Translation: Friendly Fist – Yoru wa Mijikashi Arukeyo Otome

I was thinking about how to maintain the balance between that kind of witty formality and high whimsy that occurs in Morimi’s prose. Thinking back on how I dealt with the small bit of Tatami Galaxy that I translated – I went into a full Romanticist style tone over there – which doesn’t seem to fit. Too many hardy Latinate words appeared and made it too stiff. There’s that kind of flavor in Morimi, but there’s also the other extent.

So, in order to prepare myself for the translation of this extremely somewhat beautiful, somewhat witty, somewhat kawaii, somewhat whimsical excerpt from YoruMiji – I studied up the prose rhythm of the masters. I flipped through Alice in Wonderland because Alice sounds slightly formal despite being totally childish – and I flipped through God of Lovely Prose Ray Bradbury – especially his story called The April Witch.

“Yes!” cried Cecy. “I’ve never danced. I want to dance. I’ve never worn a long gown, all rustly. I want that. I want to dance all night. I’ve never known what it’s like to be in a woman, dancing; Father and Mother would never permit it. Dogs, cats, locusts, leaves, everything else in the world at one time or another I’ve known, but never a woman in the spring, never on a night like this. Oh, please – we must go to that dance!”

I also poked out some of Harper’s Monologue from Angels in America.

Trying to balance out the formal Romantic style ornate prose, with the less formal whimsical Alice speech, with the even less formal tremendously poetic Ray Bradbury speech was quite a challenge – but I think that the intersection of those voices is where Morimi lies.

By the way, if there’s anyone who knows Chinese & wants to read it before the movie comes out – the Chinese translation is over here.

Reading back on the translation, I realized that if you say おともだちパンチ!! out loud, it sounds like something that you might hear an anime girl scream while waving her fist in the air. And ‘Friendship Fist’ totally doesn’t have the same feeling.


Perhaps you would know what a “ World Happy Punch! ❤” is?

If – that period comes about where a fine visitation of an iron-fist upon the soft muscular of a near human’s cheek must be realized, we grit our fists. I shall illustrate it for you. Kindly witness the thumb, left on the outside to enclose the fist – namely, the other four fingers… stuck together like metal fittings while locked in by that mechanism. The fact of this thumb is what charges up the fist, ensuring that this fellow’s cheek and pride shall undergo a full pulverization until not an unstained locale is left. There is that ever so important expression left to us in history that “violence begets violence” – and with this thumb as the starting point, may we find the flames of our hate spreading outwardly into the fields of the world, and in that soon forthcoming madness and despair – shall all of our most lovely and beautiful be placed into the gutters without a single exception.

But, witness here – that this fist may be released with the thumb caught within the other four. With this, our fist of manly braggadocio has changed in its character – pealing into the invitingly precious smile of a little kitten, striking out its little paws with lovable fancy. Such a fist is a playful jest, and the charged knuckles of hate are warmed into a state furthest from that meanery. Thus, we are freed from this noxious chain of cause and effect – Peace & Goodwill belongs back to men – and we have protected our loveliness ever more slightly.

“When you hide your thumb in your palm like this… Everything –  all that tightness and brickness – becomes treasure. Do you know what’s inside that thumb? Curled so gently… it’s the smallest thing in the whole big world. It’s LOVE❤.”

She explained it like that.

She a small girl when she was initiated into the ways of the World Happy Punch! ❤ by her big sister – who explained it like this:

“Listen closely. A maiden must NEVER swing an iron fist. But just look here – the world is so large and all saints & gentlemen fit into a space smaller than a thimble! And just look at the stinkroad immoralists and dunderheads that are left behind! And let’s not even talk about the dunderheaded immoralists! So, there may be times when you are just so tempted to sock them a good one… but here’s a secret for those hard pinches. Use it well. A tight bricky fist is a fist without Love, but a World Happy Punch!  is a fist with Love!❤. With this one punch full to the brimming with LOVE❤ – striking out into the big bad world out there – we’ll knock them allone two three back into the prim & proper! We’ll be living with daintiness & elegance – And we’ll open the world – all the way up – up up into Loveliness!”

Opening the world back up into Loveliness. That idea stuck deep inside her heart.

And she held the power – the World Happy Punch! ❤ – in the palm of her hand.












For fun, I tried to translate over the first paragraph of the April Witch. Although I have less trust in my ability to write Japanese vs my ability to read it. And I don’t have that much trust in the latter already.

Into the air, over the valleys, under the stars, above a river, a pond, a road, flew Cecy. Invisible as new spring winds, fresh as the breath of clover rising from twilight fields, she flew. She soared in doves as soft as white ermine, stopped in trees and lived in blossoms, showering away in petals when the breeze blew. She perched in a limegreen frog, cool as mint by a shining pool. She trotted in a brambly dog and barked to hear echoes from the sides of distant barns. She lived in new April grasses, in sweet clear liquids rising from the musky earth.


The Possibilities of Xianxia (and Stealing from Chekhov) – I Shall Seal The Heavens Volume 1


I spent 5 hours reading the entire first volume of I Shall Seal The Heavens. I think of it as time amazingly well spent.

I think that the main joy of the Xianxia genre (besides magic bolts and watching arrogant asses get trumped by someone of a higher power level) is perspective. Xianxia works, with their meticulously charted power levels and rising levels of epicness, are works that can best invoke that “how did I get here feeling”.

I’m talking about the feeling where the protagonist is a small pip-squeak student in chapter 1, and by chapter 90 or so, he’s a guy that’s slinging around 500 flying swords. By book 6 he’ll probably be a close to Immortal level being that can destroy mountains with his fist.

The problem would be that the increase in perspective isn’t pegged to anything in particular. The general motions are still basically the same. All you’re doing is changing the size of the weapons and the scope of the personnel involved. The character undergoes changes, but these changes are the expected “Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger” psychological changes.

I can come up with a few alternate plots from that premise. I don’t know if they’ve been done before though.

The first would be what I call the ‘Reverse Shounen’. Basically, it is about a God falling lower and lower and giving away his powers to help various people until he finally has to fight a one-on-one battle in an alleyway with rusty knives, and it’s the absolute hardest and most exhilarating battle he has in the world.

The second would be what I call the ‘Xianxia Dictator’, which is where you have the first part play like a normal Xianxia novel, and then when he reaches Immortality, you perspective-swap to a normal mortal character having to live under his powers, and then you create a parallax by having the genre shift from that kind of easy escapism to really tooth and nail realistic hardcore battles.

These are merely novel premises. But they can be utilized to create greater meanings if you can balance the characters, setting, and prose with the themes.


The best aspect of Xianxia works would probably be the complete artifice. It doesn’t care about crafting an entire culture from ground up or building too detailed a setting. There is also little sense of time and place, and people seem to be flying through some kind of mountain or forest most of the time. It doesn’t conjure a setting until the plot requires it.

I wish that certain SF or Fantasy authors were less anal about their need to world-build, and cared more about the forward momentum of the plot, as well as the character interactions. After all, setting and ideas are kind of dead if they aren’t explicated in a way whereby a consciousness can interact with them.

Of course whether one CAN do that is a completely different matter altogether, but if you can’t, then you can just take 5-6 character axioms from Chekhov or some psychological short story writer and stick it into some character. At the very least, that’s a lot better than taking character ideas from overused stereotypes.

For example, one of Chekhov’s short story, the Two Volodoyas – involves a heroine, childhood friend, and one more guy. The childhood friend is called Little Volodoya while the other guy is called Big Volodoya. And the heroine is going to marry the more mature Big Volodoya rather than Little Volodoya. That already sets up a total Anime Light Novel character trio + NTR.

But since Chekhov is such a psychologically penetrating bastard, the story is anything but a normal love triangle. In fact, the two Volodoyas are the ones who profit more than the heroine by the end. Both Volodoyas are womanizers that get along really well.

During the story, she vacillates between loving Big Volodoya for his maturity, and Little Volodoya for his handsomeness. She falls into an affair with Little Volodoya in the end, and he negs her, treats her like a child, and tosses her aside casually after he’s done with her. She falls into ennui and self-depreciation while both Volodoyas “spent hours playing billiards and picquet”. All this is mixed up with a stunning Christian philosophy and poesy.

In other words, it’s an ‘NTR’ (or even a double-NTR) story where no male gets screwed and the heroine internally implodes for being ‘in love with falling in love’ (which is more nuanced than the masochistic fantasies of NTR stories). More importantly it’s about exploring the vicious psychological cycles that people will fall into, and the self-justifications they give themselves.

This story of a few pages has enough character material to create a screwed-up romantic character base. If you stuck supernatural elements, you could turn it into a Bakemonogatari style character exploration. If you threw in a murder mystery you could have a penetrating examination of passionate crime that no one has ever really done before. If you threw it into a high school setting with more jokes and adolescence and characters, you could turn it into a full fledged RomDrama. Yet people will always draw their character ideas from silly fantasies or well-worn stereotypes – even though Chekhov managed to make a masterful sketch of this kind of Romance waaay before stuff like White Album 2 could come out. Steal from the greats y’all! Don’t think you can beat them until you understand them first!

Developing Supreme Vision


In our information and book saturated era, one requires supreme discernment. This means understanding the ‘mode’ of a book with as little information about it as possible – so that you can know whether it’s worth it or not. When I use the word ‘mode’ I am talking a little about an author’s intentionality, but it’s slightly different. I’m more referring to an author’s capability – which is what is important anyway. This capability can be derived from what they choose to add and what they omit. It does not require you to guess what is inside their mind.

So, without further ado, these are some 3rd paragraphs from random books. I will not give any context. I will use the female gender when referring to the author. Continue reading

Dan Schneider’s Poem: War Comix #1452

As a continuance to my Schneider primer, let’s take a closer look at one of his poems. Now, Schneider himself has characterized his style as ‘cathedral-like’ in nature. Every verse or line is like a hardy brick building up to a grand picture.

Another artist who was described as creating ‘cathedrals’ is the composer Bruckner, and sometimes this criticism wasn’t a positive thing. Other terms that people have used to describe Bruckner includes – the creator of symphonic ‘boa-constrictors’. He’s been frequently contrasted with Mahler, whose symphonies were all about building up a world of color, sound, and feeling – both pleasing & ironic/jarring.

Many people out there confess to finding Bruckner’s symphonies too slow and choking. But others have argued he stands at the pinnacle of symphonically intellectual composition. Slowly and methodically making every piece fit into a structure.

To bring us back to poetry, if you were to contrast Schneider with a poet of lyrical shimmer like Plath, or ee cummings – you would something close to that kind of Bruckner/Mahler divide. He’s also rather different from a poet of pure delightful abstraction like Wallace Stevens. He has a thickness of technique that acts as a high barrier to entry to people who are unable to conjoin the constituents of all the parts.

This doesn’t apply to all of Schneider’s poetry though since, as I said before, he takes up a lot of subject matter. But Schneider’s closest compatriots poetry-wise would be Whitman (even he professes that Whitman was what first inspired him), Hart Crane, and Robinson Jeffers. But he’s also not a smooth follower of that rugged and rocky American verse. He can sound too prosaic at times, but this is only to people who can’t see the closer effects and combinations. Most importantly, he is a poet of the ‘intellectual-hijack’.

Let me, for example, look at this poem about one of Lichenstein’s Comic Book Paintings:

          WAR COMIX # 1452:


[Captain Armstrong ponders his perfect gaze
in a mirror. A man looks for himself
in a mirror. A woman looks at herself
in the album behind the dashing young officer
preening himself for battle. The man finds himself
in his eyes’ benday glint. In a moment
the olive-toned woman will drop the album.
She will succumb to his certain future and thrust
her brunet love, a gesture of appeasal,
on to his blond manhood, like young boys
surrender their plots to the bitter
TAKKA-TAKKA-TAKKA of machine guns….she will
love his pink unscarred body for now….the silent
lucidity of love will fill her eyes….unalone
in the empassioned air’s embrace….his death
will be a last finished panel to the selective genius
of war….the transcelestial flourish of honor….denied
to those who only carry justice on their tongues….]

Armstrong to mirror:

I chose this one because it has a very clear example of a technique that Schneider frequently excels at – the usage of enjambment to create 3-4 simultaneous meanings in a single line. If you can’t see these continuous aggregation of meanings, you can’t appreciate his verse.

The lines are at the start:

[Captain Armstrong ponders his perfect gaze
in a mirror. A man looks for himself
in a mirror. A woman looks at herself

The poem is based on Lichenstein’s paintings, some of which are based on one of those war comics with idealized male heroes. Already, this is set up in the first line which is a prosaic description of the idealized American soldier looking at himself in a mirror, but it then gains an extra meaning about sexuality & misogyny by the second and third lines.

The subtlety of the ‘for’ and ‘at’ characterizes the male as the ‘searcher’ while the female principle can’t ‘see beyond herself’ – and this is so true of those comics where the other gender is simply depicted as hanger-ons to the hero. On the other hand, it also holds a metaphysical import – describing the ‘Yin/Yang – Sun/Earth’ kind of archetype that is discussed by Mystics, or Weininger, or Jung etc… But it doesn’t show that layer through open analysis. It just draws a simple parallel through a shift in one word.

You can see the three simultaneities coming together here. Dan is describing the comic, but he’s also talking about American ideals, and misogynistic perceptions, and he’s also talking about abstractly about the dual M/F archetypal. And he does this by this sly enjambment where looking ‘in a mirror’ can be read with the part of the next sentence.

in the album behind the dashing young officer
preening himself for battle. The man finds himself
in his eyes’ benday glint. In a moment

This builds up the idealizations in the last few lines, by describing the young officer as ‘dashing’ and ‘preening himself’. There’s the enjambment again where he links the preening with ‘the man finds himself’ – which talks about arrogance & pride in externals.

And yet he drags us out again, by linking the soldier to the benday dots of Lichenstein’s painting. The new layer is added. It drags us back into the gallery looking at the painting, and since there’s a close proximity with the last line – the ‘preening’ can be conjoined with the act of creating art.

the olive-toned woman will drop the album.
She will succumb to his certain future and thrust
her brunet love, a gesture of appeasal,
on to his blond manhood, like young boys
surrender their plots to the bitter
TAKKA-TAKKA-TAKKA of machine guns….she will

These lines are saucy softcore descriptions, but they fit in the message of the idealization, and the link to war & machine guns is an ironic twist on the previous lines – what men give themselves up for: this idle masculine dream linked to sexuality & power. In the characteristically sarcastic Schneider fashion, he links the young boys getting shot by the guns to the woman getting fucked – which is pretty much self-explanatory. Even then, the ‘surrender their plots to the bitter’ is another subtlety because ‘plots’ can be linked up with the comic books themselves. It could even be just a general statement of a boy giving up childhood for a future ‘bitterness’ – not necessarily the war.

Even within the saucy description, there is still the sly enjambment of ‘certain future’ and ‘thrust’ – with mirrors with the hopes & dreams held inside the masculine perceiver of the ideal. The next line focuses on ‘gesture of appeasal’ at the enjamb, which points to the idea that feminine submissiveness is core in the ideal.

love his pink unscarred body for now….the silent
lucidity of love will fill her eyes….unalone
in the empassioned air’s embrace….his death
will be a last finished panel to the selective genius
of war….the transcelestial flourish of honor….denied
to those who only carry justice on their tongues….]

These lines lead up to the final message on both the allure & the perception of the ideal. The ‘pink unscarred body’ – both allowing for a link to freshness & immaturity, to the ideal, and enjambing /w ‘silent’ in order to add a metaphysical force to it. The ‘empassioned air’s embrace’ enjambs with ‘his death’ in order to parallel both the feminine ideal loving him, which is in fact the love of his own death. The next line draws us back into the comic-book page, but also implies that all this is the design of a higher thing. As if panel opens beyond a comic, but also a kind of artistic panel put in the final slate of a grand design.

The ‘transcelestial flourish of honor’ is linked to the ideal, but it is also linked, within the sentence, to ‘denied’. That’s is so totally amazing & fucked up! You get, simultaneously, the man striving for the ideal of a transcendent honor in war, but you also get the fact that the reality will deny him this. You can even get the connotation that war itself is the ‘transcelestial’ – the eternal transcendent order that has guided men since the start (see Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian for more ‘War is God’ stuff). The final line reminds me of so many people in my country that like to tell other people that they can’t “talk about National Service until they’ve been through it themselves” – and other kinda shit like that. War is both a horror & a pride. The soldiers take pride in having lived through the horror – floating on the dreams of masculinity.

                                Armstrong to mirror:

This is just like a cherry on top. It wraps up everything into the ideal of a nation, and its wars. Its faults & foibles in foisting a bloody ideal onto the citizenry, but also its allure. Ideal & Mirror. War & Love. Nation & It’s Enemies.

This is what I mean by Dan Schneider being a cognitive poet. In the above analyses I guided you through my thought process in coming up with my interpretations, and how Dan made those interpretations within me. But you can also see how many other people would view it. Think about how a Freudian analyst would view it – it’s so ripe for them due to all that Love is Death shit! Even a Marxist or a Situationist could talk about the spectacle of entertainment. A feminist reading works. But a misogynist could also read into it as a commentary on something that is denied to the opposing gender, because the last line can also be read as a statement of the lack of understanding the fight of men. It can even be read as a kind of metafiction, given that there are cues of the artist due to the benday & the comic descriptions. I chose to parallel it to Weininger & the Yin/Yang because that general abstraction was ripe within it for my brain to latch onto. It has that powerful ambiguity that makes the ending of A Clockwork Orange, with you being unable to know which side to root for (Alex or Government), such a resonant work. This is apparent in ALL of his poetry. I am only just realizing what kind of an iceberg he is. It’s also apparent in his prose as well, which reads like normal on the surface, but aims to leave upon your brain the mystery of life.

The main thing is that Dan’s poem exists before interpretation. It was made to vortex the minds of all sorts of people into it. It is the loveliest trap and this is the very crux of what poetry (and all art) should be. It shouldn’t merely be about lyricism or imagery or technique or a specific worldview – but about this cumulative explosions of ideas structured into a single frame. A world into itself. The Quantum Objective. Even if you like or dislike it based on your own feelings, it is itself a cathedral of meaning – and so a person who can make the logical connections cannot help but appreciate it for what it is.

And all that in a mere 20 lines!

(Forgot to add. Even the title links Lichenstein to Liechenstein – and the Nazis. That adds the extra layer of Aryan & Fascism being mirrored with American Idealizations & Propaganda etc…)

Bite-Sized: John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War

I completed John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War lately.

There’s a rule that Scalzi seems to follow, and it falls in line with another book which I completed lately – Frederik Pohl’s Gateway. That rule is – alien randomicity is fun. This also seems to be the principle behind Roadside Picnic (and any Stalker related material) as well as the Call of Cthulhu RPG.

While Pohl’s novel was all about exploring the psychological consequences of randomicity and the greater unknown on a person’s head though – Scalzi’s Old Man’s War is simply about milking as many alien worlds and battles for all the fun you can have, while throwing snarky joking characters into the mix, and expounding on all those general themes of military SF like the horrors of war etc…

So that makes Scalzi more or less the minimal standard for having character-oriented SF that uses its ideas for something more entertaining. It’s a pity – I also picked up the Three Body Problem lately (I’m on a military SF binge for some reason) – and that was astounding in its ideas and the science was probably ten times harder but it didn’t reach the level of fun that Scalzi was able to generate in 300 pages.

An issue to some would probably be that the character voices and personalities aren’t exactly well-distinguished. The snark carries over to more or less everyone in the novel. This, though, isn’t necessarily a problem if you know how to play it correctly. Romeo seems to suffer from this at times too, when he’s trying to maximize the jokes in the scenario and all of the characters start doing the same high-flown Romeo comedy exchange. He gets over this hump by relying on basic character stereotypes and modulating them away from their premises in order to develop something else. The rest of it comes in the strength of his themes, poetry, and psychological observations.

But Scalzi is touching on the same kinds of things that you’d expect in a lot of other Military SF, like the death of comrades and facing up against uncertain and inhuman enemies. That’s his limit. A higher level writer would probably be mixing up things that don’t seem as central to the narrative, but builds up the narrative still. Lately I’ve been diving into Kundera as well, and he’s a writer that makes frequent digressions and ironic ruminations, drawing from other philosophy, literature, and using metafictive techniques – but he still manages to maintain an emotional base because of how he fits it all together – and isn’t overbearing in his poetic prose.

I’m not, of course, saying that a person needs to have that kind of repertoire to be a good writer. Pohl tried to create a second layer to Gateway, for example, by interspersing a conversation between a therapist robot and the protagonist in between the action. The problem in that was that it felt like Pohl was writing in that ‘new wave sci-fi’ vein where everything is steeped deep in Freudian sexual angst and stuff like that. It made those portions of the novel a drag to go through.

But, if that kind of ‘experimentation’ is the alternative – then it may be a good thing that Scalzi doesn’t try to over-reach and focuses on merely making gripping good fun.

I also have to do a brief examination on the Action front. Scalzi does come up with some interesting (and also funny) battles and innovative solutions. Yet you won’t really see any of the ‘grand skirmishes’ that comes with other kinds of insane military-focused action fiction. Neither does he understand the art of Chuuni, so he doesn’t milk the action beats for all their worth. The battles will either be descriptive with character thoughts laden in, or they’ll lead up to a punch-line (e.g. Bender getting fried while trying to open diplomatic communication with an alien race).

It seems to be that the secret to writing good action is actually the opposite of the sacred “Show, don’t Tell” rule. That’s because good action is, really, anything but the action itself. Action is fun because there are extended stratagems based on human intellect behind what appears to be a mere series of physical moves. You wouldn’t find a chess game, sports or fighting game fun unless you knew the exact value-exchanges and tactical intentions of the two players.

So there was this scene in Old Man’s War which was five one-on-one battles between top-class supersoldiers and aliens with nasty bladed arms. The actual depiction of the battles themselves were nothing but a flurry of body part descriptions. There was no explanation (the same kind Kawakami might pull) as to why these moves were important. Neither was there any overtly cool/Chuuni descriptions – except maybe a bit in the last battle. Perhaps the later books in the series will have larger and cooler battles, but for now it doesn’t seem like it.

Of course it could also be because they want to convey all the ‘horror of war’ stuff and tone down on the fun action aspect – making all the battles either gritty or ironic dark humor – but those aren’t really mutually exclusive since Hanachirasu can pull it off while keeping both grit and dark humor.

Overall Scalzi definitely stands as the basic template for how to do fun but also dramatic and gritty Military SF – but he also represents quite a few things that have to be unlearned for anyone who’s planning to break the bounds of the genre. At the very least – he created that magical effect within me where I thought I would be just having a light read before sleeping, and found myself going through all 300 pages in a single session.

It also reminds me that I still have yet to touch Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

Bite-Sized: Excerpts From Brother Odd by Dean Koontz

For some reason I randomly started reading Dean Koontz’s Brother Odd. It was given to me by a friend some time ago, but it was on my bookshelf untouched until now.

Holy crap, the way the prose enters straight into your brain is something to behold. This type of information condensation intermixed with the forward push of action, as well as crazily Gothic descriptions is the pinnacle of action writing. It has just the right mixture of snarky, poetic, and straightforward.

Excerpt A

I hurled myself through the snowfall, so it seemed as though a wind had sprung up, pasting flakes to my lashes.

In this second minute of the storm, the ground remained black, unchanged by the blizzard’s brush. Within a few bounding steps, the land began to slope gently toward woods that I could not see, open dark descending toward a bristling dark.

Intuition insisted that the forest would be the death of me. Running into it, I would be running to my grave.

The wilds are not my natural habitat. I am a town boy, at home with pavement under my feet, a whiz with a library card, a master at the gas grill and griddle.

If my pursuer was a beast of the new barbarism, he might not be able to make a fire with two sticks and a stone, might not be able to discern true north from the growth of moss on trees, but his lawless nature would make him more at home in the woods than I would ever be.

I needed a weapon, but I had nothing except my universal key, a Kleenex, and insufficient martial-arts knowledge to make a deadly weapon of them.

Cut grass relented to tall grass, and ten yards later, nature put weapons under my feet: loose stones that tested my agility and balance. I skidded to a halt, stooped, scooped up two stones the size of plums, turned, and threw one, threw it hard, and then the other.

The stones vanished into snow and gloom. I had either lost my pursuer or, intuiting my intent, he had circled around me when I stopped and stooped. I clawed more missiles off the ground, turned 360 degrees, and surveyed the night, ready to pelt him with a couple of half-pound stones.

Nothing moved but the snow, seeming to come down in skeins as straight as the strands of a beaded curtain, yet each flake turning as it fell.

I could see no more than fifteen feet. I had never realized that snow could fall heavily enough to limit visibility this much.

Once, twice, I thought I glimpsed someone moving at the limits of vision, but it must have been an illusion of movement because I couldn’t fix on any shape.

The patterns of snow on night gradually dizzied me.

Holding my breath, I listened. The snow did not even whisper its way to the earth, but seemed to salt the night with silence.

Some parts of the book are also so ridiculous but fun that they remind me of Romeo digressions, like how Odd Thomas will randomly commentate about the ridiculous history of the physicist living in the basement, being attacked by the mass media, with amazing wit and speed. Sadly, I’m 100 pages in and I can already tell that he won’t be able to link it up to that greater macrocosmic view that Romeo is always able to pull off. The poesy, jokes, and descriptions, are more for entertainment than for meaning – although some parts manage to breach something a bit higher.

This makes me think – what will happen to Romeo 50 years later when we lose half of the references that he sticks all around his works? Koontz is already suffering from a bit of datedness in his writing because he has a lot of references that merely hang there without any greater import. I would say that Romeo’s ideas will still come through, although his jokes would probably seem a lot less ‘perfect’ to those of us who have a better access to what he’s talking about. This is another reason why I view the structure and characterization as important – while other things will fall away, those will remain as foundation.

Excerpt B

Wondering if the brain-damaged girl had made room for a visitor, I wished the bottomless blue eyes would polarize into a particular pair of Egyptian-black eyes with which I was familiar.

Some days I feel as if I have always been twenty-one, but the truth is that I was once young.

In those days, when death was a thing that happened to other people, my girl, Bronwen Llewellyn, who preferred to be called Stormy, would sometimes say, “Loop me in, odd one”. She meant that she wanted me to share the events of my day with her, or my thoughts, or my fears and worries.

During the sixteen months since Stormy had gone to ashes in this world and to service in another, no one had spoken those words to me.

Justine moved her mouth without producing sound, and in the adjacent bed, Annamarie said in her sleep, “Loop me in.”

Room 32 seemed airless. Following those three words, I stood in a silence as profound as that in a vacuum. I could not breathe.

Only a moment ago, I had wished these blue eyes would polarize into the black of Stormy’s eyes, that the suspicion of a visitation would be confirmed. Now the prospect terrified me.

When we hope, we usually hope for the wrong thing.

We yearn for tomorrow and the progress that it represents. But yesterday was once tomorrow, and where was the progress in it?

Or we yearn for yesterday, for what was or what might have been. But as we are yearning, the present is becoming the past, so the past is nothing but our yearning for second chances.

“Loop me in,” Annamarie repeated.

As long as I remain subject to the river of time, which will be as long as I may live, there is no way back to Stormy, to anything.

Shit. Too bad this scene is off-hand and used more for an explication on general love angst than for something else – but it points to what Dean Koontz could have done if he had a better sense of structure rather than merely wishing to leave things in pulp. The “loop me in odd one” part is a bit precious, but the part about time reminds me of the opening of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. The fact that it’s structured after speedy cascades of Gothic touches gives it the potential to be an ‘out’ – had the situation packed the punch.

Once again, I outline the difference between poetry and prose. If a writer can structure the push of the situation around a certain idea, he can create a great impact without much flowery poetry, while in a poem it has to be sustained. That’s why Hesse’s Siddartha doesn’t have to be as hallucinogenic as something like Nabokov or Joyce in its descriptions, but by placing the poetics at the correct intervals, he can create a sense of a full life reaching something deeper.

That is why, if Koontz had chose to structure that statement around something better than general love angst, it would have been his gateway into greatness. This, sadly, is denied to a writer who has such great technical prowess in his prose and a potential methodology (using a ridiculous gothic scenario from the start allows for a greater sense of the illusion, which allows him to be more tempestuous in his comic side – although a bunch of reviewers around will disagree). He remains on the threshold. He cannot as yet press in.

Then again, maybe some amazing thing will happen in the next couple hundred pages.

The Death of Fantasy? – On Weavenight In Castilagia


It’s a rare sight to come across something that seems to have skittered past everyone’s attention. I’m talking about the rarely known English Fantasy-Novel Weavenight in Castilagia. Then again, looking at the spine and the details it seems to have come from a South-East Asian publisher that closed down back in 2012. I didn’t even know that SEA had a market for these kinds of books.

I found the work at a used bookstore somewhere in Bras-Basah Complex, and the title, as well as the blurb at the back, was deeply intriguing. It reads something like this:

In the forests of Castilagia, one man has little understanding of his imminent destiny. The lot he’ll strike. The hammer he’ll forge. The skies fall with rotting darkness and demons plague the land. Nothing is as it seems, and everything is cast in misty darkness. Still, he’ll rise to meet the occasion.”

The blurb ends sharply like that. It’s definitely a burst of fresh air to have a blurb so blatantly impressionistic without bothering to care about anything like explanation of the plot or narrative of the contents within the book. But it still seems to be a whole stock of edgy clichés. The fact that the cover was just that of a random burly character striking down a large beast – like Shingeki no Kyojin – didn’t exactly help its case. Yet, I flipped through the book and I saw that the writing style was interesting – so I decided to pick it up.

It’s a good thing I did too!

It seems that this book, that I can’t really find much about online, is definitely inspired by the light novel and manga traditions – yet it uses precisely those traditions to reach unfathomable heights quite well beyond the genre. I have no idea how something like this book could have possibly been conceived. It’s just the adequate amount of dark and gripping mixed with a lightness that very little can pull off. We all know what happened with Mayoiga!

Still, without further ado, let me dive into the contents of the book.


This world of Castilagia, it seems, is a general dark fantasy setting plagued by demons and monsters. It’s also very survivalist. By necessity of the setting, the characters within the book all have to be nomads, since there’s no knowing exactly when a huge plague of demons will fall down and mince up their caravans. In fact, the protagonist puts it so aptly over here:

“In the night of trees, we walked. We talked and were aware of our walking. We have always been walking and dragging our tents and wagons through the darkness. We have to walk – because we are always fleeing. The darkness is constant. The darkness will always be constant.”

This protagonist, named Thomas, starts off as a little cherub who knows very little of the world. Being a part of a nomad community, he has his own friends, and especially a love interest, that he’s been walking with since young. They are taught how to fight, and use weaponry, and all the general things that one has to learn when they’re stuck in a scenario as crappy as this one. It goes into brief details about how the nomads move around and settle down and are quick to evacuate should the trouble come. For about 10 or so chapters, it’s a mere excursion of their way of life, but it also develops the characters well, with a whole lot of humor in these parts that keeps the interest constant.

The author even has moments where you can tell he’s fully aware of the genre tropes, and makes fun of them:

“Thomas was a boy budding into puberty, and so when he saw Samantha naked, his eyes grew wider than caravan wheels.

It is at this moment where we shall indulge in a commentary on gender.

There was once a mystical scroll that described sexuality as “the freshness of dew limned on the horn of a Baelog”. That is to say, the tenderness is inexplicably still tied up with a certain level of aggression. Samantha, furthermore, was constantly taught about the horrible things that the dark crawlers of the night love to do to human orifices. Thus, her reaction to Thomas’ lustful gaze was extremely disproportionate, being an adolescent with little but intuitive grasp on the matter.

She did not do anything silly like scream, mainly because her mind had processed him as an ‘enemy-figure’. Nomads are always jumpy like that. Her first instinct was ‘suppression, and then, destruction’. She lunged at him with the intent to fling him down and stomp on his face.

Thomas, being equally well-trained but less distinctive, also labeled her as an ‘enemy-figure’. The towel dropped from his waist, and he proceeded to enact certain defensive maneuvers well taught to him by his father.

This was how this accident of Thomas catching sight of Samantha turned into 10 minutes of naked sparring before anyone could properly process the matter. Thereafter, they spent a week in deep embarrassment, each refusing to look at the other.”

Of course, we’ll know that these things can’t last, and eventually a flock of demons will descend on them to break them to pieces. That’ll start the whole ‘struggle for survival’ arc for the protagonist. It’s a standard thing in grimdark fantasy works. The sadistic joy comes from knowing who will live, and who will die, and who does the protagonist have to work with to survive, and the characterization that stems from those moments.


In the meantime, let me go a bit into detail on the demons of the book.

Actually, this is one of the best parts of the whole story – its treatment on mythology and human narrative – as well as the spread of information.

The nomad community that Thomas is a part of has only been around for 50-60 or so years. That’s because the dangers of nature grossly outweigh their ability to survive. The only fount of knowledge they have is through a spare amount of books, and memories of the most elderly figure among them.

The oldest member of the community is around a 100, and he has lived to see an entire nomad community be destroyed by demons. He is a great record of tracking techniques and survival techniques that the older communities used – to remain constantly aware of things. He views this information as the most important, and so he dedicates his spare time to writing it out in a chest of books.

Did I mention that everyone is immortal? I better mention that. They don’t really know it, of course, since they keep dying to demons.

Other than that, there is little knowledge of anything around them. They don’t even know whether any cities exist. They have no maps, because maps can only be derived from waypoints, and it’s too dangerous to backtrack. A community like this will only ‘read the flow’ through signs in the trees and bushes, to possible sources of food and shelter.

Likewise, the demons have only a mythic quality to them, told in the form of poetry and tales. This is the result of the community being more evasive than confrontational, so they don’t exactly have any information from killing demons. The signs are conveyed through script like this:

“A howl that breaks

A small purple flame on a horn

Beware, the Baelog commences

Shift away, sure-foot and quiet

Beware, beware

The thistle-toed Manarchs are Baelog’s kin

They scrounge the land he stands on

So a Baelog’s presence is multiplied by ten shadows”


Even then, the list of demons is still limited, and there are countless more that they’ve not heard of. It’s exactly this error which leads to the downfall of the community, when something they don’t expect rises out of nowhere and strikes them down. Thomas is sent frantically sprinting away with his best friend and love interest (Giles and Samantha), deeper into the trees, clutching a few scrolls for the sake of knowledge.

This is one of the most gripping moments of the narratives, not because of the actual attack, but because they have to navigate for weeks with little knowledge and rely on each other. This is the part where the characterization really shines in moments like these:

“Samantha screamed as Thomas brought the fires in to cauterize the wound. Giles held her down. She was muttering and screaming in the delusion of pain.

— I’ve only an arm now. I’m a feast for carrion-crawlers. I can’t stand it. Let them take me.

She went swirling in circles while the dark bowl of night swallowed them deeper.

When he stared at that slowly browning stump, Thomas saw the death of the ideal. This was all she was, the mere lump of flesh. Burdensome. A weight down to death.

No. She wasn’t. This made it even more of a thing to protect.

— You saved us when you threw that Manarch. How could you even think that we’d throw you?

Giles chipped in

— You’re the quickest brawler we’ve ever saw. You’d even take them with one arm!

They didn’t even know whether she heard them, because she had stopped screaming, and had swayed into sleep. The immutable calm of a one-armed princess.

They’d have to continue on.”

At this point they run into a hunter-focused community, which they join. This community has been around for much longer, and they’re more in-tune with the ways of killing demons. They know their enemy. It’s from here that Thomas picks up more knowledge on the constitution of the enemy.

Unfortunately they also happen to be patriarchal pricks. Thus all the traumatic things that you can think of involving patriarchal pricks also happens to Samantha. The strange thing is that the writing style here is never too heavy, and a bit ironic. All of the traumas are always treated with a bit of a dark comedic edge that would probably offend many many people. Example:

“–A game?

Samantha was puzzled. The two service-women smiled.

–Yes. Like, think of the amount of configurations a Baelog can make to his face while he’s pounding you down.

–I like to put my arms around them and see the amount of hairs I can pluck from their neck before they notice.

Samantha raised her stump.

–Arm. Singular.

A woman without legs who seemed like she was waddling on two wooden bowls walked-in at that very moment

–Lemina the Legless, pleasure to meet you.”


The next part of the narrative is how Giles somehow turns arrogant and bloodthirsty, buying into the ideals of the hunter-flock. In the meantime Thomas is trying desperately to rebel against their ways. This all leads up to a scene where Giles puts out Thomas’s eye with a heated sword. They throw him into a cell where he stays sullen for weeks.

Of course, things have to carry on, so a new flock of demons comes about, and these ones are horrifying and tough enough to decimate the lot. Thomas manages to grab Samantha in the scuffle and they flee once again.

Wonders of wonders, they reach an actual city.

By the way, this is an extremely thick book. All that I’ve already described ran for about 200 pages, with intricate poetic descriptions, characterizations, and gripping action scenes. This next part will last for around twice that amount. 400 – 500 pages.

It delves into the political intrigue of the city, its history, and shows Thomas & Samantha’s slow rise into the political ranks of the inner court. This massive city has been around for 500 years, from the efforts of a charismatic nomad king who struggled to build up this sanctuary while fending off monsters. This is the only city standing in the whole area, since it’s such a rare occurrence.

Also detailed in this strange cult rallying around a mystic figure known as Neiman Schecht. The works of Schecht are a series of poetic aphorisms that seem to tell of some obscure myth about the signs of gods in the sky, and men who will be able to rise higher than the forms of men. A lot of it seems to be derived from the philosophy of Nietzsche and Julius Evola, as well as a whole bunch of Taoist writings. There’s a whole prophecy about an eternally damning cycle of destruction.

The complex politics of the city is based around a system called the ‘right-brain, left-brain’ system. It comes from the fact that the city decides through the interconnection of three powers, as described here:

“The executionary stood in the centre and cast his eyes over the two rows of tables.

Five men on each side stood. They each, in turn, gave their case, as well as the points of rebuttal for the other side. This was merely an enumeration of the points that the executionary had already read in a brief beforehand.

From the two policies provided. The executionary took one, and threw it into the fires before him. The court exploded into applause. The motion was delivered. Now they would act.”


The executionaries are a group of 10, each one drawn from one of the ten sectors within the city, who are solely there to derive problems and choose solutions. The actual solutions are decided by the two councils. These three parts make up the inner court. The executionaries get together to discuss problems they want to present to the councils. They have the power to determine, exclusively, what problem it is that has to be dealt with.

The actual executionary who decides in the end which policy to be taken is done through rotation. After a policy is chosen to be enacted, when the next problem has to be solved, the citizens within the city conduct a referendum on the executionary of the previous policy. If the referendum indicates the executionary is not up to standard, he has to step down and choose another executionary – of his own choice. Thus every executionary has to have his stand-in already chosen, should he be expunged from the court. Because they’re immortal, they can actually be chosen again as a stand-in. Yet, they cannot be chosen again until 3 stand-ins have been swapped.

These parts are very complicated, so I’m flipping back to the book to get the details proper.

Anyway the two councils have their own different kind of electoral process. If the referendum on the policy comes back in the negative, the party who came up with the policy has to undergo a rotation. The right-council gets to rotate by choosing among themselves, but they’re forbidden from choosing the same people that they’ve dropped before until 20 years later.

The left-council runs single round elections based on this system called the ‘Public School’. Beyond solving problems, the left-council also runs a school system that takes in pupils nominated from schools around the 10 sectors. These students will be specially trained to process problems and come up with policies – and all their results will be fully publicized for everyone to see. Once these students reach their 4th year, those that haven’t quit or are thrown out become electoral candidates.

When the rotation period comes along, the left-council will run a single-run of elections where the people can nominate which 4th year students will be taken in by the left-council in place of the members who have to be swapped out. The right-council can also poach Public School candidates on their side if they want, of their own choosing. Thus one side is merito-democratic, and the other side is up to its own discretion.

Beyond that, the other institutions are the same as any other city.

This system was conceived of by the founder in order to maximize the uncertainty element to prevent abuse, while ensuring that the citizens have a part in the say, though not too much to turn into populism.

He ran the city for 100 years as a monarch before switching over.

Yet, even with such a system, there are still dark forces afoot, and the founder was assassinated a few years after he stepped down.


This thrilling section of the novel is chock full of political debates, diplomatic interventions, and creepy conspiracies. Most of it revolves around the undoing of a plan by the followers of Neiman Schecht to take over the city. It involves Thomas entering the Public School while Samantha enters the Defence (Military-Police) Force. The climactic moment comes with a raid on a cultist lair and the prevention of an assassination. It’s all very very thrilling.

Sadly, we can’t forget the dark fantasy setting, so all things must fall.

The Schecht cult’s prophecy apparently does come true, and a humongous wave of demon comes tumbling from the skies, decimating everything in the process. The executionary enacts an emergency policy to place power into the hands of the Defence Force. The war is fought for many months with the Sectors slowly falling one after another. Samantha leads a team of elite troop into a mad-rush to try and vanquish the massive demon at the head of the flock, and the whole team gets destroyed. Thomas finds an escape route and gets out of the city.

This is where it goes even crazier.

The thing about Weavenight in Castilagia is that it has a very very good control of the time element. The opening survivalist part takes up a span of a few years. The city section takes up several years, seguing into decades. At this third part, which marks the closing chapter, the time-span extends to centuries.

It all comes when Thomas reaches the ‘edge’ and climbs up a mountain path to view the top. There, he realizes the truth. From the top of the mountain, he can see that the two areas are amazingly similar. Just a stock of forests going for miles and miles. He makes a pilgrimage to keep going in a single line, and realizes that the mountains enclose a square land that’s copy-pasted until infinity. Although the inhabitants of the land are different each time, and their configurations are affected by the inhabitants, the lands are all basically the same. Like the Library of Babel applied to the world.

He finds other nomad communities, and other cities, and he goes through the same cycle of destruction again and again and again. No city can stand because the forces of darkness will eventually bring it down to the ground. He realizes that the world is an endless trap made by a haughty architect. And he comes to this conclusion, quoting the writings of Schecht:

“As I have come here, as I have been laden with its sweets and joys, as well as its curses. I am the camel in the desert – wanderer, footless. I have become the lion. I must be free. I must find myself to be free. The values of time are many dragons I must kill.”

Over time he hardens himself into a sense of impeccable calmness, and he lasts for centuries, and then millennia, meeting and forgetting people. As he walks he suddenly realizes that his heart has developed into a beating red crust of diamond protruding out of his chest. He realizes that this means he is ripe for the next step.


Keeping in with the Nietzschean themes applied to a fantasy narrative, Thomas discovers the secret of the world. He spends some time viewing the skies, and sees that there are strange phenomena and storms in the heavens before each flock of demons comes down. He is reminded of Schecht’s myths that the gods are clashing in the skies, and the demons are born from the death of gods.

Then he asks himself – where do the gods come from?

It is here that he understands he must find another one with a red heart like him. After wandering long enough he does. This happens to be Giles, who has gone on as long as him, with different communities and cities. They greet each other, and they know they must fight each other.

This exact fight is described with such verve of passion, and uses motifs from the past all throughout the story – indicating the culmination of the two protagonist’s memories mirrored in the battle. The prose here becomes harsh and poetic:

“He grabbed the wrist. The child grabbed the wrist of the father. The man grabbed the wrist of the beast. He threw strong enough to crack the trees, and force the thunder to beat down on them even though there was hardly a sign of a drizzle. The crack of a spine as Samantha slammed the beast. The crack of the back as the hunters had slammed him to the floor. The cracks proliferated, then rebounded, the reversed. The land built with cracks and thunders. The two fought on.”

Thomas wins, and he tears the crystal heart of Giles out of his chest, and proceeds to consume it. Then, he feels himself growing and ascending to a cosmic height. He finally finds himself standing ‘above’ the world, on a strange plane, as a god.

He also realizes he’s clad in shimmering armor and bears a sword. Suddenly he sees another god coming at him, and he knows that he must fight as well.


By now the prose has gotten, quite frankly, to the ridiculous level that seems to care little for human understanding. Perhaps it’s meant to reflect the incomprehensibility of the plane that Thomas now stands on, but fights are displayed like this:

“He waltzed into the winterwind, and the thousand butterflies of midnight clutched to his skull and he screamed – which turned into a whirlpool of thought – that decimated the god before, and forever, and beyond, and forever.”

It’s a bit like Gothic + Stream of Consciousness + Chuunibyou. While that wave after wave of prose comes at you, it touches a bit on the time-scale of the plane. Apparently every step that Thomas takes translates to a lot of years on the material world. The slashes and damage that the gods deal to each other splashes into that world as the flocks of demons. The massive flood of demons comes whenever a god is killed on this plane.

Thankfully all this isn’t really spread out, and by this point it has to reach its conclusion.

After fighting through gods and more gods, and several thousands of years passing by, it reaches a point where Thomas finally comes to this elevated structure (which is immaterial) in the world he is in. There a massive creature that is described like a Final Fantasy final boss appears and it seems that this is, indeed, the last fight. Thomas conjectures that this is the mechanism making the world stick together, and if he fails to defeat this thing – the whole system will restart itself and everyone has to go through a ton more suffering.

This final massive fight goes on for reams of prose, and ends in the final boss’s destruction. Thomas takes over as the new system, and floats out into the infinite emptiness, given that he’s the only being left. As he floats there, his mind seems to grow to expand everything around, and he sets up the next system as such:

“Perhaps we can live in a world without the latticework of destruction to be the foster of our growth. My mind sank into its own contemplation, into the infinity of that space where all one can do is to conceive. I thought of the latticework. Should it be the latticework of discovery? I cannot call my version of reality a foolproof one, but I can promise it to be slightly better than the last.

A world built on the latticework of discovery. A world built on the conception of a cipher. I will be at the end of its laws, rules, and numerals – its rules of logics – its bridges. I will be there. See if you can find me.”

And the book ends on a metafictional flourish, which you can easily guess the implication of.

“So he finished the book. Look up in the sky. Consider the world around you that is your crucible, and the latticework of opportunity that stands upon the ashes of the latticework of destruction. There is much destruction still, but there is a better world than that latticework. Death is the mother of invention. Invent to me, until we can see the edges of this world. Make the space and the extension your domain – voyager, starburst, speaker.”


This insane book that is equal parts cosmic treatise, political treatise, comedy, tragedy, dark fantasy, and psychological exploration shows just how far from exhaustion fantasy, as a genre, really is. Which begs the question, if the author of Weavenight in Castilagia – whose pseudonym, I have to mention, is Kashiwagi Molten (in Kanji: 这是假书) – can synthesize so many tropes and literary traditions into a single impeccable work of art – why are there still so many screeching naysayers about the death of Literature?

My conclusion has to be that they simply do not have the ambition to carry out such a task to its eventual end – nor can they view the possibilities. As such they are like the critics and artists who were so caught up in their Realist exercises that they could not possibly conceive of the sheer beauty that would erupt from the Impressionist movement. This book’s existence has taught me to refuse to be like them.

I don’t think I have the abilities, at the moment, to even reach Kashiwagi Molten’s vision of a fantasy novel. It is simply too grand and too overbearing for my feeble hands to even craft words in the way that he does over the 800 or so pages of his debut fantasy novel. I don’t even think I have the abilities, at the moment, to reach someone like Nisio Isin in his prolific style. I bet Kashiwagi Molten is currently working on his next novel, and, from various sources on some forums, I hear that it’s a Science Fiction book which synthesizes countless tropes from everywhere in the genre. The excerpts given already have that specific Kashiwagi madness tinged to it – something about Capgras Syndrome, the writings of Daniel Dennett, and the issue of whether the Intellect is greater than the Body.

Where-ever Kashiwagi Molten is, I wish him all the best. May he find his path and find it well. But he’s convinced me to strive in the same way, as he does.