Memories of the Sword (협녀: 칼의 기억)

We usually try to avoid going to films on the weekend in Jochiwon, because the cinemas are crowded and because of the countrified behaviour of the locals during screenings really annoys us. (It’s not quite as ridiculous as in Saigon, though: I haven’t seen anyone surf the net on an iPad all the way through a film here yet…)

However, we decided to go to a film last weekend because it was Mrs. Jiwaku’s birthday, and since the film both looked interesting, and had sold fewer tickets than the other films showing, we decided to give it a shot. In our experience, there’s an uncanny-valley-like effect in Korean cinema: the bell-curve applies on most axes in determining how well a film does. Too bad or too good, or too smart or too stupid, too fast or too slow, to creative or too uncreative, all of these things hurt a film’s success. Yes, a film can be too good to succeed in Korea. Or too smart, or too beautiful, or too well-written. I’ve seen it happen many times, and wondered whether this particular film was flunking because it was too good, or too bad.


Unfortunately, after seeing 협녀: 칼의 기억, I can say pretty definitely it was the latter: it’s really just an unfortunate mess, one of those films where you watch it thinking, oh, there’s another lost opportunity every few minutes. Which I suppose should be no surprise, since it’s one of those films that got stuck on the way out to release for years on end, as I found out after we got home from the cinema. Yeah, it shows. Sometimes, creative friction creates energy: here, it worked more like sandpaper, wearing down all the film’s sharp, distinctive edges.

I’ll take a few moments and see if I can talk about both the good and the bad of this film.  Continue reading

Marie de France, Orality/Mouvance, and “Magical Linguistics”

marie de franceI recently mentioned reading The Lais of Marie de France. Now, I discussed her work specifically in that previous post, but the introduction actually reminded me of a nexus of things that connect in interesting ways: the medieval concept of mouvance, our modern concepts of remixing and the Creative Commons, and the profound difference between oral and literate cultures… and what the implications might be for magical systems in fantasy worlds unlike ours. (Say, those that have predominantly illiterate populations.)  Continue reading

Publication News: Cthulhu Fhtagn! and More…

The I’ve been writing less short fiction since embarking on my novel project—which has once again taken over my life, as it does during work holidays—but I’m happy to announce that Ross Lockhart’s Lovecraftian anthology Cthulhu Fhtagn! Weird Tales Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft is available for preorder at as a Kindle ebook; the print release is on August 15th, which is this Friday Saturday (oops).

(See the publisher’s website for more information.)

Among many other tales by esteemed Lovecraftians, Cthulhu Fhtagn! includes my “The Return of Sarnath.” Those that know “The Doom That Came to Sarnath” can probably guess some of what it’s about, though in fact it’s another of my future-Dreamlands stories, like “Of Melei, of Ulthar,” further exploring the connections between a version of the Dreamlands somewhat far into the future of the Dreamlands that Lovecraft wrote about, beginning to be caught up in a kind of political and social upheaval… and about that world’s changing connections to own own world in its (nightmarish, eco-upheaval) future.

(My story notes for The Return of Sarnath are available here.)

I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention my other forthcoming and recently published work:

“The Spurned Bride’s Tears, Centuries Old, in the Rain” is a novelette set in Jakarta and inspired by my multiple visits there, as well as my youthful brush with The Mahabharata (something I’ll discuss more in an upcoming post). The story is coming out in Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction later this year.

Also, Cat Sparks recently accepted my short story “Sunshine” for Cosmos. It’s a near-future story about the social toll of drug-resistant superbacteria, set in Korea. It was inspired by events during the MERS outbreak here earlier this year.

Also, I’ve just noticed that my article, “The Cinematic Politics of Bong Joon-Ho” was published in issue 134 (February/March 2015) of Arena Magazine, down in Australia. I hadn’t mentioned it before because I didn’t realize till now that it’d been published already! (The copy sent to me is still with relatives in Seoul who received it after we’d moved out to the countryside, and I probably won’t be seeing it for another week or two, but I’m very pleased about that.)

That’s to say nothing of assorted book reviews in the hopper over at Kyoto Journal (or the couple I have yet to write), or the assortment of accumulated stories I sent out to various markets the other day, because leaving them to sit on my hard drive isn’t getting them any closer to being read by anyone. Or, of course, the novel I’m working on again, finally. (It’s been too long!)