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On Light Novels

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A few posts back, I wrote that the closest antecedent to the classic western pulp market is East Asian “light novels”, not western e-publishing. Translations of these books are becoming more frequent, but there’s still a huge amount that’s yet to be licensed or officially translated and probably never will be. The insanely short release schedules and sheer volume of work, coupled with the general disinterest of western readers and publishers in tackling translations in the first place, dictates against us getting more than a small window into grab-and-go novels geared towards teenagers and people who want a quick read on their commute. Yet unlike other languages, Japanese, and to a lesser extent Chinese and Korean, has a dedicated and active fan translation community that brings out work we otherwise would never see. The legality of these projects is dicey, but oftentimes its the only way to read these works if you’re not fluent in the language of origin and the only way they’d ever come to the attention of English-language publishers in the first place.

What I found was that some forms of storytelling from older English pulp that has largely died out on this side of the ocean is alive and well in Japan, as well as a certain young adult ethos that characterized older middle-grade fiction but not the current predominate mode of YA. These features were especially noticeable in two series that I breezed through this year (both not officially translated, alas). Continue Reading »

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What does heaven look like? We find out by reading Steven Brust’s novel To Reign in Hell (1984).

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Marie’s blog

Cory’s blog

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The Wolf Returns

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I always feel some trepidation when an author returns to a series after many years with a new installment—even when the book is good, it tends to miss something from the original, some spark that drove that series along. So, the news that Isuna Hasekura would release more Spice and Wolf came with some mixed feelings; Spice and Wolf was very much the comfort read I needed at the time I discovered it, but with seventeen books and a satisfying conclusion do we really need more? Continue Reading »

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Japan makes lots of cartoons, so our planned cartoon episode ended up being all about anime junk: Kill la Kill, Neon Genesis Evangelion, The Vision of Escaflowne, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

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Marie’s blog

Cory’s blog

Source of our theme song

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City and Swamp

Part I

Alasdair: The point you make about authoritarian regimes narrowing the scope of possibility for the future is an important one. Indeed, all of the major antagonists of the Wolfhound Empire trilogy are concerned with remaking the Vlast according to a singular vision. Continue Reading »

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Lost in Leningrad

I read Peter Higgins’s Wolfhound Century after a strong recommendation from fellow blogger Alasdair Czyrnyj. He’ll join me in the next series of posts as we air our thoughts on the Wolfhound Empire trilogy one book at a time.

First, some background. Wolfhound Century takes place in the Vlast, a country bearing the heavy mark of the Soviet Union, manifested particularly in the city of Mirgorod, a swampy cement-covered place that evokes St. Petersburg back when it was called Leningrad. Vissarion Lom comes to Mirgorod to investigate the activities of erstwhile revolutionary Josef Kantor. This thriller-esque procedural plot largely takes a back seat to the cosmology and fantastic weirdness of the Vlast, caught in a struggle between stone angels and an endless forest, industrialized but in a way that incorporates the preternatural. Giants and golems wander the streets as labourers, unremarked but haunting in their normalcy.

I greatly enjoyed Wolfhound Century but I suspect that I was drawn to different aspects of the novel than Alasdair. So, to start off, Alasdair, what did you find so overwhelmingly compelling about Wolfhound Century, and why did you insist so strongly that I give it a go? Continue Reading »

Wasted Youth

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If you haven’t noticed, I have a soft spot for DOS-era gaming. I’m supposed to be of the video game generation, but the only console I ever owned was an NES and I was never very good at playing it. My real interest in computer games didn’t come until high school, where I wasted a huge amount of time playing old DOS games that were largely older than I was (more about that here). I wish I could say that I had some sort of affinity with the early computer game scene and was drawn to the elegance and beauty of making a playable system with as few kilobytes as possible, but that would be a filthy lie. The real reason was because there was a website called Home of the Underdogs that hosted abandonware games for free, and the older games fit on a floppy disk so I could download them at school and then take them home and install on my own computer. Continue Reading »