Sex Trade, Women, and Steampanku

The honor-driven codes of Japanese society in the Edo period were not without its vices.  Prostitution was rampant at the city’s capital of Edo, and houses of ill-repute were established to provide pleasure services to those with deep pockets.  The women who provided these services done so under circumstances such as debt, deceit, or even kidnapping.  Many entered the trade due to false pretenses such as promises of improvement in way-of-life for women living in lower-classes, or even entered unknowingly, initially under the impression of being adopted into a higher class as a child.

Due to these practices of deceit, ‘fair-playing’ proprietors of these pleasure quarters pursued for more just regulation of prostitution, in order to minimize the corruption, while maximizing profit at the same time.  As a result, pleasure districts were created, and all forms of prostitution would be centralized around these areas in order to be managed more closely by the ruling government.

As such, these districts were societies all on their own, even to the extent of physical separation from the rest of Edo city life.  One such example was Yoshiwara, a famous sex district that was literally walled from the rest of society, and even protected by way of moat.  Entrance to the district was by a wooden bridge, through the main gate, directly into the district’s Main Street equivalent, Naka-no-cho.  Within it was a collection of establishments related to not only sex, but boisterous night-life entertainment through gambling, kabuki, teahouses, and geisha.

The women involved in the night-life of Yoshiwara were ranked according to experience, and moved up through their ranks through mentor-student relationships between experienced courtesans and fledgling whores.  Yoshiwara was an established district with a number of different brothels that varied in the rigidity of this order between women.  Some houses were simply without repute and charged less money for girls with relinquished rights, including women of respectable background, taking the fall for their husbands who had succumbed to gambling debt or were socially humiliated by the wife’s infidelity; an Edo analogue of the Fallen Woman.

This fallen woman archetype is prevalent in Victorian society, although in a much different light in Edo Japan.  Namely, this is because of the differences in the way women were viewed in relation to their rights in society.  Victorian women had no home ownership rights, but were viewed as pure, compared to the noble standard set by their monarch.  However, women in the Heian period as well as lower-class women in the bafaku were allowed to independently own and manage land.  Upper-class women in Japan were less fortunate, as they were subjected to a heavily patrilineal society, ruled by a male Shogunate or Emperor, and were treated with a less pure regard than their European counterparts.

Regardless, Japanese women were treated more or less with some semblance of autonomy and freedom.  Although they were under the mercy of their inherited debt, they had the opportunities to rise up in the hierarchy by becoming a courtesan’s apprentice, or simply by being bought out by richer men to be taken in as their mistresses.

In the steampanku universe, the role of technology provides another route of freedom for more romantic cases, worthy of storytelling.  In my manuscript of Guardian, for example, the character Yuki is a strong, free-thinking woman sold to sex slavery by her husband, who had fallen from grace due to alcoholism and gambling debt.  She has no qualms about her situation, and simply wishes for her husband’s redemption while she is far away from him.  In the meantime, she is sent to Nagasaki, the center of the steam-powered technological boom in Japan.  She is enlisted into a brothel under the ownership of Zakeda, the leader of Nagasaki’s prominent Yakuza group.

However, despite her immense debt, she is unable to make back the money she is owed, due to the existence of automata, capable of providing the same pleasures of the flesh, without the actual amorality of defiling actual feminine flesh.  She is often spared from prostitution, but at the cost of further perpetuating her lack of freedom.

As a result, she takes action, and throughout the events of Guardian, she will do what it takes to earn back her freedom, without sullying her name or her fallen husband’s.  And she will do so with the help of the other two main characters.

I am very excited to have initially written Guardian with minimal amounts of research necessary to fill in necessary details to further progress the plot, but further research into the subject of the role of women in Edo has left me even more excited to re-write and edit the manuscript, with intentions of making Yuki even more powerful as a character than before.


Weekend Steampanku: Introduction

Despite my aspiration to become a published novelist, I’ve come to admit publicly (i.e., through my blog) that I am absolutely terrified by the Editing and Revising process.  Completing a novel in a month, despite the praise it initally deserves for the feat itself, can and will be hindered further down the process by an intimidation of editing similar to that of “page fright,” where one simply does not know where to begin, and gives up finishing his or her project completely.

I have several blogger friends who are in the midst of revising their stories, with help from such programs as Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel.  Due to my lack of current funds, and a straight-up preference for an all-in-one package of the paperback format, I’ve selected Robert J. Ray’s Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel as the reference to help me tackle my manuscript in a sequential and logical order.

Ray’s Weekend Novelist is a popular series of how-to books for aspiring writers who operate on a limited timeframe due to commitments outside of their writing, which may include family, jobs, and in my case, looking for a job, gym excursions, as well as playing video games such as World of Warcraft and the Starcraft 2 Beta.  He incorporates techniques such as organizing info into grids, timed writing exercises, and charting plot features into diagrams and timelines.  All of these tools are used in the novel revision process within the span of a single, focused weekend.

As a means to hold myself accountable to revising my novel on the weekend, I hope to add Weekend Steampanku as an additional feature to this blog, as a reflection of my Novel’s progress.  Also, it makes for great post fodder to help me get back on track to providing more consistent content. In fact, The Weekend Novelist has a nice feature where a fictional character named X undergoes the process of editing and re-writing his own novel.  In this case, X will be me.

That being said, I do not plan on disclosing too much detail about my novel, other than general information such as character names, traits, settings.  I will try to keep my plot development general, as to not spoil the actual events of the story.  As such, I will most likely attribute archetypal elements to identify plot points.

Steampanku is still an up-and-coming blog of mine, and I want to give it the legs to develop into the backbone for my writing, as well as interactions with the writing community to which I belong.  I want Guardian to be a part of that blog, as it is my first true attempt at novel-writing, as well as getting a novel published at all.  Wish me luck on both the novel, and the blog!

Back in Business

When looking at this blog after several months of sheer inactivity, I’ve had several options come to mind.  The first was to stay inactive, wallowing in my improbable return due to a lack of content to write about.  I love talking about steampunk found in books, television, and movies, and I also love reading about historical Japan.

But combining the two together and use that marriage to provide enough content to maintain a seemingly regular post schedule has proven quite difficult.  By staying inactive and not being able to follow-up on my NaNo victory, I have squandered a very good start to what appears to be a very .  But I don’t plan on giving up.

The second option was to simply provide filler update posts, which to me seemed like a huge waste of time on my part as well as the readers.  Weekly installments of “Still not doing much.  Been playing too much warcraft. I promise to read/write more. Etc.” are no fun to write or read, so i didn’t even try to bother here.

At the root of it, I decided to take the time off to truly consider what I wanted to do with this blog.  I still want to do stuff with it, but I have found out that writing japanese steampunk just as fun as writing about it.  Hence, I would like to take on a new approach with this blog, as it reaches one of possibly many turning points in its lifespan, by building a web serial from scratch, and writing “behind the scenes” posts in between describing the steampunk and japanese elements behind them, and a little bit of literary speak to fill them out.

One of the fundamental rules in writing effective fiction is to find the balance between showing and telling.  With this blog, I intend to tell you guys my vision of what Japanese Steampunk can be through informative posts, but also show you guys what it ought to be about by incorporating my writing through a web serial.  I for one am quite excited, and I hope you can come along for the ride!

Learning From the Pros

With a month of nothing but writing under my belt, I feel now is the time for me to start reading once again.  In the few months it took me to get Steampanku on its feet, I’ve assembled myself a neat little library of books in the genre.  Here is a list of books that are on qeue to be read or critically re-read:

The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
The Court of the Air, by Stephen Hunt
Mainspring, by Jay Lake
Iron Angel, by Alan Campbell
The Light Ages, by Ian R. Macleod
All the Windwracked Stars, by Elizabeth Baer
Havemercy, by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

I am quite certain that my library of steampunk will grow larger in time.  I fathom that I will read through my collection with an eye for prose, world-building, and character depth and development.  First on the docket is Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, the author of the website Clockwork Century, featured on my blogroll.  I chose to read this one first, as the author seems to aim to create an alternate-history world set in a land far away from Victorian England.  While the aesthetic here is Pacific Northwest, the intentions behind the novel coincide with my own writing interests.  So let’s see how we’ll go from here.

Expect to see a monthly or bi-monthly feature posts reviewing the literature from the perspective of an aspiring steampunk writer, as well as a fan of the genre.  If you are familiar with the titles listed above, then you could see that stories set in the genre can span a wide variety of settings and subgeneres.  By reading and learning from those who have succeeded in publishing their steampunk novels, I can get an idea of what passes off as acceptable prose, characterization, and fanservice.

As for Guardian itself, I’m shelving it for the rest of the year, so I can edit it with fresher mind.  Under other circumstances, I would be more gung-ho about editing, and starting in December, but considering the nature by which the novel was written, it is understandable to give a bit more breathing room than usual.  Hopefully by then, I’d have read enough books to have a good idea of what to critically look for, outside of grammar and spelling.

A Flashy Finish

On top of the monthly book review, I wish to do a weekly feature on top of my regular posting schedule, one based on flash fiction.  Flash fiction is a category of short story that usually defined by around 300-1000 words.  While my writing projects remain somewhat hush-hush in hopes of publication, I still want a creative outlet where I can share the steampanku universe with the reader.  Serialized flash fiction would possibly be the best way to do that.

As it stands, I have lots of content planned for this blog, so that I won’t have to resort to posting snippets of my novel.  With NaNoWriMo behind me, I am looking forward to what the future holds for my reading and writing interests.

New Theme! New Banner! New Draft!

*beams*  A short post this week, but a sweet one!

Firstly, at 54,445 words, I finally finished the first draft of the first installment of my Steampanku Trilogy, Guardian.  I look forward to editing it and rewriting in January.  I’ve gotten a lot of people interested in what I have to show, so I will try my best to get it out there as soon as possible.

Secondly, I created a new banner for the site, since I have yet to make one up until now.  This was a bit of an oversight on my part, since I was quite busy with getting everything else on the blog organized.  Regarding the Banner itself, I created it in MS Paint, and it took me relatively little time to make.  Essentially, I took the Rising Sun flag, and drew a solid white line cutting off parts of the rays from the sun.  Next, I whited out part of the middle, so that the sun would look like a cog.  Finally, I put the title of the blog in the middle, using a font called Shogun’s Clan, designed by Chris Hansen.  The result?  Steampanku, at it’s finest.

Thirdly, due to the colour scheme of the banner, I have changed the wordpress theme to Neo-Sapien, which I feel compliments the banner amazingly well.  I hope you enjoy your stay in the newly upgraded Steampanku!

NaNoWriMo – Week 2

I won. I hit 50,011 on Friday evening, and up until now, I’m yet to add any words to that total. The story is still wrapping up, and will take a few more chapters to resolve the plot arc. Overall, I certainly enjoyed the experience; the best part of it all is that I have a workable project to edit and rewrite come December. And even though NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) doesn’t come until March, I will try to take it upon myself to personally put in those 50 hours of editing, minimum. Besides, having written a novel in only 2 weeks, there are sure to be some aspects of the novel that will require rewriting or complete exclusion from the Novel.

On top of crossing the finish line, I have settled on a title for my novel.  The way the plot wraps up, it can certainly stand alone as its own novel, but it leaves the ending somewhat open, allowing for serialization via a trilogy or something else.  Considering the focus of the novel primarily on the three characters, I feel that having a novel’s title focus on each of the main characters is a good way to thematically tie them together through the trilogy.

Plans For The Future

I want to take it a bit easier this week, since I have to worry about JET applications.  Having finished this project well ahead of the due date, I certainly have the time available to finely tune this application so that I can maximize my chances of acceptance.  As for the novel itself, I will finish the rest of the book by the end of the week, and begin preparations for editing and second drafts.

The nice guy that I am, I will probably post the raw draft online on this blog.  There are a number of sections in it, so I’m not sure how I will split up the posts without spamming the entire blog with nothing but the novel.  I really want to talk about other things pertaining to Japanese Steampunk, and I don’t want those posts to get lost in a sea of nothing but Steampanku novel posts.  Perhaps I will put it up on fictionpress or something.  Not sure.

As for the editing process itself, I have downloaded ywriter and plan to use it for the editing process.  This software will allow me to flesh out all the details of the novel in an organizable format, and will allow me to make my content-based decisions from there.  For sure, there are continuity errors that I will remove, and entire chapters will be deleted.  It will be my first go at editing a novel, and it will be something I look forward to doing.

As I’ve said before, I don’t want to spoil the plot for everyone, but it would appear that while all the characters are involved in their own storylines, I would like to think that Hanako has been given the spotlight in terms of action and screen time.  In fact, she is the common thread between the other two characters, even though they themselves have interactions with each other that lead to important plot points.  This is the reason why I settled on naming the title based on Hanako’s specialty with guardians.

Closing Thoughts for Week 2

Considering that I’ve already won, I am quite convinced that this is the last time I will refer to NaNoWriMo.  From this point on, I will let the novel exist in its own right as an individual work in progress.  Either way, I’m glad to have experienced the rigors of novel writing.  I have an appreciation for the novel-writing profession and all the rewards and pitfalls that come with the lifestyle.

As an unemployed science graduate, I can see myself doing pursuing this profession in the meantime until the job market opens up for work opportunities.  Or at least until after I find out my fate regarding the JET programme.  Until next time, see you later!

Steampanku, Wordled!

As you can see from the widget that I put on the side, I’m already at 44k words for NaNoWriMo.  I’m on the home stretch of my novel, and it’s shaping up really nicely, for a first draft at least.  Amidst the continuity problems from the first few chapters of the story, as well as certain names that I’m considering changing, I was intrigued by the prospect of wordle-ing my novel.  Here’s what we have so far.

Wordle: Steampanku

Pretty cool! I’ll see you on Monday! Hopefully, the novel will be done by then, and I can discuss where I can go from there, whether it be editing/rewriting and sending it out to an editor/agent/publisher/etc. There’s also the possibility of sharing draft with you guys to see what the general shape of the story is about!