Random Snippets

  • If I ever were to write an autobiographical account of my life in Korea, or a chapter on the same in a bigger autobiographical text (other than this blog), I would want to have all of the humor of the first twelve pages or so of Peter Mayne’s A Year in Marrakesh. That’s all I’ve read, but I’m sure the rest is funny too.
  • Other Westerners I know have much better first-day-in-Korea stories than I do. One guy I know ended up on the bus to a totally different city, but, if I remember it right, didn’t know he was in the wrong city right away. Another guy I know was driven by a cabbie from the Incheon Airport to the Express Bus Terminal (a long drive) by a cabbie who then took all his cash except the price of a ticket to his destination. (And, to add to the hilarity, introduced himself as “Gil” except when a Korean says this, it can sound a lot more like “Kill.”

    Me, I just arrived, tried to call the teacher who’d be meeting up with me at the Iksan Interchange, spent all my coins before I realized her cell phone and my pay phone weren’t gonna play nice, and got a phone card… and then caught the bus, watched scary TV — a Joseon-Dynasty drama, followed by an exposé on apartment-fires. Then I was picked up by the couple who’d later become among my best friends in Korea, dropped off at my new apartment, met the roommate I’d live with for the next 18 months, and slept like the dead. Not such a great story, though it’s well-rehearsed and funnier over beer.

  • I really do find myself wondering about why it is that, of all SF texts in Korean translation there are, it’s always The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that people seem to know. Or, rather, while I was listening to the BBC radio productions during my bus ride home tonight, I wondered how much of Adams’ humor actually comes across in the translations, how much of it is intelligible outside of an Anglophone context, and, given how much wordplay is involved, how much of the humor actually works because of how it’s translated, ie. how much remixing was needed to make it intelligible to your average Korean reader. One wonders, say, how comparable the experience of reading it in translation is to, say, seeing the film version (which feels rather different from the book, to put it generously)
  • In discussion of this, my former Korean tutor said, “Yeah, since you know me I can say this. There are a lot of things in Korea than can be improved. The status of women, and of different races. It’s not happening because of that generation. They have to die, then things will change. And they should die. Right now.” The last part, it became apparent, was her wishing death on racist and sexist older people, not everyone of that generation. But it was a striking comment, eye opening in fact coming from someone that mild-mannered. We talked a bit about what might happen if life-extension tech were hurried into existence in the next ten years. (Not a pretty idea for democracy in Northeast Asia, believe me.) Also, about how sex robots could extinct the human race if they were realistic enough to drive the birth rates down further than they now worldwide.

    Miss Jiwaku’s response to the idea of the older generation dieout leading to big changes was that conscious indoctrination continues (during military service periods,  and in workplaces, many of which use essentially military style organization structures, and even in schools), so the death of the oldest generation in Korea won’t make as much difference as my tutor suggested.

  • HG Wells’ last lover, Moura Budberg (that was one of her names), was a suspected spy, a countess, and eventually exile/emigre from Russia. Her first boyfriend was the British spy R.H. Bruce Lockhart, the agent for whom the Lockhart Plot (to overthrow the Bolsheviks in 1918) was named — of which super-spy Sidney Reilly (upon whom James Bond was based) was, by the way, a participant. She was also a lover of Maxim Gorky’s, and translated some of his work into English; some of her translations are still available in collections.  There’s more to why I am writing a story titled Moura — all kinds of things, including a passage where Wells explains why he chose to be driven to a brothel with African-American prostitutes, instead of white ones, on the day when he met… I think it was Roosevelt. Oh, and that late novel of his, Star Begotten.
  • Nick Mamatas has weighed in on the Shine anthology, and had positive things to say about several stories, including mine, which I was very flattered to see he described as “great”!

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