It’s no secret the Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most masterful and celebrated film makers of the past century. The Japanese writer/director’s studio, Studio Ghibli, author to contemporary classic like My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke, has helped introduce countless young (and old) people to the beautiful Japanese legends and myths that so frequently form the heart and soul of their movies. They also provide a nice counterpoint to the Hollywood-heavy Disney and Pixar films of today. But not all of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s films are focused on the retelling of Eastern stories. This recently revealed concept art shows what could have been if Studio Ghibli had moved ahead with production on an adaptation of the classic Swedish story of Pippi Longstocking.
Funny enough, io9 reports, “Hayao Miyazaki and [fellow animator] Isao Takahata began preproduction on an adaptation of Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking books, but in the end, were unable to secure Lindgren’s permission.” Looking at Miyazaki’s history as a film maker, it’s difficult to believe that Miyazaki would run into such road blocks, but it’s important to note that in ’71 he was still in the infancy of his career as a film maker, working at Toei Animation. Lucky for us, Miyazaki’s concept art for the film still exists.
By exploring themes of adventure, nurturing love, and family, Miyazaki’s films encourage children and adults alike to remember that there’s magic in the world if they just look for it. With her superhuman strength, adventurous and unconventional personality, it’s no surprise that the master filmmaker was drawn to Pippi Longstocking.
For many readers, escaping into a good fantasy or science fiction novel is a way to leave the ordinary world behind, to enter into a land of wonder, where anything can happen and things of magical beauty and indescribably evil can coexist and clash for supremacy. But, ask anyone who has examined our own world, and you’ll soon realize that Earth has as much wonder and fascinating people, places and events to match even the most bombastic genre novel. Kowloon’s Walled City, traceable back to its origins as a salt-trading post during the Song Dynasty, was home to as many as 50,000 people. The Walled City was demolished in 1993.
Just one look at this amazing cross-section of the city illustrates the staggering breadth of human creation and adaptability.
On Visual News, Paul Caridad explains the nature of Hong Kong’s walled city:
At one time, one of the most densely populated areas on Earth, Kowloon, was a walled city within Hong Kong. It was unregulated by the then-ruling British authorities, who reluctantly allowed it as the only Chinese settlement. It was a no man’s land because of this; run by the Chinese mafia and filled with brothels, sweat shops, illegal hospitals, and trashy eateries.
Originally, Kowloon was built as a watchpost for guards who would protect the area from pirates. But as the population grew–from 10,000 in 1971 to a staggering 50,000 in 1990–attempts were made by the government to evict the squatters living in the city. In 1992, the governent succeded in evicting the population and, in 1993, the 15 story tall block of buildings was torn down. Today, a park with tennis courts covers the area.
For more on Kowloon’s Walled City, io9 highlight’s a German (English-subtitled) documentary about the city, and 99% Invisible podcast about the city. They’re both worth a look, and also worth reflecting, perhaps, on some of the luxuries that we all take for granted today.
What are some of your favourite real world locations that would fit right in in a fantasy or science fiction novel?
Magic In Shakespeare: We’re Not In The Ghetto, We’re Literary Old Town
Why did Shakespeare write fantasies? Why not mainstream topics, such as histories and romantic comedies?
Before we examine this question, let us examine a few others first: Fantasies are fun! Why doesn’t everybody read them? What is mainstream? Why is a story about ordinary life considered mainstream, while an equally charming fantasy is relegated to the back of the bookstore?
I had a bit of insight into this many years ago, when I first became a writer. Through a mutual friend, I connected with a fellow writer who was hard at work on a mystery. I was writing a fantasy with a great deal of mystery elements, so this sounded like a great meeting of minds. We exchanged manuscripts and then met for coffee.
How could a staff be magical? It caused a person to teleport? How does that work? The reader isn’t going to be able to follow this without an explanation.
I pointed out a few inconsistencies in her otherwise well-appointed story. She thanked me. Then, frowning over her drink, she pointed to my manuscript and said, “In this scene here, your character uses a ‘magic staff?’ You don’t explain what a ‘magic staff’ is. How could a staff be magical? It caused a person to teleport? How does that work? The reader isn’t going to be able to follow this without an explanation.”
In that moment, I learned a tremendous amount about writing and human nature.
I learned that my novel would never be a mainstream novel, that people who lived their lives only concerned about daily life wanted to read about the issues they encountered in said daily life, and that the ideas that we fantasy and science fiction readers take for granted are extraordinary and intimidating to the ordinary reader. I was writing a novel for fantasy fans. People who already understood what a magic item was. Such people did not need explanations about the basics. They were already familiar with these concepts.
Mainstream readers are not. Continue reading
Ken Liu, World Fantasy Award-winning author of The Paper Menagerie, announced yesterday the sale of his first novel, The Chrysanthemum and the Dandelion, and its sequels. The Chrysanthemum and the Dandelion is the first volume of The Dandelion Dynasty. A full synopsis of the series was provided on io9:
The Dandelion Dynasty follows Kuni Garu, a charming bandit, and Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke. At first, the two seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, they quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures. The scope of the series is epic, involving gods, massive armies, diverse cultures, multiple plotlines, numerous characters, politics, war, courtly intrigue, and love.
He describes the series as “a loose retelling of the historical legends surrounding the the founding and early years of the Han Dynasty.” Liu further explains the impact that these legends have had on Chinese culture and literature, likening them to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. They’ve “been an important part of the mythic imagination of people in the Sinosphere for millennia,” he says. The Chrysanthemum and the Dandelion is Liu’s attempt at address an issue that he sees in contemporary narrative. He says:
Most of my stories are reactions against something I don’t like: a popular narrative leaves something out that I feel is crucial, a set of assumptions and myths being told and retold that I feel is damaging and limiting, or the kind of story I want to read isn’t being written. This series is no exception. I wanted to write a novel that told these stories that I loved to a readership that might be unfamiliar with them, but I didn’t want to write a straight historical novel or a “magic China” fantasy series — these approaches are fraught with the kind of appropriation issues that I find so problematic.
So I decided to do something different. I wanted to retell the stories in a new setting, with new cultures, new peoples, new technologies and magic that are not tied to their Chinese roots directly.
Ending several weeks of speculation (and a couple of years of wishful thinking and fervent hoping among fans), Atlus announced Persona 5, the latest installation in the long-running Japanese RPG series. “Persona 5 will launch for PlayStation 3 in Japan during winter 2014,” reports Polygon, followed by ‘three spin-off titles coming for various platforms.’
At this point, Atlus has only released a (traditionally) vague teaser trailer for Persona 5 highlighting the game’s early tagline: “You are a slave. Want emancipation?” Each of the recent Persona releases have also featured a predominant colour in their design, blue for Persona 3 and yellow for Persona 5, and it appears that the next game will heavily feature the colour red in its design.
NeoGAF user Duckroll has translated early reports from Dengeki (a Japanese videogame magazine), with some vague details about the game’s premise. “The setting of the chairs in the teaser is a highschool classroom,” Duckroll translates. “The theme of the game is about the emotion joy of being released after overcoming trials – hence the imagery of chairs and chains. The game will continue to be focused on school juvenile setting of the series, but the tone this time will be completely different.”
It’s interesting to note that Persona 5 has been announced for release on the PlayStation 3, rather than the recently-released PlayStation 4. Atlus, and the Persona series in particular, has a history of releasing instalments on legacy platforms. Persona 4 was released on the PlayStation 3 several months after the PlayStation 3 hit stores.
In addition to Persona 5 several other titles were announced. These spin-off titles include:
- Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth (Nintendo 3DS), an Etrian Oddysey-style ‘dungeon crawler that brings the heroes of Persona 3 and Persona 4 together.’
- Persona 4: Dancing All Night (PlayStation Vita), a ‘sound action game [where] players will be able to compete in “Battle Dances” against shadows.’
- Persona 4: The Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold (PlayStation 3), a sequel to Persona 4 Arena.
At the time of this article’s writing, there is no North American release date for Persona 5 or any of its spin-off titles.