Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Rurouni Kenshin Fanfic

I've written a new fanfic story set in the Rurouni Kenshin universe. The Sword in the Umbrella Stand takes place almost a century after the series, however, so it should stand alone. The only thing you need to know is that the reverse-blade sword in the series is literally that; the flat of the blade faces forward and the sharp is in back. This was intended to make it hard to use to kill people, as the protagonist Kenshin had sworn never to kill again. (I don't know if it ever came up in the series that this included himself, btw, but there were certainly a few times during the manga when Kenshin could have committed seppuku but did not.)

I've been trying to read Rurouni Kenshin fanfic this week. It's been a bit of a difficult haul. I know that the show tries to make the Meiji world accessible to moderns, and does a good job of it. But it also takes great care to be historically plausible, especially back in the background. Now, I think the political situation is treated respectfully by fanfic, in the main, mostly since it provides major plot and character points for the series. But unfortunately, the same care is not taken with the social situation, at least with the fanfic I've run across. I know it's probably a bit late to point this out, as the series isn't quite as white hot popular now. But everything Rurouni Kenshin tries to say about Meiji Japanese life without being blatant has pretty much been ignored by fanfic writers. (At least those writing in English.)

I know there's not a lot of material out there for research, but there is some. So why haven't I run across details of nineteenth century Japanese life? Why doesn't Kaoru discuss how glad she is that her father never made her blacken her teeth by drinking water with iron filings, or that she never dresses her hair in a formal style because that yucky greasy camellia oil is such a PITA to get in and out? How about the plague of double "love suicides" among couples whose parents wouldn't let them get married, often throwing themselves in front of trains? How about the simple fact that people wouldn't be pressuring Kenshin to go on a date with Kaoru, because that was a twentieth century Western thing??? (Not that I've just been running across that very theme in every frickin' frackin' fanfic. Noooooo.)

I don't have a problem with the series in this respect. In fact, by making Kaoru an orphan who is mistress of her own house and head of her father's martial arts school, Megumi a doctor, Misao a ninja, and most of the male characters orphans on the lower fringes of respectable society, most of the problems with social mores magically go away. But not all of them. The characters' hopes and dreams may be more progressive, rebellious, Westernized, or urbanized than others, but they should still be Meiji Japanese hopes and dreams. Fanfic ought to deal with this. Otherwise, the whole thing turns into just another high school shonen romance show. And it's not. People like it because it's different. So why write cookiecutter fanfic?

If fanfic writers want the characters to do something modern and Western, it may well be possible to justify it. People are people. But I want that justification made. I want writers who care enough about the characters to leave our world for theirs, so that I can do the same. Is that so much to ask?

One of the best books I've ever read about pre-WWII Japan was A
Daughter of the Samurai
by Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto. It's the autobiography of a young woman who was raised in the old-fashioned ways (which included learning weapons for castle defense, so don't be too depressed). If you look for books like Everyday Life in Traditional Japan and Japanese Culture, that'll help, too. I'm sure there are many better books out there; I'm just mentioning a few I found quickly. Basically, the library is
your friend here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Dog Care and the Lack Thereof


Slate has a great article called "Poor Little Rich Dog", profiling a dog which has all its material needs met but not adequate human attention or training. And he's a yard dog to boot, which is about as lonely and neurosis-making a situation for a dog as can be imagined. I love dogs, but I don't have time and space for one. That's why I have no dog of my own.
There are other kinds of abuse, of course. There's the kind of neglect that you see on that animal hospital show (which I've only watched once, as I couldn't bear it). There's puppy mills, like the one our Liath was rescued from, which condemn bitches and sires to churn out litters until they drop, put them in uncleanly housing, and all so that pet stores can sell cute and unhealthy puppies to the unsuspecting public. There's dogfighting. There's letting dogs wander and breed; there's dropping dogs by the side of the road to scrounge or to die; there's just plain killing and abuse unto death.
But if you take a dog into your house, you are taking responsibility for that dog's life, health, and happiness. You are, as Kipling and Lewis pointed out, becoming something very like God to that dog. It is a trust.
Btw...I know some people find crates useful. However, I see an awful lot of people abusing them or using them as excuses not to housetrain. With our dog, the question was sorta moot, as any crate big enough to contain an Irish wolfhound would be a menace to the rest of us. Also, both Liath and the late Rory were rescued from situations that made them very leery of confinement.

Usually, I'd think it would be easier just to take off a week (plus weekends) from work, housetrain the dog thoroughly, keep the dog in a certain room until you're sure it's safe in the house, and then let the dog pick where it wants to be during the day. Our dogs would've gone nuts if they couldn't have "patrolled" the house on the schedule they set up for themselves, and picked out their own various vantage points and sleeping dens. We  would've gone nuts if they'd been insecure enough to be barky or rip up the house. And there's no point having a dog if you're not going to spend your hometime with them or take them on walks and play with them.

Btw, if you have a new or insecure dog (like our rescue dogs), it is very helpful to the dog if you sleep in the same room with him or her for the first few nights. This helps them to know you're all in the same pack and gets them used to your continuing presence.

Monday, July 19, 2004

If I Wrote Pro-Life PSAs....


...they'd go like this.


(Video: that new footage of very young babies in the womb. Voiceover: a perky girl voice.)

Hi, Mommy! Look at me! I'm only 12 weeks old, and I can already suck my thumb! Isn't that cool? And just think, Mommy, we have months yet to spend together even before I get to come out and see you! I love it! Just you and me against the world!

(Insert local number/s for life center/s)

I know I'm a lot of bother...but if you're having trouble, there are folks who can help you both before and after I'm born -- doctors, clothes, housing,  finding a job, even adoption. You've got lots of choices!

Including that other choice.
I don't have any way to stop you.
But if I get any say in this, I'd like to live.

Then I can hug you, Mommy!

I love you....