Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics: 2019

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Text Message Story: War of Witches

Hello hello! I'm writing you from frigid, snow-covered Eastern Washington, with--this might be hard to believe--a new book!

I know, I know, pick your jaw up off the floor. It's been a minute and a half since I've had a book out, but I have one today: War of Witches.


Fair warning, this book isn't in a traditional format: it's delivered one text message at a time. Highly recommend reading it on the phone rather than on the computer, but both options will get the job done!

I'm quite excited about this, since I love playing with format in my writing, and I hope you'll all be excited about this foray into urban fantasy as well.

Anyway, that's all I had to say. I hope your day is wonderful and considerably warmer than mine is looking to be.

Voss

Friday, January 25, 2019

Diablero and Cultural Differences in Media


If you've been here for a while—remember when the blog was that weird ugly brown color I picked to start out with?—then you know I have a love affair with non-US speculative fiction. There's just a quality to it that is so refreshing, I just can't get enough of it. The Neverending Story is one of my all time favorite books (German). I grew up reading Eva Ibbotson and JK Rowling and, a little later on than those, Phillip Pullman (British). I also watched a ton of anime and read a ton of manga (Japanese). And I still watch and read British, German, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese…I mean, translations or subtitled, obviously, but you can't file off those cultural serial numbers.

Well it happened again. This time, it's a Mexican paranormal drama I stumbled across recently on Netflix (If you're watching it, you probably know what I'm talking about.). It's…it's like Preacher meets Hellboy. Dynamic characters in a shitty situation with strangely intertwining personal lives.



It's called Diablero, and it really has me thinking, once again, about spec fic from other cultures. Because I don't think any native born US citizen could have made Diablero. At all. Nothing even close. The same way an American couldn't have written The Book of Souls, or Bleach, or Dark, or The Golden Compass.

I think—especially if you're in a creative career or just running a creative side-hustle—that these foreign produced media are some of the best things we can take in as people. Seeing another perspective is a powerful thing, both for personal growth and, in my case, a creative sense.

Let's bring this around to Diablero, since it's the crux for me writing this particular article right now. If I sold it as it was—a Mexican demon hunting show—you might be tempted to think, "Oh, like Supernatural." That's what my roommate thought when I explained it that way, at least.

But it's so not. Spoilers, to a certain extent, but I want to go into things a little deeper than the trailer (I still haven't finished the show. I'm about halfway through it right now.). So, to start with, a US show would have at least blinked at making a priest who got a woman pregnant their main character. They also might have blinked twice at making the church have a shadowy underbelly. Not that a US show or book has never done that, but it might make somebody along the way stop and take a closer look.

But more divergent is the use of old culture, and namely old culture in a respectful way. America A: doesn't like to dive into its past because it's ugly and B: doesn't tend to do it well or respectfully. Also C: we really don't have much past to draw on. But then you have Diablero, which establishes a history from the first moment. It brings in aspects of Mexican culture, from as far back as the Aztecs with Diablero magic being cast in Nahuatl and invoking the names of Aztec deities like Quetzalcoatl, to old school brujeria, to more modern Mexican lore, legend, and religion like Santa Muerte. A full spectrum of evolving, historically based magic is shown off in Diablero.

I think, actually, having history is a huge part of the feeling that media from outside of the US evokes. Other than a sparse handful of Native American spec fic, like Rebecca Roanhorse's books, the oldest US history that gets brought in is…when the white people showed up. There's just not a ton of history we have to draw on, which can make our fantasy…a little more sparse, honestly. I mean, when we talk about worldbuilding, fantasy writers are supposed to know the history of the world so they can see how things have come about. 250 years just doesn't quite cut it.

And, on a broader note about culture differences, Diablero has made me—and will probably make others—challenge my notions about Mexico. Even the most socially and culturally aware of us still has prejudices, good and bad, that we haven't yet confronted. Diablero helped me confront it some of that. It showed urban Mexico, which I shamefully admit wasn't a thought in my head. It should have been, obviously, but…well, just goes to show you how much work we all still have to do. And I think shows and books like this help, especially if you're not one of those folks who can pack up and fly around the world to expose yourself to other cultures…like I'm not.

Seeing what people create, in a way, condenses culture into a single, simple package. It's not a full course, it's not dropping yourself off in a foreign country for a month. But it's a start, and I think it's a worthy start.

And from a quality standpoint, I can't recommend Diablero enough. It's short, and the English subtitles do not match the English dub track, but it's still wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

Do you have a soft spot for media from other countries? Are you from outside the US and have things to say about US media? Chime in and let me know.

Voss