Sunday, May 08, 2005

Folklorically Correct

Folklorically. Isn't it a great word? I have to admit that I learned it on the site I linked to in the previous entry. I believe it was in reference to how a western fantasy author's kitsune character was not "folklorically accurate." The webpage would have us believe this folkloric inaccuracy has caused the common misperception that kitsune gain tails as rewards or as a sign of enlightenment.

Which, begs the question, how can you claim something is or isn't folklorically accurate when folklore is a collection of stories? I suppose you could test the concept against concepts common throughout a collection of stories, which is what the author appears to have done. The problem, however, I find in doing that is that suddenly you're not treating them as stories anymore. You're treating them as factual information that can be used to prove or disprove other information.

I believe the argument the author is making is that the concepts and ideas found in actual, documented Japanese folktales are more academically viable than information found in a Western fantasy novel or Japanese comic book.

The academic part of my brain agrees with them. Were you to do a research paper, there's no doubt that as close as you can get to the original source is way more viable than say, what you read in Inuyasha.

However, I would argue, what you read in Inuyasha, is perfectly valid in relation to the universe of Inuyasha. (Inuyasha, if you don't know, is a Japanese comic book series that is written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi. It's been made into a long-running and popular animation—both inside and outside of Japan.)

It's important to distinguish between what was the original context of an idea and what was contributed later. Without knowing the original context, it's next to impossible to know whether you're giving it a new perspective or just reaffirming an old one. You gotta know the rules before you can break them.

I don't see modernization/adaptation to folklore in order to make it work better within a fictional universe as something to be avoided for the simple reason that it breaks from the traditional context. It's fiction, after all.

Friday, May 06, 2005

That's not what they meant

"Over the course of moderization and translation, fox folklore has gotten a bit garbled. Here are some common misperceptions about folkloric foxes."

It's an interesting read.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

So I'm writing a novel

Which is really nothing new. I've been writing some novel or another for the past seven years. It's a hobby. Only this one actually has potential. There's a small publisher here in Canada that's interested in the idea and wants to see the manuscript when I've finished.

For the longest time I felt like I had to make the manuscript really sensible and grounded in reality—that what I wanted to write wasn't "mature" enough or something. That it wasn't something "adults" were going to want to read.

The issue was that I set out to write something like a modern version of Japanese folk tale, using a lot of the culture and mythology of Japan to make it work. So I did all this research. Okay, I did a heck of a lot more research than I've done for anything else before. Usually I just sit down and start writing. Anyway, I got wrapped up in trying to be accurate and have some kind of reference or source to back up what I was writing.

I would try to write a chapter, over-aware of how "respectful" and "accurate" and "mature" I needed to be. How the mythology had to work with the pre-existing mythology because I didn't want to "get it wrong" or offend the Japanese.

This need to get it right was killing my characters, because instead of letting them develop naturally into who they needed to be, I was constantly checking their developments against a pre-established set of rules.

It was like I was trying to write someone else's manuscript.

When I stopped and thought about it, I realized what I've always admired about Japan is how the Japanese can take something completely alien to their culture (like Christmas, for example) and reinvent it so that it works for them.

So that's what I'm doing now. I'm taking some concepts, ideas, and some mythological figures that already exist in Japan and reinventing them so that they work for my culture. It may "get things right" and it may offend some people, but damnit, it's going to be a hell of a lot more fun.