Insomnia isn’t anyone’s usual productivity tool of choice, but last night when I had it, I found myself engaged in some bleary-eyed 2a.m. research.
TCM was running a Japanese movie I’d never heard of, but ought to have: Ugetsu (the original title was “Ugetsu Monogatari”). It’s set a little later than the time period of our novel; Demon Gate takes place in 1506, and this movie happens near the time of Oda Nobunaga, which was several decades later. Be that as it may, besides being an eerily haunting story in its own right, it provided a beautifully-made representation of that part of the past.
Some things I found interesting and/or relevant to the novel we’re working on:
- The samurai belonging to the minor daimyo in the story mostly fought with spears. Was this because he was a traditionalist, preferring his men to use spears over swords? Because he was broke, or cheap, and preferred arming his men with less expensive weapons? Or because the director liked the look of samurai using spears?
- Even though this film takes place after the Portuguese introduction of firearms to Japan, the only time I noticed a gun being used was hearing it when someone offstage was being executed. Was this because firearms would have been expensive, and the daimyo was, again, not wealthy (or was tightfisted)? Because firearms really weren’t that common at the time of Oda Nobunaga? Or because the director liked the idea of the men not using guns?
- Some of this movie takes place in the mountains surrounding Lake Biwa; and so does some of our book. If these scenes were shot on location, it’s going to be a big help when we’re writing those parts, being able to watch actual humans moving throught he landscape for reference. Was this really where those scenes were shot? Or did the director just like the looks of some other area, and film the scenes there?
- When the main characters are boating across Lake Biwa, they meet a dying man who claims he was attacked by pirates. Were there really pirates on Lake Biwa in the sixteenth century? Or did the director just like this idea as the motivaton for the wives to go back to the village? (Must check this out somehow. If there were really pirates, we can maybe find something fun to do with them.)
Okay, so maybe this wasn’t quite “research”… but it might have been. Must do some research and make sure.
Demon Gate is set in a version of the early sixteenth century in a Japan where mythological creatures are real. For someone like me, whose knowledge of “medieval” Japan is based on a reality-based worldview (no thanks to Rove), this means doing a fair amount of reading in an attempt to make the spirits and demons we’re writing about more believable.
Found, I thought, a really cool demon on Wikipedia, and immediately put it into a battle scene, with modifications. What could be more cool than demon-weasels who knock you down, slash you to ribbons, and then heal you up, all before you know what’s happened to you?
If I’d read the entire article before I wrote that chapter, though, I’d have discovered that, as a rule, if a Japanese spirit, demon or monster has its own Wikipedia page, it’s because every Tom, Dick and Mizuki has already used it in a manga or anime.
Oh, well. At least my weasels aren’t practicing socialized medicine.
Hi. I’m Michael, the other half of this authorial tag-team. I can’t say that I’m unaccustomed to public speaking or anything, but I’m definitely not accustomed to this new-fangled Inter-tubes thing. I had a website, once. It was dead several months (mine host left town, having forgotten about me) before I noticed.
But that’s neither here nor there. Everyone I know says that blogging is fun for the entire family, so I’m here having been persuaded that I’ll really enjoy myself. <looks offstage> Oh, all right. Ahem. What I Did on My Summer Vacation. <ducks> Okay, okay. Who I Am and Why I’m Here.
I have been writing my entire adult life, in one form or another. Besides my fun in radio I have worked as a newspaper reporter, columnist and critic, a magazine writer and a movie critic on radio and (briefly disastrously) television. Since the mid-nineties I have made my living in the software business, writing manuals and other technical documentation.
My fiction career began in 1986, thanks in part to Phyllis Gotlieb (who bought the first SF story I ever wrote) and has proceeded in fits and starts since then. I won the Aurora Award for short fiction in 1992 (okay, technically I shared it with this guy, but this is about me, isn’t it?) and followed that one with another the following year for editing the anthology Tesseracts 4. Over the years I’ve published some stories and made some very good friends and tried to learn how to write novels.
Jill has already explained about “Beneath the Skin” and the novel that is emerging from that. My main reason for allowing myself to be persuaded to participate in this blogging project is that I want there to be a record, of sorts, of how this collaboration developed and progressed. And progressing is what it’s doing, as of this weekend.
Hello! <sets cocktail glass on table, sits down on chair, and looks at you>
Well… here we are.
I’ve got here first, so I’ll introduce myself. I am Jill Snider Lum, and Michael Skeet and I have begun this blog because we’re collaborating on a novel. A couple of years ago we wrote a novella called “Beneath the Skin” which was published in Tesseracts Thirteen, an anthology of Canadian fantastic fiction. We had such a good time of it that we decided to write a novel after that, telling about what followed for the characters in the novella. We’re halfway through it, and by the time we’re finished, it’s going to be a really good novel, with strange supernatural Japanese creatures in it, and interesting human characters who have to deal with them. “Blog!” everyone told us. “You guys should blog! Go on, blog, right this minute!” So we’re doing it. Two heads are better than one for this sort of thing, as long as they’re on separate necks, with separate bodies attached to them; otherwise I imagine the conflict of sharing a torso and legs would be just too irritating for practicality.
As for who we are… well, my husband and I have been hanging out with Michael and his wife for nearly 19 years — though I’m the newcomer to the group, as my husband has known the two of them for closer to 25 years. So who we are is, friends. We all in turn hang out with the same bunch of people, whom my husband refers to on his blog as “the usual suspects”. We see each other several times a week at various social gatherings and at the Cecil Street writers’ group, of which I’ve been a member for the past three years, and which Michael helped found 22 years ago. (You will gather from this preponderance two-digit numbers that none of us are tweenies anymore, for which I feel profound gratitude.)
Michael will certainly add more about who we are. As for me, I have been a gemmologist, an insurance appraiser, an historical interpreter, a janitor, a COBOL programmer, an office administrator, and I’m working my way into technical writing. Through everything else, I’ve always written fiction. So who I am, I suppose, is a writer. Which means that I’m somewhat egotistical and not especially sane; and there’s nothing wrong with that.