Nancy Armstrong, Fiction in the Age of Photography
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations
Dana Buntrock, Materials and Meaning in Contemporary Japanese Architecture
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (reread)
Paul Cohen, Discovering History in China
Judith Farquhar, Appetites
Han Fei Tzu
Ian Christopher Fletcher et al., eds., Women's Suffrage in the British Empire
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time
James Hevia, Cherishing Men from Afar
Rebecca Karl, Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth-Century World
Thomas Keirstead, The Geography of Power in Medieval Japan
Kenko, Essays in Idleness
Der Ling, Two Years in the Forbidden City
Lydia Liu, Translingual Practice
André Malraux, Man's Fate
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (reread)
Anchee Min, Pearl of China
Tessa Morris-Suzuki, A History of Japanese Economic Thought
Herman Ooms, Tokugawa Ideology
Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract
Procopius, The Secret History
The Rig Veda
Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt
Edward Said, The Culture of Imperialism
Victor Segalen, Rene Liys
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China
Frederick Teggart, Rome and China
E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class
Joanna Waley-Cohen, The Sextants of Beijing
J.Y. Wong, Deadly Dreams
Karl Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism
Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor
We don’t feel like non-profits need to exist forever. The Ada Initiative did a lot of great work, and we are happy about it.
So what's next? As I said on Twitter, I'm looking forward to seeing what the people whose lives TAI has changed do next--and that includes me. For the time being, like Cincinnatus to his farm, I'm going back to my dissertation, and I'm excited to bring what I've learned with TAI to my future and ongoing projects. I'll be around at fandom and open source cons again at the end of this year and into next year; do say hi, and let me know if you want an Ada Initiative sticker--I still have stacks of them.
So thank you again, and again, you can donate now.
I was glad I did go back and read the whole book, because the second chapter in particular caused me to significantly revise my views on Kajii as a critic.( Kajii is not rational about Norakuro )
Shimizu Isao is probably the most famous "manga historian" in Japan, though this book (1999) isn't an academic text, much to my frustration: there are no citations beyond the dates and original publications of the images, and Shimizu displays the usual tics of Japanese scholarly writing that are deeply infuriating to someone trained in the more rigorous American style, especially his habit of making claims about what people thought with absolutely no evidence to back it up, and his habit of going on pointless tangents (such as his talking about his trip to Egypt by way of an introduction to how professional cartoonists portrayed women in the era of imperial democracy).
That said, Shimizu is a giant in the field, and a lot of what he says here (the influence of movies on manga in particular) agrees with things that I have already been thinking and conclusions I have previously drawn from my research. Of course, there's also plenty of things I disagree with him about, most notably in this book his addiction to the empty, outdated term "Taisho democracy" and his conviction that manga has important continuities with the "amusing pictures" of the Edo period. It would be difficult to overstate the degree to which I am opposed to this position, and in my opinion, Shimizu should know better, particularly since he is probably the single most knowledgeable person about prewar comics periodicals anywhere. Oh well.
For further remarks, see the dissertation.
The thing is, Borderlands was never just a science fiction fantasy bookstore. It is and was a community of readers and geeks who were interested in the same sorts of things, and it was extraordinarily welcoming to me. I moved to the Bay Area in August 2010, only a few months after attending my first science fiction fandom convention (WisCon 34, to be exact), and I suspect I first heard about Borderlands through a post on Seanan McGuire's LJ--can you believe that it was only 4.5 years ago that Seanan published her first novel? I sure as hell can't, but the release party for Rosemary and Rue in September 2010 sounded fun, so I hopped on BART and headed over. I think I wandered up and down Valencia for at least 20 minutes before I actually poked my head into the store (this was before they opened the wall between the bookstore and the cafe, IIRC). I remember feeling very awkward, but I had a good time eating mini cupcakes from a bakery I'd never heard of and hearing Seanan and her friends perform music I would have said I didn't like and listening to Seanan read from the book, and Seanan and everyone there was super friendly. She's only one of the awesome people who I've met through Borderlands, who I'm proud to say that I know, and who I know to expect (even more) great things from in the future.
I kept coming back, and though I never had as much time to go to events as I would have liked (blame graduate school) and I never had half as much money to spend on books there as I would have wanted (again, blame graduate school), Jude and Alan and everyone on the staff made Borderlands a place that I was always happy to return to. Part of a conversation I had with a friend there one afternoon made it onto their "overheard in the store" feature on Twitter. I'll never forget how, a year and more ago, I stood in Greenwich Village in Manhattan and searched "science fiction bookstore" on Google Maps on a lark, and the first result that came up was Borderlands. The store was a beacon, and partly because of that, it was able to attract a stellar roster of non-local authors as well as staunch stalwarts like Seanan. It was also partly because everyone there had impeccable taste. I'm even gladder now that the store has been immortalized in Seanan's seventh Toby Daye book, Chimes at Midnight, and I'm unspeakably sad that I won't be able to get back to the store to try to tell everyone there how much it meant to me in person before it closes.
There's no inspiring closing line that I can write for this post. This morning I ordered some books through the store's online service, and I also spent some time reading the WSFS Constitution Article 3, which covers the Hugo Awards.
ETA: I just had a very informative conversation on Twitter with pnh about the propriety of the idea of the Best Related Work nomination--apparently nominating platforms for BRW is looked upon dimly, although the language of the article is vague enough that it's legal and it keeps happening. (To me this suggests that some kind of explicit Hugos recognition for platforms would be beneficial; one of the things contemplating Borderlands' demise brought home to me was the very importance of platforms, online and off, for fostering the SFF fandom community--but that's another story.) That being the case, I would all the more heartily encourage the Sasquan awards committee to consider Borderlands for special recognition, which it very richly deserves. (I haven't actually looked at the nominations form yet; if there's a write-in or additional information box, I will put this in there.)
We'd love to see you there, but in the meantime, we're looking for your nominations for Guests of Honor, as well as general ideas and suggestions, before 5 January 2015.
First of all, I want to thank Fred Schodt for his illuminating talk and for his bringing this fascinating story to light. His new book Professor Risley's Imperial Japanese Troupe (2013) does an excellent job, I think, of telling the story of a hitherto almost forgotten chapter of 19thC Japanese and Euro-American history. As a native New Jerseyan, I especially enjoyed discovering the picaresque tale of one of the more colorful of my state's non-Mob affiliated historical figures.
One of the things that historians like to harp on is the idea that "globalization" isn't anything new to the 20thC, just deeper and broader, and one of the things I really appreciated about Professor Risley and company is how their story, and their international success, demonstrates the extraordinary mobility which a certain segment of self-selected people could, even in the 19thC when we often think of people being more or less shackled to their birthplace or the major metropolitan area nearest to it, partake of to easily circumnavigate the globe multiple times over. We often talk of "flows" of people, ideas, and culture in the age of globalization, and the circus in the 19thC is clearly an early example of that phenomenon. As one of the reviewers quoted in the book wrote, "How quickly what was once unimaginable becomes so simple."
The fact that Risley's Imperials were so successful the world over also indicates that their audiences shared certain similarities beyond their appreciation of the artistry of the "Butterfly Trick." Circus studies has discussed how in the 19thC the circus, and other forms of popular entertainment that Fred touches on briefly in the book such as blackface minstrel shows, functioned to demonstrate and confirm the hierarchies that audiences experienced in their everyday lives--in the case of Professor Risley and the Imperials, for instance, we might think of Self versus Other, native versus foreign, white versus non-white. The fact that Risley and his fellow circus performers were able to so easily traverse the globe, with such minimal real danger, also speaks to the expansion of the European empires that were so concerned with asserting "peace" and "order" in their territories. A hundred years earlier, or a hundred years later, Risley and company would have had a very different experience on these same performance circuits.
From the standpoint of Japanese history, I was particularly interested to see the members of the Imperials as a compelling footnote, or fillip, to the standard narrative of the Meiji Restoration. They intrepidly left the country in 1866 before the malcontent samurai of Satsuchô succeeded in overthrowing the shogun, and by the time the last members of the troupe returned to Japan in the 1870s the Meiji oligarchs were well on the way to transforming the country into a truly modern nation-state. While the Imperials were capitalizing on the performance of "traditional Japanese culture" abroad, the new society the Meiji oligarchs were building at home was increasingly primed to see "traditional Japanese culture" as everything that had to be left behind to survive in the "survival of the fittest" world of 19thC international politics. One of the things I would have loved to hear more about in the book was a longer histories of these performing families, and the history of the development of their specific acts. I wonder, too, whether the Imperials came to know themselves as "Japanese" through their encounters with foreigners first in Yokohama, and then around the world.
The popularity of the circus also touches on another important theme of the 19thC, namely the ascent of the middle class as the social group setting standards and morals for all of society. As Fred mentions, the circus was considered a respectable form of entertainment--which reputation Risley certainly capitalized on in promoting the Imperials as "art" rather than mere "theater." That royalty enjoyed it as much as the bourgeoisie--and that the newspapers covered those reactions--speaks much to the emerging popular culture of news, gossip, and celebrities that we know so well today.
Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe demonstrate that the global fascination with Japanese popular culture didn't begin with anime and manga, and was not solely represented in the 19thC by Japonisme. Their story is a reminder that the world and its history is infinitely more complex than we remember it, and that the 19thC in particular was in many ways, for those fortunate enough to reside in the societies that dominated their fellows, a time of newly expanding and unrivaled potential. With great promotion and an excellent act, Risley and the Imperials were able to take the world by storm in a way that was probably only possible at that moment. Although they have been neglected until now, their story is a reminder that the past can constantly surprise us.
In July I participated in the Media Mix Workshop funded by the Kadokawa Foundation at the University of Tokyo. My friend Samantha Close wrote a piece at Ethos Review about all the transnational, transdisciplinary practices the program situated itself in. It was frustrating at times, but the program overall was great, and I just ran into one of my fellow participants at the Genron Cafe in Gotanda here in Tokyo on Friday night and we sat down like old friends. So none of it was wasted, probably, and all in all, the workshop was an invaluable experience for which I am very grateful.
Last month I went to Australia for the sixth Manga Futures conference, held at the University of Wollongong. Khursten Santos, who also organized much of the event, somehow found the time to write up a very thorough blog post about the conference which, incidentally, says very kind things about my paper: Lessons from Manga Futures. I had a great time at the conference, and I was thrilled to be able to participate.
It seems that, in the thick of preparing for my qualifying exam, I neglected to mention my attendance at the WikiWomen's Edit-A-Thon at UC Berkeley this past April. I had a great time, and I also translated an article on a Japanese female martial artist into English over the course of the event.
I'm aware that there are a lot of conspiracy theories going around about the meeting; obviously, given my position, I don't think they're particularly well-founded, but I can certainly understand how people would be worried. Nor do I really expect that anyone with these worries will be particularly inclined to take my word for it on any of these matters. But I did want to register that in my view what the OTW has accomplished this far is even more remarkable in light of all the problems it has had, and that the credit for that entirely goes to the people who've been involved with it. Hats off to all of us, and to all of you.
Part of that is due to the high-profile work of SFF authors like N.K. Jemisin and Mary Robinette Kowal, and part of it is due to the work of the Ada Initiative, and part of it's due to people like you and me. I'm thrilled and proud to be an Ada Initiative advisor, and with the support of SFF readers and fans like you, TAI and all of us can continue to make SFF a more welcoming, more diverse and safer space for everyone.
I've had a front-row seat to some of the highest-profile events in SFF in 2014 around these issues. I was at Wiscon when N.K. Jemisin gave her latest fantastic Guest of Honor speech; I was ushering for the Hugos in London when Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice became the first novel to sweep all the major awards in the same year, female creators in general triumphed, and the "sad puppy" slate got kicked to the curb. When Nora finished her speech in Madison, everyone in the room including me was ready to stand up and follow her into battle; what we didn't realize was that, in the aftermath of the Wiscon concom's first Jim Frenkel decision, we'd be fighting ourselves.
Make no mistake about it; it's not easy to work against harassment, whether as a high-profile author or critic receiving rape and death threats, a non-profit organization working to support women in open culture, technology, and stuff, or as an individual fan at a convention trying to overcome the weight of social conditioning to ask if someone else is okay or needs help. This is where an organization like TAI can and does provide much-needed backup, by publishing posts on best practices such as the "managerial model" of handling harassment incidents swiftly and safely, by providing models for conference Codes of Conduct, and also by making mistakes, acknowledging them, and moving on.
The Ada Initiative has a fantastic track record over the last four years, but it's also made some decisions that have turned out to be the wrong ones; what makes me happy to be associated with TAI is that the organization has done its best to learn from those mistakes, and has gone on to have record-breaking successes in its efforts. TAI gives me hope that an organization like Wiscon, my first and favorite SFF convention, can learn from its own missteps and live up to its own feminist ideals. Authors like Nora Jemisin have also sometimes made missteps in their efforts to represent a wider range of people in their work, but their willingness both to make the attempt in the first place and to fail better next time, and to discuss all these things publicly, gives me not just faith, but confidence in the fact that they will--and that their next books will be anything but boring rehashes of predictable tropes.
Human perfectibility is an article of faith in a lot of science fiction, but as the TAI history of anti-harassment in SFF mentions, the spring and summer of 2014 was enough to shake any comfortable sense of progress on these issues having been made. In particular, the announcement of this year's Hugo nominees made a lot of people, including me, really wonder to what extent our fellow SFF readers and con-goers recognized not just the right to participate, but the basic humanity of those of us calling for safer spaces and more representative fiction. But I was beyond heartened in London when, at the biggest and most international Worldcon to date, the "sad puppy" slate was overwhelmingly rejected and female creators got some of the credit they so richly deserved in fields from best new writer to best editor to best professional artist to best novel.
And the thing about the Hugos? They were decided by the biggest electorate on record, and that electorate overwhelmingly voted in favor of more representative SFF. If that isn't an affirmation of the fact that we're headed in the right direction, as difficult as the road to get there has been and will be, I don't know what is. Though there's certainly a small group of people in SFF who really would like to go back to 1959, there are many more people who would like to read better, more interesting books, and many more people who would like to see a safer, more respectful, and more representative SFF fandom. In this case, our reach really does not exceed our grasp.
One of the many ways to bring that about is to give to the Ada Initiative right now! TAI's annual fundraiser runs from now through 8 October 2014, and though it's too late to receive a free copy of N. K. Jemisin's The Killing Moon for a $128 donation (you should totally read it anyway, it's great), you can still get a selection of lovely Ada Initiative stickers, including the awesome "Not Afraid to Say the F-Word" ones, signed books by Mary Robinette Kowal, and the satisfaction of taking the opportunity to support the work of TAI and authors like Kowal, Jemisin, and many others who have written SFF outside mainstream white male experiences and who have stood up to demand a safer SFF community.
I'm around at Wikimania, which is excellent so far, and I'll be at the OTW tent in the Exhibits Hall most days. (I've tried to find mention of this in the programme, with no luck so far.) I'm also moderating the following panel on Sunday 17 August:
Capital Suite 13 (Level 3), 12pm - 1:30pm
Tags: Transformative Fandom, Social Issues, Race, Ethnicity, Internationalism
Zen Cho, Mark Oshiro, Eylul Dogruel, Russell Smith, Andrea Horbinski
Fandoms can provide positive spaces for engagement with and education about representing people of color, for example the negative impact of “whitewashing” (see racebending.com). In recent years, there's been a more visible push by fandom for representation that more accurately reflects the community as a whole. But the issue itself is a complex one: How can the SF/F community challenge their perceptions of representation while also taking into account how concepts including “race” and “people of colour” vary in an international context? How can fandom avoid stereotyping and exclusion? What sort of models work in a general sense, but should not be applied to non-Western nations? Join our panelists in a challenging and lively conversation about these issues.
I hope to see you here, or there!
In the meantime, however, last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking the academic/educational track of AnimeExpo, which was even more enjoyable than 2012. I was on the "Japanese Society and Japan's History" panel, and I spoke about "Record of Dying Days: The Alternate History of Ooku."
Thanks to MIkhail Koulikov for organizing the programming, to AX for hosting, and to everyone who attended!