In the years since I’ve started 42webs the blog has changed beyond what I could have expected. I have done things with it that I would have never thought possible. One of the best developments was the ability to get email interviews with numerous wonderful authors and to get a chance to pick their brain.
Latest on my list is Madeline Ashby who, along with doing this interview, also talked to GvN about her Favourite Canadian Author. Madeline launches her second book, iD. So enjoy our conversation about anime, writing, and where they meet.
1) You have said you are a massive anime fan. What was it about anime that drew you in?
I noticed that it was telling stories that other forms of media chose not to. Also, there seemed to be a greater diversity of character types. I mean, Sailor Moon featured gay teen characters on a kid’s cartoon show in 1995. Now there are finally gay parents on a Disney Channel show in 2013, and it’s still a big deal over here. That’s deplorable and sad. Anime was just way ahead of the cultural curve for a while. Even when it was pretty conservative, it was still more progressive than what else was available.
2) In the last 15 years anime has taken massive leaps in popularity in North America. How do you think it has affected North American TV, movie, and books?
Anime and manga have a lot more freedom to make an audience feel multiple emotions within a given timeframe (be it an episode or a chapter), and I think people really respond to that because that’s how life really works. One minute you’re laughing with your friends and the next minute you’re thinking about something that happened years ago that still bothers you. The best anime and manga are about figuring out how to navigate life through that mingled pain and joy. Even a violent hard-SF anime like Cowboy Bebop has that story at its core. It’s the same thing as the rise of the “dramedy,” in Western media. I think more people are realizing that life is not make up of one-note moments — feelings and human experience are a lot more complicated and nuanced than that, and anime and manga speak to that reality even when they’re being outlandishly surreal.
3) What impact has anime had on your personal writing?
It’s certainly made me more comfortable writing an ensemble cast, and it’s given me a visual language with which to understand science fictional elements. Like how robots should fight, or how big machines should move, or what interfaces might look like in the future. Also, I felt like it really kept me from getting stuck in the same Golden Age ruts that a lot of other authors can find themselves trapped in. I got access to those tropes, like powered suits and whatnot, via anime and not pulp, so I feel no need to work with those tropes in a pulpy way.
4) You been credit as an author who has envisioned a world with ‘mature implications.” How important is it to you that we take a look at the impact of our sci-fi world with a serious examination?
It’s pretty important to me. It’s the future, after all. Why wouldn’t you take it seriously? If you have a savings account, you probably give a damn about the future. If you recycle, or vote, or get a flu shot, you probably care about the future in at least a selfish way. So why not imagine the future in a similarly responsible manner? I mean, is there anybody out there who seriously believes that media constructions of culture have no impact whatsoever? I don’t think the connection is direct — I don’t think violent video games make kids kill other kids, or anything. (The gutting of gun control laws seem to be doing that job just fine.) But I think that the stories we tell each other do matter.
Well, the sequel to vN is out now. It’s called iD: The Second Machine Dynasty. And it’s about a supporting character from vN, called Javier. He sort of gets cast out of robot Eden because of a choice he was forced to make, and he has to work to make things right, while fucking his way up one coast and down another.
Up next are two of 42 Webs’ ‘signature questions’. These are small questions that while growing up I always wondered about authors?
1) What is your favourite book/author? Why? I live with another author, David Nickle. He’s my favourite writer, because he’s my favourite person. Aside from that, I’m a big fan of Haruki Murakami. I was disappointed in 1Q84, but I still love Kafka on the Shore, and After the Quake. And I love a good Stephen King novel. There’s nothing like it. I grew up on those. I read The Shining when I was around eleven years old, and his books — the good ones, the ones with functional editors — still really do it for me. They feel like coming home.
2) What is your most memorable manga? Why? I really enjoyed Fruits Basket, by Natsuki Takaya. I thought it really pulled a fast one on readers, by dressing up a very dark story in this sweet shoujo candy coating. It’s so nice and sweet and almost twee, and then it just drops tragedy and betrayal and sheer human fuckery on unsuspecting readers with no warning whatsoever. It’s great stuff.
3) Do you have a favourite anime? Cowboy Bebop. Hands down. It’s the undefeated champion. If you haven’t watched Cowboy Bebop, you haven’t watched anime. Period.