labingi: (Default)
I like vampire lit for much the same reason I like science fiction: both change the premises of our life experience and, thus, challenge our usual cultural and psychological assumptions. Vampire lit, in particular, lends itself to upending commonplaces about gender and family structure. It's often been noted that vampire reproduction is inherently incestuous: vampires typically make new vampires through some sort of blood exchange that reads as both a parenting act and a sexual act, so parents and children are, almost by default, also lovers. By the same token, vampire lit can, in one fell swoop, eliminate all physically based power differential between the sexes: in many tales, males and females have identical reproductive biologies and no sex-linked difference in physical strength (or if they do, it is much overshadowed by other differences, like age or "strength" of their blood, etc.). Add in functional immortality and the politics of relating to humans as people and foodsource, and all this makes for fascinating reinventions of culture for those stories that choose to exploit this potential. Some examples...

The Vampire Chronicles )

Blood+ )

Buffy the Vampire Slayer )

Twilight )

I don't believe that vampire lit is an exhausted field by any means; it simply requires creativity to keep reinventing itself. And while I don't read vampire lit just for the sake of reading vampire lit, I am always open to being swept up in the next thought-provoking reinvention.

(Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] meganinhiding, whose vampire musings spurred me to stop putting off writing this post.)
labingi: (Default)
When I first heard of Fray, the futuristic Buffyverse graphic novel, I didn't seek it out because I didn't see the point of reading what sounded like a retread of Buffy themes without the characters I'd come to care about. In terms of my own experience as a reader, that judgment had some foundation.

Fray reads very much like season 1 of Buffy set in a generic, mildly dystopian future (with a good handling of future slang!). It's got all the trademarks of basic Buffy executed well: a kickass Slayer, female bonding, an emphasis on friends/family/community as essential to heroic success, cute witticisms, and impending apocalypse. I give it extra points for not needing to include romance. It doesn't feel very original, but it does produce a Slayer whose life experience and main relationships are different from Buffy's, and its engagement with her family life is genuinely interesting and the novel's most original aspect.

I think it overdoes the Buffy trope of having a scene end and the next scene begin with a heavily ironic line that answers or contradicts the end of the previous scene. Ex. from S6 of Buffy:

Buffy: Warren's not going to get away with this.

CUT TO:

Warren: We're going to get away with this.

I like that trope; in fact, I'm guilty of emulating it, but it was a bit too much here. But that's a niggle.

I am very impressed by the art of Fray (full color). Almost every panel is a work of art. By contrast, it highlights how hastily executed much graphic novel artwork is.

All in all, it's a fast read with some fun bits and some good feminist messages and a bit of pathos and originality in character relationships and settings. Lovely art. I recommend it if you like Buffy, but it also serves to illustrate that Buffy has already been done.
labingi: (ivan)
On the basis of several friends' recommendations, I have been watching True Blood and have gotten up to just about episode 7 of season 1, which will be the frame for this commentary. It is, of course, impossible to watch True Blood without comparing it to Buffy. And with Buffy swirling in my mind again for the first time in a few years, all I can say is "Buffy. Wow!" It is a hard act to follow. True Blood is courageous to try, and it is a testament to the show's overall quality that it doesn't suffer too much in the comparison. It also boasts some areas in which it exceeds Buffy: a thoughtful depiction of race and attention to local culture immediately come to mind. Sadly...

Spoilers Follow )
labingi: (ivan)
Thank you, Soseki Natsume-sensei for reminding me of what it's like to get lost in a really well-written book--and it feels like it's been a very long time. Kokoro, written in 1914, is a collection of three connected novellas, detailing the lives of a university student and a melancholy older man he assumes as a mentor. The translator's (Edwin McClellan) preface tells us that the dominant theme is loneliness, and I guess I wouldn't disagree. All three stories read as very real, very human, and fascinating depictions of the interplay between traditional Japanese culture and emerging western values in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Thoughts that actually don't have much in the way of spoilers )

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