Category Archives: Author Rants

The Major Issue: Ghost In The Shell Is Now Whiter Than Ever

“I guess cyborgs like myself have a tendency to be paranoid about our origins.”

Major Motoko Kusanagi

 

Let’s be clear: there is nothing good about the upcoming live-action adaptation of Ghost In the Shell. As a film, its artistic merits (whatever they may happen to be) will always fall far behind its impact on the community of young women, especially young Asian women, who have waited for years for someone to make something out of one of the most influential manga and anime sagas in the last several decades.

For those who don’t know, Ghost In The Shell’s main character is Motoko Kusanagi, code-named The Major. She’s a scrap of human brain tissue in a completely cyborg body – a body that can be exchanged for any “shell”, that could conceivably look like anything or anyone.  It is, I’m sure, this convenient means that Hollywood has decided to use to explain why they’ve cast a white actress in a role that demands  a Japanese woman. The reason I say demands is simple: the Major’s shell is immaterial, when the titular “ghost in the shell”, her consciousness and personal identity, is that of a Japanese woman.

In every media depiction, anime move, series, or manga, Motoko Kusanagi expresses her discomfort and dislike for other bodies than the one in which she is depicted. She is a Japanese woman, and because of the fact that her cyborg-self can be so easily manipulated and changed, that identity provides a rock-solid core from which she acts and perceives the world. I want to say it once, all by itself, clearly.

Motoko Kusanagi identifies as a Japanese woman. She is a Japanese woman, and stripping her of that identity makes her someone else.

The heart of the Major’s character is this identity, which is based, not on her body, not on flesh, which she doesn’t possess, but on a sense of her self. This idea, the concept of consciousness and self-awareness as mobile phenomena independent of flesh, is at the heart of the entire Ghost In The Shell universe. To cast a white actress in this role is not only disrespectful of the character, but completely destroys the foundations on which the Major is built.

Earlier, I read an article discussing the recent revelation that Motoko has not only lost her Japanese body in this film, but also her name. Motoko Kusanagi is now Meera. The article stated that:

It’s possible that prior to gaining her cybernetic body and possibly losing her memory, “Meera” was actually Motoko, a Japanese woman. Her ghost was removed and placed in the body of a white woman, creating a subconscious internal struggle for her. As Johannson says, “the heart of this story is her search for an identity.”

Convenient, isn’t it? Hollywood has been feeding us the same lie for decades now: “Audiences won’t watch a movie without a white actor as the lead!” Theories like the one above are excuses predicated on that lie. With hundreds of hours of source material, in which Motoko is always presented as a Japanese woman, why is it necessary that Hollywood’s version use a plot device that “forces” them to cast a white actress?

If source material in which the characters are depicted with non-white ethnicity or non-Western cultural origins aren’t safe – if a character that began as Japanese or Egyptian or Indian won’t stay that way in a film adaptation, then what hope is there for new non-White characters to just…appear? Obviously it hasn’t happened so far.  While I am aware that some excuse the decision to cast Johansson based on the “star-power” effect, let me ask you this: If only white actors and actresses are cast in star roles, then how will a non-white actor ever have that “star-power”?

There are numerous Japanese actresses already within Hollywood, not even counting those who would like to be actresses. There is no reason to cast a white woman in the role of a Japanese woman. In the end, it comes down to what it always comes down to: institutionalized racism.  Not only has this racism destroyed this movie – the whitewashing of Motoko Kusanagi highlights more clearly than ever that there is a problem in our cinema. There is a problem with the way stories are being told, even when there isn’t a problem with the stories themselves.

The time has come to vote the only way we can as consumers – with our dollars. If you want to support Ghost In The Shell, buy the anime. The HD releases are excellent. Watch some of the new OVAs, share the manga with a friend, stay up until two in the morning discussing how we know who we are. Just make sure you experience the story as it was meant to be experienced – with a Japanese woman as its heart.

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It’s Coming!

Hello, glorious beings! It’s been a while since I’ve ranted!

With roughly ten days left in October, (Hallowe’en doesn’t count as a day, it’s a magnificent entity which has its own tender, juicy post coming) a glorious beast is approaching. And no, I’m not talking about Hallowe’en there either. What I’m talking about is…wait for it…

NANOWRIMO! Or, to the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month. It’s an exciting bit of exasperation, for those of any type of writerly persuasion. You can be straight-laced, follow all the (exceedingly lax) rules, and produce 50,000 words of one novel project. Or you can be a rebel, and write a first draft, an erotica short, something involving a Zoroastrian deity and…oh, no. I’m informed that’s just me. But you CAN be a rebel, and write whatever you like.

The point is just to write 50,000 words in a month. It’s quite a few, but comes down to the crunchy total of 1667 words per day, and it’s lovely watching those words add up as you go along! Not, of course, that this removes the agony of editing from the equation, but hey – can’t win all the time, right?

If you’re in the mood for a bit of masochistic malarkey, visit www.nanowrimo.org and add your name (and novel) to the roster of insane wordsmiths!

I’ll be there, plugging along toward my own crazy goal of 100,000 words – I’ll get there with a few erotic shorts, and the first draft of Eight Kingdoms, book five! (It’s tentatively titled “In A Land Of Fire” but dear monkeys above, don’t quote me on that.)

Come join the fun! This year. Is the year. Of conquest!

Werewolves of Dublin

To begin, may I say that the title of this post and the entirety of its contents are entirely the fault of two things?

1. I’ve been listening to “Werewolves of London” on repeat. You know, THIS lovely piece of pajama party dance track:

2. Ireland is awesome and voted gay marriage into a thing. A thing that people can do. WOO.

Because of these two things, Marcas, the faoladh who stars in Wolf of the West, decided it was time for me to write his and Connor’s wedding.  (And this blog post.) I have enough books in the works without a sequel for that one too, but I can’ t help myself. I’m under the command of numerous imaginary figments, and Marcas can howl loudly when he wants to!

So, the actual point of this post is…faoladh! Marcas is one, which is why he’s such a pain – and the rest of the wolves of the west are, too, which is why they are such a pain. The faoladh are the werewolves of Ireland (technically of the Ossory area and not really Dublin, but could YOU pass up that pun? Didn’t think so.) and unlike most werewolves, the faoladh are heroic, instead of monstrous.

Are you a child alone at night, all by yourself on your way home and afraid of the dark?  A faoladh would guide you home, protect you from predators and the the danger of the dark.  A wounded warrior, perhaps the last survivor of some honorable battle? The same goes for you, because the faoladh are the protectors of the lost, and the wounded.

Rather than being cursed lycanthropes with a lust for flesh (though we’ll see about that ‘cursed’ bit in a minute), the faoladh are people, generally associated with Ossory and the nearby regions of Ireland, who choose to take on the shape of a wolf for seven years, protecting the land.

This was of course a dangerous occupation, as nothing separated one of the faoladh in wolf-shape from a normal wolf. In some of the folklore, the faoladh had the ability to speak human language , and this could protect them – if they weren’t thought to be sidhe or stray spirits. Still, there is more than one story about faoladh being hunted down, all unknowing, by those they had sacrificed so much to protect.

Remember up there I mentioned curses? Well, part of the legend of the faoladh that was changed under the influence of Christianity relates to their origin. Rather than servants of an ancient god, or chosen protectors of man, the faoladh were men and women who had made fun of a Christian saint. (Some stories say St. Natalis of Ulster…some say St. Patrick.) Because they had howled like wolves at the saint’s sermon, they were cursed to stay in the shape of wolves for seven years.

Personally, I like the older version, which made the faoladh volunteers performing a sacred duty. Considering that in all versions, they’re good creatures, helping and protecting human beings, I like to think they came into being with some dignity!

If you want to read more about the foaladh, and ancient Irish mythology in general,  try Wolf of the West! The main character Marcas is faoladh, and I had fun exploring the folklore to come up with a consistent portrayal of my favorite kind of werewolf. After all, how often do werewolves get to do anything but eat people or kill vampires? (Not that that isn’t fun too!)

Love Talk

In the process of researching types of sidhe to play with in the Eight Kingdoms, I’ve encountered loads of interesting and obnoxious beings. Currently the ones I’m having the most fun with are the gancanagh – love talkers, it means, male fae who produce an irresistible attraction and addiction in mortals.

All it takes is one touch, and sometimes just to be in their presence for too long. Then a hapless human is infatuated, and doomed to be left heartbroken by their immortal lover when they grow bored and decide to move on to another mortal.

It’s difficult to find actual folklore about the gancanagh, as in legends with the specific names of people and places. When you look up faoladh, for instance, you’ll find dozens of references to the wolves of Ossory, the curse of Saint Patrick, and so on and so on (there will be so on, just wait ‘til I get ranting on in the next post).  Gancanagh, though….my grandmother used to warn me that if a boy was too good to be true, he probably was, and might be gancanagh – but she never had any stories to tell about them, the way she did about the Wild Hunt or the ways to escape the sidhe if you were trapped. (Eat no food, drink no drink, remember the charm of nine and pray!)

Having grown older and done the research, of course, I now wonder if maybe the stories just aren’t recorded or as well known because they’d have to be awfully raunchy. Let’s be honest here – what we’re talking about is a fae with all the cunning and beauty of the sidhe, but the intentions of an incubus (at least where it counts.) Not exactly bedtime-story-gee-thanks-grandma material!

The interesting part for me was the differences that make the gancanagh unique, rather than the things that are obviously similar, to other such seductive immortal beings. The gancanagh not only seek out mortals to seduce, but the ones they find have no choice but to give in. Touching one of them just once – a kiss, a caress, to hold their hand – is enough to invoke the ultimate addiction. Their skin secretes a substance described variously as a golden dust, or powder (pixie dust, anyone?), which completely ensnares any mortal unfortunate to come into contact with it.

Unfortunate, because while the gancanagh are supposedly fantastic lovers, the mythology suggests that any other kind of addiction would be nothing compared to this. Deprived of the gancanagh after the fae grows bored, the mortal who has been touched by a gancanagh will suffer the most terrible withdrawal.

They may go mad, accuse friends, family, or strangers of stealing their sidhe lover, attack those they’ve accused or even murder them. Those afflicted might also suffer from a less violent lovesickness, refuse to eat or drink, or wander the woods searching for their lost lover – but in the end, most simply die from the withdrawal itself.

If you want to know more about gancanagh, the best way is probably to see one in action. Check out Undone, and the exclusive excerpts at each stop of my Blog Tour!

Blast From The Past

I was listening to the end of this on the radio today, and suddenly got angry at the song for being over – or well, at the radio for being on the wrong station and not letting me catch the whole thing. Of course the magic of youtube meant that didn’t matter as soon as I got home…but youtube being what it is, I got thinking as soon as I was halfway through the song.

The damned thing was perfect for a scene in a WIP that I haven’t even started yet – it’s just a tiny flicker of an idea, attached to the massive doom project that is Holy. But at the same time, I was surprised – I don’t have lots of classic rock songs in my inspiration playlists, and I figured I must be missing out, because one perfectly inspiring song doesn’t come out of nowhere, or exist in a vacuum, or…well, whatever other aphorism, really.

So I went on a quest looking for other songs from ye olde days (not that olde, I suppose, but still) that might help with my current WIPs, because let’s face it – book four in editing, deathless (hopefully) soon to be in editing, draft two of Holy, draft one of book five, draft one of Undone’s sequel, draft two of Earthbound…I need all the help I can get!

Considering as I’m not the only person reading my books (thank monkeys for that) and that I’m definitely not the only person writing books (thank monkeys for that), I decided to share the results of my quest with you glorious beings!

I remember THIS song, I Think We’re Alone Now, playing on the oldies station of my nightlight-radio when I was a much younger version of myself. It leads to cuddling lovers and laughing chases in the rain. This isn’t surprising, of course, considering the song, but I love the little heartbeat-sound pauses in the melody line.

There’s also Heart’s Magic Man, which is currently playing repeat, now that I’ve found it again. Matti (the one who stars in Holy, of whom Artemio is Accidental Master) likes it, so I will probably be listening to it until I start editing book four tomorrow. Actually, Matti isn’t the only one, Macsen loves this song too – my quest found it in the playlist I used to write book two of Eight Kingdoms.  That probably has something to do with his obsession for blue-eyed men, but you know. I take what I can get!

Finally, at least for now, I have a minor fetish for funky sounding fun songs that actually have horrible deranged lyrics. Like that Pumped Up Kicks song, which sounds happy until you actually pay attention? Yeeeah. So this one, Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer, goes in that category, as the lyrics are supposed to be the inner thoughts of a serial killer.

Most of my villain like this song, but that is probably because half of them are psycho killers…even if they don’t want to admit it!

If you got an oldie but goodie that you love to write to, or that inspires you in general, I’d love to hear it, so leave a link in the comments!

Upcoming Events!

With the recent release of The Burning Season and the upcoming release of Undone (June 9th! Woo!) I’ve started appearing all over the place!

For now, you can check out Once Upon A Time, a short piece about inspiration, fairy tales, and what they’re doing in our world. (Though for some reason they posted Undone’s cover with The Burning Season’s blurb. Don’t be confused!)

A new Bite that is actually from Undone will be out later today, in anticipation of my upcoming Blog Tour!

Speaking of which, take note! On June 9th,  visit with me at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue words. On the 10th, I’ll be with The Novel Approach. The 11th sees me with Love Bytes Reviews, and finally, on the 12th, I’ll be finishing up at Crystal’s Many Reviews! I’ve been hard at work on guest posts covering everything from where gancanagh come from to LGBT characters in modern fairy tales, and each stop on the tour comes with it’s own exclusive excerpt from Undone!

Accompanying this lovely little tour are a couple of interviews (fates preserve me), which will be wild in the world on Tuesday the 9th and Friday the 12th…and, finally, to wrap it all up, keep an eye out for an upcoming giveaway of signed copies of The Burning Season, Eight Kingdoms book three!

…And Three is the Number You Shall Count To! (Unless You’re Insane)

I have a terrible dilemma. It’s a daily doom that follows me around like some kind of creeping shadow – only it’s not. If it was, I would just blame it on Merlin. He’s well known for creeping shadows, almost as much so as Peter Pan.

No, this doom is something different. It is…ideas. Called by some plot bunnies, by others death (I call them death) I am overwhelmed by impossible possibilities! This is not so bad, when, like now, I have just submitted a novel and a novella and have no real deadlines looming over my head.

On the other hand, I’m simultaneously researching Assyrian gods and sacrifices, Zoroastrianism, 17th and 18th century France,  the city of San Xing Dui and China circa 1500 BC…and, of course, doing continued work into the mythologies of Ireland, Britain, and King Arthur which is necessary for the Eight Kingdoms series.

The first and second are connected to Holy, which is the work in progress most likely to be finished next. Ahura Mazda and the yazata are an interesting study – and Matti is now Sraosha, which is Obedience. Bwaha.

France…well…I’ve a long term, slow building WIP about a somewhat deranged wizard named Loup de Moreau, and he wants to live, so I’ve been reading up for him.

Anyone who’s read the doom of my LAST author rant, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Doom,  knows that San Xing Dui and most ancient China go together with Earthbound – you can find a tiny excerpt of the prologue of  that here.

So here’s my question to you – what do YOU do when the universe decides to send the flood of forty days and forty nights into your brain?

I tend to wildly waffle between writing one scene and another, until I have four scrivener files open at once and two half finished cups of coffee, neither of which I can find.

Anyone got a better plan – or some holy hand grenades for when I’m back in the trenches with the plot bunnies?

Crouching Tiger, Hidden…Doom?

Having just finished draft two of book four (Woo!) I find myself wondering what it’s time to write now – because there’s the obvious – book five; the less obvious – Glass House; and the completely insane, why am I doing this to myself, why did I DO this to myself.

Earthbound.

You see, Earthbound is my beautiful baby. My gorgeous wunderkind. My masterpiece – or at least, it is so far. It’s a bit like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Alice in Wonderland – if Alice was a bronze age Chinese princess and the Hatter was the outcast god of stars.

Aha.

The trouble is, it’s…one hundred ninety thousand words long. And a bit. I rounded…um…down. Now, the truth is that this monstrosity of a manuscript is really possibly TWO books (and that’s half the problem). Therefore, whenever I go to start editing, I’ve been having the exact opposite of my usual writing nemesis, Blank Page Syndrome. You know it – that thing that happens when you have all the ideas in the world, and the words are at your fingertips, and you feel your soul swelling with creative impulses…and then…

The Page.

Is.

BLANK.

So much space! So much pressure! So much! Something! It’s evil. But anyway, the problem with Earthbound is the exact opposite of this. It’s so many words! What do I DO with them? As I stare, they start to waver on the page until they turn into a tiny army of spear-wielding word-natives, desperate for my soul.

I need my soul, so as you can see, this might be a problem. But – I digress. The real truth is, I’m doomed to Earthbound, and because of that it is time for Project: Immersion!

You see, Earthbound takes place in the mysterious past of China’s Sichuan region, where the ruins called “San Xing Dui”, linked to the long-lost ancient kingdom of Shu, hold terrible secrets!

What this means, of course, is that I must take my brain OUT of the west, out of Irish Mythology and into the shadows of China’s most ancient past. This means movies, music, books, everything has to change so my poor brain can recover from the doom that is the Eight Kingdoms.

I’ve watched some excellent documentaries today, detailing the fine bronze, gold, jade, and ivory pieces that have been discovered and cataloged – as well as some scary truths about flooding and ancient human sacrifices!

I think my next step is to re-read Genji Monogatari, for ambience, then watch Takahata’s Kaguya-hime, which is a Japanese retelling of the Chinese mythology that Earthbound addresses. And perhaps then, the Dream of the Red Chamber?

Because beauty and agony, that’s why. Beauty and agony!

Wish me luck! (And if you have any suggestions for Chinese movies, books, or music, that will help me get in the spirit of San Xing Dui, send them along in the comments!)

Let’s break bread together!

Welcome! This launch was long was long delayed, because the world is a hard, cruel, place full of…actually, the truth is it has me in it, and I am slow and, not improbably at all, bad at website building! Who knew? (I knew.) I thought I’d start with something a bit fun, and so I share with you this character information anecdote!

Maybe you have characters of your own, whether they’re in writing, or a game, or an RP – maybe just a favorite character in something you’ve watched or read? In whatever case, I know I can’t be the only one to nickname them, hell, all the “ships” in fandom have strange names, so single characters have to get them too.

Currently, I have only one idiot that gets a consistent nickname, and that is Bran Fionnan – the son of the Summer Queen who stars in Eight Kingdoms alongside the Red King. Before I tell you what the name is (and here’s a hint, this post is posted with a picture of it), I have to tell you how it came about – which, like many other things in my writing life, is the fault of Microsoft Word.

Microsoft Word is a necessary evil, and every time I get a new version of it for my editing I have to learn how to turn off all the things that annoy me, like autocomplete and autocorrect. BEFORE I do this, all my invented words, foreign language words, and names are in danger (ask me about Maracas sometime, but prepared for me to jump out a window before I tell the story).

In this instance, Word decided that Bran was wrong, and I had obviously meant bran – as in, the grain – and changed bunches of “Bran” into “bran”. He was being an uncooperative character at that point, on top of Word deciding to take matters into his own hands, so I ignored him for a while and then….and THEN…I went back, and found all the brans, while simultaneously listening to Bob Dylan.

You know that song, “Blowin’ in the Wind”? Yeah. That song. The answer to the Red King’s prayers was blowing in the wind, and it was Bran, only it was bran….so Bran Fionnan, Summer’s son, became and has remained….”the wheat”. Yes, that’s right .The wheat. As in a field of golden grain. As in it turns into bread. Wheat.

So now if you happen to be in Connecticut, and you hear “God damn it wheat!” come blowing on the wind….well….

At least you know where it came from now.