About Japan, and where to go from here.

By now, I doubt there’s a person in the industrialized world who hasn’t been following the crisis in Japan with growing concern. For the record, I’d like to take this moment to express my deepest sorrow over all the lives this past week’s tragedies have claimed, as well as my hopes that those surviving can stay strong and rebuild their lives. Of course, though the human cost is paramount, the ripples edging towards the rest of the planet cannot be denied, whether in terms of nuclear contamination or economic instability. I’m not qualified to comment on either of these potential effects, and so that’s not why I made this post–on my personal blog, at least. The reason I mention this is because of how this has personally affected me, and how I feel a little bit ashamed because of it.

First of all, I worry about how much of my distress over Japan is misplaced. I heard a valid point made recently that the amount of attention the crisis has been getting on the internet is partially attributable to the infatuation most geeks and gamers have with their cultural output. I’ve never been to Japan (even though I’ve so desperately wanted to, a dream that increasingly looks to be unfeasible), and my concept of what most of the country even looks like is based largely on fantasy RPGs and alternate-universe anime, so I’ll confess that such is no less the case with myself. Do I feel bad about Japan, or do I feel bad that my perfect little stereotypical image of the country has been tarnished, an image that was probably not even accurate in the first place? Do I worry about freezing temperatures and nuclear meltdowns, or do I worry that there might be a hiccup in my casual diet of quirky videogames and eyebrow-raising manga?

But let’s get to what primarily drove me to post this: My writing. See, I know I have more fingers on one hand than followers on this blog (any accidents this Fourth of July pending), but those of you keeping tabs on my work know that my novel-in-progress–and planned series of sequels–takes place chiefly in and around the Land of the Rising Sun, drawing heavily on Japanese culture along the way. So my question to myself, to you, to everybody, is… what do I do? Once again, I know it’s petty to worry about this problem in light of the events that preceded it, but I really had a feeling this thing was going to be my magnum opus–my Harry Potter, as it were. The questions have been flying through my mind, stressing me out to no end as they go: How have other authors in the past coped with massive disasters, pertinent to their work or otherwise? How many stories have been modified, or even completely scrapped, when current events mandated it? Should I make it a period piece, or maybe a “timeless” story, taking place in the modern day but altogether dodging such an issue? It’s a hard line to toe, between how Spider-Man addressed 9/11 and how Song of the South addressed… well, shoot, everything. Above all, though, if I don’t write this… then now what? I’ve got other ideas in the wings, sure, but I was counting on this one to buoy me for at least a few years.

Yet overall, the most frustration I feel is over the fact that despite my announcements about planning and pondering, I had been putting off writing this book to no end, despite telling myself how culturally relevant some of the material would have to be. Ironic… I basically sit down at my computer every evening, tell myself, “Oh, there’s time–it’s not like Japan isn’t going to be there tomorrow”, and play Minecraft or something instead (okay, I won’t be too hard on myself; I also had tons of college work to deal with). And what do you know? Of course the country will recover–the Japanese people as a whole are about the hardiest around, and they’ve collectively survived the only two nuclear attacks in history–but if an entire third of the place turns into a dead zone, I’m going to have to put some serious thought into how to write this book, particularly with the same tone I intended.

In the end, at least for me, I suppose it’s not all bad. I won’t be so philosophically controversial as to suggest that Japan’s tragedy has taught me some sort of “lesson”, but I do feel that a combination of the recent disasters and my college’s Creative Writing class have made me honestly evaluate myself as a writer for what may be the first time. I’m trying new styles of writing, improving old ones, and always jotting down ideas, and I’ve got over a dozen new poems (and a short play!) that I might upload at some point. I think it might be for the best, though, that I hold off on any tantalizing announcements until my next work–whatever it may be–reaches a more complete stage than five-and-a-half chapters and a couple hundred KB of “scraps”. As we’ve all (re)learned, things can change faster than you ever imagined.