nodding at your influences

It’s morning, about to head out to meet some clients and drive the long way back home. I’ll be home in about twelve hours and the only good thing about all these long drives I have to do now is that I’m able to race through audiobooks.

In the last two days, I’ve done a lot of driving, but also a lot of writing. About 15,000 words, and I’m real happy with how they turned out. But especially those first 10,000 words, which I wrote at a furious pace over the course of four or five hours.

It could work as its own short story but I think it’s best in the context of the novel, where it lands after about 170,000 words of narrative.

But the sequence is about the capture and crucifixion of a god, and using this dying god to summon a greater god in order to try to kill that god.

In essence, it’s about a character waging a war against the gods of their world.

These ideas are not dissimilar from the kind of thing I often write. Or, I’ve never written anything like this, but it is a natural direction for my writing about these topics to take. The gods of my fiction are ambivalent and careless, if not reckless, with regard to human life. They’re more like forces of nature than they are the humanlike creatures of mythology.

Because the gods hold so much power and so little regard for humanity, it was an inevitability that some human or humans would rage against them and try to subvert the hierarchy of the world.

This idea isn’t revolutionary or even new. And it’s really just a long scene in this novel (the longest scene, actually) which is likely going to be nearly thirty times larger than this scene.

That’s what I want to talk about. How influences help shape our own work.

Princess Mononoke, which I’ve talked about numerous times, is still an influence here. Lady Iboshi’s war against the gods of the forest for pragmatic and possibly even noble reasons is certainly touching the resulting scene I wrote.

Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen is also something I was reaching after, and which pushed me to take this narrative step. It’s quite a bit different than Erikson’s gigantic epic series and I wasn’t trying to replicate what he does. I was mostly going for a tonal similarity. I wanted that balance he strikes. The balance of badass intensity that would make Wagner jealous with real humorous elements. So even while I have a scene where a character is trying to kill a god, it’s also a scene full of humor.

And I mentioned Wagner so it’s worth noting his part in all this. His opera has moved me in terrifying ways. He was a reprehensible person, but he made some glorious music. The kind that stirs something otherworldly in you.

Then there’s even Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, which has been a deep influence on me. How could you read about Feonor leading his people out of paradise to kill a god and not have that just transform the way you see the world?

Neon Genesis Evangelion is present here as well, though mostly in terms of imagery.


That image and others from Death & Rebirth which I couldn’t find pictures of have mirrors in this scene. It’s a terrifying scene with far reaching consequences.

Beyond all this, there are other ideas feeding in here. The idea that the gods can be fought, can be defied, can be killed. They can even be born and we can become them. The hubris of humanity, that reckless insanity that leads us to drop atomic bombs and fly to the moon–all of this is the same impulse, I think. To do what cannot be done. Morally, dropping the atomic bomb and going to the moon are extremely different, but the impulse, I think. has the same or similar impetus. But what I’m trying to say here is that these ideas are in all of us, the will and need to defy that which confines us. Whether it be the stratosphere or the Death of millions.

Art, even art of the fantastic, is always a reflection of self. Or, if not self, a reflection of what we believe humanity is. Along with that, we bring all the art we love and the art that has shaped us.

Akira Kurosawa’s in here. Wong Kar Wai’s Ashes of Time is in here. Kim Ki Duk’s 3-Iron, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure and Pulse are in here. Tarkovsky, Mallick, and so much more is filtered into this tiny section of this much larger novel.

To produce art, you steal and manipulate and distort the art that has shaped you.

And then you look into yourself and how you view the world.

It may not surprise you that I don’t have a flattering view of humanity, but that certainly comes out here. But so does my hope for humanity. That one day we’ll be better.

Anyrate, just some ideas I wanted to wrap my head around this morning, and I guess it’s for you as well.

the last couple films i watched

A Royal Affair stars the bad guy from Casino Royale and is about the reign of Christian VII of Denmark. The guy who plays Christian does such a brilliant job, and the film, overall, is pretty great. I’ve been saying it for several years, but the Danes and other Scandinavians are making the most interesting films in europe right now, and this is another great one. It’s a period piece full of adultery and intrigue, and it’s just shot great and acted well.

Europa Report is absolutely amazing. Feels and looks sort of low-budget, but the film’s not about the technology. It takes us on a mission to Europa, the earthish moon of Jupiter, and from there things get bonkers. It’s all found footage, which adds a lot of depth and tension. It’s a pretty terrifying and thrilling film, with so much tension ratcheted way up. I think it’s better than Gravity, if only because it does so much more with so much less. I guess it’s silly to compare them, since they’re fundamentally different, sharing only space as a common element. But this is definitely something worth seeing.

New World is another Korean gangster film, and Choi Min Sik’s involved, so you know I’m already sold on it. The protagonist, as is sort of typical of very male Korean films, is sort of silent and doesn’t do much, unless he’s raining down chaos. But it’s also a brilliant film with twists and turns and enough character to keep you on the edge of your seat. Min Sik kills it, as always, but the other leads carry a lot of weight, especially Jung. I didn’t look up the other actor’s names, so that means nothing right now. But, yeah, Korean cinema is still the greatest place to find films right now. Though, I mean, this film has exactly one female character, and there are probably a total of ten minutes where females are on screen during this 120 minute film.

A Company Man sort of a bad version of A Bittersweet Life and/or The Man from Nowhere. Or, at least, it holds much of the same elements as those. Again, we have a male lead who doesn’t really act unless he’s unleashing violence, but this also has a sort of cute lovestory going on, which is pretty common to the Korean noir, where sappy and intense often land on screen at the same time. Some very cool action sequences, though, and there are female characters in this, which is always nice.

Tokyo Godfathers is a delightful anime that gives a lot to its viewers. It’s funny and beautiful and perfect for the holiday season. It’s Satoshi Kon, so what do you expect? It’s great.

Rebuild Evangelion recreates the series but also completely reimagines it, which, I think, is a sign that this is a recurrence in a world of infinite recurrence, but that things have changed this time. The first film is identical, more or less, to the series, with things gradually becoming different in the second film, and then the third film being so completely different it can only really be associated by the characters involved. They’re brilliant, though I think the third one suffers from not having enough time to develop its narrative or characters, relying too heavily on a viewer’s familiarity with the series. But it’s still very cool, and though the first two are sort of big budget reiterations of the original, the third goes just as wildly off the rails to keep fans of the original satisfied with this new construction.

But, yeah, trying to get back into watching films, which I’ve been really bad at the last two years. Going to try to watch one every day. It’ll help give me a break from the novel.