Central Asian-Style Metal Band To Appear in Pittsburgh

My friend, Mimi Jong, will be opening with her band Appalasia for the Mongolian-heavy metal bang Tengger Cavalry on Tuesday, November 27th at 7PM at the Spirit Lodge, 242 51st St, Lawrenceville. Tengger Cavalry is a nomadic folk-metal band featuring Mongolian throat-singing. The event is 21+, and you can get more details and tickets here as well as in person at select locations downtown:

https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3743085

You can listen to some of their music, get merch and more here at their website:

https://www.tengger-cavalry.com/

Info on Mimi’s band can be found here:

http://appalasia.com/

Hope to see you there!

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The Houjou Family Drama and the First Mysterious Cotton Drifting Festival Deaths – The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai, Vol.2, Part 1

For my final Japanese selection for the year, we return to the horror-noir series popularly known from it’s anime version, Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 2 (竜騎士07の”ひぐらしのなく頃に解:祭囃し編”). Of course, it is known more popularly by its anime title, Higurashi When They Cry for the question cycle and Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai for its answer cycle.

The bunko version can be purchased here (in Japanese only):

https://www.amazon.co.jp/%E3%81%B2%E3%81%90%E3%82%89%E3%81%97%E3%81%AE%E3%81%AA%E3%81%8F%E9%A0%83%E3%81%AB%E8%A7%A3-%E7%AC%AC%E5%9B%9B%E8%A9%B1-%E7%A5%AD%E5%9B%83%E3%81%97%E7%B7%A8-%E4%B8%AD-%E6%98%9F%E6%B5%B7%E7%A4%BE%E6%96%87%E5%BA%AB/dp/4061389297/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1527340367&sr=1-4&keywords=%E3%81%B2%E3%81%90%E3%82%89%E3%81%97%E3%81%AE%E3%81%AA%E3%81%8F%E9%A0%83%E3%81%AB%E8%A7%A3%E3%80%80%E7%A5%AD%E5%9B%83%E3%81%97%E7%B7%A8

This is the Kodansha boxed version that I am actually reading:

https://www.amazon.co.jp/%E3%81%B2%E3%81%90%E3%82%89%E3%81%97%E3%81%AE%E3%81%AA%E3%81%8F%E9%A0%83%E3%81%AB%E8%A7%A3-%E7%AC%AC%E5%9B%9B%E8%A9%B1-%E7%A5%AD%E5%9B%83%E3%81%97%E7%B7%A8-%E4%B8%AD-%E8%AC%9B%E8%AB%87%E7%A4%BEBOX-%E7%AB%9C%E9%A8%8E%E5%A3%AB07/dp/4062836890/ref=sr_1_16?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1527340367&sr=1-16&keywords=%E3%81%B2%E3%81%90%E3%82%89%E3%81%97%E3%81%AE%E3%81%AA%E3%81%8F%E9%A0%83%E3%81%AB%E8%A7%A3%E3%80%80%E7%A5%AD%E5%9B%83%E3%81%97%E7%B7%A8

Higurashi Vol.2 Cover Festival Accompanying0001

This is the box cover, which I’m guessing portrays Takano when she’s young, though she does look strikingly similar to Satoko, too. The book does have a bookmark it came with that has the same picture from the box but with blood around her mouth and eyes, which also strengthens the idea this is Takano since she bit that guard’s finger in the flashback of book 1 of this story cycle. The actual book inside the box just has a plain green cover with a few interior drawings.

This volume is 453 pages and was published in 2008. It starts with a couple of sections of introduction from the author that situate this 3 volume chapter into the rest of the series and explain the arrival of Hanyu, the female spirit aiding Rika who also is the spirit acting as the Furude shrine deity Oyashiro-sama. It notes that this time Rika is hoping with everyone’s strength acting together that they can possibly win against Takano and see a miracle.

Since I haven’t covered the entire 16 volume series, I should mention that Rika is referring to the alternate realities she has been experiencing with Hanyu’s waning supernatural power, returning to a point shortly before her murder at the hands of sinister forces in the community over and over again to solve the mystery of who is behind it and find a way to finally stop the murder so she can live out her life in a normal lifespan. She has limited tries because Hanyu loses power each time they go back, and neither of them can remember what happened the last time they experienced Rika’s murder.

Just a reminder that this series will contain massive spoilers since it’s the last chapter of the series and features the true murderer’s story arc.

After this intro, we have another poem by Rika Furude’s strange alter ego, Frederica Bernkastel. We also have a beautiful black and white ink drawing of Rika Furude.

Higurashi Vol.2 Fesitval Accompany Rika0001

As usual, Ryukishi Zeronana’s chapters are really unpredictable, but first we begin with a section titled “Satoshi Houjou.” This part is told from his perspective in the first person, and he is the brother of Satoko Houjou, who is Rika’s best friend. He goes out to a hill behind their house looking for Satoko since this is a place she particularly likes. It’s very lush and has become Satoko’s secret base, though because it’s in the mountains, it can also be a dangerous place to get lost. Satoshi feels uneasy looking for her.

It gets dark early in the forest as night falls, and he can’t see very far, so he calls for Satoko. There’s a mention in passing of her love for traps and the sound of breaking of twigs, but eventually he finds her. He tells her everyone is at home for dinner and that she should return home. She refuses and asks about their stepfather being angry. She doesn’t like his addition to their family with their mother’s remarriage, and he apparently threw an ashtray at her when he was angry. Their stepfather has had no experience raising children, but Satoshi acknowledges he’s getting kinder and urges Satoko to reconcile with him. She refuses but returns home with Satoshi.

The next section is told from Satoko Houjou’s perspective and is set up more like an interview. From the very first sentence, the text is very aware of itself as a monologue as she introduces herself by name: 私は北条沙都子と言います. Some surprising details come out here that don’t show up in the anime, and they give a lot of insight into the character who has the worst case of Hinamizawa Syndrome in the village. Satoko notes here that her current father’s name is Houjou and lists three other variations of her name based on her mother’s four marriages!

今のお父さん – 北条 – her current father’s name is Houjou, so her name is now Satoko Houjou

違うお父さん – 畠 – the man before him was Hata, so her name was at one time Satoko Hata

吉澤 – the man before him was Yoshizawa, so her name was at one time Satoko Yoshizawa

松浦 – the man before him, perhaps her birth father though she doesn’t mention that detail, was Matsura, so at one time her name was Satoko Matsura.

She says she doesn’t know why her mother keeps divorcing, but that she is angry with each marriage and sad with each divorce. Satoko herself doesn’t want to get married, and since her mother isn’t warm to her, she feels very lucky to have her brother. This sets up the tight bond between brother and sister that makes sense of why she has such a hard time after he disappears later in the story.

This section has a total of three segments, and the next one gets into the reason for the divorce, but the final segment is really interesting. This subsection turns from black text gradually to red text on the last page. In this part, she talks about how she thinks she’s a burden, and how her parents want to murder her. Every few lines of this segment has a string of “I’m sorrys” before continuing. She declares she’s an ungrateful child and decides by the end that she must kill them before they kill her.

The next section, “Brother and Sister Houjou” appears to be narrated by Clinic Director Irie and is only one section. It begins by talking about the Houjous and their position supporting the dam project in the dam war that has caused the villagers to be cold to the kids as well. Irie talks at length about the stress Satoshi and Satoko are under; even though they aren’t really related to their father by blood, they are blamed for his political position. Irie laments that he can cure Satoshi’s illness when he comes to the clinic but he can’t cure him of his living environment. He also talks about studying Hinamizawa Syndrome and the youth baseball team’s role in keeping Satoshi healthy.

Satoko, however, has become Irie’s patient due to their parents’ accident on a trip to a park on the day of the Cotton-Drifting Festival. They fell to their deaths, which have been attributed to the curse of the shrine deity honored at the Cotton-Drifting Festival, Oyashiro-sama. Before that time, Satoko was just an afterthought for Irie. While he was coaching Satoshi and helping the boy cope, Satoko was left to deal with her stressful situation alone.  Satoko was with her parents on vacation when they died, but Satoshi had stayed behind to work with Irie on the baseball team. This fact brings her to the attention of Detective Ooishi’s police investigation.

The section after that is “Mion Sonozaki,” and it’s in the first person talking about Mion and Rika. The second subsection turns its attention to the Sonozaki family and Satoko. The last of the subsections here talks about Satoko and Satoshi at school.

The story turns much more provocative as it delves into the murders at the time of the Cotton-Drifting Festival with the next section titled “Sacrifice Number Two,” which is also in the first person. I’m guessing that it’s being told from the perspective of Director Irie again. It starts off talking about how Satoshi is a good brother to Satoko, but before long, it gets into Ooishi’s investigation, which brings Irie and Takano into the picture. It mentions in passing that Sotoko made a false tip of abuse because of her strong opposition to her stepfather, so Ooishi wants to interview her about her parents’ accident. Irie expresses concern that Satoko will suffer more trauma because of Ooishi’s insistence.

He talks with Takano about the situation with Satoshi for a bit since they determined through an examination that Satoshi has level 3 of Hinamizawa Syndrome and potentially could go to level 4. Irie thinks about the autopsy of the dismemberment murder killer from the year before, which helped further their research on Hinamizawa Syndrome, particularly its level five symptoms.

In “A Brother’s Anguish,” Satoshi is at baseball, but he ends up in the car with Irie, where Irie has a chance to talk with him about his home life. Irie realizes that their mother’s remarriage has hurt both children deeply and that they are in shock over their parents’ recent deaths. They discuss Satoko’s problems since Satoko has been hospitalized for about two weeks by then. However, Satoshi doesn’t know about her having Hinamizawa Syndrome or that she’s at level five. In fact, in Irie’s opinion her condition is quite poor.

In “The C103 Medical Experiment,” Irie talks with Rika about her friendship with Satoko and Satoko’s medical condition, though he wonders how she knows about Satoko’s medical details and asks where she heard about Hinamizawa Syndrome. Because she already knows so much, he has to admit to Rika that Satoko has level five symptoms. The code of C103 in this chapter title refers to a specific drug trial that Satoko is involved in. Rika offers to come and help with the drug trial, though he doesn’t seem optimistic about her help.

The next chapter, “Shirakawa Park Plunge to Death” is particularly significant in the narrative up to this point. As far as I have been able to research, Shirakawa Park (白川公園) doesn’t seem to be a real place in Japan, at least not as the way it is portrayed in the anime as having some sort of observation deck above a waterfall. Here it is given as the name of the place where the Houjous fell to their death from the park’s observation deck while on vacation with Satoko. The real Shirakawa Park seems to be in an urban environment in central Nagoya that I don’t think has any feature like that, but there’s no reason why it has to refer to a real place in the novel since the village where the action takes place, Hinamizawa, isn’t real either.

This part of the story gets deeper into Hinamizawa Syndrome with a description at the beginning of the drug trial C103’s details, including Satoko’s autopsy plan, which comes up right off the bat. They will use the autopsy primarily to determine the safety of the drug, and the drug seems to have some connection to hormone secretions.

The part that really interested me here, however, wasn’t the mechanism of the disease that the beginning of the chapter discusses. Ooishi appears and wants to talk with Satoko about her parents’ death. He seems to be involved because of the Houjous’ connection to the dam war and the so-called curse, which seemed to begin the year before with the dismemberment murder killer. When Ooishi first talks with I guess Irie about seeing her – the dialogue here isn’t tagged to know who is speaking – the word “lie” gets thrown around a lot, but the official word so far is that Satoko was in backseat of their car at the particular moment her parents fell from the observation platform. Iries asks Oosihi if he thinks Satoko was with her parents on the observation deck instead. Ooishi admits that’s what he thinks. Irie now wonders if it’s possible that their accident wasn’t an accident at all and that Satoko might be implicated in their deaths. Most of this section shows Irie ruminating about Ooishi’s suspicions and never gets to Ooishi talking with Satoko directly.

The chapter ends on a spooky if slightly confusing note as the final subsection that takes place after Ooishi’s departure explains how Irie wants to protect Satoko and their secret research on Hinamizawa Syndrome, then he talks with someone about the Yamainu, the paramilitary force they have at their disposal doing this government-backed research into the disease. He’s probably taking with Takano, but again the dialogue isn’t tagged. Irie sees this whole situation as a tragedy for Satoko, and they discuss how they can suppress the idea that Satoko is the culprit using the Yamainu’s underhanded tactics.

The final section I’m going to look at today is titled “H170,” which refers to a different drug trial. Satoko Houjou is referenced at the beginning as a patient in their drug trial experiment C103, but a new drug trial starts to come into the conversation here. Interestingly, this section calls Hinamizawa Syndrome the “murder virus” (殺人ウィルス), and explains the contrast between drug trial C103 with the H170 “series.” The discussion seems kind of technical.

The narrator says that Irie is not involved with H170, which is characterized as a “dangerous drug trial.” One statement comes right out and says, “I am the lead researcher” (私が主導で研究した。), which leads me to believe with the change in chapter we may be hearing the story from the first person perspective of Miyo Takano, the murderer.  Here Irie is talked about in the third person in the narrative parts, so there’s been a switch in perspective that you have to mostly get from the context. This drug trial deals more directly with the brain pathogens of the disease “host” – I’m surprised it doesn’t refer more explicitly to Takano’s parasite theory here – and this section repeatedly mentions the unexpected onset of the disease as a key factor. It ends with her pondering her grandfather’s fascination with this disease.

Higurashi Vol.2 Fesitval Accompany Hanyu0001

Later in the book, we have another ink drawing to match the one of Rika at the beginning. This one is of Hanyu, though, and I like seeing the two of them together, so I will post it here even though it still doesn’t pop up for awhile in the novel.

Part one of a three part series.

 

 

 

 

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Years 205 Through 208 in the Crisis Era: The Dark Forest – The Dark Forest, Remembrance of Earth, Book 2, Part 3

I’m going to quickly wrap up my summary of the second book in the Remembrance of Earth Chinese science fiction series by Cixin Liu, which was translated into English as The Dark Forest (刘慈欣的”地球往事:黑暗森林”). The first few sections of this part are very long, each running 30 pages or so.

The first section begins with a description of darkness and Luoji awakening from hibernation. A supervising doctor welcomes him to this new era and tells him his illness was cured during his hibernation phase. Luoji has been in hibernation for 185 years. He is now in a special room where people are brought to wake up from hibernation, and there’s an extended description of the doctors and nurses as well as a big discussion about old and new Chinese and English languages, which is ongoing at intervals throughout the next few segments.

One of the other young men in the room with Luoji asks to speak with the Three Bodies world. Apparently, there has been a war where both sides suffered a great number of casualties, and Three Bodies has or will have a probe coming for earth. They discuss the Wall Facers’ plan, though Luoji doesn’t appear to be recognized as part of the Wall Facers here.

The nurse brings him food, and someone mentions his star cursing 200 years before. Luoji goes back to sleep for a little bit and dreams of Zhuangyan and their daughter in the snow. After he wakes again, he talks with the nurse about the world in this time. The cities are mostly all underground, and he gets an update on the space fleet. They’re still trying to bridge the language barrier since Luoji is from so far in the past.

Next, he finds himself in a meeting hall, and the text goes into a big explanation about the political changes in the world over the past 200 years. Europe has become one country, while Canada has split into two countries, for example. The space fleets are not governed by any of the remaining countries but are politically and economically independent. However, there are three fleets: an Asian, European and a North American fleet. The current meeting is being held to discuss the Three Bodies’ and humanity’s space fleets as well as the Wall Facers.

Wall Facer Haynes and his wife Keiko are there to talk with Luoji. They review some past plans and issues with the other Wall Facers before they decide to move on briefly to Haynes’ special plan. Luoji asks about his wife and child at one point and is told they are doing well in hibernation. He also wonders about his safety since there was a plan that the ETO would kill him.

At this point, Shi Qiang appears, and they turn their attention to how 200 years of hibernation compares with their 5 year hibernation period as well as how they are now wearing 200 year old clothes. Weirdly, someone brings up that Keiko isn’t a Wall Facer like her husband, but she declares that she is her husband Bill Haynes’ Wall Breaker!  The various regional fleet representatives are in attendance at the meeting and speak about her declaration, which Haynes confirms is true.

In the next really long segment, Luoji goes with Shi Qiang into one of the underground cities, and there is an extended description of the new society they have woken up to. At one point, Luoji is aware that a beautiful woman is calling him, and he notices she’s wearing a uniform. She’s some sort of bank consultant, and he asks Shi Qiang how she knew he was coming. Shi Qiang explains that he has had a chip implanted in him that is somehow traced through ads. The woman from the bank says that this chip helps her provide a banking system financial service. Shi Qiang jokes that Luoji is rich now after getting 200 years of interest on his bank deposits.

This section also delves into the ways in which technology has changed in the last 200 years. Another encounter with a modern citizen has them off on a tangent again about how policeman Shi Qiang is a cop who speaks in an old Chinese dialect. After leaving the police box, Da Shi decides they need to get to their new homes, but they stop off at a restaurant first.  Shi Qiang reveals to Luoji he has a son who is still alive that he intends to go see the next day. The son was in jail a long time before going into hibernation, and he sought out Shi Qiang.

While the men talk, their restaurant server, a beautiful woman who is a robot, attempts to assassinate them with a dinner knife. Someone objects to their accusation, but an engineer tells them the robot’s actions might be due to faulty software. Someone else brings them their meal. They get caught up in a conversation about leaves from a garden as they move into another room and sit on a sofa. In this room, they check out a box of drugs called “dream river,” which Shi Qiang is interested in.  A doctor in a white coat is there to explain that the drug is prescription only and is used by the hibernation center. The men are quite interested in this, but the drug is typically only used for short-term hibernation lasting ten days to a year. The doctor warns them that it’s suicide to use it even if they would die comfortably.

Among the other things that happen in this long scene is a discussion about internet virus killer 5.2 which spread from Three Bodies in the first century of the crisis era. Somehow this killer virus is able to control hardware and cause a lot of murders, including the murder of the nation’s head of state. Some call it a modern curse. This also is related to the Earth Three Bodies Organization’s software, too. However, the situation is difficult anyway for the men who just woke from hibernation since it’s difficult for them to adapt to the big changes that have taken place in the world while they were asleep.

The story then jumps to Zhang Beihai, who also has recently awoken from hibernation and is now staying with the Asian space fleet orbiting Jupiter. He has only been awake six days and was woken up for some specific purpose. As in nearly every part of the story now, everyone struggles to communicate between the modern and old versions of Chinese and English, and no one can understand that well. Zhang Beihai is looking out the window at a starfield, and he’s aware of how dangerous the situation is getting since the Three Bodies’ Probe is already closing in on the solar system. This section also goes into great detail about how the fleet is divided.

The next scene continues with Zhang Beihai’s storyline, which pops up less frequently between Luoji’s storyline, but it develops along parallel lines, showing him talking with another fleet member, a young woman named Dong Fangyan, about his family who died in the first crisis era century. Clearly, Luoji had reason to be concerned for his wife and daughter, because it wasn’t typical for whole families to go into hibernation but were typically split by the time gap between those hibernating and those living out their natural lifespans. Much of the discussion in this storyline refers to “natural selection (自然选择),” which is mentioned continually.

The scene with Luoji and Shi Qiang that comes between the scenes with Zhang Beihai also gets into this lost family history as Shi Qiang meets his forty-something son who also went into hibernation for some reason when the rest of the family died much earlier. His son, Shi Qiaoming, lives with his wife who also went into hibernation and was cured of a serious illness while sleeping, and his 4-year-old son with her.

Another major storyline in this section involves the Ringer-Fei Ziluo Telescope Control Center, which is monitoring the Three Bodies’ Probe as it enters the solar system’s airspace. However, the probe is put out of commission. Sections relating to this storyline get into the telescope’s astronomical observations.

Luoji wakes out of a dream at one point, realizing he hasn’t paid much attention to the news on TV but has been spending a lot of time thinking about his wife and daughter, who were being prepared according to government procedure to come out of hibernation in two months’ time. Luoji watches a report on the news about the Ringer-Fei Ziluo telescope on the Three Bodies Fleet’s progress though space. It’s brush formation does not indicate it’s the probe but is the fleet’s warship, which has already been observed for two centuries. Shi Qiaoming is watching the broadcast with him and comments on it. They consider the UN plan was for humanity to live in the defeated Three Bodies civilization after the war. A new news item comes on announcing that the combined fleet has set off from the Jupiter base. The scene ends with Bill Haynes finding him and telling him his wife Keiko has committed suicide!

The story continues along in this vein, and I’m going to skip most of those details and get to the ending. By the end of this volume, Luoji is reunited with his wife and child. A very short section of this part of the book shifts to Crisis Year 208, and the basicically two brief segments cover Luoji as he speaks with the Three Bodies about humanity, and by the ending scene five years later, we see Luoji and his wife and child still interacting with Three Bodies. It seems to be a much more philosophical ending with a lot of focus on Luoji’s nameless daughter who is just called the child and the sun, unlike volume 1 which I thought had a very dramatic, troubling ending.

Next year, we’ll finish the third book in the trilogy, Death’s End.

Part 3 of 3.

 Next time: we return to Japan with Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicadas Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 2!

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2018 Holiday Schedule and Lucky Cat Volume 2 Release

The second volume in the four volume Lucky Cat Series, Lucky Cat and the Snow Maiden’s Vengeance, is out in paperback on Amazon for purchase!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1726375552

SMV Cover Me B Typeface 512 x 724

Print Cover of Volume 2

I won’t get to the e-book until this weekend, but that will be out soon, too, with a fun, different cover:

SMV Sketch 2 Colorized 512 x 724

E-Book Cover for Volume 2

Here is the cover blurb:

Three technocratic superstates have arisen after World War III in the year 2090, but a strange supernatural power has also arisen in unexpected places to oppose them.  Now, the superstate leaders face a quiet resistance of creepy kitties and killer kitsune even as they subjugate the globe and move whole populations in their grand Reorganization plan for humanity.

In a swirl of events covering the first dozen years after the Reorganization, many citizens encounter the superstate’s power and must fight for their lives. Yuki Hagiwara and the remnant of citizens in the now abandoned islands of Japan must face the truth about the workers’ camps and their future, while Suna Hagiwara and her orphaned niece Chika make a new life among the privileged elite in the capital of Eurasia, the most powerful of the three superstates, where they discover the surprising true face of its leader.

Eventually, an intrepid investigator is sent by the superstate to probe the mysterious origins of the opposition force in a global forbidden zone.  When the demonic figure of a woman called the Empress arises in the consciousness of many people across the world, Suna’s Lucky Cat statue awakens for the first time, too, embracing her role as the special guardian of the Hagiwara clan.

I hope to get volume 3 out in mid to late 2019, titled Lucky Cat and the Gods of War: Thoughtcrimes. I need a bit of a break on that to let my ideas for the next installment percolate a bit and catch up on other projects first. I am also considering doing some excerpts in easy Japanese on my class blog like I have been doing with my other novel Sohyeon After Midnight in Korean, but I need some time of preparation for that as well. The earliest I’ll be willing to start that will be next fall once book three is done. I think I’d really like to do that, though.

I did also hear back on Sangawa 2018, which will take place the weekend of November 30th, and I will be presenting “Wolves and Werewolves in Anime” this time.  Here is the link for event details:

http://www.sangawaproject.com/

Then, I will round out the year with the December show at Steel City Con, December 7th through 9th, 2018. Here are the details, and it looks like we’ve got some “Game of Thrones” and “Star Trek the Next Generation” people coming to that.  Sounds like a fun show.

http://www.steelcitycon.com

I’ll be back to our regularly scheduled reading this weekend.

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Sequel Progress and Thoughts on #Metoo

I know I’m a bit behind on my blog posts this fall, and I wanted to check in to explain the reason for my drifting schedule. Since I had so many requests at events this spring for the sequel to my novella Kumori and the Lucky Cat and I came up with a storyline that I felt was compelling enough to put on paper, I’ve been hard at work on getting that ready. It should be released in the next week or two, and I really wanted it to be finished before the holidays. Once that’s done, I’m really going to crunch my planned reading schedule for the blog at a breakneck pace to make it to New Year’s Eve ready for the 2019 schedule.  Here’s a little poster as a teaser for the book:

Poster Design 2018 512 X 724

I also feel I should address the sudden controversy that has arisen regarding the Silk Screen Asian Film Festival, which has suddenly been suspended by the board indefinitely almost as soon as this year’s festival ended late last month.  The festival founder has been accused of sexual harassment by a few paid employees who worked in the office according to local news reports, which is how I found out about the situation.  I still have not seen an official internal statement sent around to those of us involved with the festival otherwise, so I guess we aren’t getting one.  It’s sad to see the festival end since I think the general goals of the organization in their original form back when it began were good and worthwhile things to do and believe in even if perhaps things got off track somewhere, so hopefully it will be back.

I’ve been with the film festival since its second year in 2007, but most of my work for them has been done remotely from home. (I used to handle contacting and organizing our stable of volunteers for the one event, researched film releases for the region I work in, and helped screen films for programming, all of which was very time consuming.) We only had occasional committee meetings on site, which were more common in its early years than in recent years, and beyond those, I just showed up at external events at different public venues around town to help out. So I usually only had the vaguest idea of what was happening in the office, therefore, I can’t really comment on the accusations other than to say the industry is what it is.

All I can talk about are my observations from the programming side on how the film industry in general appears to a woman.  I personally have always found it demoralizing to see the prevalence of degrading portrayals of women in film across the industry as well as in committee, particularly what I consider the evil triumvirate characters of rape victim, prostitute and porn star. I don’t get the fascination with these types in stories, they certainly aren’t empowering, and when I write my own novels full of all kinds of women, they never make an appearance. We can probably go for the next 100 years without more stories about those character types since they have been so overdone.

On a personal level, my own #Metoo stories center more on issues of women’s education. Some pockets of the US still don’t accept the idea that women should be or need to be educated even if they clearly have academic talent. Going to college or even learning to read in my native English was strongly discouraged in some circles when I was a teenager, so this was a regular battle I had to fight to justify my studies. My decision to learn foreign languages as a teenager was a very provocative decision in that context, and I endured some very ugly family meetings over my problematic development.

Much to my dismay, I was also reprimanded even as an adult by three authority figures at separate times for my reading habits, and I decided I wanted to mention that here after coming across an account recently of a law clerk who had the judge she worked for give her a similar talk about reading a certain type of novel she liked. In my case, it didn’t matter what I read, just that it showed some independence. Back then I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now for this blog, so they had less to complain about, but until I read that law clerk’s story a few weeks ago, I didn’t know other women were experiencing that since I didn’t personally know any woman with that kind of story.  So it’s more widespread that I assumed?

Anyway, back to volume 2 of the Lucky Cat series. I’ll do my usual announcement with links when Lucky Cat and the Snow Maiden’s Vengeance is available, and I am prepping volume 3 for 2019. For the uninitiated, the series is basically Big Brother and company meet a magical, talking cat in a futuristic, technocratic society.  I’m exploring how three generations of women from one family handle this very unusual situation with forays into magical girl and classical horror territory.

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Years 8 Through 20 in the Crisis Era: The Curse – The Dark Forest, Remembrance of Earth, Book 2, Part 2

Today I’ll continue with my look at the second book in the Remembrance of Earth Chinese science fiction series by Cixin Liu, which was translated into English as The Dark Forest (刘慈欣的”地球往事:黑暗森林). The second part of book two is only about 100 pages and is titled “Incantation” or “Curse.” We’ll see which it is when we get deeper into the story. Like part 1, this part is split into many sections only set off by a double space, but this time they have three headings referencing the year and the distance of the Three Bodies fleet from the solar system.

The first date given is Crisis Year 8 with the Three Bodies fleet 4.20 light years from the solar system. They have only moved 0.01 light year in the five years since part 1 took place, and most of this part of the book focuses on Wall Facer Luoji. The story kicks off with Wall Facer Frederick Taylor in an underground storehouse or repository where certain scientific projects are underway. He returns home, reflecting on how he has served as a Wall Facer for five years and is able to live like a “normal” person for the first time now. The Wall Facers attracted a lot of attention in the community since they have taken on the role of saviors of humanity, so the response has been bordering on worship. The Wall Facers are like some kind of science fiction hero. Luoji was the only one of the Wall Facers to live differently during that time. He maintained a low profile, living in seclusion, so no one knew where he was or what he was doing.

Taylor goes to visit another Wall Facer soon after this and finds their house on alert and heavily guarded. Guests must undergo strict security examinations. Once inside, someone startles Taylor by calling himself a Wall Breaker.  In the next scene, Taylor gets out of a car and takes in the sunset landscape that looks like something out of a painting with its snowy mountains, forest and lake.  This is where Luoji lives with his wife Zhuangyan and their daughter.  The Wall Facers had not really cultivated a personal relationship with each other, and Taylor had only talked with Luoji before now on the phone.  Zhuangyan greets him in strangely accented English and invites him for dinner, but he begs off, saying he only can stay a little while.  Once she leaves with the child, Luoji comments on how upset Taylor looks and asks if he wants a drink or food. Taylor tells Luoji about his encounter with the Wall Breaker four days earlier.

The next scene picks up with a flashback using the a repetition of the same line Luoji said in response to this revelation, “So quickly?” That mirroring of the end of the first scene with the beginning of the next scene actually has a rather nice effect. In the flashback, Taylor is sitting with the Wall Breaker, who is very polite, and they discuss the war strategy for establishing an independent earth fleet and space weaponry development.  The Wall Breaker thinks the earth force fleet will not stand a chance against Three Bodies and will be annihilated, which saps Taylor of all hope. The Wall Breaker also suggests that Taylor will also become a Wall Breaker once he realizes how strong the enemy is and how difficult it will be for the earth force to regain their strength.

Taylor seems despondent talking with Luoji about the Wall Breaker, even accusing himself of being the enemy of humanity and wanting to kill everyone with this weapon. He says Luoji should kill him.  Later in the section, Luoji talks with his wife about being Wall Facer.

Next, we see the UN and the Planetary Defense Council having their 89th Wall Facer Project Hearing. Among the items on the agenda is the appearance of the first Wall Breaker and Wall Facer Frederick Taylor’s suicide! They also hear from two of the Wall Breakers, Bill Haynes and Manuer Leidiyazi (he speaks Spanish in this part of the book, so maybe his name is Manuel, but I still can’t figure out what the last name actually is), who give the main speeches.  Bill Haynes speaks first about his own strategic plan researching brain science, while Leidiyazi introduces his own strategic plan on some sort of star type nuclear warhead mathematical model. They want to create a new leadership system for humanity, something that has never been seen before in human history. A few days after the meeting, they enter a top secret underground facility to enter hibernation.

Luoji has also entered a dream world. As he is sleeping and tossing in bed, he realizes Zhuangyan and their daughter are not there. He sees the words, “Beloved, we will wait for you on judgment day,” on a note that they left behind. He goes into the parlor, but no one is there. Sayi appears instead of his family, and he asks her where they are. She repeats they will wait for him on judgment day. He asks why. She explains it was a Planetary Defense Council resolution that the family be separated.  Luoji accuses them of kidnapping and calls it criminal, but he isn’t allowed to look for them. He can only wait to be with them again on this “last day,” which is necessary due to the crisis time.

There is a suggestion that his daughter will hibernate when she is mature so she won’t be harmed by the hibernation process, but they will awaken after 400 years. Sayi reminds him of his role as a Wall Facer, their loss of Taylor and the emergence of the Wall Breaker. Humanity needs Luoji.  She presents him with a scenario of the consequences for his wife and child if he doesn’t succeed in his role against Three Bodies, describing for him what the world will be like then. She refers to some evidence from the Hubble Two telescope, then warns him that Three Bodies wants him dead, though Luoji wonders why. Sayi suggests Mike Evans might have known the reason, but he’s also dead. Three Bodies has ordered a hit on Luoji, just like they had on Mike Evans.

In the next scene where we see Luoji, he is out walking around. It’s very cold and starts to snow.  The lake has a layer of ice, and winter has become a season for Luoji to ponder his life.  He misses his wife and child and flashes back to his earlier years. One of the main memories he examines is the comments Ye Wenjie made to him when she first suggested he study cosmic societies. Now, Ye Wenjie isn’t in the human world, but this seems to be some kind of secret.  He also thinks Sayi is wrong that Three Bodies has ordered a hit on him because of his research, partly because she doesn’t know about Ye Wenjie’s discussion with him. He spends a number of days thinking about this discussion, even sleeping during the day and staying up to think at night.

Eventually, Luoji goes to the underground facility where Shi Qiang had taken him five years earlier, and he meets with Dr. Ringer about his observations of the Three Bodies fleet. At a PDC meeting which Luoji attends, international representatives discuss the possibility of cursing Three Bodies somehow as part of their war strategy experiment.  They eventually hit the sun with electric waves, which penetrate the cloud layers and become amplified by them, bringing Luoji’s “curse.”

We do see in a single, brief segment that returns to the Three Bodies internet world that they are indeed planning to kill Luoji, but they think it won’t be easy compared to their successful hit on Mike Evans five years earlier. They just can’t see a way to successfully carry out their mission against Luoji at this time.

In another story thread, we see General Chang Weisi looking over a battle chart that shows the sun and solar system, which he discusses with Zhang Beihai among others.  They discuss the ideology of defeatism again, too.  In the past five years, the Planetary Defense Council and another organization haven’t made the expected technological strides, so they are concerned that they will never have the space war fleet that they had hoped.

In the other section of part 2 that follows these characters, Zhang Beihai admires the new space airplane called “The High Frontier,” comparing it with the “Tang” ship we were introduced to earlier.  This section goes into a deeper comparison, and the text notes that the ship has only been around a little more than 5 years. He talks some with Chang Weisi about the war strategy and research plans. They, too, bring up this 400 year time frame that Sayi mentions to Luoji.

Another very brief storyline that only comes up rarely here is General Fa Ziluo with Dr. Ringer analyzing their photographs of the starry sky showing the Three Bodies world, which is in the middle of three stars and is very inconspicuous.  Now it has been moving over the past five years, hitting an interstellar dust cloud that they call a snow field since it resembles snow. They observe it and discuss the distance it has moved versus how much further it needs to go to get to earth.

The second date given in part 2 is Crisis Year 12 with the Three Bodies fleet now 4.18 light years from the solar system. Most of this section follows the storyline of Zhang Beihai, that I’m not so interested in and will only very briefly touch on.

First, we see Dr. Ringer and Fei Ziluo watching the Three Bodies fleet through the Hubble 2 telescope. It is changing out of its “brush” formation into a different shape, and they discuss how it will accelerate over the next 9 years. They aren’t sure when it will arrive in their solar system but guess 50 years. They also talk a bit about god.

Then we return briefly to seventy-something Zhang Yuanchao and his elderly neighbors Yang Jinwen and Miao Fuquan who are watching TV. The broadcast is talking about the third space elevator, which had been constructed five years earlier and is based in the sea. Two other space elevators have been constructed at other locations. Zhang’s son Zhang Weiming and grandson Zhang Yan are also there, but the men tell them to stop trying to hold a conversation at the gathering and just watch TV. The men surmise that aliens will come to earth after they are all dead.

The rest of this section focuses on military man Zhang Beihai. It’s winter, and he goes to a site where there’s some sort of nuclear fusion experiment being conducted, someplace like a small geology museum with a meteorite storage center. They’ve been developing technology like the space elevators, space ships, and star weaponry that they want to have ready in the next century.  After spending some time there, Zhang Beihai takes a car to the Space Military Bureau’s research division, where they have some sort of underground facility. There he prepares to go into space on the space elevator, which he takes in the next section.

There are some more minor details about the Three Bodies internet-based world, where they are still considering their problems with Luoji, but the text doesn’t linger on this aspect of the plot for very long.

The third subheading of part 2 gives the date of Crisis Year 20 with the Three Bodies fleet now 4.15 light years from the solar system. In this section, we see Leidiyazi and Haynes waking up from hibernation. Haynes meets his wife Keiko Yamasagi, who has also been in hibernation, and they talk awhile on a number of topics. They are working on research, and this whole section delves into philosophical and logical problems. Six topics are mentioned at one point with ideas like “Coal is Black” and “1 + 1 = 2”. They speak with a medical researcher about rabies and psychology, and one major section that even has a rare subheading discusses the weird topic of whether water is poisonous.

Then they hold some sort of meeting with international delegates, and they run through a long list of topics, mostly related to humanity’s loss of freedom and the upcoming space war. They are also concerned about what happened to Taylor.

Some sort of center that has recently opened has a statue of the goddess of freedom standing by its doors. The statue includes carved commentary about the Three Bodies War. Haynes and Keiko are in attendance in the center’s solemn hall shortly after its grand opening. The center displays information about space force members from each country. They meet Wu Yue from earlier and somehow get into a big discussion about theology. The words “God is Dead” even are boldfaced in the text. Six months later, Keiko returns to hibernation.

Leidiyazi and the PDC decide carry out a test on the planet Mercury, though the American delegate to the meeting objects, worrying this will be too distracting for a Wall Facer. The next section describes Mercury and the sun as well as how humanity is now exploring the solar system with the help of the three space elevators, including Mars and the satellites of Jupiter. Before Leidiyazi’s storyline is done, a Wall Breaker appears to have a talk with him, though. This part wraps up with more on the international delegates at the meeting where Leidiyazi speaks and his research on Mercury.

Part 2 of 3.

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Year Three in the Crisis Era: The Wall Facers Plan – The Dark Forest, Remembrance of Earth, Book 2, Part 1

Now we return to the second book in the Remembrance of Earth Chinese science fiction series by Cixin Liu, which was translated into English as The Dark Forest (刘慈欣的”地球往事:黑暗森林). Of course, the whole series was translated into English and won Hugo awards, but we’re reading it in Chinese.  Either language edition can be purchased here, although the English edition can be found more easily on Amazon:

http://www.chinasprout.com/shop/BYC022

Dark Forest Chinese Edition Cover

The book is split into four parts with no subchapters, so it will be challenging reading. Sometimes it helps to have smaller chapters just to psychologically cope with the foreign language text a bit more comfortably instead of seeing this big wall of text to tackle.  The book’s four parts include a preface and three sections titled “Wall Facers,” “Incantation,” and “Dark Forest.” I’m going to do a much more brief discussion of the text since it is available in English translation and provide some study guide style information to help student readers of the Chinese edition.

The preface only has two scenes and is rather long. The first scene shows a creature named Heyi (褐蚁, meaning brown ant) who is typically referred to as it (它) until it shapeshifts into something recognizably human when it is referred to as he (他).  It’s dusk, and the stars are coming out on Heyi’s old, forgotten homeworld, which is earth.  This section refers briefly to ant clans who are now establishing a new empire on the sun, but Heyi, who must be from these ant clans, goes back to their old homeland to a lonely summit to look for food.

Heyi seems to have a number of different forms he can take, some that he likes and some that are frightening, but he at one point looks like a messenger from heaven, like a marble statue with eyes that have no pupils. These aliens are described here as cosmic conquerors who are not peaceful but who bring terror even as they are cautious.  Heyi meets Lao Ye, that is Ye Wenjie from volume 1, and they talk about alien civilizations and what she knows about his culture.  She calls him Xiao Luo (his formal name here is Luoji 罗辑 as far as she understands and doesn’t know his other name), and she knows him as her late daughter Yang Dong’s student from senior high school. He is an astronomer. They say their goodbyes at the end of the section.

The second scene shows Mike Evans (麦克‧伊文斯), the American member of the Three Bodies Movement we saw at the end of volume 1, and this is a transcript of a conversation between him and someone named Zimu (字幕, literally caption) late at night.  This is Mike Evans’ 22nd dialogue with the alien, and he calls the alien “lord” or “my lord.” They discuss humanity and civilizations.  Among the many things Zimu says, he asserts that  humans hold an inferior biological position next to the aliens and that humans have defects in their “communication organs,” which the aliens don’t have.  Mike Evans objects that Zimu is mistaken about this inferiority and points out in the interview how the aliens need humans to understand things. Zimu says the aliens are afraid of humans. This section really sets up the story and shows how far things have advanced since volume 1.

Part 1 runs 166 pages and is titled “Wall Facers,” which also has connotations of enlightenment and contemplation, though I’m not sure yet how the phrase is meant here.  This part starts with a subtitle stating “The Crisis Era Year 3, Three Bodies Warship Fleet, 4.21 Light Years from the Solar System,” and this is the only heading of its kind in the whole of part 1. Part 1 is split into 40 sections only set off by a double space, so you have to really pay attention to where the story goes from section to section. A lot of characters appear in this part, so I’ll give some basic information and the Chinese version of the names to help students who want to tackle the original text rather than the translation. The whole section seems to stay in this time frame of crisis year 3. Part 1 has a number of storylines that are intertwined throughout it, and I’m going to group the basic outline of each together instead of following the constantly shifting storyline from section to section.

In the first storyline in this part of the book, we are introduced to a huge warship called the Tang in an ocean, which appears to be under construction, and we meet warship commander Wu Yue (吴岳) and political commissar Zhang Beihai (章北海).  Beihai’s father is ill but has stabilized, and they are given orders by a general to attend the 5th division’s exercises.

It turns out the Tang ship is related to a Chinese astronaut program.  Zhang Beihai and General Chang Weisi (常伟思) talk about space and their sea warship fleets in another segment. Zhang Beihai then goes to visit his father on his sick bed and tells him about the astronaut program he’s involved with.  The program plans on building an astronaut fleet based on the navy to fight a galactic war.

Wu Yue and Zhang Beihai discuss building the Tang ship and their understanding of a space war in a later segment , and late one night, the astronauts have a meeting where they contemplate the most dangerous ideas for an astronaut, defeatism (失败主义).  Zhang Beihai, General Chang Weisi, and Wu Yue all participate in this meeting. The astronauts face interference from the Wall Facers in their work later in Part 1.

Another significant if fairly brief storyline that appears early on in part 1 shifts to Colorado Springs’ Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station with main characters General Fei Ziluo (斐兹罗) and Lei De’er (雷德尔).  Four organizations are mentioned here: NASA, ETO (The Earth Three Bodies Organization), PDC (The Planetary Defense Council), and NMD (The North American National Strategic Guided Missile Defense System).  This section discusses whether there is an obligation to protect humanity from enemies beyond earth and whether earth needs defending by the ETO and PDC.

At the end of part 1, General Fei Ziluo orders Dr. Albert Ringer to immediately examine the Three Bodies world somewhere out in space, an order which Ringer balks at since he’s not military but works for NASA.  They are in the same telescope control room we saw near the beginning of part 1, and they discuss the sort of photographs the telescope takes.  They also talk about three fixed stars and Jupiter. The general wants him to take a certain type of photo, and they look at the Three Bodies planet and see a Three Bodies warship fleet.  Of course, humanity is living through the Three Bodies Crisis, and they’re under the illusion that the Three Bodies invaders’ true plan is to exterminate humanity.  They conclude at the end of part 1 that a huge change is coming to the world in five years.

A third, much more prominent storyline features Zhang Yuanchao (张援朝) and his neighbor Yang Jinwen (杨晋文), or Lao Yang. Zhang Yuanchao has been a chemical plant worker for more than 40 years, and Lao Yang is a retired middle school teacher.  The men talk about retirement and the world’s problems. When discussing the state of humanity, Lao Yang surmises humanity won’t exist in 400 years. They listen to snippets of the news on TV about the NMD and PDC as well as a segment about an illness in a hospital that features an interview with Ding Yi, a character from volume 1. Lao Yang declares that the “cruel day” will come.

Later in another related segment, Miao Fuquan (苗福全) goes to see Zhang Yuanchao and Yang Jinwen, and they listen to another long TV news report about the Planetary Defense Committee while they drink and have a meal together. They discuss something about the war economy, rich people and the banks. One topic that comes up in this section is a major question in this part of the novel, 逃亡主义,or some sort of fugitive ideology. The news report discusses how humanity can avoid complete extinction by fleeing to the stars.

The next segment where we return to this storyline, Zhang Yuanchao has a new gabbing partner in a later segment named Shi Xiaoming (史晓明) where they talk about someone’s grandson flying in a ship in a century, space ships and space travel. As is typical in this storyline, Zhang Yuanchao and Yang Jinwen chat and watch more news reports.  This time, an announcer talks about the fugitive ideology, and the men discuss the meaning of the report.  These characters recede into the background in the second half of part 1.

Part 1 also has a number of fairly brief storylines only having a handful of sections dedicated to them.  One of these brief storylines continues themes from the preface with another transcript of a conversation that Zimu has with someone called Wall Facer #2.  Zimu talks some about the ETO’s implementation of some order, while Wall Facer #2 mentions the snake of the Bible who helps mankind get wisdom and emerge from a dangerous labyrinth.  This section ends ominously with Wall Facer #2 promising Zimu that he and Mike Evans will get him proof of their loyalty.  I’m not sure if he means their personal loyalty or humanity’s, but both sides seem to be very suspicious of one another.

The next time these characters come up, we have another segment with Wall Facer #2 and Zimu’s transcript. This time Wall Facer #2 says more about this snake and tells Zimu to trust him that none of humanity will escape some trap they have planned. This is the last time this storyline shows up in this part.

Another very brief storyline only appears in three very brief sections flash back to Zhou Wenwang from the Three Bodies videogame in volume 1.  He only shows up three times in this part of the book, and in this section, he is mainly yelling, “Is anybody out there?” In the other sections, he has a brief dialogue with Niu Dun and another recurring character who were also in volume 1, but I felt nothing particularly significant came out of these sections.

The most significant storyline of part 1 also picks up the character introduced in the preface, whose real name is Heyi since he is not human but one of the aliens. Known by his human name in this storyline, Luoji wakes up to the sun shining and a woman in his home whose name he can’t remember.  They have an extended conversation on alien civilizations, cosmic society, and he mentions the fact that he is a scholar of aliens. They go to a restaurant for breakfast and then part ways, figuring they won’t ever meet again.  He realizes at the end of the section he still can’t remember her name.

In a later segment, Luoji meets police officer Shi Qiang, whom we first met in volume 1. They go to a small room deep underground via an elevator.  Shi Qiang sits on a bed and smokes with Luoji, introducing himself as a police officer.  Luoji asks if he’s under suspicion for some reason.  Shi Qiang makes reference to the woman Luoji had been talking with earlier, but Luoji answers that he only knew the woman a week and doesn’t know her name.  She is apparently now dead;  Shi Qiang says they don’t believe he’s responsible.

Shi Qiang asks Luoji to put on a bulletproof vest, but Luoji wonders who would try to kill him.  They walk to the elevator and take it to the 1st floor where it looks like they are in an underground parking garage.  Apparently boarding an airplane at this location, Luoji and Shi Qiang fly over the seacoast. After flying a while and eating dinner, Luoji decides to sleep some after Shi Qiang tries once again to get more information out of him about this dead woman. However, Luoji just doesn’t know anything about her. Shi Qiang asks that Luoji not call him Officer Shi but Da Shi, or Big Shi, which is much more informal.  Afterward, Luoji goes to one of the actual bedrooms on the plane and falls asleep.

In one of the longest segments of part 1, Luoji thinks or dreams about a woman named Bai Rong, a YA novelist. Luoji’s association with her was long-standing, and they even considered getting married at one point.  This segment is a flashback to some of their time together, even a meeting at a library and enduring a snowstorm. When he wakes up, Shi Qiang gives him some medicine, and Luoji goes back to sleep.

Later, Shi Qiang comes to wake him up and urges him to get ready.  He eats breakfast as the plane starts to descend.  He is then prepped to go into a United Nations General Assembly meeting, where the secretary general is a woman named Sa Yi.  She talks about how the Planetary Defense Council has chosen the participants in their “wall facer” plan, and the names of the Wall Facers will now be announced.  She identifies four people designated as “wall facers”: first is Frederick Taylor; second is Manuer Leidiyazi, a name which looks like it’s probably an ethnicity not commonly found in Chinese to English dictionaries that I’m sure the English translation of the novel has turned into something more familiar; and third is Bill Haynes. At the end of this section, Sa Yi declares that Luoji is the fourth wall facer.

The “wall facer” plan is essentially to have war strategists come up with ideas which the Wall Facers will carry out in the outside world, presenting a deception to it as a form of camouflage and as a psy op.  Many of the other segments in Part 1 introduce more details about the other three Wall Facers, such as Bill Haynes Japanese wife Keiko Yamasugi, as they come together to prepare.

That’s more than enough information to get readers started. I’ll pick up part 2 next time.

Part 1 of 3.

 

 

 

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Announcing the 13th Annual Silk Screen Asian Film Festival Events

As the Silk Screen Asian Film Festival is only around the corner in a few weeks, some related events have tickets available for purchase now.  One event which is only coming up in a few days on September 5th is the Silk Screen Preview Party, which will be held this year at the Millvale Grist House Craft Brewery.  The party will feature the Mac and Gold food truck and craft beer available at the cash bar as the festival shows off some of the trailers for the upcoming films that will be shown during the festival.  Cost is $25 per person, and the event runs from 5 to 8 PM. Tickets are available here:

https://www.showclix.com/event/silk-screen-preview-party

After last year’s highly acclaimed Red Carpet Gala at the Fairmont Hotel, people who missed it can get tickets to this year’s gala, which will be held on September 21st from 6 to 10PM.  Tickets are $85.00 and include ethnic food, a cultural performance showcasing music and dance from the Silk Road region the festival covers, and a silent auction.  Ethnic dress is encouraged, and you can get your tickets here to hobnob before the films kick off with opening night the next day.

https://www.showclix.com/event/red-carpet-gala6914474BS4WzZ6

Details on the festival films are here:

http://www.silkscreenfestival.org/2018-films/

Two of the films I did screen in committee and can personally recommend are “Toys and Pets,” which is a “Toy Story” style Chinese film that went by a different name “Tea Pets” before, and “Mori: The Artist’s Habitat,” which is a very strange film. You can catch the trailers here:

and

A couple of honorable mentions that you should check out even though we didn’t get them for the festival is “Anarchist from the Colony,” a film about Koreans living in Japan during the colonial period, and the film adaptation of popular Filipino play “Ang Larawan.”

and

If you can find somewhere to watch those, be sure not to miss them!

 

 

 

 

 

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Rescuing Soonshin On the Dangerous Road to North Port – The Joseon Zombie Annals, Part 4

Returning to our intermission selection, The Joseon Zombie Annals webcomic by Gonma (조선좀비실록- 곤마), in chapter 31, the scene continues between khuntosang and Kaneseki. Here is where the story picks up.

https://comic.naver.com/webtoon/detail.nhn?titleId=509094&no=31

Kaneseki has been beating a tied up and unconscious Soonshin when khuntosang arrives to tell him that Soonshin is someone very special to them. When Kaneseki asks why, we see a flashback of khuntosang hitting Soonshin in the head with the butcher knife and noticing that the blade doused in garlic juice doesn’t affect him like it does the other zombies.

The scene shifts immediately back to the three protagonists and the female archer Gildong in the forest in the middle of the night.  Gildong asks who the man wearing the yellow clothes was, meaning Soonshin, because she feels his swordsmanship was unusual. They explain that Soonshin has zombie abilities, too. Yoon says Soonshin acquired his zombie powers in a different way than Gildong did and that they need to rescue him.

The scenes alternate between the protagonists discussing Soonshin and khuntosang and Kaneseki talking about him until the end of the chapter. Kaneseki is less than convinced by khuntosang‘s arguments, however, so he picks up one of the butcher knives Soonshin likes to use to fight and experiments on him with it. He threatens to burn him in a fire when he’s done using the knife on him.

Jin tells the group she wants to rescue Soonshin, but their plan is to get to T’amra as fast as possible to perform a memorial service or some sort of sacrifice that will end the zombie plague, so she’s torn. She thinks they should leave Soonshin to fend for himself, but Yoon is upset by her comment and wants to find him. They discuss continuing on their journey and what they should do. Gildong suggests going to the North Port since she has traveled extensively and knows a lot of shortcuts to get around the country. In the end, Yoon plans to go alone to confront khuntosang while sending everyone else to rescue Soonshin.

In chapter 32, Yoon returns alone to the road that goes along the outer edge of the mountain to confront khuntosang and encounters him quickly. Khuntosang is surprised to see he has come alone, but the fight starts after only a short exchange.

The scene then changes to show a group of peasants chopping down a large tree with a huge trunk in the forest. They are under the direction of an official who turns out to be Sato, the man who was mentioned in earlier chapters, and he pushes for them to hurry.

Meanwhile, Gildong and Jin are watching them from their hiding place among the trees nearby, discussing what Sato knows about Soonshin. Gildong suspects he does know about Soonshin and shoots an arrow through Sato’s hat, alerting him to her presence. He angrily turns toward where she is standing in the trees openly watching him. He recognizes her, and she clearly knows him, too.

The scene shifts back to Heo Jun who has left Jin and Gildong to backtrack and find Yoon, worried about the task he has taken on alone. Then we see the fight between Yoon and khuntosang, which flashes Yoon back to a fight he had in the palace with Muhyeok vying to be Joseon’s best swordsman. Regarding khuntosang, he figures the man is stronger than he is and is far beyond Muhyeok’s ability was back then. In chapter 33, we see khuntosang stab Yoon through his shoulder, and Yoon flashes back to more of Muhyeok’s sword lessons in the palace before stabbing khuntosang in the head. Surprisingly, the touch of Yoon’s sword sends khuntosang’s body into a zombie-like disintegration, which also seems to surprise khuntosang.

Joseon Zombie Annals 13

Next, we return briefly back to the meeting between Gildong and Sato, where she has him tied up while Jin questions him about Soonshin’s location. The scene quickly shifts back to Yoon, who pulls the sword from his shoulder, then collapses.

Joseon Zombie Annals 14

We return to a shot of the cabin where Soonshin is being held out in the woods and see Kanesegi still toying with the unconscious Soonshin. He figures he can get away with torturing Soonshin since he is unresponsive, but Kanesegi is interrupted by Gildong, who has an arrow aimed at him as she walks into the room! She orders him to drop the butcher knife unless he wants to die.

The scene then switches back to Heo Jun. He is walking along the winding cliff side path where he finds the injured, unconscious Yoon. Rushing to his side, he can’t find Yoon’s pulse. The scene continues in chapter 34 as Heo Jun strips Yoon and tends to his wounds, trying to revive him since he determines no pressure point has been hit. He succeeds right before the scene returns to Gildong and Jin breaking in on Kanesegi, who escapes when Gildong is distracted by a mouse, which Jin has to capture and get rid of.

Joseon Zombie Annals 15

When the scene returns to Heo Jun and Yoon, we see Yoon bandaged and awakening from a nap. Heo Jun is overjoyed to see him recovering. Then the story returns to Jin and Gildong tending Soonshin’s wounds. The groups reunite after Yoon and Heo Jun run into the still bound Sato to determine where the girls went. Yoon also questions Sato for allying with the enemy along with other Joseon citizens, and the question of Joseon becoming a Japanese colony comes up and puzzles Yoon. Remember, Yoon is the Crown Prince of Joseon. When Yoon gets angry about this news, Sato explains this is just a rumor he heard. Heo Jun also gets angry, but by then Yoon tells him to calm down as they continue to discuss the matter.

Gildong runs up to them in the middle of this conversation, and when she sees his bloody clothes where he was wounded, she inadvertently calls him “Your Majesty,” which Sato notices. Yoon is concerned when he hears Soonshin hasn’t awakened yet.

Meanwhile, back at the cottage, Jin is tending to the still unconscious Soonshin and talks to herself as she watches over him, but Kanesegi returns through the window, attacking and threatening her as Soonshin sits unmoving with his eyes closed. Kanesegi strips Jin in chapter 36 and notes that she has been strapping down her chest so she could pass as a man. Soonshin wakes up, his eyes blazing blue showing the zombie power has taken over, just in time to punch Kanesegi and get him away from Jin, beginning an intense fight sequence.

Joseon Zombie Annals 16

Once he knocks out Kanesegi, Jin explains to him that the rest of the group has gone to find Yoon, and they quickly go to join them. In the forest when they meet up with Yoon and the others, they catch up on what happened before the scene shifts dramatically to an island in the middle of a sea where a man is riding on a boat.

The man on the boat gets off at a wooden dock and follows a wooden walkway up around the side of the mountain. He finds his way blocked by a yangban dressed in white wearing a horsehair hat. The yangban recognizes him, calls him Chi Seonghyeong and notes they haven’t seen each other in ten years. As they’re talking, Seonghyeong notes the yangban’s one eye is blue and wonders why. In the drawing, his irises are also very small and creepy looking compared to the rest of the characters, so it’s kind of hard to see this fact. Seonghyeong quickly slices the back of the yangban’s neck to behead him, but the wound immediately heals.

Joseon Zombie Annals 17

The yangban drops a folded note of some sort on the ground, taunting Seonghyeong with it a little. In chapter 37, we see Seonghyeong sitting before a burial mount on a grassy cliff overlooking the sea. He talks to himself a bit about the dead man before standing and saying he’ll see the dead man in the afterlife. He also tells the dead man not to worry about Soonshin, who has grown up healthy. I don’t recall if this is the guy Soonshin was working for in the butcher shop at the beginning of the story, but perhaps it is.

The scene shifts to the Japanese samurai and his girlfriend who are standing at night on a high rock overlooking the forest with a man whose face is nearly entirely bandaged. They are talking a character named Yi Hwanyong, who has come up here and there in this section of chapters a little, and a new character named Dong Chiseong. I assume eventually we’ll run into these characters, but for now, I’m skipping most of the discussion about them and their plans. Eventually, the creepy yangban that Seonghyeong confronted appears behind them. When the yangban asks about the bandaged man, the samurai says it isn’t his concern. He shocks the yangban by revealing that Dong Chiseong had one disciple.

Next, we see the protagonists in the forest at night, and Yoon sends Gildong ahead of them alone to check out the situation while they wait there. In chapter 38, the scene continues, and while the protagonists are resting in the forest that night, a group of ninjas are watching them from up in the trees, signaling each other about the girl, Jin, who has caught their eye and not fooled them with her masculine clothes. I suspect since Kanesegi wasn’t killed in the last fight, he warned his allies that she was traveling incognito as a man. They plan on kidnapping her if the chance arises.

Meanwhile, Gildong returns to tell the group that there is a problem with the crossroad leading to North Port after doing reconnaissance. Soonshin goes off on his own to take a look and sees a large number of zombies in the vicinity, then returns to warn the others, too. The ninjas continue to watch them and signal to one another.

Soonshin goes out and yells to get the zombies’ attention and provoke them to chase him so the others can use the pass. His plan works until the ninjas add to the confusion. One of the ninjas, seeing what is happening and keeping his eye on Jin, cuts his finger and lets the drops of blood fall on Heo Jun where he is hiding behind the bushes, drawing his attention to what is going on in the trees. Yoon and Gildong rush into the crowd of zombies trying to get Soonshin’s attention while the ninjas drop behind Heo Jun as he tries to talk with Jin.

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In chapter 39, the group continues to fight the horde of zombies that appears.

Joseon Zombie Annals 19

While they are fighting the zombies, the ninja take off with Jin. The others are alarmed.  Soonshin runs after the ninjas around the cliff road but loses them at a fork in the road.

Poor Jin is always the damsel in distress! Be sure to go back and look at all of the chapters I covered, because there’s much more of Gonma’s dynamic artwork to enjoy, especially the fight scenes.

Part four of a six part series.

 

 

 

 

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2018 Fall-Winter Speaking and Publishing Schedule

I have a lot of new projects in the works, though they are getting me slightly off schedule with my main production schedule, and many events to announce.

First up is the Beaver County BookFest on September 8, 2018.

https://beavercountybookfest.com/

This event will feature more than 50 writers as well as artists and vendors.  See site for details.

The Silk Screen Asian Film Festival that I have been a volunteer for since 2007 will hold its 13th annual festival from September 21st through September 30th. It kicks off with the Red Carpet Gala on September 21st.

http://www.silkscreenfestival.org/

In October, I will be speaking at the Monroeville Library on the 16th at 7PM on “East Asian Astronomy.” This presentation will feature the region’s traditional ideas about the sky and interpretation of the stars and time from its ancient literary sources.  Details on the library can be found here:

http://www.monroevillelibrary.org/

The Sangawa Project, an 18+ anime conference, will be held this year from November 30th-December 2nd, 2018. More details will be forthcoming when I hear back from programming.

Then, I will round out the year with the December show at Steel City Con, December 7th through 9th, 2018.

I’ve also been working on some new novels.  I pulled out an old novella I wrote in 2003 that fit the scope of the film festival’s region, Magic Hair, and got that out in paperback very quickly:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1723567299

Magic Hair Print Cover

A conquerer. A thief. A ghost. Three figures’ lives intertwine as magic alters their destinies.

When invaders destroy nobleman Ambrosius Devictus’ hometown of Tredentium, his family is reduced to poverty, and he is jailed by the city’s tyrannical leader for stealing a loaf of bread. Locked away in the notorious Blactus Prison, Devictus is visited by a mysterious woman whose succor leads him into a dangerous confrontation with his jailers.

It actually does have an Asian twist to it in spite of the fake Roman feel to the names mentioned on the cover blurb and is a more old-fashioned sort of ghost story.

Since I have had so many requests for the second volume in my Lucky Cat series, I am working hard on getting that ready.  It may be out as early as the December Steel City Con show. So far, I’m about halfway through the first draft, and this one is turning into a dystopian horror blend. I don’t have the cover blurb quite the way I want it to be yet, but the title will be Lucky Cat and the Snow Maiden’s Vengeance.  Here is the cover I’m considering using:

SMV Preliminary Print Cover

Otherwise, I’ll be continuing to post easy Korean segments of my novel Sohyeon After Midnight here:

https://enlightenedrabbit.wordpress.com/category/sohyeon-korean-graded-reader-project/

I will be producing my second volume of my new newsletter, The Scholar’s Circle, later this winter, and it will be a tea culture edition.  Anyone who wants to sign up for the free newsletter can do so here at the button:

https://enlightenedrabbit.wordpress.com/

Just put “Free Newsletter” in the space for what class you want to sign up for. I’ll get back to rolling out new class modules later this year, though it has been slow going since Sohyeon got me sidetracked on this bilingual project, but it’s all good.  I will be posting my normally scheduled read-along posts shortly.

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