I talked yesterday in length about how writers should look at trash in order to learn a few things about making our works memorable. If the writing is terrible, why does it leave an impression? To summarize what I said, writers must look at offensive, degrading works of fiction in order to figure out why they stand out like a sore thumb, and how we can try to implement their secret in a way that doesn’t make our fiction degrading and offensive.
However, while reading up on other examples of exploitative material, I came across two subjects I wanted to touch upon in more detail, but just didn’t have the time at the moment. One is the movie Heavy Metal, which I’ll get to another time. The other thing is the case of Shirow Masamune, a manga writer/artist who really had a huge impact on my development as a writer…and an example of what NOT to do when drawing from trash.
Shirow Masamune is primarily an artist, but his narratives are very profound in many respects. His works are firmly set in the cyberpunk genre, with entries like Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed frequently being totted as among the greatest works in science fiction, let alone anime. In particular, Ghost in the Shell is revered as a modern classic–and for very good reason.
Or at least the anime is.
The anime and the manga differ in terms of tone. The animated film based on the manga is dark, philosophical, slow-paced. The manga is fun, goofy, and, while it does deal with quite a good bit of philosophy, there is also a three-way lesbian sex scene involving the main character. In the film, sexuality is almost irrelevant. Characters strip naked with all the sensual charm of a coat hanger. In the film, a character stripping is supposed to feel uncomfortable, a reminder of how far this world is from our own when the main heroine, Motoko Kusanagi, can strip naked without caring who sees her. This is all part of movie Motoko’s dilemma: finding her humanity in a mechanical world.
In the manga, she strips because Shirow wanted to draw boobies.
Motoko is either bisexual or a lesbian in both the manga and film versions. While Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex–a series based on the movie universe–features Motoko also having sex with other women, rarely is it explicit. It’s usually off-screen, and all characters involved are not objectified.
In the manga, Shirow really liked boobies.
All criticizing Shirow Masamune aside, that’s not to say that he objectified his female characters. He wrote multi-dimensional heroes dealing with tons of issues, both existential and physical, adverse threats from criminals and terrorists. In Appleseed, the main heroine does all sorts of cool things, kicking butt and taking names. The male gaze was present, sure, but the story wasn’t bogged down by the fan service. A little bit of fan-service isn’t terrible, even if it is a stupid addition in an otherwise clever story
What is terrible is that Shirow Masamune would spend the rest of his career riding on his old successes, and just write smut.
Now, this is nothing against people who enjoy writing erotic literature. As writers, we must always strive to create whatever we want. If your passion lies in writing dinosaur pornography, by all means, pursue that dream (so long as I never have to read it). Indeed, Shirow has wasted no time in pursuing his dream of drawing creepy cyborg sex scenes. He’s absolutely unapologetic about it.
Now, you might respond by telling me that an artist can do whatever they want, and, again, that’s true. However, the PROBLEM isn’t that Shirow Masamune has chosen to draw creepy cyberpunk porn. It’s that he’s stopped writing GOOD stories so he can ruin his reputation.
Fans have lost interest in the has-been manga writer. Ghost in the Shell’s success is now credited to Mamoru Ooshii’s film adaptation, not Masamune’s manga. It’s hard to take a writer seriously when they just decide to ride on their previous successes, and pump out naughty cyborg smut.
That said, Shirow Masamune has had some great story ideas. He’s just had OTHER writers do that for him. Production IG has released a couple anime based on Shirow’s ideas in the last ten years or so. One of them, Real Drive, is a very underrated post-cyberpunk story that takes a fairly optimistic look at the future, not to mention has a very progressive selection of female characters with various body types. I recommend watching it, or at least looking it up, just for the character designs. They’re unlike anything in anime today.
Still, the fact that Shirow couldn’t be bothered to bring this series to life himself is a little insulting.
As writers, we should aim not to do this. Learn from every writing experience you have, but please, don’t lower yourself to doing this.
I haven’t been blogging in quite some time.
I almost completely ignored this blog for some time. I’m not entirely sure why. All I do know is that I made a grave mistake in doing so. I feel like I missed many an opportunity to actually start doing things with my writing, whatever those things might be. Of course, this blog was never super huge or popular in the first place, nor will anyone actually be looking at this after having written it. Still, I intend on getting into the habit of using this blog, coming back onto it, creating a web presence…that sort of thing.
I have been writing ever since, of course. Writing short stories, writing novels, novellas, the whole nine yards. I have several works that I have created that can, potentially, lead me into success. So far, though, I’ve been unsuccessful. I cannot become discouraged. I cannot allow myself the liberty of looking for an easy way out.
Writing the great novel.
These must be what I focus on, what I become passionate over. I cannot allow myself the liberty of looking at easy solutions to the great problems I deal with.
What must I do?
I must find an agent. I am querying for my current work in progress, a young adult paranormal novel titled Surrender. If an agent doesn’t bite, I’ll look into smaller press or self-publishing, then work up the ranks from there. With any luck, the following work should prove successful.
I have a secondary series of books I wrote awhile back on the back burner. I’m thinking about pulling those out of my hard drive, polishing them up, and maybe, once again, shipping them to a smaller press.
I started big at first. I wanted to become a great writer by launching my writing to the agents first. I think I might need to prove my worth first. I need to prove that I CAN write before I try to get my books everywhere. I need to create a web presence. I need to create a fan base.
I need to be a writer, and not hope that success waltzes onto my lap out of the blue.
I must be vigilant.
I must be great.
This post is going on for much too long, so I’ll silence myself now.