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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Serious Literary Fiction about Idols

I need help.

I am writing a serious literary work about idols and wota.

Someone please tell me suggestions for things they want to see in this.

This is not a joke, I am a published author.


  1. I'd been thinking about how to use idols in a work of literary fiction for a while now, and the main issue I keep bumping up against is the metaphorical value an idol can take. The only real example I can think of in fiction is how William Gibson chose the artificial / media-created angle for his idol in Idoru, then did nothing with it until the end of All Tomorrow's Parties. If anything, the Lo-Rez fan club subplot seemed much more wota to me, and was a stronger part of the story.

    There's nothing I'd want to "see" in particular, it's your story and your approach. But if a work of fiction's going to seriously deal with the topic, I'd at least hope that it goes beyond the obvious freakshow aspects of obsessive fans without dipping into some silly romantic notions about the bond between wota and idol. That is, I'd expect sympathy for the wota mindset but not unwitting complicity.

  2. I agree, that's what I thought too when I read Idoru.

    Idoru sort of reminded me of Macross Plus too, the whole thing with this virtual idol.

    Heh, maybe you should just look at Train Man again, but replace anime and otakudom with idols and wota.

  3. From what I told Craig:

    I think my aim is to present the reality of the wota world and hopefully get the mainstream readership to think about things they wouldn't normally think about. I want to be 'confrontational' but still present a basically sympathetic portrayal.

    So, my ideals are pretty much what you said - I'm not interested in freakshows or caricatures, but at the same time, yeah, I mean the extreme side is there and I find it more interesting than more cliched 'extreme' angles (violence, drugs, more conventionally 'badass' subcultures, etc.) I usually try to get to the underpinnings of whatever I'm writing about, so I think I'll probably use some of your essays as reference material, with regards to developing the psychology of the characters (things like getting attached to idols and growing up as they grow up, etc.) Honestly I think you could probably write about this material in a fictional context better than I could, but I'm going to take a shot at it anyway.

    Any other thoughts are always welcome.

  4. Ed, by 'serious literary fiction' I mean random fantasy things aren't going to happen and everyone is going to be more or less confined to the drab reality we have to inhabit during waking hours. And in that reality random otaku aren't going to get together with model-looking girls. As much as I usually take the piss out of 'Realism' in literature, this is one case where the reality is actually more interesting to me than any fantasy shit I could come up with.

  5. ... Love In The Time Of Cholera, but with idols and wota? That's serious literary fiction too! *sob*

    Aha, I know, a literary equivalent of, I dunno, All About Lily Chou-Chou? I actually have the book lying in front of me right now, Chinese translation, bought it in Shanghai back then, haven't really opened it.

    Write a kickass story and I'll bloody adapt it... hell, this would be my long-awaited meeting with my Hiro-chaaaaaan.

  6. See? Everything connects in the end. :)

  7. I'd love to see how this turns out, Justin, it sounds very promising. And while I'd take issue with the broader issue of equating "serious literary fiction" with realism, I definitely see what you're getting at when you describe it in terms of how you want to explore the wota / idol experience in your planned project.

    I'd wonder how useful it would be to consider other books that explore the deep bond between fans and pop culture, as there is an affinity there that could be useful background material. There's Lucky Wander Boy, and I guess Nick Hornby (though I've never read him)... A wota story, to me, would have to be as much about the minutiae (being able to recognize a dance step in a two-second clip, having favorite costumes on an idol, etc) as about the broader emotional issues.

  8. "This is not a joke, I am a published author."

    Funniest sentence ever, really. Imagine saying it out loud in any situation. You're a bank robber and you've taken hostages!

    "This is not a joke, I am a published author."

    You're at the 7-11 and you attempt to buy XL-size condoms!

    "This is not a joke, I am a published author."

    You write a rambling story about a priest, minister, and rabbi!

    "This is not a joke, I am a published author."

  9. I'm not about to actually start this yet, as I'm going to need to research a lot. I don't think I could just do this off the top of my head. Serious, I'm terrified about getting things wrong. The minutiae is going to be the point I think where people's suggestions are going to be the most important.

    Also, it won't be a full-length novel - I prefer to work with longish short stories and novellas (at least for the moment).

    Anyway, things that are definitely going in as of now:

    1) The 'Love Machine' video as a consciousness-breakthrough

    2) Photobooks and handshake events

    3) Watching concert DVDs

    4) Learning dance moves and then dancing in your own home

    5) Attempts to apply some kind of broader narrative to PVs and seemingly arbitrary career decisions (you got into this in your essays as well). The tendency to look for/create meaning.

  10. Without revealing too too much, especially about a project that I just started, I will say that in my case, Novel #2 (which already has a title in My Idea Of Fun and a few preliminary scenes written - I'll have full concentration on it once I finish Novel #1, Play It All Night Long) is also J-pop-centered.

  11. I was reading the Marquis De Sade a while back to get some ideas for my own eventual piece of wota fiction... And Justin, I'll be posting a long-ass piece on the postmodern nature of "Love Machine" sooner or later.

    Also, are you going to be looking at the smaller level idols, the ones who haven't got a national audience but nevertheless have their own devoted wota? I remember seeing a TV show about it, and I found it fascinating because the relationship seems more intimate (and creepy) since the divide between audience and performer isn't as defined. When you're a new idol struggling to get recognition, each and every wota must be won over, so the wota has more power than with, say, Morning Musume or dream...

    Also, Santos has some great stories about interacting with Irie Saaya and SweetS and Bon Bon Blanco along that line, and they're mid-level idols.

  12. I like that you read de Sade to get ideas about wota fiction. That's thinking I can understand.

    I think I'm going to keep it H!P-centered for the most part since there's lots of things I can access here on that front (I went to the Hello! Project museum in the bottom floor of Shibuya 109 the other week), but there will definitely mention made of more obscure idols. My focus is going to be mostly on the internal world and daily life of a single main character, so it won't be as all-encompassing as something like this could maybe be. I'm less interested in larger social questions than in how something like this affects day to day life. That said, I'm going to have a fairly major idol show up towards the end, but it won't be in a dramatic or fantasy-style way.

    It's interesting that we're all doing this, too. I'm sure everyone's take will come out pretty differently.

    Also, how can I access American Wota anymore? If the username/password is protected, could you e-mail me it? Interested to read the 'Love Machine' essay when it comes out.

  13. If anyone other than us three is going to do this, there should be an anthology or something: "Some Boys! Write: New Fiction about Idols," etc.

  14. As for my $.02, my novel may be being shopped around as "fantasy" (I really don't have a choice), but the idols involved are one of the more mundane aspects. In fact, I've drawn a lot of flak from some friends about how much I fixate, away from the actual manuscript files, on the idols (who, with the exception of one, play a small role in the story). I have sprawling 100-page "Wiki Articles" and discographies, PV ideas and well-practiced dances in my head for these very fictitious idols. I am, no doubt, as their author, their biggest wota. However, the wota aspect plays heavily into it as well (one character is a well-respected scientist whose obsession with a long-dead idol, even well into his life and career, inspires some narrative-shifting choices). Though with the theme of my novel it's hard to explain how it's "obvious" that the country of Hevod is supposed to "be" Japan, etc. etc. etc., and that country is from whence these idols originate.

    That said, I'll watch this thread with relish. I wish there were more non-sensationalist fiction on idols and wota and the connection there.

    Geez, thanks for letting me ramble. 0___o