e-mail to Vertical


Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Noah: My understanding is, especially with American fantasy prose, that the people who come back to that expect the same narrative again and again. It’s a phatic experience. Just being able to go through the sleepy town, that fulfills a prophecy, sort of reminds you of what it was like the first time you picked up Tolkien.

I wondered to what extent—now, I’m not really familiar with Japanese fantasy novels, but with animation primarily, there are set formulas—to what extent does Japanese fantasy have that sort of set formula?

Yani: You can tell through the videogames. I think you’ve played Japanese fantasy games. The roots are Tolkien-oriented, Tolkien-derivative.

Serdar: Yes. They definitely also have their template.

Yani: Fantasy for Japanese people, it is a Western thing. Of course, they may have variations with “Samurai” instead of “Swordsman.” In Final Fantasy, they have a monk character, a ninja character, but all that is actually derivative of Wizardry.

One thing that could be said about The Guin Saga is that it was serialized in SF Magazine, which was very much vanguardist. Each issue would have translations of new American science fiction. Guin was first serialized there in four portions. That was Book One as we know it now. It was so immensely popular that they started it as a book series. The editor-in-chief then of SF Magazine was Imaoka-san, who later married Kurimoto-san. He is not only her husband now, but her agent.

What is amazing about Kurimoto-san, is all this time she has been a housewife too: cooking, cleaning, doing the dishes…

Erin: Is that what Ed Chavez was telling Noah and me? That she thinks of new plots while vacuuming?

Yani: Exactly. She is bursting, bursting by the time she sits down. It is only three hours per day that she writes, but by the time she sits down, voices in her head and stories are waiting to unfold.

Serdar: That is actually a really wonderfully disciplined way to go. People come to me for writing advice all the time. They say, “I have no idea, I don’t know what to write about.” I’ll say, “What happened last week?” and they’ll talk for two hours. I’ll say what about that and they’ll respond that’s not interesting. Already they have this built-in wall about what is interesting and what is not interesting. They don’t know what to do. But if you’re in the mode of thinking everything as being inherently interesting, then yes, even if you only have three hours in the day to get that down…and she is probably still doing that stuff longhand.

Yani: For the longest time, in Japan, they had these manuscript papers—

Erin: Like a grid?

Yani: Yeah, a set number of characters. And Kurimoto-san is said to have produced the exact same number of manuscript pages for every volume. So that must be longhand. Maybe by now she has transitioned from longhand.

Erin: In all of the books you could kind of tell where all the breaks are, where the chapters might appear in the next serialized magazine.

Yani: The serialization was just in the first book. But she continues to follow that format. Like she was deliberately trying to re-create that pulp feel.

Serdar: And that’s a good thing. That’s the thing with Japanese authors and Japanese popular culture in general. They have this wonderful keen sense of how to connect with a reader’s heart, and a watcher’s heart, the audience, then just draw you along. The first thing you are presented is not a plot, but an emotional commitment. American stories are about plots. American stories are about who got killed in this locked room. Japanese stories are more emotional. What am I going to do? For that reason, you are hooked far earlier in a story like this than in Wheel of Time.

Yani: But then the question is those sell very well, so it is satisfying to a lot of people.

Serdar: It is a question of who is looking for what. There are a lot of people who want to have The Wheel of Time. They want to be immersed in a whole world that has its own logic. Then there are people who want to have an emotional experience, who want to have an emotional connection, and get the world stuff as a bonus.

Yani: Maybe it is a question of where you live. I mean, if you live in South Dakota, maybe a sleepy opening is what grabs your…

Serdar: My best friend was visiting me this past week. He read all of The Guin Saga in about four hours. Every time he’d finish one, he’d come down to my office, put the book on the shelf, and shake his fist saying “I hate you!”

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7





The rarely-seen cover of the never-published hardcover version of
Guin Saga Volume 5.






Guin in the village of the Lagon.