Edited by Edward Porper
The most magnificent Lady
The most splendid Sir!
If you've read this far, you must've liked the "Strays". Well, at the very least, you didnít hate it enough to stop reading. It fills me with hope that you might be interested in my comments as well. I must warn you, though, that from now on you are reading at your own risk - because you might end up being disappointed. It's one thing to admire a shiny toy car buzzing on the floor - and it's an altogether different experience to fiddle with the car's gears and electric cables that I am about to expose to the general public. It's far from guaranteed that you'll find the book more charming and more exciting once you've learned how exactly I meant it to work.
Are you still here? Well, Iíve warned you. So where is my screwdriver?
"Strays" is the first of five novels in the "Corrector" series. Four of them further the main storyline, and the fifth novel is dealing with a conceptually important subplot. So far only the "Strays" has been translated into English, but eventually I plan to make the other four books follow suit.
We'll talk about the text in a moment but first I'd like to touch on a different subject.
It's been years and years since I was a teenager - and yet I must say that anime is a great graphic genre, and I fully mean it, too. Japanese artists managed to create a drawing technique that is extremely efficient at influencing males' subconscious mind (it might be true regarding females as well but I wouldn't vouch for that). Cartoonists from all over the world incorporate typical anime elements into their own work. Dinner plate-sized eyes, barely visible mouths and noses, pronounced body curves emphasizing the character's femininity - all that conspires to push emotional buttons responsible for both sexual and parental instincts. A typical anime heroine is a 15-17 year-old girl who is both a child in need of protection and a mature female compelling one to seek procreation at the first opportunity. A totally fail-proof combination when it comes to pubescent men. Add to the mix unmotivated cruelty towards the heroine, and an emotional storm raging inside any human male will inevitably allow movie directors to sell whatever nonsense movie they choose to shoot - and to sell it without as much as breaking a sweat, at that. Often enough those movie directors would claim to have created a masterpiece, too.
In fact, just like in any other field of arts, only about ten percent of anime movies deserve to be called masterpieces. Among them are, for instance, "Grave of the Fireflies" ("Hotaru no haka"), "Barefoot Gen" ("Hadashi no Gen") or "Sen Chihiro's Mysterious Disappearance" ("Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi"). In English-speaking countries the movie is known as "Spirited Away"). Near thirty percent of the movies produced in that genre are total gibberish targeting ten-year-old kids and adult imbeciles, at best. The remaining 60 per cent are movies of average quality, and that's exactly where I happen to have drawn my inspiration from while creating the cycle in question. Iím a terrible bore, and anime graphics, combined with most preposterous technical, logical and storyline goofs typical of an average movie, often prompt me to write HOW it should, in fact, have happened in reality - as defined by the movie director. As a result, each and every novel of "The Corrector" cycle contains references (obvious or hidden) to a particular anime series.
The main problem I ran into while describing Tekira's "present" was caused by the fact that magic had vanished from the planet. It had been an integral part of the Big Game but once the game was over, new laws of physics simply destroyed the very foundation of magic's existence - and everything related to magic just disappeared in its wake. So on the one hand, telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis and such were gone - on the other hand, I badly needed something that might look like wizardry able to account for a very special ability that would make children feel like 'queer ducks' and force them to think unconventionally since their early childhood. It was an anime series titled "The Elven Song" ("Elfen Lied") that helped to resolve my writer's block. Influenced by rebellious modernism whose spirit was best expressed through allusions to Gustav Klimt's paintings in the title sequences, those movies channeled my thoughts in the right direction: nothing like an out of control ability to kill, to make a child very different! Obvious references to the movie scattered throughout the text of the "Strays" are meant as my 'thank you' to the movie director - even though the deviants described in "The Corrector" have very little in common with the movieís Dicloniuses.
Resorting to anime in search of inspiration had an interesting side effect that I started to utilize quite purposefully at a later stage. The novels of "The Corrector" cycle inevitably bear the imprint of that genre, first and foremost - its obvious pseudo-Japanization. I must, however, warn my readers that the Republic of Katonia described in the series bears no more resemblance to real Japan with its rigidly structured society than any scenery in a random anime movie does. The Katonian political system is rather similar to that in Germany. The social relations are typical for Western Europe. The higher education system is a mixture of Russian, European and North American ones. Katonian attitude towards nudity is indeed similar to Japaneseís (there are still mixed male/female public baths in Japan - as well as in Finland, by the way) while being by far more tolerant. My personal approach to nudity is more along the lines of that advocated by Robert Heinlein and a Soviet science fiction writer Ivan Efremov. Obaka (its Japanese origin is "o-bake") is more like hostile werewolves in the European tradition than Japanese shapeshifters - such as foxes or tanuki /raccoon dogs - who are more or less neutral towards humans. And so forth.
Katonian only real elements of Japanese culture are raised floors (quite similar to the traditional "genkan" entryway area for Japanese houses), rice balls ("onigiri"), the syllabic alphabet (hence "sylletters" = syllable letters) and the names of the days of the week (obviously "Moonday" had to be renamed "Thriday", and an eighth day of the week had to be added to the list). Besides, initially I tried to make my characters stick to the rules of Japanese speech etiquette but this attempt was doomed from the start. It's as good as impossible to properly recreate Japanese formal, polite and humble speech styles: any such endeavor would result in an unimaginable jumble of vague locutions that might only cause the readers to fall asleep even before they've completed the first chapter. So, I made several unsuccessful attempts to adapt Japanese speech etiquette to the Russian/ English language - and then I gave up trying. Instead I coined several polite speech patterns and slightly changed the greeting formula used when people meet each other for the first time. If youíre interested in authentic Japanese communication, you can always find some relevant materials on the Internet.
On the plus side, I had a lot of fun coining names. As a rule, one of the most challenging tasks writers are bound to face when describing a totally alien world, is creating plausible names for their characters. On the one hand, assigning everyday names, we are well familiar with, to characters from an altogether different reality is a grave logical error - simply because it's highly improbable that the same combinations of sounds would be used for exactly the same purpose in two completely unrelated worlds. On the other hand, artificially coined, goofy or weird-sounding names would only make the readers perceive the whole story as being unrealistic and untrustworthy. Each author deals with the problem in hir own way while the most common solution is probably to create names based on either an exotic language or a dead one. I didn't think twice about using the Japanese phonetic system (are we talking anime or what?) as I kept unceremoniously turning Japanese words into my characters' first and last names (sometimes I would slightly modify them to make them fit into a particular scheme I needed). This approach perfectly agrees with the Japanese language where the same kanjis are used as both names and roots of usual words.
English-speaking readers who know at least some Japanese must have noticed that certain Japanese syllables are spelled in a rather strange way (for instance, "dzi" instead of traditional "ji" or "ti" instead of "chi"). I did it on purpose. As a matter of fact, the Hepburn transliteration system (so called "romaji"), adopted in Western countries and modern Japan, is incorrect in many respects. In fact, in Japan itself romaji was replaced with another system (kunrei-siki) just before the World War II but, unfortunately, the following American occupation brought romaji back. Whoever uses it in speech, inevitably develops a typical English accent often parodied in Japanese movies by "foreign" characters. However, Hepburn system is not used in Russia. Phonetics-wise, Japanese is much closer to Russian than to any Romance or Germanic languages - so Russian readers feel very comfortable when it comes to Japanese vowels and vowel combinations, such as "yo", "ya", "yu", "ii", "dz" etc. That facilitates coinage of names that sound natural and somewhat foreign at the same time. In fact, all I had to do on a number of occasions was replacing the endings "-o" and "-i" with "-a" - all three of them being typical for Japanese. Of course, the resulting words still donít sound exactly like they would if they were spoken by a native Japanese: unlike in Western languages, there is no stress accent in Nihongo but rather only pitch accent that depends on the grammatical construction - so our subconscious mind just emphasizes the last syllable. However, weíre not in Japan, are we? So why strive for the pure Japanese pronunciation? Consequently, the pseudo-Japanese names in the text sound more or less the way they would sound in Russia.
As opposed to many authors, I'll spare you an incredibly long and uninteresting list of characters as well as a glossary consisting of several hundred terms (including those mentioned only once). I hope that those who speak Japanese chuckled many a time while reading the book - and to enhance the rest of my readers' experience, Iím going to explain the meanings of several key characters' names (I wasn't coining them for nothing, you know!).
Dzinton Muratsiy, one Demiurge Dzhao's nicknames. Among other things, "Dzin" (jin) means both "god" and "human", "ton" means "sincere" and "frank". In addition, "Dzi" (ji) is a polysemic syllable, "love" and "good deed" being some of its meanings. The last name "Muratsiy" doesnít mean anything, but "ii" is a typical ending for both Japanese and Russian adjectives. Strictly speaking, there is no syllable "tsi" in Japanese, but letís not be purists.
Maya. The name is used in Russia. The root "mai" means "eminent", "great". "Ya" is a suffix indicating a human being. The kanji "mayu" means "a cocoon" and it's also used phonetically in names. Her alias "Kasatana Hamayara" in the opening episode is made of the first syllables of the Japanese syllable alphabet (gojuon). It can even be used to memorize that alphabet. Something like "abcd" in English.
Karina. This name is used in Russia, although not widely. However, in the novel "karina" means "a pseudonym" - it serves as a reminder of the orphanage where she received her new name because the real one was unknown. "Kara" means "a shell" (that inner shell where she hides from the hostile world).
Yana. The name itself is widely used in Russia. The syllable "yana" is used in both Japanese and Russian names. As for the meanings of the roots "yana" ("a weir") and "yani" ("tar"), they are unimportant here.
Palek. The letter "L" which is absent in the Japanese phonetics indicates that the character hails from the north. The nameís phonetics is typical for Slavic languages.
Tsukka. The name in the novel derives from the word "tsuki" ("luck") where the voiceless consonant is geminated as is typical for Japanese. "Tsu" means "a bay", the kanji is used phonetically in names.
Samatta. This is a slightly shortened combination of kanji "sa" ("a senior officer") and "mattaku" ("real", "genuine") "Mati" could mean "a town" or "a street" depending on the way the kanji is written .
"Kamigami", a secret dossier oftentimes mentioned in the text. This is a plural of kanji "kami" ("a god") that can also be read as the above mentioned "dzi".
"Kodomonohi", Dzintonís operation that put an end to the Institute of Man. A namesake of an official spring holiday in modern Japan, "The Day of Children".
"Pelephone". A word from our reality. In colloquial Hebrew it means "a mobile phone" ("pele" - "wonder"). "Pelephone" is also the name" of a cellular carrier in Israel.
That's where I am about to return the toy to the box, snap the lid close and take my leave. New comments will be added after the other novels of the series have been translated.
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