:: Buzzwords Archive: September 2009. Click here for the latest posts.

3:AM Asia: Mecha auteur and mega girl group hit NYC (published 25/09/2009)


By Roland Kelts.

This evening in New York, I will have the privilege of introducing and conversing with Yoshiyuki Tomino, veteran anime creator, director, screenwriter and novelist. Tomino is most famous for his now 30-year-old seminal mecha anime masterpiece, Mobile Suit Gundam. He has been making the rounds of late, granting public appearances and interviews both in Japan and overseas, and speaking out on topics as diverse as video games and world peace. Gundam, too, has resurfaced — most literally as a life-size, 18-meter-tall statue in Odaiba, Tokyo.

Organizers anticipated 1.5 million visitors to their gigantic giant robot. An estimated 4.15 million turned up over the statue’s 40-day life span, which ended with its ceremonial dismantling earlier this month. At least one couple even got married between its massive feet.

Tomino is in New York this weekend to participate in the third annual New York Anime Festival (NYAF), among the United States’ largest and most media-friendly celebrations of Japanese popular culture. But while he and his giant robot are both consecrated classics at home, they may be yesterday’s news–or not even newsworthy — for many of today’s American otaku.

“Tomino is on the same level as Hayao Miyazaki,” says Peter Tatara, NYAF’s 26-year-old director of programming. We are at a folksy Japanese luncheon in Manhattan, where my shrimp-fry set is as much a sign of hybrid Japan’s cultural presence in New York as the tower of nori seaweed perched atop his mushroom spaghetti. “As soon as we knew he would come, we booked him,” Tatara says. “But although he is legendary, the U.S. fan base is so young right now. They’re 13 to 15, and skew slightly female. Tomino’s name won’t register at all with our younger fans.”

To bridge the gap, Tatara has booked AKB48, the uber-popular group of young female J-pop performers from Japan. I will host their panel tomorrow — but what will they have to say? AKB48 (pictured) are girls who are celebrated in part for being attractively amateurish, idealized icons of moe or schoolgirl fetish fantasy and consumption.

“What’s interesting is that AKB48 are not attached to any specific anime,” Tatara continues. “They’re mainly a leading-edge Japanese music idol group. So their U.S. fans had to seek out AKB48’s music the way U.S. anime fans had to seek out anime years ago — in the niches. That means their fans are very, very diehard.”

Will that passion translate into CD purchases and ticket sales? Tatara hopes so. But recent figures suggest that younger American fans’ interest in Japanese pop culture is mostly about community and play. Fans attend conventions in greater numbers each year, but they are less likely to know of Japanese auteurs like Tomino, and they’ve already seen on the Internet the latest anime titles that have not yet been released in the United States. Why would they buy them? In short: Many young attendees seek only the most superficial kinds of fun: “Give me AKB48, some cosplay and a hot dog on the side.”

Two months ago to this day, I introduced and interviewed Hayao Miyazaki in California. He was charming and engaging throughout, but I detected a faint distraction in his performance. He seemed there primarily to entertain, not necessarily to argue or enlighten. Less than a year ago, I played the same role for Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami in California. Japanese artists of an older generation seem to be realizing that it’s worth showing up at U.S. events — and that just showing up, as Woody Allen once wrote, can be 80 percent of success. “I am determined to bring in more Japanese guests in the future,” says Tatatara as we exit the luncheon. “Japanese guests are our highest crown jewels.”

That they may be. But it will probably take a greater effort on behalf of both sides — Japan and the United States — to connect the younger fans of AKB48 swarming New York this weekend to an artist of Tomino’s stature and skill, and to engender an appreciation of just how rare and precious he and his gigantic giant robot have become.

(also at Daily Yomiuri)

ampere’s and (published )


Today’s quick lit [& alt.cult] links from around the web:

V is for vixen, the “marvellously indecent” Anaïs Nin (via @millerwalks)

& Darran Anderson on Amanda McKittrick Ros & other forgotten Irish female writers

& Miranda July‘s new photo series for Vice (via Flavorwire)

& Tao Lin interviewed by Stop Smiling & Tao Lin’s Book Notes for Shoplifting from American Apparel

& Lorrie Moore takes Powell’s Q & A

& James Ellroy on writing ‘historical’ fiction

& Frank Portman in conversation with Vol. 1 Brooklyn

& Taqwacores author Michael Muhammad Knight meets Bat Segundo

& Drinking beer with Marcel Proust (via Maud Newton)

& More fine books from Penguin, an interview with designer Coralie Bickford-Smith

[Image: c/o Mykl Roventine]

Friday I’m in Love (published )

By Andrew Stevens.

Having watched others have a go recently (Cass, Rise of the Footsoldier), Nick Love clearly couldn’t help himself, hence his ‘remake’ of Alan Clarke’s The Firm (1989), which opened last weekend. When Clarke was casting around for a track to underscore the nihilistic fury of Made in Britain (1982, made for Central Television’s Tales Out of School series), as visceral an on-screen denuciation of early Thatcherism as you can get, the relentless ‘UK82′ by The Exploited must have appeared like a precipitative gift from above. Trevor Griffiths’ Oi For England (1982), a screen adaptation of his stage play, is sometimes held up as a companion to Clarke’s better effort, but the music here is indicative of how, as with Romper Stomper (1992), depictions of the far right in film can easily veer into wholly inauthentic Blood & Honour as Spinal Tap territory (though it does feature ‘Allo ‘Allo/Eastenders’ Gavin Richards as a highly convincing Geert Wilders lookalike local fascist leader.)

Made in Britain documents (as per Clarke’s by now honed signature style) much of the bleak era as I just about remember it, the UK’s recession-hit urban centres, as shown through glue-sniffing, the far right, government schemes, the criminal justice system, though this went past the mid-80s rather than just 1982. Its consideration of conformity, through the depiction of the trajectory of the wayward yet resourceful Trevor, was not only brutally realised but also precient given the Conservatives’ later coherently-formed desire to “condemn more and understand less”. A sign of things to come again?

‘UK82’ became more than just an Exploited song, it later came to define the second wave of punk, the resolutely non-style mag-friendly and anti-fashion ethos from the likes of Conflict, Riot Squad and Vice Squad, themselves equally rooted in the nomenclature of Authority and the British State. I will leave the last word to another:

A part of the Exploited’s micro-mystique is that they were one of the bands, along with Conflict, Discharge and the Subhumans who took punk in a different direction, away from its co-option by the mainstream, into a subaltern world of anarchist commitment. They weren’t fashionable, they weren’t post-punk in any of its currently understood senses, there were very few major labels sniffing round them, and besides, a part of their commitment demanded that they would tell them to fuck off. The Exploited signify a kind of anti-plastic-punk Real.

ampere’s and (published 23/09/2009)


Today’s quick lit [& alt.cult] links from around the web:

David Lynch shares his artwork on Twitter

& Tao Lin interviewed by Dazed Digital

& Fictionaut, a literary community for adventurous readers and writers

& Nick Cave: “I have a problem with the word “redemption” because it’s a Christian notion. What I wanted to try to write was an anti-redemption story.”

& The Small Chair, a weekly iPhone app from McSweeney’s

[Image: cultr.sun]

Five for: Jovanka Vuckovic (published )

By Alan Kelly.


1) How difficult was it for you to become editor of Rue Morgue in what is largely considered a ‘boys’ den’?
I had known Rodrigo [Gudiño] for a long time and would travel to conventions with the Rue Crew, working the booth. I was working as a digital effects artist at the time but was a lifelong horror fan. One day it occurred to me there weren’t enough women writing for Rue Morgue so I approached him about writing. I figured it was something I could do while my machine rendered FX shots. I wrote a review, which he nearly published verbatim, then he assigned me a secondary cover story, then, shortly thereafter, he sat me down and said “What would you think about taking over Rue Morgue?” After I picked myself up off the floor, I told him I had no experience in journalism whatsoever and knew nothing about running a magazine. To which he responded, “That’s okay, I can teach you all that, you’ve already got what it takes.” Evidently I was a natural at writing; he had been testing me all along to see if I had the chops. The core knowledge and passion for the genre was already there, a stable backbone upon which he and I could build on. Of chief importance to Rodrigo was the awareness that I would continue on in the good tradition of Rue Morgue, that I’d never sell out, that I shared the same vision as he. So I gave up a huge job opportunity in LA in Visual Effects to stay here and run Rue Morgue. I was hired on as Managing Editor and Rodrigo trained me over two years. I learned the way things are done here at Rue Morgue, as very unorthodox and special magazine. So it was a lot of hard work but my staff – as well as the horror community – made it pretty easy. I rarely come up against too much sexism. I may be a woman in the middle of a male dominated landscape, but it hasn’t really been much of an issue. Everyone for the most part treats you with respect if you know your stuff. And I think after seven years at Rue Morgue, it’s pretty clear I love horror as much as any of the boys do, if not more.

2) How many copies of Rue Morgue are sold annually?
60,000 units per issue, monthly – worldwide.

3) What are your problems with women in horror today? Where would you want to see it go?
I can’t say as I have any “problems” with any of them. From screamqueens to writers, directors and producers, it appears there are more women in horror than ever. That’s a great thing. But I’ve always made the distinction between supporting women in horror and crusading for them. Horror is, and should be, genderless. In other words, a good story is a good story, whether it’s told by a man or a woman. That said, there is still a gender bias in the entertainment industry – in many industries, in fact – that’s going to take a long time to change. I’m hoping to help change that in the future by contributing more creatively in the genre. I plan to not let my gender be an issue. And if it is, it’ll be a benefit, rather than a detriment.


4) Most important woman in print/e-zine/lit/film/performance?
Anyone that’s contributing. We’re all in this together. Though I have to say that Doris Wishman was a pretty impressive lady, who directed dozens of exploitation films way before Herschell Gordon Lewis got behind a camera. I wish there were more ladies like her.

5) Favourite horror film featuring an almost entirely female cast?
I don’t really think of movies in those terms. In fact, I prefer to note films that have no female cast members as great examples of stories well told, ones that don’t rely on female flesh, such as The Thing, which is completely devoid of women altogether and one of the best horror films ever made in the history of horror films. That said, I’d have to say my currents mostly female-led film is À l’intérieur, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo‘s punishing, Halloween-inspired French slasher film featuring a pregnant single lady who is being pursued by a batshit bonkers assailant known only as La Femme who basically wants to rip her child from her womb and keep it for herself. If you haven’t seen it, please do, and bring a vomit bag if you’re faint of heart.

Rue Morgue, the magazine of horror in culture & entertainment, is available here.

ampere’s and (published 22/09/2009)


Today’s quick lit [& alt.cult] links from around the web:

“Imagine a Stephen King book that costs just over $90,000. Then try to grasp the fact that around $85,000 of that total is accounted for by the dust jacket alone.”

& The Cult interview James Ellroy

& ‘Right & Wrong Political Uses of Literature’ by Italo Calvino (via wood s lot)

& Religion for radicals, an interview with Terry Eagleton

& Banned Books Week‘s map of censorship

& Some favourite lines from Hard Case Crime novels (via Maud Newton)

& Filthy Dickens, out-of-context Charles Dickens quotations

& Lee Rourke’s 10.5 things he likes about Regent’s Canal, the setting for his forthcoming novel The Canal

& Don Draper & Tony Soprano would totally be friends (via @flavorpill)

[Image: c/o Mykl Roventine]

3:AM Press (published 21/09/2009)


The first 3:AM Press title was announced today: work by Will Ashon, to be published in 2010. Follow the book launch campaign on Twitter.