Search This Blog

River of Exploding Durians - Trailer 【榴梿忘返】 预告片

《榴槤忘返》主要讲述一群中六生面对即将袭来的稀土厂一阵慌乱,人生产生了变化之余,在反对稀土厂的过程中,这群学生产生革命情感和一些单纯的爱慕情怀。A coastal town is turned upside down by the construction of a radioactive rare earth plant. An idealistic teacher and a group of high school students find themselves battling for the soul of their hometown. Based on real-life events, River of Exploding Durians is a sweeping tale of Malaysian history and its youth, where people are enveloped by politics and sadness while searching for love. #riverofexplodingduriansStarring: Zhu Zhi-Ying 朱芷瑩, Koe Shern 高圣, Daphne Low, Joey 梁祖仪Written, directed and edited by Edmund YeoProduced by Woo Ming Jin and Edmund Yeo Executive producer: Eric YeoDirector of Photography: Kong PahurakProduction designer: Edward Yu Chee BoonMake-up and wardrobe: Kay WongSound: Minimal Yossy PrapapanMusic: Woan Foong Wong

Posted by River of Exploding Durians 榴莲忘返 on Saturday, October 18, 2014

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Swifty Completes NaNoWriMo!

So yeah, I managed to hit 50k words today. I went into a writing spree yesterday which resulted in me doing about 5000-6000 words. I'm rather satisfied, but it merely means that I can breathe easy now and attempt to finish what I've written at my own pace (the story's incomplete, and the last few parts were rushed jobs, I intend to insert scenes between what I've written to flesh things out more).

I will see whether I intend to serialize my story online, while I think it's reasonably good and rather unconventional (despite having a hybrid fantasy/sci-fi settings, this tale is more like a love story/social commentary/coming-of-age tale than a generic 'hero goes on a quest to save the world from the almighty lord of evil' story), I have to ensure that it is as presentable as possible for my readers. So yeah, stay tuned.

So, is there a celebration of sorts for Malaysian Nano-ers?

Oh well, here's some random notes (I think I might actually stay with this format for many of my future entries), I think I will from now on name them SwiftNotes:

  • Singapore's blogicide (a term first read in this entry of Mr Miyagi's) victim Daphne Teo returns to the top 10 Technorati searches. Welcome back, hun. Even though you didn't stay like I begged you to, your spirit lives on (in Technorati). You are an inspiration to drama queens everywhere.
  • No, I don't really follow Mr Miyagi's blog, but went to read it today in honour of the late Pat Morita. R. I. P. Mr Miyagi (I mean Pat Morita, not the blogger)
  • Speaking of Pat Morita, my Japanese friend, Maiko, who stayed over at my place for a couple of nights before leaving yesterday afternoon said that his Japanese pronunciation was pretty weird and inaccurate. Oooh.
  • Saw Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire this morning. Will be coming up with a review later. It's going to be a favorable one.
  • Hmmm... actually, the two Prussian Blue songs I downloaded at Tuoni's sound pretty harmless to me. I was actually expecting them to really sing in German, and praise Hitler and the Nazi and then pepper their songs with noise clips of gunshots and people screaming.
  • "Regardless of whether you want it or not, you'll always be in their clique because you are associated closely with them." Swifty to Minishorts.
  • Dragon Warrior 8 turned out to have pretty decent graphics, thus transforming my entire perception that Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior games are generally long-ass engrossing RPGs with deliberately shitty graphics. My sister suggested that the improvement on the game's aesthetic qualities had to do with Enix's merger with Square.
  • I want to see Reese Witherspoon's Far From Heaven because I am a sucker from romantic comedies.
  • BlogsAdSwap seems interesting. I'm joining.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

NaNoWriMo Deadline Beckons, Swifty Is Slightly Anxious.

I am near 45 000. Will make the one final push towards hitting 50 000 tomorrow. The reason why I worked slower than I've expected was because of the perfectionist within who wanted the work to be perfect when I hit 50 000, but I guess it's impossible to do so considering how many shit I had to juggle throughout the entire month of November, like...

1) Final assignments for my Shakespeare and Pop Literature class.
2) Final exams for Pop Literature
3) Preparation to return from Perth to Malaysia
4) ... the 'Sellout Week'
5) Playing host to a Japanese friend, Maiko, who came to Malaysia with me.
6) The Italian film festival

Not that I'm whining, but seriously, if I had only had to work on half of the things mentioned above, I could've probably finished my NaNoWriMo in around two weeks. Random notes of the day.

  • Maiko makes great Oyako Don and Cawan Mushi that rival, if not SURPASS the ones you eat in high-class Japanese restaurant.
  • Incredibly, she does NOT like Japanese food, being a hardcore Chinese fan and all. (as in, she listens to Chinese songs and worships Jay Chou. What anime is to otakus is what Chinese stuff is to her)
  • After drowning in the Korean melodrama starring Won Bin called 'My Brother', Maiko and I decide to tackle H, a serial killer film starring Jee Jin-hee (he was in the mega popular Korean TV drama Dae Jang Geum), pretty gruesome at first, when you get to see murdered pregnant women with their tummies slit open, and the feet of their fetuses hanging out, but after that, it was absolutely boring. Not recommended.
  • Finished the Japanese flick, Casshern, just moments ago (right, NOW you see what else might have been distracting me). It's visually spectacular, that Kiriya dude (Utada Hikaru's husband) has good vision, but ultimately, being his debut film, stuff does feel too much like a music video, or anime/RPG-ish, it lacked the subtle, emotional nuances that would've made it insanely good. Although I did doze off near the end, so I might need to rewatch some parts again.
  • Today's entry was supposedly meant for the memes I've not answered (got it from Alex, Vincent and Chloe throughout the weeks). Never been a fan of meme cos' they do not add much to the content of the blog. Hm.
  • I wonder whether anyone has ever thought of sending the whole thing about to The whole world needs to know how one of our bloggers' rights are being... questioned. (read this entry for more info)
  • Harry Potter And the Goblet of Fire is on pace to break the first film's box-0ffice records (which remains the top-grossing Harry Potter thus far, and possibly my personal favourite, as good as the third film was, the first one was just more awe-inspiring), Warner execs can stop worrying about the whole downhill slide Harry Potter films have been suffering in terms of B.O. receipts.
  • Finally read some entries by Mu Mu, she is amusing. I would attempt to translate her stuff, but I'm lazy.
  • Daphne Teo and Dawn Yang have disappeared from the Technorati top ten searches. That's the first time in almost a month when I can't see either of their names there anymore. Incredible. (although I won't be surprised if one of them will pop up again)
  • No luck in downloading Prussian Blue's songs. Managed to download the soundtracks for Lunar 1 and 2. Wonderful RPG gems.
  • Hm, lots of conspiracy and negative backlash against OSM, Open Source Media and Pajamas Media. Just visited the site. Seem like a rather interesting place (not for the content of course, but for the concept of the place, rather similar to something I had in mind, a news site that is powered by a blog. Hmm...).

Lots of random notes in this entry.

Monday, November 28, 2005

More Random Notes From Swifty Whilst He Entertains A Japanese Friend In Malaysia.

As you can see in my previous entry, I've returned to Malaysia, and have a Japanese friend, Maiko, tagging along. Yesterday, she was awed by the Mamak stalls (indian restaurants in Malaysia that's opened for 24 hours, a great hangout place for people of all ages and races, and also a place for peeps to watch football, their tables and chairs are placed outdoors), today, my family and I brought her to 1-Utama, which, in my opinion, is the best freaking (possibly also the largest) shopping mall in Malaysia. And then, she also got to sample such wondrous Malaysian delicacies like Bat Kut Teh, and tons of kuih, red bean pows and many other Malaysian pastries. She was awed.

Anyway, more random notes.

  • The Nazi/Hitler-loving teen duo Prussian Blue sounds interesting, I'm going to download some of their stuff and see what's all these fuss about. I'm sure their career will last as long as TATU (can anyone still remember them?)
  • I CANNOT SEE A FREAKING THING IN MU MU'S BLOG. And yes, I CAN read Chinese, but the place just can't freaking load at all. Anyone else with these problems?
  • I sense something fishy with the recent police/nude woman video that rocked the entire Malaysia.
  • Daphne Teo has disappeared from Technorati. Finally.
  • My computer's still fucked up beyond belief.
  • Watched the Korean flick 'My Brother' starring Won Bin on DVD. Man, Korean films are so senselessly melodramatic and manipulatively tearjerking that I want to do something as insanely over-the-top as those.
  • 43000 for NanoWriMo. Gonna push it more once I submit this entry.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Perth Italian Film Festival 2005: 'Manuale D'Amore' and 'Cantando Dietroi I Paraventi'

I managed to catch two films at the Perth Italian Film Festival.

Manuale D'Amore (Manual Of Love)

This charming romantic comedy is Italy's highest-grossing film in years, and I can see why. It's about four tales of love and betrayal featuring very likable characters, the first one is about a young man trying to win the affections of a disinterested beautiful woman, the second is about a middle-aged couple trying to rediscover their spark, the third is about a policewoman trying to get her revenge when she found out her husband had an affair with someone else, and the last one's about a paediatrician trying to win back his wife, who abandoned him for another guy. It's so sweet and romantic, so bustling with life that I almost want to fly to Rome immediately and roam the streets on a scooter.

Hell, I loved this film so much that I immediately wanted to catch another film at festival the next day, which led me to drag Justin along to see...

Cantando Dietroi I Paraventi (Singing Behind Screens)

This film by master director Ermanno Olmi has Chinese people in ancient Chinese costumes speaking Italian (!!). And at the beginning, there's a nude swordsfighting chick. It started out as a stage performance, then we enter the tale of a woman pirate.

After that, I was completely lost.

The cinematography is beautiful.

Lead actress Jun Ichikawa (a Japanese actress raised in Italy) has a compelling screen presence.

I wanted to write more. But at that time, I really didn't understand the film.

Thoughts on 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang', 'The Constant Gardener' and 'Elizabethtown'

Quick thoughts on a few films

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Starring Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer, this is a buddy movie/film noir/action/murder mystery with postmodern voice over narratives. It's insanely fun to watch, when you see Robert Downey Jr's character rewinding some scenes cos' he missed out something, or sarcastically pointing out that some seemingly meaningless scenes are actually meaningful (dum dum dum!). So yeah, Robert Downey Jr plays a crook who, while escaping from the cops, stumbled into a film audition, and fooled the producers into thinking that he's one hell of an actor (he just got his partner killed, and he was asked to read a script which featured a scene where the guy got his partner killed... thus intense METHOD ACTING from him). He was flown to Hollywood, and met a private eye called Gay Perry (Val Kilmer, and yes, Gay Perry is gay, hence the name, I forgot the character's real name), who was supposed to be his consultant in teaching him how to act like a private eye. Then both guys got involved in a TRUE murder case. Intrigue, plot twists and hilarity ensue.

Val Kilmer, who had sucked for many many years, totally changed my perception of him here. Although he's gay, Gay Perry's totally a hardcore action hero who is beyond badass. Definitely by far Kilmer's best role ever! Downey was great too as the protagonist and narrator, but man, Val totally steals the show. Highly recommended!

The Constant Gardener
Ralph Fiennes plays the title character, a mild-mannered professor who is constantly gardening. His life was shattered when his wife (Rachel Weisz), a socially-conscious lawyer, was murdered (she died at the beginning of the film, so this ain't a spoiler) at a remote area in Kenya. He gradually found out that her death may be caused by pharmaceutical coorporations, and thus embarked on a journey to 'finish what his wife left off', while at the same time haunted by remorse and grief thanks to rumours of his late wife's infidelities, his mission would eventually change him, and allow him to know more about a wife he never knew that well when she was alive. Intense and stylish, emotional and romantic, great acting from Weisz and Fiennes (I forgive him for Avengers!), Oscar-nominated Brazillian director Fernando Meirelles simply rocked with his unconventional guerilla filmmaking style (which *cough* reminds me of my own style, being a guerilla filmmaker too). Great film.

I like Cameron Crowe, Jerry Maguire's one of my all-time favourite romantic comedies ever, Almost Famous was robbed for not having a Best Picture Oscar nomination and Vanilla Sky's freaking underrated. However, no matter how I look at it, this film is seriously a poor man's version of Garden State, Orlando Bloom, tried hard he did, just DOES NOT have the charisma to be a leading man. Too skinny, too girlish, I mean, this might be one of the more likable roles he has ever done since LoTR, but he JUST CAN'T CARRY A FILM!! Too contrived, it's just a generic romantic comedy that's better than most other romantic comedies I've seen, but just not good enough for a Crowe film.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005




可是我们发展得还不错。我的房间里贴满了她的海报,以证明我所对她的感情。我也收集满了她的专辑,以证明我对她声音的欣赏。虽然语言不通,可是痴情的我对她那份情未曾改变过,即使‘SPEED’ 在5年前解散了,我还是一样那么的支持她,什么宇多田光,什么宝儿也改变不了我。


不久后,我就到澳洲深造,把这件事情放在一旁,以治疗我受伤了的心。终于认识了Dawn Yang,可是未有任何发展的,她就走了,踏上娱乐圈的路。怎么我所爱的女人多数都是艺人呢?唉!





Monday, November 21, 2005

Reese Witherspoon Tastes The Chinofier

Posting for Guestblogger Justin

Special thanks to Reese Witherspoon and Kimberlycun for being my test subjects.

Sunday, November 20, 2005



过了今天,我会把我的BLOG改回之前的黑色。有时候读者所给的回应真的令我感得哭笑不得。我上个星期明明宣布了要搞一个 'Sell Out Week',所以把网站改成令人作呕的粉红色。怎么知道大家都会对 'Sell Out' 这两个字感得那么陌生!

“为什么不停地谈Dawn Yang?“

“为什么用粉红色? 还是黑色好看一点嘛!”


唉!即使是受英文教育的读者们也不明白什么是 'Sell Out'! 其实在这星期内,我一直是在讽刺着平时在大马所受欢迎的BLOG,内容甚少,照片多多,什么深奥的题目都不要谈,只写别人要看的东西。简单的说,我是把自己的BLOG搞得更‘商业化’,降低平时的水平。什么自我什么诚意都丢在一旁来赢取大家的爱!

我竟然成功了!发现内容也无聊的,大家就越喜欢!真正想自己表达的,大家都懒得理!八卦新闻才是大家的最爱!Dawn Yang整容事件比任何新闻重要!Daphne Teo关闭自己的BLOG比什么国家头条都还重要!哇!现在的BLOG给我的感觉与狗仔队没什么两样。



Friday, November 18, 2005

杨大人Swifty再次讲华语!痛诉美如天使的Dawn Yang抢了自己的风头!


昨晚打了长途电话给妈妈,祝她生日快乐,然后才发现原来整家人(包括老爸还有妹妹)都在新加坡游玩。妈妈终于在新加坡报章上看到 Dawn Yang 的照片,也觉得她瞒漂亮的。整容又怎样?他妈的有些人整容了比之前还难看呢!最近觉得这BLOG有非常多参观者,人数比一两个星期前多出数倍! 可是我知道大多数的人都是跑来看与Dawn Yang有关的内容,觉得渐渐的失去自我。唉!有点无奈。可是还是算了吧。若Dawn Yang的名誉一落千丈的话,或简直人间蒸发,大家还会记得我的存在吗?

看来我必要加把劲准备拍一些短片,以及完成我的小说来为自己争回一口气。 总有一天,参观者来这儿是为了我这个鼎鼎大名的杨大人/导演,而不是为了这美丽如天使般的Dawn Yang。

The Great Swifty Says Goodbye To Dawn Yang 1

The Great Swifty Says Goodbye To Dawn Yang 2

The Great Swifty Says Goodbye To Dawn Yang 3


Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Bumper Book of Completely Useless Japanese Inventions

Image hosted by
It's not often that I feel a book is important enough to give it above-the-line review status. Some of my favorite novels of recent times didn't make it, so I couldn't think of what else would. But that was before I read The Bumper Book of unUseless Japanese Inventions.

Translated by Dan Papia, the title is a bit of a misnomer: all of the inventions described therein actually work, but it's almost impossible to imagine someone actually using them. Known as chindogu in Japan, some of these things about beggar description: what are we to make, for example, of the Cat Tongue Soother, the Personal Rain Saver (a kind of inverted umbrella with a hydraulic tank), or the Automated Noodle Cooler, a tiny wrist-attached fan? The book's introduction contains lines like "Inherent in every Chindogu is the spirit of anarchy." and "in even contemplating their use you enter a new and uncharted dimension of human endeavor."

Most of the chindogu were conceived by one Kenji Kawakami, who can only be described as the Thomas Edison from Planet Crack. Not since Salvador Dali made living rooms based on Mae West's face has someone exhibited this kind of deranged ingenuity. His chindogu range from the actually-would-be-pretty-useful (like a plastic screen with chopsticks built into it that can be used to stir-fry without oil splashing into your face) to the completely fucking demented, frequently with an emphasis on near-fetishistic materials and structures. Kawakami is obsessed with hydraulic tubes, surgical masks, pumps, umbrellas, and accessories for cats. Having trouble with falling asleep while you're supposed to be studying? No problem, Kawakami has the "Wide Awake Eyeopener," which is a coronet with attached clamps that snap onto your eyelids and hold them up. He made the clamps with laundry pegs. Then there's his Zipup Cold Mask, described as "for instant oral access," which I guess is supposed to allow you to smoke in an operating theatre but more accurately looks like something out of an S&M documentary; the Detachable Tooth covers which make the wearer look like Jaws from Moonraker; strap-on, milk-filled artificial male breasts, and, oh my God, the "Hay Fever Hat," which is nothing less than a fucking roll of toilet paper strapped to a girl's head.

The really disquieting thing is that day-to-day life in 21st century Japan compelled Kawakami to come up with the chindogu. Something actually made him think, "You know, Ping Pong is pretty fun, but it'd be so much better if I could play with my face instead of my hand! There's gotta be something I can do about this!" (the "Face Ping Pong Helmet") or "Natto beans are pretty hot! Why don't I make a plastic cover for my tongue?"

Even worse is the realization that, because according to "The Ten Tenets of Chindogu," every invention must be field-tested and found to work, Kawakami probably used all of the above items and more in real life. This becomes horribly disturbing when you think about things like the "Baby Mops," the description of which contains "After the birth of a child, there's always the temptation to say "Yes, it's cute, but what can it do?Until recently the answer was simply 'lie there and cry', but now babies can be put on the payroll, so to speak, almost as soon as they're born."

Bearing in mind that, as previously mentioned, some of the chindogu do have realistic practical applications, nothing can take away the fact that HE MOPPED HIS FLOOR WITH A BABY. He actually thought "Hm, baby crawling on the floor...floor needs to be mopped...EUREKA! I'LL combine THE TWO!" That's the kind of intuitive leap Kawakami's mind makes, and the kind that yours never should.

Nevertheless, if I'm ever stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash, Kawakami is the only person I would even consider wanting to have there with me. I know that by the time any other motherfucker would still be trying to scrape together a shitty fire from twigs, Kawakami would already have devised a mattress made out of rocks to correct his sleeping posture and a shit-flinging palm-tree catapult to attack other islands.
In fact, I'll go one better. For some time now I've dreamed of assembling an elite team of...I don't know what to call them, but badass motherfuckers ought to cover it, specialists in every field of creative endeavor, in order to kick it like the Futurists and dadaists used to.* I don't know who else would be on it at the moment (well, I have a few ideas), but if Kawakami is up for it...his place is already reserved.
*you would think forming a coherent group-structure would undercut the aim of irrational anarchy, but you would be wrong. Consistency IS the enemy.

As for the whole Open Source Media thing, we here at Swiftyworks support all manner of Open Source applications. It strikes me as interesting that Swifty made an ass of himself talking to Joi Ito, who's involved so heavily with CreativeCommons (and possibly CreativeCommons Japan/クリエティブ・コモンズ /日本) when we support Open Source Software and creative media in all forms.


嗨!大家好!我姓杨名叫毅恒。笔名是Eliar Swiftfire或者是Swifty。我并不清楚如何翻译自己的笔名,所以还是叫我扬大人吧,如果觉得不好意思的话,您可以叫我恒恒,听起来瞒亲切的!



首先,我想谈一谈刚完毕的金马奖。想不到周杰伦竟然凭《头文字D》赢了个‘最佳新人奖’,太奇妙了嘛!虽然瞒喜欢那部片子,也对他的演技没任何批评 (比想象中好,也比他妈的娘娘腔的F4出色得多!),可是饰演拓海这角色并不是那么的难嘛!最可笑的就是郭富城被封为影帝。我还是觉得他在《三岔口》里没什么特别,吴彦祖才是片子里最出色的一位!谈起大赢家《功夫》,周星驰已经承认他有找张曼玉来出演《功夫2》,只不过张曼玉还未答复他。我们就看看吧!

哦,对了。虽然这entry是中文的,可是必须留一张 Dawn Yang 的照片让大家欣赏欣赏。(可能已变成个习惯了)



P.S. 妈妈,生日快乐啰!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Special thanks to Suanie.

Right, this comic is in Japanese cos' we are trying to appeal to Japanese audiences. Although I am rather curious to know what's this whole thing about people searching for Google Analytics on Technorati Japan. It's top search there. And what's 一松二生? Who is ノッポさん? Ah well, I guess I shall study more on my future target audiences soon.

Justin: ノッポさん? WTF is that?

On the other hand, see what I meant about humanity getting messed up in my generic 'whiny teenage bitch' entry yesterday? Just look at what this David Ludwig dude had done, man. 18 year old kid kidnapping his girlfriend and killing her parents and shit. What's this? Bonnie and Clyde? Or probably been listening to too much Sonic Youth.

My sellout week couldn't have happened at a darker period. I am like a beacon in the darkness.

Even Dawn Yang feels like crying.

People can be such meanies these days.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Hello, my name is Michael Peterson, and I was invited to guestblog here at "The Great Swifty Speaketh," because Justin and Swifty have both sold out, making them irrelevant in the internet community. Because on the internet, we value things that are INDY. If you didn"t like them before they were cool, then your opinion is without merit! Only conforming to Ape Law will let you live amongst the tribe! I have been brought in to save this site from its Timberlake-lovin" self. "Bring me 50 cc"s of Patchwork," Swifty said, and I was rushed in on a makeshift crash cart, still in my bath robe.

See, I am still INDY. I have known Justin since long before he was cool – he was, in fact, a slack-jawed convenience store employee who walked amongst the internet unwashed, like Christ in his early years. What"s more, you know for a fact that I am truly INDY because I shun the love of women. Right, Indy Rock Pete?

Image hosted by

Justin: Hahahaha perfect, nice Diesel Sweeties reference too
Swifty: Timberlake is god.

That"s right. Not even the lovely Dawn Yang can distract me. Because I am of a great and holy tribe, that of the INDY ARTIST, and we can make you orgasm with our sheer brain power.

I"m going to invite you into my world over the course of this post, and hopefully some of you will join me over at my pimpin" internet abode, Patchwork Earth.

…That"s right, kids, I"m here to advertise. I"m a sell-out, too. I SLEEP ON A BED OF LIES AND A PILLOW OF SHAME. And with blankets of guilt, and a comforter of hypocrisy, and, you know, so on in that vein.

However! I"ve already got you neck-deep into this post, so let"s go through the Wonka tunnel. I manipulate a little thought-puppet called Patch Brennan, and he is an angry, angry boy. Apparently, he"s alone and adrift in a sea of mediocrity. Tell them about it, Patches…

Warning: Exposure to this column, as always, may prompt Columbine-like acts of public vandalism… Sometimes I want to climb to my rooftop and start picking people off with my flesh rifle. A little schmeg between the eyes is just what this country needs. I, in my self-sacrificial role of comic columnist, have been reading Cheapweb Comics so that you don"t have to, and I may have a brain tumor now. This is nothing to laugh at. Unlike you unwashed masses, rolling about in cat feces and masturbating over photomanips that look like you wrapped last year"s playmate in Styrofoam, my brain is grooved so tight that nanites get their feet stuck in between the folds. By the time I was conceived, my brain already looked like Marlon Brando"s thumbprint. And so I do these things not for personal gain, but because I love you more than you love me.

That"s vile, and the only way to spank a protagonist when he acts out is to add a few more chapters of agony before the catharsis. This might be why "Lazy Metaphors," the cage I keep Patch locked up in, is thousands and thousands of pages in length. It might also be due to of a head injury I suffered when I was seven. My head was split open by concrete. Not long after, I decided that when I grew up, I was going to make comics for a living. I"ve since half-ass charmed my way into the industry, and have begun my insidious viral program to take over entertainment media itself. Why have I resorted to full-on supervillainy? I answered this question earlier this week over at Cellar Door Publishing

Whether things are better or worse than they used to be is irrelevant, honestly. Absolutely beside the point. The POINT is that we should never, ever settle, and that each and every last one of us should be pushing ourselves to make things better than they are. That means our leaders (secular and spiritual) need to be better, our teachers need to be better, our artists need to be better, our parents need to be better, our scientists have to be better, and our garbagemen, flight attendants, baristas, salespeople, and our fucking caddies have to be better. Everyone that isn't pushing is holding the rest back. Yeah, there's gonna be a lot of mediocre work, and a lot of downright shit. But when that happens, you've gotta say THAT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH. We. Need. To. Stop. Settling.
Because we do, folks, we need to stop settling for mediocrity. We need to embrace the future. Art is changing, narrative is changing, and you need to keep up or the bus is leaving without you. You might notice I"ve been mixing metaphors throughout this post, and that"s entirely purposeful. If you haven"t noticed, I"ve got a thing about metaphors. So, what"s the future hold? I can"t say I"m the expert, I"m sad to admit, but I do know a few precious things, kids, so I"m going to impart them to you.

1) The relationship between audience and art is changing. Hopefully you"ve all read Justin"s rebuttal to Robin Hobb by now. That"s the tip of the proverbial iceberg, here. The fact is, the fan works are getting their own fans, making their own fan works. Our simple art-commerce-audience triangle is suddenly becoming something three- and four-dimensional. I sold someone on Carla Speed McNeil"s "Finder" once by role-playing as the protagonist. She went out and bought the whole series. Between fan works, role-playing, sanctioned non-canonical stories and apocrypha, and ever-more intricate post- and post-post-modern parodies, satires, homages, and references, it"s becoming increasingly about what you add to the created universe. The Tolkien fans would be quick to say it"s been this way for decades, but we"re only now getting to a point where the new connections and artwork being made isn"t insipid.
This brings us to my second point of contention…

2) Copyright is increasingly archaic and irrelevant. Look, if you"re not in the loop on Copyleft, it"s going to take a lot less time for you to go to the source than it is for me to lecture. Visit Creative Commons today. Read BoingBoing. Don"t just read what this stuff is, understand why it matters.

3) Information is viral. This shouldn"t even be under discussion, but some people are still—

Its name was known to all, no matter the level of existence it claimed in a given world. It was contained in the books of the Great Library, but only the legends, the oral re-tellings of those vanquished by the great worm, were ever given heed.
All knew that its thirteen segments were invulnerable, made of some hide hewn more out of stone; that its wail drove even the most stalwart to his knees in agony--or even madness; all knew that to challenge Noldorn was to welcome the splintering of bone and the subsequent plunge into the Void of Souls.
All knew that to strike its only weakness, the bleeding heart at its endpoint, would only enrage the beast--and it would retaliate with speed unparalleled by even the gods themselves...
--Huh. What the fuck was that about? Anyway, where was I? Anyway, memetics. Very important.
So what"s all this add up to? Well, you"ve gotta do the math yourself. What am I doing with it? Well, I made Patchwork Earth.

Patchwork Earth is an experiment in evolving narrative. What that means, is the complex, fractal web of stories that make up my creation of PE is only the first step. Everything, or almost everything, of mine is available under CC so that people can build upon it in their own ways, make their own narratives that will likewise be built upon. With luck, other people will have the same idea, and each unit of fiction will be its own node on what Spike and I have termed the Oneironet.

Why focus so heavily on comics? There"s a purity of _expression to comics that"s very ingrained and primal. Visual language was how we started as a culture. Here"s another homework assignment for you: Go out into the "real world" later, and take a look around at all the examples of comics, sequential images, cartoon iconography, closure, and masking that take place in everything around us. Get out a notebook and start writing them all down and come back to me. If you crib from "Understanding Comics," I"ll know. Show your work and use a number two pencil. Look at your world in a new way.

So. I need an apprentice. Someone I can instruct in the ways of Interstitial Fiction, Photo Sapiens, and now especially Alternate Reality Gaming (a term I dislike, but it was decided long before I arrived). These are terms you should look up, by the way. Someone who"s truly INDY does not wait for people to understand what the fuck he"s talking about, he barrels forward so that he and the few people in his little club can laugh about how much they know. You"d perform intern-like tasks of organization and keeping my general affairs in order, and you"d receive full-on lessons about comics and evolving narrative. You"d also help me build the infrastructure of Patchwork Earth and the Oneironet, all for zero pay and no benefits! Preferably in the Chicago area. Hot women preferred—will be ogled but not touched. May occasionally be snorted at derisively.

Perhaps you think I"ve nothing to teach you. Let me impart this freely to you. We could learn a lot more from Broadway Musicals. No? Consider this for a moment. To write for the stage requires dialogue with a certain cadence that can be heard aloud. While that dialogue may not be "realistic," per se, it can feel more natural to the ear by the way it flows. Working in and around a theatre crowd for many years of my life helped my ear for dialogue, I think. But that"s not all! Musicals require a suspension of disbelief in which a traditionally mundane story intersects wildly with the fantastic—the sudden break out into song and dance. This synthesis (a big word where I come from--everything"s about synthesis, it"s the trick behind everything I"ve talked about here) of two realities and how they interrelate is something you can take a cue from if you"re trying to write about the fantastic. How do you make the real and the surreal exist simultaneously in a believable world? That"s what it"s all about. When you can do that, you can write about whatever theme your INDY little heart desires.

And that"s all! Thanks for listening to me. I"m going to hand you over to the corporate-owned, commercial monkeys that run this site. I want to leave you tonight with a part of Patchwork Earth that some people don"t want you to see. It"s a song by in-canon band The Fever Dream Five, and it"s called "Spike"s Song" because Justin wrote this a few years back. It"s very emo. And it sums up perfectly well the mediocrity that"s hanging over our heads, a blunt-edged and worn Sword of Damocles. G"night, everyone, and stay pink, soft, and oily.

That's a Mystery Science Theater 3000 reference.


Thanks, Swifty. You fucking Sell-out.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Swifty's NaNoWriMo Progress Report (Day 12) And Provides YET ANOTHER Fantasy Name Generator.

17000 words. So I did 2000 words after the last progress report. Things were getting talky, thus I changed the rhythm. Writing action scenes are harder for me compared to dialogue.

Also, the usual elven generator I use was down, thus I had to surf around to find another. Ended up finding THIS instead. Where you can type in your name and get your name of some Middle-Earth races (hobbits, elves, humans, dwarves and wizards) in return. A particular elven maiden is named after a particular much-talked about blogger.

Anyway, excerpts:

Yet the rats were getting closer, only meters away from the immobile sorceress. The knight stepped forward, his sword drawn, attempting to shield the rodents from her even though he knew it would be futile. Silently he whispered the prayer of the Zeltanian knights, and the blade upon his sword glowed white in response.

“Step aside, you dolt!” The sorceress shouted.

Despite his confusion, Erik did what she said, and she, with a loud sharp command, placed both of her hands upon the ground. Intricate runes of magic flared into life upon its surface, moving and spreading by themselves and towards the all-engulfing darkness and the stone walls of buildings around them. Pulsating silvery-white light of pure brilliance sliced through the sea of rats, bursting into explosions that sent dozens of tiny charred carcasses into the air. Rivers of light streaking through the sea of darkness.


“You are intriguing, human.” The figure said with a voice deep and ancient like the mountain this city was built upon. “To protect a place with sorcery when sorcery is forgotten like the faded histories of fallen civilizations.”

“I was protecting myself.” The sorceress said.

“My servants’ hunger can only be satiated by the flesh of those who have imprisoned them for centuries, not you nor your knight companion, for it was the dwarves who destroyed our homes and built their own above its ashes. Inconsiderate and ignorant. They may think me nothing more than dusts that swirl around their feet as they walk, and for their foolish arrogance I shall make them pay. A generation repaying the debts left by earlier generations.”

“Who are you?” Erik asked.

The figure tilted his head towards the knight. “Merely one who had existed during the dawn of time. One who had seen every single war waged upon these lands, alliances forged and broken, figures deemed as heroes, figures damned as villains, kingdoms rose and fell, conquerors becoming the conquered. Within the mountain I dwell in, I see nothing but perpetual darkness, yet I know everything that occurs upon the face of this world. My servants are my eyes and ears. They are everywhere.”

The sorceress nodded. “You are Ouroboros, King of Worms.”


“Ahhhh!” He screamed in frustration and pain.

The beautiful elf maiden, whose vegetable stall was beside his, giggled in amusement. “If you can’t deal with the flies, you won’t be able to last long here.”

“Gah! It’s only pestering me! And not YOU!” Eliar whined. “It must be my spiky hair or something!”

“You humans have gotten too used to life indoors, thus one as insignificant as flies can bother you so verily. They feed upon your annoyance, thus they stay with you. They feel nothing from me, I am placid like a still lake, and therefore it is unnecessary for them to be anywhere near me.” The elf maiden said serenely.

“But ‘bothering me verily’ is an understatement, miss elf.” Eliar grumbled.

“Please, master Swiftfire, my name is Torfithiel. It means ‘dawn in elvish.” The elf maiden said with a kindly smile, she was bathed in the pale glow emanated from the streetlight behind her, accentuating her ethereal and delicate qualities. She had picked a good spot for her stall, Eliar noted.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Friday, November 11, 2005

Swifty's NaNoWriMo Progress Report (Day 10) And Speaks About How He Is In 'WRITING' Mode, And Not 'FILMMAKING' Mode.

Hit 15000 words. I wrote 2000 words since my last progress report. I would have written more, but my time was spent on the previous entry, some grocery shopping, and watching some performances from people in my Shakespeare class.

Never in my life have I felt unexcited about preparing to shoot a film, yet this is how I feel now. For the very first time in my life.

I will be shooting my Hindi film tomorrow, and I can't say that I'm enthusiastic about it. Usually when I'm hit by inspiration to do something creative, I would rather do it as soon as possible because I am more motivated to do so, and I can expend all my energies upon it. Unfortunately, like Aisyalam, this Hindi project has been delayed too much that I cannot find the fire I had when I first develop my ideas for both film projects.

It's simple, I am currently in 'writing' mode, not 'filmmaking', I'm incapable of being in both modes simultaneously. Both are methods of telling stories, and for me, I prefer focusing my energies upon one particular story to ensure that it is perfect. That is why even if I am a writer myself, I prefer to have Guestblogger Justin doing the screenwriting for me so that I can just concentrate upon the filmmaking instead.

NanoWriMo has started, I have spent the last few days in full 'writing' mode. I have immersed myself so thoroughly into the world and characters of the novel I'm writing now that I have fallen head over heels in love with them. To be wrestled away from it now to work on my film is like the unwelcome arrival of a spurned lover appearing to win my affections again.

Anyway, here are the excerpts.

“You overheard our conversation!” Eliar said, pointing at TMGPC. “And saw the exquisitely beautiful products that we intend to sell!”

TMGPC looked up from her sandwich and regarded him impassively. “Yeah.”

“Ah! Consider yourself blessed, my lady, this little boy and I are currently in the midst of a discussion that will be responsible for creating history not too long from now, and I will soon be ridiculously rich.”

“Oh.” TMGPC said with disinterest and returned to eating her sandwich.


Erik studied her as she was concentrating on the various structures at the lower parts of the city, briefly wondering about her past, and then wondered about his own curiosity about her past.

“Ever thought of visiting W’sad’nar?” The knight asked.

The sorceress snorted. “What for? The City of Wizards may be even worse. A bunch of elitists living together, feeling ridiculously proud about their own gifts and skills, and always reminding themselves about their ‘superiority’ over those born without magic, and convincing themselves that it was them who shunned society, but not the other way around. Ultimately, all they do is spend their times comforting and pleasuring one another. It’s almost like an incestuous relationship.”

A sparrow landed before them. The sorceress leant forward and stretched out her hand invitingly towards it. It hopped onto her palm, and she started stroking its head gently.

“I will never associate myself with anything. Everything I do, I do for myself.” She said. “So that no matter how, I will always remain detached enough to be objective. So that I will not be given the obligation to protect someone not worth protecting, nor fight for something I don’t believe in either merely because those around me are doing it.”


“That wasn’t very nice.” Erik said.

“Technology, they will soon learn, is just as unpredictable as magic, and too different to be compared with.” The sorceress said, smiling in triumph. “To think that technology is simply magic’s replacement is naïve.”

“So, technology DOES bother you.”

“No, knight, blind belief bothers me.”

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Swifty Says Farewell To Dawn Yang. XiaXue Is Pissed. Guestblogger Justin Is Happy.

I have wondered about the crazy flood of hits I've been getting during the past night. It was strange, did fantasy author Robin Hobb unleash her band of merry fans upon Guestblogger Justin for his brilliant rebuttal against her fanfic rant? Or have all my female Swiftyholics appeared in unison to cheer for me during my daily NanoWriMo progress report?

Those DID happen, but it turned out that most came here via search engines whilst searching for Dawn Yang, which surprised me verily. Have people found out about our illicit love affair couple of years ago? And that they've decided to come here wanting my ass?

I didn't find out until today from Suanie's blog (I was getting hits from her place, thus I was curious) that something else happened.

Some of you may know that not too long ago, Dawn Yang did a webcomic with me in it, in response to the webcomics I did with her in it. She ended up winning my 'Chubby Cheeks contest', to the dissatisfaction of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and some other dead guys. However, after what happened, I decided to reevaluate the her webcomic, and I came to realize what she was trying to say. (Her comic had been taken down from her blog by imageshack due to the exceeding of bandwidth, so click here instead. And no, you didn't read that wrong, the link is to a webcomic done by Dawn Yang herself)

It was deep. Lots of stuff going on between the lines that she was trying to convey in that comic:

Fly back to Mars = Score an artiste management contract

Her scary-side like that Species alien = The possibility of her acting in huge-budget alien films. (But hopefully with Sigourney Weaver's career, not Natasha Henstridge's.)

Of course, some old dude, before he got shot, told me that with great power comes great responsibility, and Dawnie-poo's shot to stardom will mean that she is unable to read this blog much anymore. And thus her webcomic shifted to a wistful and somber mood, lamenting about the sacrifices she has to make.

Congrats, my dear, here's another webcomic for you before you reach superstardom, done Casablanca-style.

The Great Swifty Says Goodbye To Dawn Yang 1

The Great Swifty Says Goodbye To Dawn Yang 2

The Great Swifty Says Goodbye To Dawn Yang 3

(Go read the other Dawn Yang webcomics)

Well, dearie, once you have grown tired of torching aliens in big-budget films, and want to appear in some thought-provoking low-budget indie films worthy of international acclaim, you know which filmmaker to look for.

And special thanks to Miss Wendy Cheng, who knows not the existence of this blog. All joking aside, I find it highly ironic that, of all people, Xiaxue was one of the rare few who understood what I was trying to say in this entry of mine, about my personal fear of being labeled as a 'blogger'.

Swifty's NaNoWriMo Progress Report (Day 9)

13000+ words. I've written 3000+ words today, Everything is starting to flow pretty well, once I can maintain this speed, I'll do fine. I would've actually written more if I hadn't gone to Fremantle for a break. However, I managed to finish Akutagawa Prize (highest literary honour in Japan) winner 'Snakes and Earrings' by Hitomi Kanehara while I was hanging out at the bookshop there, it was short read, think it took me less than an hour (I posted her photo in this entry). You may choose to Google her if you want to, I'm not putting up my book review until next month's edition of my Monthly Book Reviews.

Here are the excerpts.

The sketch was placed before him.

Erik squinted his eyes in concentration.

“Tell me what you think.” She said, looking at him eagerly.

“It is very nice.” Erik said.

The sorceress wasn’t satisfied with the answer. “And why is it nice?”

“It, ah, it oozes realism.” Erik managed.

“Which part?”

“The entire artwork.” Erik met the sorceress’ gaze, smiling.

The sorceress scowled. “That’s NOT constructive. I want honest criticism, not a pat on my back! Are you even looking at it carefully? After all the efforts I’ve put into drawing this, you better honour it by looking at it some more. See? There’s something WRONG with this picture, I don’t know why, but I KNOW that it’s imperfect.”

“Maybe because the people in it are all… stick figures?” Erik suggested.


He was dying. He knew it. There was no way he could survive through this journey.

The sorceress emerged from the cabin, her face pale like a corpse’s. Weakly, she struggled her way towards Erik and stood alongside him. The knight detected a mild scent of vomit from her.

“The mayor’s a sadistic bastard.” The sorceress said in a feeble whisper. “This is his revenge.”

“Indeed.” Erik agreed.

“A ship. Of all things, he arranged us to travel on a ship!” She said. “I would have rather WALKED. Uuuuuuuuurgh… this is bad. Goddamn sea dragon, what the hell is he looking at? Is he mocking me? And those dolphins and those damned faeiries, what ghastly melody are they performing now? A funeral hymn, I bet. Damn you, damn you all to the lowest depths of hell!”


“You’re lying.” Samot pouted. “I am going to tell my parents that you know magic.”

“NO!” Eliar shrieked, grabbing hold of the boy by his collar. “You, you vile and sickeningly manipulative little boy, you are going to blackmail me, aren’t you? Threatening to tell the world that I’m a mage, so that hordes of robots and those Imperial soldiers can come here for my ass, eh? And then even if I can outwit them all, I will be barred from leaving by train, and end up starving and rotting to death here, with my corpse eaten by dogs. I know how your dark and twisted mind works, little Samot, I can’t believe you can stoop that low!”

Samot giggled, most likely not following half of what Eliar had just said.

“Very well, child,” Eliar sighed, releasing his grip on the boy. “I shall allow you the privilege of following me around. Not because you blackmailed me, nuh-uh, I did this because I was searching for a business assistant, and you happened to fit the criteria I’ve been seeking for.”

After salvaging his pride, Eliar stormed off, the boy clapped his hands joyfully and started following him.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In Defense of Fanfiction: Guestblogger Justin Goes Robin Hobbnobbing

If you had of asked me on a given day whether I'd one day end up passionately defending fanfiction, I would have given you a strange look. I don't read any of the stuff anymore, and my own endeavors in the field ceased long ago. And yet, I found myself reading Robin Hobb's rant (Swifty: The rant was taken down sometime after this entry was posted) with growing outrage, not just because I disagreed with Hobb's sentiments, but because I COULDN'T BELIEVE that a published author of some repute could hold opinions so closed-minded, reactionary, and ridiculous. The outrage, though, stemmed not so much from this as from the idea that Hobb's opinions, through her position as an eminent fantasy author, could actually discourage young writers from practicing fanfiction, and thus, exercising their creativity. Therefore, SOMETHING MUST BE DONE. THIS SHIT CANNOT STAND.

My text in bold.

I am not rational on the topic of fan fiction.

That's putting it mildly.

Well, actually, I can be, and in this essay, I will endeavor to be. But people who know me well also know that this is one topic that can make my eyes spin round like pinwheels and steam come out of my ears. In fact, I would venture to say that knowing this brings them great delight in provoking such a show several times a year when the topic comes up at a convention or in a discussion group.
So, rather than continue to publicly rant, unreeling endlessly my venomous diatribe against fan fiction, I thought I'd gather my bile and spill it all here, in a logical and organized flow. Hereafter, I shall simply refer those who query to the infamous red shoe gripped by the mad woman in the attic.
To start my rant, I will first define exactly what fan fiction is, to me. Others may have a wider or narrower definition, but when I am speaking of the stuff I dislike, this is what I mean. Fan fiction is fiction written by a 'fan' or reader, without the consent of the original author, yet using that author's characters and world.
A few specific notes about this definition.
'Without the consent of the original author' This means it doesn't include someone writing a Darkover story, with Marion Zimmer Bradley's permission. It does include someone writing a Darkover story without Marion Zimmer Bradley's permission, even if MZB had allowed others to use her world. It does not include professional authors writing Star Trek or X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer stories. All those stories are written and then published with the consent of the copyright owner. Media tie-in novels are not what I'm talking about here. Those stories are not, by my definition, fan fiction.

Implicit in this is the assumption that an author somehow owns their 'characters and world' to the extent that no one else is allowed to play with them. But why? Once you publish work, it enters into the public arena. People begin to engage with it. It becomes the property of the readers.

And what constitutes a 'professional' author? Does corporate sponsorship somehow legitimize someone's creativity? How are 'media tie-in' novels, often leagues worse than Hobb's derided 'fan-fiction' somehow more acceptable? Hobb would answer that 'the consent of the copyright owner' makes the difference, but what about popular figures and archetypical characters? It's the same principle by which children's artwork on school walls depicting Disney characters gets taken down because the children didn't get the permission of Disney executives before putting their stuff up in a public place. What it comes down to is: money. There's a very capitalist, very Protestant mindset behind this: even if they're not making money off 'my' characters, they shouldn't be able to have that much fun with them, dammit! They're MINE! for definitions, to what extent is Paradise Lost a fanfiction of the Bible? To what extent is Tennyson's 'Ulysses' a fanfiction of the Oddyssey? For much of human history, the concept of creative ownership Hobb seems to be using was thoroughly different: characters could be reused and rewritten as seen fit. Even given the capitalist 'ownership' argument, which I personally find distasteful, narrow-minded, and restrictive, once again, the fanfiction under discussion is NON-COMMERCIAL. Trying to suppress fanfiction is like trying to sue those children for drawing pictures of Disney characters. It's not just ridiculous, it's offensive.

Now that I've defined it, why do I dislike it so much? What, I am often asked, is the harm in fan fiction? I am told that I should be flattered that readers like my stories enough to want to continue them. Another justification is that writing fan fiction is a good way for people to learn to be writers. A fourth point that is often made is that fan fiction doesn't attempt to make money off the stories, so it doesn't really violate anyone's copyright. And finally, I am usually chastised for trying to suppress people's creativity, or suppressing free speech.
So let me take each of those points one at a time.
"What is the harm in it?"
I might counter by demanding to know 'What is the good of it?' I'll resist that temptation.

*coughs* Allows chance for creative expression, deepens the fan community, creates bonds, broadens the fanbase of the original work *cough*

Fan fiction is like any other form of identity theft. It injures the name of the party whose identity is stolen.

Your literary creations are not your identity; or at least, they shouldn't be, lest you have some kind of eggshell psyche. One wonders what Hobb makes of literary criticism in general; certainly if she sees fanfiction as being equivalent to identity theft, it seems likely she'd see any form of criticism as a personal affront.

When it's financial identity theft, the thief can ruin your credit rating. When it's creative identity theft, fan fiction can sully your credit with your readers.

Or broaden the reader base by merit of its quality, drawing new readers who've been enchanted by the high quality of the fanfiction. Accentuate the positive, Robin!

Anyone who read fan fiction about Harry Potter, for instance, would have an entirely different idea of what those stories are about than if he had simply read J.K. Rowling's books.

Well, in that the majority of readers of Harry Potter fanfiction ARE PEOPLE WHO'VE ALREADY READ ROWLING'S BOOKS, OTHERWISE WHY WOULD THEY BE INTERESTED, no.

In this way, the reader's impression of the writer's work and creativity is changed. My name is irrevocably attached to my stories and characters. Writers who post a story at or anywhere else and identify it as a Robin Hobb fan fiction or a Farseer fan fiction are claiming my groundwork as their own. That is just not right.

So Hobb seems to think that an audience is completely detached from its chosen text, total passive consumers. In a way, it's a model that fits her classical-capitalism model of creative ownership: I am the literary god and you are the groveling readers poring over my sacred utterances, each word infallible. In reality, of course, that model is absurd. The relationship isn't that one-sided: it's the readership that ultimately decides whether you'll become a Name or an obscurity, and the readership that determines what history will think of your works. Otherwise, you might as well take the reputed late-Salinger approach and drop each manuscript into the vault after it's finished, showing no one.

Like it or not, the very act of reading itself is a two way process. That's what makes reading so exciting and potentially dangerous: multiple interpretations of a text. The kind of intentionalist approach Hobb seems to implicitly endorse is that what she intends her texts to mean is exactly what the readership will pull from it: her texts are perfectly sealed envelopes with legible letters inside. In reality, texts are more like graffiti scrawled on a streetside seen from a distance. Each reader's disposition and preconceptions will determine how they read a certain text. For example, abstain from physically describing a character and the reader will fill in their own description based on what occurs to them. Even if you take the time to describe a character in-depth this often still takes place. Reactions to scenes, passages of dialague, and thematic content are the same. Reading is anything but the kind of clean and objective transmission Hobb takes it for. What a dismal world it would be if she were right!

Even if J.K. Rowling were to despise the writers creating Harry Potter fanfiction, what right would she have to do so? Their appropriation of her text shows only that it struck a deep enough chord within them for them to want to elaborate, emend, and further engage with it. Far from the kind of disrespect Hobb seems to think this constitutes, it is in fact the ultimate tribute: I cared enough to work in your world! The relationship Hobb seems to prefer, with books standing on distant, untouchable pedestals, seems to me to be far more joyless and devoid of true respect.
Nor can it be said that any author can really CHOOSE their readership. Once a text is out there, it's up for grabs. Texts can end up being appropriated by groups wildly divergent from the ones the author assumed they would be: did Herman Hesse, for example, ever envisage that 1960's beatniks would embrace Steppenwolf? Could he even have predicted the existence of beatniks? Or, to keep things fantasy, in keeping with Hobb's genre of choice, did Tolkien aim The Lord of the Rings at the American students who ended up cementing its status as a classic? Texts aren't straight-slung arrows that authors fire into the bullseye of a target audience; they're more like shotgun pellets, dispersing in all directions.

"I should be flattered that readers like my stories enough to want to continue them."
That's not flattering. That's insulting. Every fan fiction I've read to date, based on my world or any other writer's world, had focused on changing the writer's careful work to suit the foible of the fan writer. Romances are invented, gender identities changed, fetishes indulged and endings are altered. It's not flattery. To me, it is the fan fiction writer saying, "Look, the original author really screwed up the story, so I'm going to fix it. Here is how it should have gone." At the extreme low end of the spectrum, fan fiction becomes personal masturbation fantasy in which the fan reader is interacting with the writer's character. That isn't healthy for anyone.

Again, this petulant insistence on a one, true, infallible interpretation. Hobb's reasoning, that the author's intention is some kind of objective guiding light and anything which deviates from it is insulting vandalism, seems to preclude not only fanfiction, but the act of reading itself!

Listen to the words she uses: "screw up," "fix," "masturbation," "indulgence," - ignoring concepts of play, enjoyment, and immersion that accompany, indeed, even constitute, the very pleasure of reading. And what is her idea of writing that is somehow free of indulgence? The very act of writing itself is the supreme indulgence!

The idea of a tribute, or of a work touching a writer so deeply that they feel compelled to continue it in their own way isn't the kind of defacing Hobb thinks it is; rather, it's the continuation of ANY 'successful' reading of a text, success being defined as the reader becoming deeply absorbed in the work, and seeing its characters as real people rather than textual constructions. Who hasn't, for example, fallen in love with a literary character and imagined what it would be like to meet them? Even if one doesn't actually write these thoughts down, THE PROCESS IS FUNDAMENTALLY THE SAME. The reader is completing a mental tangent that the text's author couldn't have thought of, and has no real right, or indeed, freedom, to restrict once the text has been distributed. And yet, Hobb seems to think of this as unhealthy, hypocritically ignoring that she seems to be dangerously in love with her creations, and holds them a bit too close to her identity than is really healthy: see her following family-photo analogy for more on this.

At the less extreme end, the fan writer simply changes something in the writer's world. The tragic ending is re-written, or a dead character is brought back to life, for example. The intent of the author is ignored. A writer puts a great deal of thought into what goes into the story and what doesn't. If a particular scene doesn't happen 'on stage' before the reader's eyes, there is probably a reason for it. If something is left nebulous, it is because the author intends for it to be nebulous. To use an analogy, we look at the Mona Lisa and wonder. Each of us draws his own conclusions about her elusive smile. We don't draw eyebrows on her to make her look surprised, or put a balloon caption over her head. Yet much fan fiction does just that. Fan fiction closes up the space that I have engineered into the story, and the reader is told what he must think rather than being allowed to observe the characters and draw his own conclusions.

Here, again, is the crux of the matter: 'the intent of the author is ignored.' 'Fan fiction closes up the space that I have engineered into the story.' What a depth of fear seems to underly these words: that is, the fear that, far from "closing up" the "space in the story," the fanfiction might OPEN it up into something brilliant that Hobb couldn't have imagined. The last line is particularly irrational, 'the reader is told what he must think rather than being allowed to observe the characters and draw his own conclusions' describing perfectly Hobb's OWN stance throughout the rant.

When I write, I want to tell my story directly to you. I want you to read it exactly as I wrote it. I labor long and hard to pick the exact words I want to use, and to present my story from the angles I choose. I want it to speak to you as an individual. It's horribly frustrating to see all that work ignored and undone by someone else 'fixing' it. If you don't like the stories as they stand, I can accept that. But please don't tinker with them.

Once again: 'right' and 'wrong', 'fixed' and 'broken' paradigm.

The extreme analogy: You send me a photograph of your family reunion, titled 'The Herkimer's Get Together'. I think it looks dull. So I Photo-Shop it to put your friends and relations into compromising positions in various stages of undress. Then I post it on the Internet, under the title 'The Herkimers Get Together', and add a note that it was sent to me from Pete Herkimer of Missoula, Montana. Suddenly there is your face and name, and the faces of the people you care about, doing things that you would never do. Are you flattered that I thought your photograph was interesting enough to use? Or are you insulted and horrified? Are you alarmed that I so clearly connected work that is not yours to your good name?

If, however, someone used my family reunion as the basis of a legitimate artwork, cutting it up and photoshopping it to make something truly distinctive and striking, then I'd be overjoyed! Here, Hobb exposes the bias inherent in her thinking: no appropriative works can ever be art. Which, again, is absurd. Using the lowest common denominator as the standard is bias, pure and simple.

"Fan fiction is a good way for people to learn to be writers."
No. It isn't. If this is true, then karaoke is the path to become a singer, coloring books produce great artists, and all great chefs have a shelf of cake mixes.

While most of Hobb's arguments are specious, the passage above is simply LUDICROUS. OF COURSE karaoke is the path to becoming a singer and OF COURSE fanfiction can be the path to becoming a writer! How else is one supposed to gain an individual perspective when they haven't sufficiently digested any influences? Hobb seems to think that writers spring full-formed from the womb, literary Athenas who can suddenly produce a fresh perspective and style without any practice or study of past masters. WRONG!
By singing other people's songs, a singer learns the possibilities inherent in them, learns to modulate their voice, approximate phrasings, and recombine elements, in much the same way a writer of fanfiction, by learning from their influences, can learn, in time, to write with a distinctive voice. Even someone like Hunter S. Thompson recounted simply typing passages direct from The Great Gatsby because he just wanted to feel what it was like to physically write words that great. Of all the absurdities Hobb perpetrates in her farrago of a rant, this has to be the most fallacious, ignorant, and thoroughly HARMFUL thing said.

Fan fiction is a good way to avoid learning how to be a writer. Fan fiction allows the writer to pretend to be creating a story, while using someone else's world, characters, and plot. Coloring Barbie's hair green in a coloring book is not a great act of creativity. Neither is putting lipstick on Ken. Fan fiction does exactly those kinds of things.

So I guess we're to assume all found art, graffiti, and sampling isn't creative. Max Ernst's collage work - might as well throw that in the trash. Toss out Duchamps and Basquiat as well. As for sampling in music - gotta be sure to send Public Enemy, DJ Shadow, and Negativland to jail. Appropriation and recontextualization? Forget it. Why not dismiss all parody and satire as well? This says nothing about fanfiction and everything about Hobb's complete ignorance of any major artistic developments from the end of the 19th century onwards.

The first step to becoming a writer is to have your own idea. Not to take someone else's idea, put a dent in it, and claim it as your own. You will learn more from writing one story of your own, no matter how bad it is, than the most polished Inuyasha fan fiction that you write. Taking that first wavering step out into the unknown territory of your own imagination is what it is all about. When you can write well enough to carry a friend along, then you've really got something. But you aren't going to get anywhere clinging to the comfort of saying, "If I write a Harry Potter story, everyone will like it because they already like Harry Potter. I don't have to describe Hogwarts because everyone saw the movie, and I don't have to tell Harry's back story because that's all done for me."

Again that defensive possessiveness: 'your' idea. As if anyone can somehow own ideas. Nabokov said something along the lines of "style and craft is everything, 'great ideas' are rubbish." One wonders if Hobb thinks that Shakespeare invented all his plots. On the same note, is a work like Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, one of the most acclaimed pieces of 20th century post-colonial fiction, to be viewed dismissively as Jane Eyre fanfiction? Using Hobb's logic, such works shouldn't rightly exist. If Hobb's version of 'originality' were insisted on, contemporary (or indeed, any kind of) literature wouldn't simply be different, IT WOULDN'T EXIST.

Fan fiction is to writing what a cake mix is to gourmet cooking. Fan fiction is an Elvis impersonator who thinks he is original. Fan fiction is Paint-By-Number art.

Yes Robin, and by the same logic your ENTIRE GENRE is WATERED-DOWN TOLKIEN-LITE. Gross generalizations are fun, aren't they?

Fan fiction doesn't attempt to make money off the stories, so it doesn't really violate anyone's copyright.
I beg your pardon?
Where did you get the idea that copyright is all about money? Copyright is about the right of the author to control his own creation. That includes making money off it. But it also includes refusing to sell movie rights, or deciding that you're not really proud of your first novel and you don't wish to see it republished. It's about choosing how your work is presented. Under copyright, those rights belong to the creator of the work.
I've seen all those little disclaimers on stories at and elsewhere. Legally and morally, they don't mean a thing to anyone. "I don't make any claims to these characters." "I don't want to make any money off this story." That isn't what it is about, and yes, you are still infringing on copyright even if you make those statements. Yes, the author can still sue you, even if you put up those statements.
If you don't believe me, please go to and read what is there. They are pointing out to you that fan fiction can infringe copyright.
"You're trying to suppress people's creativity."
No. I'm doing the opposite. I'm trying to encourage young writers (or writers of any age) to be truly creative. Elvis impersonators are fun for an occasional night out, but surely you don't want to spend your life being a Rowling or Hobb or Brooks impersonator, do you? What is wrong with telling your own stories? Put in the work, take the chance, and if you do it right, stand in your own spotlight.
"I have a free speech right to put my fan fiction on the Internet."
Do I have a free speech right to write pornography and post it under your name? Do I have a free speech right to put a very poor quality product in the public eye, and connect it to a work that belongs to you? Please try to think of this in terms of your own life and career. It doesn't matter if you are a writer or a plumber or an aerospace engineer. You have the right to receive credit for the work you do. No one should take that credit from you. No one should be able to connect your good name to work you did not create yourself.
You certainly have a free speech write to post your own fiction on the Internet or anywhere else, and I heartily encourage you to do so.
If you're really tempted to write fan fiction, do this instead.
List all the traits of the book or character that you liked.
List all the parts that you didn't like.
List the changes you would make to improve the story.
List all changes necessary so that the changes you want don't contradict the world, culture, morality or plot of the original story.
Change the proper nouns involved.
Change the setting to one of your own.
Write your story. Write the paragraphs that describe the world. Write the ones that introduce the characters. Write the dialogue that moves your plot along. Write down every detail that you want your reader to know.
Then publish it however you like.
Know that if it's a bad story, it would still be a bad story even if you had kept the original names and settings. But at least what you now have is your bad story, not your bad imitation of someone else's story. And it years to come, you don't have to be ashamed of it anymore than I'm ashamed of my early efforts.

Here Hobb admits her fundamental inability to conceive that a work of fanfiction might somehow have intrinsic artistic merit - for her, it's a foregone conclusion that all fanfiction is peurile, juvenile, and subliterary, a kind of hoax perpetrated by writers trying to besmirch the good name of her writings. "Know that if it's a bad story, it would still be a bad story even if you had kept the original names and settings." The possibility that a fanfiction writer might equal, or even, yes, SURPASS the 'original' work seems far from her mind. Perhaps swayed by the stereotypes of fanfiction writers as ignorant teenagers aping authors with no regard for depth or craft, Hobb brushes over the numerous talented teenagers, as well as adults, working in the fanfiction field. There are writers out there who write only fanfiction whose work, when viewed critically, easily holds up to the original work and, in some cases, does it one better. Fanfiction writers, indeed, are one of the most marginalized literary groups ever.

I will close this rant with a simple admonition.
Fan fiction is unworthy of you.
Don't do it.

Postscript: I wish to be absolutely clear that the opinion above is entirely my own. Although I use Harry Potter fan fiction as an example, and reference Marion Zimmer Bradley, the X-Files, etc, I do not speak for those writers or copyright owners, or indeed any other writer, nor do I claim that they share my opinions on fan fiction.

The views expressed in Hobb's rant are not just reactionary, they seem positively Victorian; and there's a disturbing undercurrent of puritannical restriction: you can read my books, yes, but don't get too CLOSE to them, and don't you DARE think of changing or imagining anything different!

More than anything, I pity Hobb. It seems she's never known the pleasure of reading a fanfiction where the writer either takes something that was only hinted at in the original work and brings it to perfection, opening up aspects inherent in the original text but never fully brought to light; or else alters the original text so drastically that the characters and settings become wildly original - the familiar faces are seen through a shattered mirror, and become all the more gripping for it. From reading her rant, one gets the impression that Hobb can't even conceive of possibilities like this, and, trapped in a closed mindset, will never be able to experience them. I'm really sorry, Robin. Truly, it's your loss.


The Fanfiction Debate
(Feb 2006)

Defending Fanfiction. Was It Worth It? (April 2007)

(UPDATED 16th of Aug, 2011): Since this was written by Guestblogger Justin nearly 5 years ago, there had been countless blog posts, articles and the like devoted to defending fanfiction, too many to keep up.

However, I cannot help but notice this rebuttal against author Diana Galbadon's anti-fanfic blog post (which has since been removed, so I didn't actually read it). It's definitely worth a read, and does bring back memories.

In Japan, the doujinshi subculture (a combination of American subcultures like underground comics, sci-fi fanzines and fanfiction) features many manga-format fan fiction that are actually sold in legal comic shops, even though such works aren't strictly legal. Mostly because many fanfiction over there is regarded as free advertising and breeding grounds for new talent. Yes, some of the legendary animators and manga artists of today started with fan fiction. Unbelievable huh, Hobb?

Having participated in fanfiction-writing myself during my teens, I grew increasingly jaded with the sometimes overzealous behaviour of the fan community (which isn't limited only in fanfiction circles, obviously) and retired from it. I embarked upon a filmmaking career, was fortunate to have the films I'm involved in being selected at some of the most important film festivals around the world.

Some of my better-known works are loose adaptations of novels or short stories I've read, I claimed these to be sources of my inspiration, yet in a way I think that I wouldn't be capable of transmutations and remixing of this sort if it's not for my previous experiences in writing fanfics. So yes, if people actually bothered to do fanfiction of my films, I'll actually be a happy guy.

As for Guestblogger Justin. Earlier this year, he had published his book of short stories called I WONDER WHAT HUMAN FLESH TASTES LIKE, it's definitely worth a read.

Swifty's NanoWriMo Progress Report (Day 8), Also Provides A Site That Ranks The World's Largest Message Boards And Forums.

I've past the 10 000 mark. Meaning that I have written nearly 4000 words since last night's progress report. I was stuck for a while, having difficulty rediscovering my rhythm, but once I did, it just went pretty smoothly. Some dialogue between characters have sorta elevate my novel beyond conventional fantasy bindings, I think.

On the other hand, I found this site which keeps track on the largest message boards and forums in the world. Rankings were done based on the amount of posts, but you can also view them based on the amount of members. Forum administrators might have to use the top-ranking message forums as a measuring stick. It might not be entirely accurate, and I'm sure some major forums aren't listed, but it's worth a look.

Now, some excerpts.

“Tell me, sir knight, madam sorceress, what can I do to reward both of you? Name the amount of money you want. Or do you want us to erect a statue in your honour? Perhaps you want the rare copies of books we have in the library?” Lord Cadan said.

“Anything.” Lady Cadan added.

“Nay, my lord, my lady,” The sorceress raised a hand. “I already have my reward. The reward of knowing that I have saved the life of another. This reward is immeasurable. I am but a simple sorceress, and my companion a simple Zeltanian knight. I believe in the entire circle of cause and effect. All I want to do is perform as many good deeds as possible so that the child I bear now can live a better life in the future”

Erik’s jaw dropped open in sheer shock. But no one noticed him.


“You are such a liar.” Erik said in disgust.

“What are you talking about, knight? That mayor was a dumbass for letting the cult run around like this, and having their sacrificial rituals. You can’t feel sorry for him, that self-absorbed bastard wouldn’t have given a damn if it weren’t his own daughter who got abducted this time.” The sorceress said. She made a dismissive gesture. “I despise people like him. Now, quit whining and eat your food. This place is pretty good.”

The Dragon’s Den was an intriguing structure shaped like a miniature volcano. It was claimed by its owner, an ogre called H’nim, that once a year, an actual black dragon named Eldyryn would fly down and rest upon its peak, waiting to be served for free by employees of the inn. Eldyryn was a companion of H’nim’s during their adventures years ago when the ogre was much younger. Relics and treasures H’nim and Eldyryn accumulated during these adventures were placed in glass cases for display.


“So, Cluck, besides myself, how many people are in the inn right now?” Eliar asked.

“Six.” Cluck the Rubber Duck answered.

“Really? You sure?”

The rubber duck was silent, incapable of answering any other questions.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Swifty Speaks About, Of All Things, DINOSAURS???

Was having a MSN conversation with friend from Vancouver, a fellow NBA fan, just now, while I was Nano-ing. Our conversation veered from NBA to... dinosaurs? Putting it here cos' it's not everyday I would talk to someone on MSN about dinosaurs. Funny stuff.

Swifty says:
scientists aiming to revive the woolly mammoths!!!
Dominic says:
Dominic says:
Dominic says:
and w/e for
Dominic says:
i mean
Dominic says:
even if they pull it off
Dominic says:
yay.. .now wat
Dominic says:
bring back the t-rex?
Swifty says:
Swifty says:
i want them to bring back those big ass brontosaurus instead
Dominic says:
Dominic says:
wut for
Swifty says:
i dunno, they always interest me more than other dinos
Dominic says:
wut about them triceratops
Dominic says:
or the dinos with a small head and huge spikes on their tails
Dominic says:
forgot their names
Swifty says:
oh, yeah, those heavily armoured type
Dominic says:
Dominic says:
not that one
Dominic says:
staggasauraus or smt
Swifty says:
triceratops is just a glorified rhino
Dominic says:
forgot the name
Swifty says:
oh yeah, stegosaurus?
Swifty says:
Dominic says:
Dominic says:
that i think
Swifty says:
Dominic says:
thatz pretti hardcore rite there
Swifty says:
Dominic says:
a built in spiked tail
Swifty says:
that's true
Swifty says:
T-rex are too fucking overrated
Dominic says:
wutz wrong with glorified rhinos
Swifty says:
I dunno, you're right, they are kinda cool
Dominic says:
rhinoz r dam strong
Dominic says:
Dominic says:
i hate how trex
Dominic says:
have those dinky fore legs
Dominic says:
they look SERIOUSLY weak
Dominic says:
and they're useless
Dominic says:
just hanging there
Swifty says:
yeah, tiny like hell
Swifty says:
the raptors seem more badass, but then, Jurassic Park has already shown us that
Swifty says:
but imagine, big ass brachiosauruses, lumbering around, destroying everything
Swifty says:
Dominic says:
thatz the thing
Dominic says:
they don't
Dominic says:
or do theyu
Swifty says:
hmm. No idea.
Dominic says:
i remember in like
Dominic says:
the lost world
Dominic says:
that kiddy cartoon
Dominic says:
featuring dinos
Dominic says:
the very first one.. therez a bronchosauraus fiting t-rex
Dominic says:
ended in a stalemate i think
Dominic says:
trex kept bitin her
Dominic says:
and she kept using her tail to trip him over
Dominic says:
and knock him around
Swifty says:
oh yeah!
Swifty says:
The Land Before Time!

Dominic says:
Dominic says:
Dominic says:
got the name wrong lol
Swifty says:
that was so fucking touching, man
Dominic says:
i was soo young when i saw that
Dominic says:
i just remember feeling reli sad
Dominic says:
i was like...
Dominic says:
but.. littlefoot still needs his mom!
Swifty says:
Yeah! But the sequels were shitty like hell
Swifty says:
I think littlefoot's a diplodocus, cos' they have whip-like tails
Swifty says:
man, I'm posting this conversation on my blog now. It's so educational

Swifty's NanoWriMo Progress Report (Day 7) And Gives You A Link That Is Even Better Than Wikipedia

After working on my Shakespeare assignment for days and submitting it (the lecturer seemingly loved it) I am now returning my attention to Nano-ing. Unfortunately, the three day break had broken my rhythm, and I found myself having more and more doubts while writing today's part. It's not actually writer's block, more like myself questioning whether what I'm write is really good enough, or is it going to suck?

I did write a little. I have 6345 words now, meaning that I've added nearly 800+ words from before. But I am still 8000 words behind. Which is kinda bad. Think I'll need to have some caffiene-aided writing sessions.

My novel is a tricky one to write. Yes, the settings is a fusion of sci-fi and fantasy, not the typical D & D bullshit, nor another Middle-Earth rip-off, but the approach I have may make things more difficult for me now. Instead of adopting a typical 'quest'-like plot, or a 'getting involved in war for fate of the world' plot, which has a seemingly everyday guy discovering he is the CHOSEN ONE and that he has to either go for a quest to defeat this evil overlord, or realizing that he's the CHOSEN ONE and that only HE can lead an army against the forces of evil led by this evil overlord, my story currently adopts a more languid approach, one is more like a madcap romantic comedy while the other is a slow character exploration/ coming of age tale. The former was easy to write, the latter is giving me fits.

After speaking to couple of people on MSN, once again, more for articulating my own ideas in my own mind than really listening to suggestions, I decide to watch Ridley Scott's 1985 fantasy film starring Tom Cruise (borrowed from the library), hoping for some inspiration. It's a fantastic film, pretty awe-inspiring, actually. But nah, didn't really help me much.

Thus I put decide to do a short meditation, tapping into the mind of my protagonist, imagining myself as him (instead of a mere character named after me, and have my characteristics). I asked myself, if I were that Eliar character, why the hell would I be doing this, and that, and coming to a place like this, at the beginning of the novel. Pretty useful method, got some answers. Gonna continue writing. Here's an excerpt, just one, since I didn't write much.

There was a grand victory parade where legions of Shadar Dragoons and their enormous battle robots marched impressively through the streets of Alexid, amidst deafening cheers, celebrating their latest triumph in the war. Men on horses led the procession, then cars, followed by huge lumbering mechanical mammoths (they were called ‘battle tanks’, Eliar overheard). The gigantic battle robots were at least twenty feet tall, each single step they took shook the ground. When they passed by, Eliar could finally see them clearly. A huge bald man was leading the parade on a magnificent black stallion, he could have been seven feet tall, if not more, his face devoid of any emotion as he stared forward at the Imperial Palace, which was where they were all heading towards.

The other horse riders following the man closely were… children?

“Are those kids prisoners of war?” Eliar wondered aloud.

“Prisoners of war? Gods, no!” A woman standing next to Eliar laughed. “They are the Dinalach. War wizards and seers who are assigned to assist General McDowell, even though he doesn’t really trust them though, being magic-users and all. But then, they have been tampered with by our scientists.”

“Tampered with. How?”

“I have no idea, but I know these children are loyal to the Empire, and probably more powerful than any other normal, natural-born mages.”

The words ‘normal, natural-born mages’ were spoken with so much malice that Eliar almost wanted to flinch.

The Wikipedia is a bloody addictive place, I usually find myself stuck there reading about all kinds of stuff whenever I was doing some researches (... a check on Antony, Cleopatra and Julius Caesar's backgrounds to test the accuracies of Shakespeare's plays led me to read about the numerous dynasties before the fall of the Roman Empire for hours!) Anyway, here's the, er, evil version of Wikipedia called Encyclopedia Dramatica. Info about what it really is can be found here.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Parallels Between Terminator 3 And William Gibson's Neuromancer

An essay written for my Popular Literature, Sci-fi & Cyberculture class last week. Still busy working on my Shakespeare assignment, so you gotta make do with this.

William Gibson’s Neuromancer is considered the first proper cyberpunk novel when it was published in 1984. One of its themes is of the integrity of human identity itself, how a person’s sense of humanity can be severely affected if artificial intelligence can orchestrate the plot, personalities downloaded and uploaded into computer programs or other machineries. (Wood, 1996) Technology portrayed in the cyberpunk genre is usually different from traditional hard sci-fi, as apparatuses of technology in the latter are often seen as instruments for humanity to find and conquer outer space, an external instrument allowing humans to colonize the undiscovered outer space, whereas in Gibson’s Neuromancer, or in most other cyberpunk works, technology itself is the alien, and its otherness is a threat to humankind. (Siivonen, 1996) The cyberpunk genre centers upon the relationship between humanity and technology, and technology, once associated with rationality, will be shifted to irrationality.

Set in a dystopian future that is plausible enough to resemble current society, it is a novel that made many prophecies, and most of them seemingly accurate. There is a computer network called the matrix that is similar to the Internet of today, while multinational corporations have overpowered the traditional nation state, the authority and influence of these multinational corporations over mankind in Neuromancer mirrors real-life companies like Microsoft and Apple of today. Most of all, the intermingling of the human body and technology reiterates the fact that there are no binary oppositions in the world of Neuromancer or cyberpunk fiction in general, disparate elements of cultural dichotomies are melded: computers are also artists, people are also machines, and nature is also technology. The opening sentence of Neuromancer "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel" is a redefinition of natural attributes by using imagery drawn from technology. (Leblanc, 1997)

As Neuromancer is written during the 1980s, which according to Sterling (1994), ‘are an era of reassessment, of integration, of hybridized influences’, technology was becoming pervasive and intimate. And Gibson, as a writer, had to deal with these effects that the technological and communication crises have on the social world. At present, the world of the early 21st century is rapidly being surrounded by massive interconnected cybernetic machines, and that our words have no recourse to truth or accuracy as guarantors of their behaviour. (Siivonen, 1996) The society of today requires humanity to immerse themselves within technology, either for recreational or professional reasons. The Internet had become an essential tool for modern life, technology a projection of the human nervous system. Or as Marshall McLuhan (1964) would put it: “To behold, use or perceive any extension of ourselves in technological form is necessarily to embrace it.”

The relationship between humanity and technology in contemporary post industrial information societies has been described often through the metaphor of the ‘cybernatic organisms’ or cyborgs. Many central characters in Neuromancer, like Molly, are cyborgs, they come into play especially when the boundaries between the human body and machines have been blurred, causing an uneasiness as the ‘eternal order of Nature’ has been upset. This tension between organism and machine hints humanity’s inability to ascribe meaning to the technology they themselves have created.

Although popular, high-grossing films such as Blade Runner and the Matrix trilogy are constantly regarded as prominent developments of the cyberpunk genre’s visual styles and themes, the Terminator films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger are seldom included in these discussions. It was said that Arnold was neglected by cyberpunk due to the ‘ostensibly right-wing ideology associated with his image and interests’. (Liu, 1993). While Neuromancer and Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines are separated by almost twenty years, the link between these two works is obvious, especially the examination of the increasingly confusing relationship between humanity and technology, the similarities between the protagonists and their rejection of ‘authority’ represented by either megacorporations (Neuromancer) or the government (Terminator 3), and the conflict between ‘chaos’ and ‘rigidity’.

Terminator 3, released in 2003, is believed to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last film before he embarked upon a political career, and possibly also a conclusion of the Terminator series. All three Terminator movies involve time-traveling, where denizens of the future are sent back in time to help avert a catastrophic event that would trigger a war between mankind and the cyborgs. Although resistance implies opposition, it is nearly impossible to label these two warring factions as ‘mankind’ and ‘cyborgs’, or ‘humans’ and ‘machines’, especially in Terminator 2 and Terminator 3. In these two films, John Connor, leader of mankind, sends a reprogrammed cyborg (or Terminator) into the past to protect his younger self against enemy cyborgs. Even though humanity is waging war against products of technology, their reliance upon the technology remains just as strong. However, the same can also be said about technology’s reliance upon humanity, forming a symbiotic relationship on both sides, when the evil cyborgs sent to kill John Connor in the present-day have to adopt the looks of humans too. Technology has to immerse itself within humanity.

In Terminator 3, T-X, the cyborg sent to kill John Connor and his future lieutenants, assumed the appearance of a normal blonde woman and occasionally of other humans, which allowed her to move freely among other humans to carry out her missions. When pursued by a policeman early on in the film, a glimpse at a billboard of a lingerie advertisement with the words ‘What Is Sexy?’ and a well-endowed female model prompted her to enlarge her own breasts to mimic the model’s appearance, this revealed a machine conforming to the general perception of humankind for temporary acceptance. Further illustration of a machine’s resistance towards its own identity was in a scene when Arnold’s Terminator was being referred to as a ‘robot’ by John Connor, he immediately corrected him with ‘cybernetic organism’. A cyborg is a figure born of autonomy and automaton, for the Terminator, being called a ‘robot’ would have meant accepting that he was merely an automaton and denying his ‘autonomy-ness’.

As for the characteristics of the megacorporations and the technology created by them, it was said that American xenophobia and isolationism to the scientific and economic invasion of the Japanese manifested itself during the 80’s as the latter’s corporation practice presented a substantial threat to American capitalism. And Gibson was exposed to this when his home, British Columbia, was involved in more conflict with Japanese investments than most part of the country. America’s objections towards Japanese ownership of their estate and industry allowed Gibson’s text to be reexamined within the context of these conflicting interests. Even though Gibson had deliberately avoided noticeable anti-Japanese paranoia or its attendant racism and ethnocentrism in his book, the world of Neuromancer is ruled by megacorporations that form a clear antagonistic counterpoint to the heroes, megacorporations similar to the likes of Sony, Sanyo, Sendai and Fuji Electric with their familial and collective practice. (Nixon, 1992)

The good guys in Neuromancer are anarchic, individualistic American heroes, a console cowboy like Case. In Gibson’s novels, this masculine hero with ‘specially modified (Americanized) Japanese equipment, can beat the Japanese at their own game, pitting his powerful individualism against the collective, feminized, domesticated and therefore impenetrable Japanese ‘family’ corporations’. However, the T-X possesses the appearance of a female, meaning that like Neuromancer, technology is also feminized in Terminator 3. In addition to that, the Terminator reveals to John Connor in a conversation that he (along with other Terminators) ‘comes off from an assembly line’, and being a product of mass production confirms his lack of individualism. His individualism is attained after he was reprogrammed and helped John Connor in defeating the feminine T-X, and being Arnold Schwarzenegger, he epitomized masculinity.

During the Reaganite 80’s, moral majority had risen to unprecedented heights, along with revocations of the feminist advances of the 70’s and the decrease of most forms of social assistance, a nuclear family and a simple rural life was idealized. The Reaganite revision of the cowboy was no longer a solitary, autonomous hero but a man whose eventual home is constituted by a wife and range, Case settled down in the end and had four children. (Nixon, 1992) The protagonist of Terminator 3, John Connor, shares many similar traits with Case even though the film was made two decades after the publishing of Neuromancer. It was established in the beginning of the film that John Connor was a loner who lived ‘off the grid’ (“no phone, no address” to avoid being found), constantly traveling around the country by himself on his motorbike. Yet like Case, he was left with a wife when the film ended, and his wife, Kate Brewster would later become the second-in-command of his army in the war against the machines. America of the early 21st century, during the production of the film, was similar to the 1980s, fear and distrust pervaded the country after the terrorist attacks on September 11, coupled with the announcement of the Iraq war and high-profile corporate scandals like the Enron case, there was a return to what was idealized by the society in the 80s.

Terminator 3 depicts the U. S. military as the ones who has taken over Cyberdyne’s (a megacorporation destroyed in Terminator 2) duties in developing Skynet, the artificial intelligence network system that created the Terminators. Skynet was originally for searching and destroying an exponentially evolved online virus, but what was meant to help them turned out to cause more harm than good, perhaps similar to some people’s opinion of the Iraq war.

The notion of generative chaos is vital to the ‘punk’ aspect of cyberpunk writing. Chaos has to be accepted as a positive force. (Wood, 1996) This theme can be seen in both Neuromance and Terminator 3. Rigidity without chaos is a kind of static immortality, such as that of the Dixie Flatline’s construct. With no hope of transcendence as his limitations are hard-wired, he asks to be wiped. The same can be said about Armitage, a programmed human being who reverts to his original persona as Colonel Corto in chapter 16, and has self-destructive tendencies too, obsessively running the suicidal Screaming Fist operation until he finally killed himself. The Terminator is similar to the above two, as he is unable to change and incorporate new elements into his personality, his limitations are hard-wired too, and he is an obsolete model, therefore, there is not hope for him to survive in the end of the film, he has to trigger his internal hydrogen fuel cell, terminating both T-X and him. And that is why none of the Terminators can escape this fate in all films of the trilogy.

If Neuromancer is a book that pronounced many prophecies, then Terminator 3 is a film about fulfilling these prophecies. Neuromancer may have not been taken place in a future world, but a present cultural difference that arises less from pure imagination than from the harsher tendencies and contradiction of contemporary life. (Whalen, 1992) On the other hand, Terminator 3 is set in 2003, but a 2003 that is different from us.

“By the time Skynet became self-aware, it had spread into millions of computer servers across the planet. Ordinary computers in office buildings, dorm rooms, everywhere. It was software in cyberspace.”

This is John Connor’s voice-over narration when the nuclear war erupted in the end of the movie, heralding Judgment Day, human race nearly destroyed by the technology they built for themselves. Like Neuromancer, Terminator 3 has articulated criticisms of its modern society, where all hopes for human enlightenment are gradually exhausted during the Age of Information.

Cameron, J. (1991) Terminator 2. A motion picture starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Distributed by Columbia Pictures.

De Zwan, V. (1997) “Rethinking the Slipstream: Kathy Acker Reads Neuromancer,” in Science Fiction Studies. Vol. 24: 464-465

Gibson, W. (1984) Neuromancer. HarperCollins. Great Britain.

Grant, G. (1990) “Transcendence Through Detournement in William Gibson’s Neuromancer,” in Science Fiction Studies. Vol. 17: 41-47

Leblance, L. (1997) “Razor Girls: Genre and Gender in Cyberpunk Fiction,” The Cyberpunk Project. (Accessed: 28th of October, 2005)

Liu, A. (1993) “The Last Days of Schwarzenegger,” in Genders No. 18 (Winter) pp. 102-112

McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media: The Extensions Of Men.

Mostow, J. (2003) Terminator 3. A motion picture starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Distributed by Columbia Pictures.

Nixon, N. (1992) “Cyberpunk: Preparing The Ground For Revolution or Keeping the Boys Satisfied?” in Science Fiction Studies. Vol. 19: 219-231

Siivonen, T. (1996) “Cyborgs and generic oxymorons: The body and technology in William Gibson’s Cyberspace Technology,” in Science Fiction Studies. Vol. 23: 227-241)

Sterling, B. (1994) “Preface,” in Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology, ed. Bruce Sterling, London: HarperCollins, pp. vii-xiii

Whalen, T. (1992) “The Future of a Commodity: Notes Toward a Critique of Cyberpunk and the Information Age,” in Science Fiction Studies. Vol 19: 75-87

Wood, B. (1996) “William S Burroughs and the Language of Cyberpunk,” in Science Fiction Studies. Vol. 23: 14-15

Technorati Tags: , , , ,
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...