makes this even more tricky, is I am telling this story from the perspective of the main character–something I have not done before. But this tale is a diary in a way about one man’s journey, and the duality of his path in life. It is a stand-alone novel, and while it is definitely fantasy, I think it will be more of a literary novel than Genre Fantasy.

The Zuni are a private, mysterious people, and rightfully so. This makes it imperative that I know what I am talking about. Fortunately have been immersing myself in the Zuni culture through the work of early anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing.

Frank Hamilton Cushing’s stay at Zuñi pueblo from 1879 to 1884 made him the first professional anthropologist actually to live with his subjects. Learning the language and winning acceptance as a member not only of the tribe but of the tribal council and the Bow Priesthood, he was the original participant observer and the only man in history to hold the double title of “1st War Chief of Zuñi, U. S. Ass’t Ethnologist.”

My goal is to honor these amazing people, respect their privacy and maintain their mystery, and entertain my readers. The story is amazing–if only I can get it right.

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16 bit Inspiration

Final-Fantasy-VI-final-fantasy-vi-24610210-800-600Final Fantasy VI, originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in America as Final Fantasy III,  was one of my favorite games ever–I had it for both the SNES and the Playstation.

(From Wikipedia) “The action takes place on a large, unnamed world. During the course of the game, its geography and landscape change due to various developments in the game’s plot. During the first half of the game, the world is divided into three major continents and referred to as the World of Balance. The northern continent is punctuated by a series of mountain ranges and contains many of the locations accessible to the player. Most of the southern continent has been taken over by the Empire, while the eastern continent is home to a large patch of land called the Veldt where monsters from all over the world can be found. Halfway through the game, the world’s geographical layout is altered, resulting in its three large continents splitting into several islands of various size situated around a larger continent at their center. This altered layout of the game’s locations is referred to as the World of Ruin.

final-fantasy-vi-20060509061309295“In contrast to the medieval settings featured in previous Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy VI is set in a steampunk environment. The structure of society parallels that of the latter half of the 19th century, with opera and the fine arts serving as recurring motifs throughout the game, and a level of technology comparable to that of the Second Industrial Revolution. 

“Railroads and steamships are in use, and a coal mining operation is run in the northern town of Narshe. Additionally, several examples of modern engineering and weaponry (such as a chainsaw, drill and automatic crossbow) have been developed in the Kingdom of Figaro. However, communication systems have not reached significant levels of development, with letters sent by way of carrier pigeon serving as the most common means of long-distance communication.”

I loved that game!  I played it and beat it four times, and still to this day love it.  One of the things I loved the most about it is the sheer, unabashed love of FUN that the creators injected into it.

Final_Fantasy_VI_Opera_by_Saint_KaedeThere is a wonderful scene that takes place in an Opera House, complete with an entire opera, that is performed during a 12 minute race to save Terra from a demented octopus intent on killing her. The opera can be seen and heard here via YouTube, in its full glory.  In the original game, the music was performed on a midi and was really good, but the original composer has since released fully orchestrated versions of all the music he composed for the Final Fantasy empire at Square/Enix over the years, up to Final Fantasy IX.

distant worldsThe music of these games attracts me as much as the incredible story-lines and great artwork.  The primary composer of music for the main series was Nobuo Uematsu, who single-handedly composed the soundtracks for the first nine games. I just recently purchased Distant Worlds, his 2007 compilation of the work he did for the franchise, and it is part of what I listen to when writing.

There is something so evocative about his music, it helps me concentrate.

And so, today I leave you with another YouTube example of Uematsu’s work, Love Grows, from The epic Final Fantasy VIII, featuring the enigmatic Squall Leonhart as the reluctant hero.  Great stories, awesome side-quests–those early Final Fantasy games couldn’t be beaten for sheer entertainment value.

I am still playing Final Fantasy XII on the PS2, perhaps not obsessively, but still enjoying it. I have Final Fantasy XIII for my PS3 – but I have to admit that I am unable to get completely into it. The story-line seems awesome, and the graphics are gorgeous, but I can’t seem to get too far into it.

Perhaps I’ve grown up a bit, and have my own fantasies to write.

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What to do…what to do….

220px-Hayao_MiyazakiI found out today that the great Japanese artist and filmmaker  Hayao Miyazaki is retiring from making movies. His career has spanned over fifty years. Miyazaki  attained international acclaim as a maker of anime feature films. He and Isao Takahata co-founded Studio Ghibli, a film and animation studio. The success of Miyazaki’s films has been compared to that of  Walt Disney, British animator Nick Park and American director Robert Zemeckis. To be honest–I LOVE his work.

I first heard of Miyazaki in 1986, when my ex husband bought a little VHS movie for our daughter, Meg, called Warriors of the Wind. It was a wonderful movie, and we watched it over and over, but it felt incomplete, as if we only had part of the film.

It turns out that was indeed the case: the true name of the movie was Kaze no Tani no Naushika, translated to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds.  The movie tells the story of a young princess of the Valley of the Wind, Nausicaä (Shimamoto),  who gets involved in a struggle with Tolmekia, a kingdom that tries to use an ancient weapon to eradicate a jungle of mutant giant insects. Nausicaä must stop the Tolmekians from enraging these creatures.

230px-Nausicaa2coverThe underlying story is so powerful and is told so well that I was immediately hooked on Miyazaki’s work. According to Wikipedia, the most prominent themes of that movie are the anti-war and environmental focus of the film. (quote)  “Nausicaä, the heroine, believes in the value of life regardless of its form and through her actions stops a war. Loy and Goodhew state there is no evil portrayed in the film, but the Buddhist roots of evil: greed, ill will and delusion. Fear is what drives the conflicts, the fear of the poisoned forest results in the greed and resentment. Nausicaä, besides from being a transformative force, leads people to understand and respect nature which is portrayed as a welcoming, spiritual, and restorative for those who enter it peacefully.[6]

Nausicaä’s commitment to love and understanding—even to the point of death—transforms the very nature of the conflict around her and changes the attitudes and the hearts of those whose stubborn adherence to their biased views have brought the conflict to the boiling point.

It is said that Miyazaki’s inspiration for Nausicaä sprang from the works of Ursula Le Guin‘s EarthseaBrian Aldiss‘s HothouseIsaac Asimov‘s Nightfall, and J.R.R Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings

Ff12castAll I know is his work in this movie is gripping, sweeping and superlative. My Tower of Bones series was originally written to be an anime based RPG, that was proposed but never built. When I began plotting the game, I had the great Final Fantasy style plots in my mind, and Miyazaki’s art and influence is clear to anyone who has played them as obsessively as I have. When the game fell through, I was so in love with the story and the characters that I HAD to make it into a book. In my mind, my characters are much like the ones in the poster to the left. Sadly, I’ve never been able to get a cover designed that reflects this.

Because of Miyazaki I have been a devoted fan of Anime and Manga since the 1980’s. That love of sweeping sagas where good triumphs over evil at the cost of great personal sacrifice drives my own work today.

Mr. Miyazaki, I will miss your brilliant work, but I will continue to to cherish those wonderful movies you have so diligently and carefully crafted for us over the years. I can only wonder what your poor heart is feeling now, with the ever-worsening, mindbogglingly horrific Fukushima disaster. My heart and my prayers are with the people of Japan and indeed with the Pacific Ocean as the same water that washes the shores of Japan also washes the coast of Washington State.

Miyazaki’s great works taught me that we are all just one small living, breathing world, and each one of us is responsible for making it better or worse.

I choose to make it better.

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