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>> Saturday, May 15, 2010

The (Sometimes Annual When We Can Afford To Have It) Spring Public Defender's Conference was held in Raleigh this past week, and I wasn't lying around bitching about a broken wrist and my car wasn't a pile of scrap in a wrecking yard, so that's where I've been all week. It was more-or-less what one would expect if he'd been to, oh, around roughly twenty-five-or-so Defenders' Conferences and there's not a helluva a lot I might say about it even if I were inclined to; there were some good presentations and some awful ones and a whole lot of "Wow, that would be nice if we could actually do that" presentations.

The hotel was nice, but they didn't have free wireless and I wasn't going to pay for it on general principles. A three-day wireless bill would have cost me nearly what I could be paying for high-speed Internet at home if I didn't have it bundled with a completely superfluous digital landline. (Speaking of which--why do I have that landline, again?) So I've been pretty much offline for the past few days aside from the BlackBerry.

There was a hope I'd get some writing done, but I found myself suffering the aftereffects of a cold I came down with on Sunday; I'm still coughing, today, actually, but feeling much better. But between exhaustion and travel and lack of Internet, there wasn't a lot of energy for writing. And today, as far as the blog goes, you're getting a sort of summary entry on the past week's events just because I haven't had a lot to say about politics or entertainment or whatever.

This morning I was thinking about hitting the supermarket (the cat is about out of food) and getting some writing done; these aren't unrelated things, since I thought maybe I'd go somewhere I could get some things done and if I was good perhaps reward myself with a steak or something along those lines for dinner, and where I'd go to write might be influenced by the need to take the car on to the store, and all that. I ended up at Amelie's because I always sort of forget it's here and keep meaning to go, and I thought, "Ah, I can get a sandwich and coffee and they have wireless." So this is where I am; I had a croque monsieur and I'm drinking iced coffee, and I'm finally updating the blog and keeping an eye on the clouds outside because it's supposed to thunderstorm later and the top's down.

I'm still trying to get a grip on how much to talk about writing here, d'ya know? On the one hand, I've felt in some cases that talking about what I'm working on has ruined things in the past, that if I talk about something I end up not writing it. On the other hand, I think there's some benefit to ranting about writing a little, something I do privately in a journal I've been sporadically keeping, and there might be benefit to doing it publicly insofar as I know there are some kindred souls who wander by and commiserate, etc., and because I know I enjoy reading about others' writing processes, even when those other writers are unpublished (and unpublishable?) nobodies like yours truly.

What I've been working on for maybe a month now is a short story about a pair of fox spirits in the mid-century Pacific Northwest. A friend, Matt, brought to my attention an item in io9 concerning an urban fantasy anthology revolving around shapeshifters, and various flavors of Asian fox spirit are something that's kind of fascinated me since I was a little kid and came across a story about a Buddhist holy man exorcising a houseful of the things in one of those cheap-o anthologies of ghost stories kids used to be able to get during Scholastic book fairs back in the day. (And perhaps still can, for all I know, though I seem to recall that this little softcover anthology not only included scary supernatural elements but also allegedly "true" stories suggestive of teen suicide and other misbehaviors, and we live in such an age of offense that it's all-too-easy to imagine outraged parents taking up arms, etc.; are kids these days allowed to read anything?)

So I'm using this thing as an excuse to write a short story about some things that have needled at my brain for various periods of time.

There are fox spirit stories from pretty much every East Asian culture; my foxes happen to be Japanese because they happen to be living on the west coast of the United States in 1942, and if that doesn't give you a huge hint as to what the plot of the story might turn around, you really need a remedial course in the more regrettable and dishonorable chapters in American history. I know what my two mercurial ladies are up to and how things end up for a government employee who visits them, and have all these little mental pictures in my head; getting all of this down on paper in some semblance of the way it actually happened in my head is proving to be a bit more of a challenge.

I also should point out before anybody else does that while the anthology-submissions thing is offering an excuse, I'm not quite sure whether I'm actually writing something editor Ekaterina Sedia would actually accept even if I finish and work myself into actually submitting it without turning outrageously chicken and sitting on it. "Urban fantasy" is one of those emergent sub-genres whose meaning seems to be a bit flexible; it might mean a contemporary fantasy story in a more-or-less urban setting, but frequently what it really seems to mean is "softcore erotica usually involving a woman who hunts and screws monsters." (I blame Joss Whedon for this, by the way. No, seriously, I do: Buffy has proven, over time, to be both the single best and single worst thing to happen to fantasy/horror since Bela Lugosi simultaneously incarnated and ruined Count Dracula, and in much the same way.) Even setting aside the ambiguity in favor of the more interesting of those two definitions, the thing I'm working on at the moment is set in the woods seventy years ago, so I'm really not sure it counts as "urban fantasy" regardless, but, hey, here's to the hope it will at least be an entertaining story even if it's not exactly the "assignment," so to speak.

And now: enough dillying, enough dallying; time to see if I can actually put the first draft of this thing to rest and end up with something I don't hate. Cross your fingahs for me, and if you're working on anything of your own, I'll cross my fingahs for you--except for the ones we're typing with, that's to be understood.

And for the rest of you, have a most excellent and enjoyable Saturday. And if you have a broken ankle, rest up and read and for goodness' sake don't do that again, we need you chippy and mobile, dammit!

Peace out, y'all.

POSTSCRIPT: No, I didn't get the first draft finished. Did add seven hundred words, which I'm considering small progress.

And now I'm off to get groceries. Cheers.


John the Scientist Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 8:49:00 PM EDT  

I'll have to look it up, but I saw a rather strange 1950s comedy on the plane to Japan once, about a fox spirit who tries to seduce a guy who's building a tea house in her forest. It's weird enough to be right up your alley. :p

It's also a bit of a glimpse into immediate post-war life in a rural Japanese village. I've forgotten the name, it was something like "The Tea Pavillion" or something. I'm not sure it was ever translated into English. It's a Toyo film, but then that narrows it down to what? Three out of four films made in Japan in the '50s?

Eric Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 12:17:00 AM EDT  

Please do look it up and let me know what you find. I went poking around Wikipedia based on your description, but their entries on Japanese cinema of the '50s and '60s is spotty by their own admission. And, yeah, Toho was pretty dominant in Japan for quite a while, producing everything from Kurosawa's prime output to (of course) tons of monster movies of varying degrees of quality.

As you say, I like weird. :)

John the Scientist Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 9:56:00 PM EDT  

I’ve looked everywhere. Now that I think about it, the English title was “The Tea Urn”. The plot revolved around some guy and his running feud with a supercilious Buddhist monk who was curator of a famous tea urn / relic. When they plan to make some sort of improvements to the temple, the monk blocks things, because I think he wanted a piece of the action. The fox spirit lives in a painting of a fox, also in the town. She comes out in different human forms, including the double of the woman they main character wants to be boinking instead of his wife. If it is indeed the same story I Googled, it’s based on a farce written in 1921. But Toho themselves keeps a lousy online presence and I can’t get anything but a couple of catalog mentions in academic sites. I’ll see if I can dig up more, though.

Eric Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 10:14:00 PM EDT  

Intriguing. You don't happen to remember the Japanese title do you? (I don't speak or read the language myself, but it's increasingly common for sites like Wikipedia and IMDB to give preference to foreign films' original titles versus their re-titles and translations.)

John the Scientist Monday, May 17, 2010 at 9:10:00 AM EDT  

The Japanese academic site I found it cataloged in gave the title as simply 茶壺 / 茶壷 (depending on which kanji you use for "urn") which transliterated as Cha Tsubo. That title directly translates as "The Tea Urn". That's probable, since I don't think it was ever translated into English, Toho would have just translated it literally.

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