mjj (flemmings) wrote,

The Europeans are right. Being slightly intoxicated all the time makes the world a far more bearable place. Two glasses of wine- in a restaurant: for some reason it doesn't work at home- restores hope and possibility to life. Friends; love; fanfic even- all are within one's grasp again.

Well, maybe not fanfic.

The trouble with writing 100 Ghosts fic, I realize, is that not only Ima's own settei but the nature of Japan itself militates against the weird and eerie. In her world, as mikeneko observed, unhuman phenomena are the stuff of everyday life, like mildew and cockroaches. You put out drying sachets and flick the scuttling incorporeal beasties off your back; your guardian demon is somewhere between an absent-minded parent and a cat in terms of companionship and usefulness. Nothing odd about it; just the way it is.

Japan itself is worse. I'd figured, Hell, I'll use some place I know as a setting: and then realized no place I know in Japan has any psychic resonance at all. Any place in England does; most places in Toronto could. Parents I know have seen middle-aged women standing in the hallways of their houses at 3 am; most of us have heard footsteps at the old daycare and, thinking it was other staff arriving, gone up to greet them, only to find the place still empty except for ourselves. The past piles up, even here. But not in Japan. Japan's present reality is so thin, how can it have a past one that even registers on the present? I know it's got this misty rainy Buddhist tradition when needed; but the place is usually too Shinto and sunny for that to last long.

Even when it does have a sense of past, it operates on a different wavelength from our own. Kyoto is an ancient city that, as someone said, is about as shadowy and romantic as Stockholm. Equally, I never quite liked Sunshine City. I just... didn't like it. No sense of oppression or anything, I just didn't like it. It's built on the former Sugamo prison where the Japanese war criminals were executed. Yes, well, fine: but it doesn't have the heavy wrongness of London Tower. I just didn't like it, in the same way I didn't like the Seibu Shinjuku railway line that has no ghosts on it at all. It just doesn't feel nice. (The Toubu Tohjou line by contrast feels just great.)

Strangeness in Japan has to locate itself in China to feel properly strange. Which is equally odd, given how mundane China generally is. But this is a literary trope, a Japanese one-- not the mysterious Orient but supernatural China. Chinese supernatural is refined; Japanese supernatural, as I keep complaining, is vulgar beyond belief. No wonder the Japanese keep looking across the sea. The best Japan can manage is haunted objects, and as a literary trope it works well. In reality... well, if you can find an old enough house with old enough objects in it, *maybe* there's some atmosphere still attached (as I think of a house up in the Tohoku that *almost* managed the atmosphere of my cousins' house in the French countryside. But in Tokyo? Forget it. The only old places in Tokyo are temples, whose very function militates against lingering spirits.)

Shinto might provide something to be going on. It's on crack, like early Irish mythology. People just don't *do* stuff like that. (It's worse than Irish mythology, actually. There's a passage in the Tain where Queen Maeve gets her period just before a battle. 'By god,' says her lover, 'you have picked a bad time for this.' That's called kitchen sink drama where I come from.) paleaswater is impressed by the 100 Ghost stories that run off of folk beliefs, that to her have the ineffable strangeness of the truly foreign. With respect, I'm sure folk practices do indeed look strange and incomprehensible to the child of Chinese intellectuals, but to me they're as unremarkable as Ritsu's bird youkai servants are to him. I'm a pre-Vatican2 cradle Catholic, and when you've been through the tangled folk beliefs of Irish and Italian Catholicism, with their scapulas and rosaries and Holy Days of Obligation and children of Fatima and mummified saints' fingers encased in gold reliquaries, trust me, *nothing* other people get up to looks weird. You have to hit id territory, as Ricard Gorey does, before I do gooseflesh. His Black Doll creeps me, no doubt the same way that Borrowing God creeps paleaswater. The challenge is to find something Black Dollish in Ritsu's world to write about: otherwise I shall wind up merely doing some kind of Richard Sheridan scenario, only with youkai instead of London wits.
Tags: 100demons, japan, place, writing

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