A Setback and an Opportunity

This blog is subtitled Adventures and Misadventures of a Science Fiction writer, and this post is on point.

AVIANS has gone out of print, at least for the time being: Five Rivers Publishing has ceased operations. That’s the misadventure part.

Like many small presses, Five Rivers was essentially a one-woman show. When that one person cannot make the massive commitment in time and effort any more, the only proper course is to close down. This has been done, and done properly.

All rights to AVIANS reverted to me on June 1st. Printing ceased a few days before that, catching me off guard and causing my local bookstore to miss the deadline to order a few more cases. If you have a first edition in your possession, congratulations: you now own a collector’s item. I have just one mint copy left, and that bookstore, Elizabeth Campbell books in Kenora, has maybe a handful. As far as I know, those are the only unused copies in existence.

If you’ve been reading this blog in the past, you probably gathered that the book was not selling in the thousands or making me tons of money. Nonetheless, I love it and am reluctant to see it go out of print. So, as one of my tweeps said, “Second Edition time!”

I do not think another press is going to want to pick it up; I think that would only happen if the book had made a big impact. I’d love to be wrong about that, but I’m not going to troll all my publishing contacts to offer it around.

Which takes me to self-publishing. This is the adventure part.

I already have a registered company: Binary Planet Books. I have contacted Ann Crowe, the cover artist, and she has granted me the right to use her exterior and interior artwork. I have filed for a batch of ISBNs (for this purpose, a second edition is a new book, and different formats require separate ISBNs.) One pleasant surprise is that Lorina from Five Rivers not only encouraged me to take this step, she actually forwarded me the book’s design file!

I will have to make some changes, beyond altering First Edition to Second Edition. References to Five Rivers will have to be removed from the boilerplate at the front and back, and their logo will have to be replaced on the cover.

I also have a small errata list. As far as I know, only one typographical error has ever been discovered, and when I checked the manuscripts, it clearly originated with my edits, not the printer. Still, there are some other minor errors: I named the wrong airship once, for instance. I’ll fix those.

There are a couple of scenes that I’d like to revise slightly to better favour showing over telling. I’m going to take the opportunity to do that. The wonderful ink illustration of Mel & Raisa on the title page–originally offered as a cover concept by cover artist Ann Crowe–can take its deserved place as a full-page frontispiece.

I want to include a map of Nufuji at the front, so last week I created one. That was… educational. Nothing I described in the book was impossible to map, but the end result was not the same as my former fuzzy mental images.

The dedication is terse to the point of being cryptic. I think I’d like to explain a little.

One thing that had been much on my mind for the last year or two: what was I going to do with the sequel? Five Rivers had been reducing the number of publications they were taking on, and editor Robert Runté had left as things slowed down. I wasn’t confident that they’d contract another book from me. Now that can also proceed through self-publishing, which will allow me to promote them together.

Because I have all the rights again, I could explore those film and television rights. One or two readers have suggested that it would make an exciting movie, but I’ve always felt it would be best as an animated series. With the aviation aspects and the mainly female cast, it could be like Nausicaä x Sailor Moon.

Anyway, the adventures will continue!

 

 

Musings on Magical Girls

I’ll confess to being old enough that I didn’t grow up on Magical Girl anime. My first exposure to Japanese animation would have been Astro Boy, primordial source of robots with a heart of gold, mad scientists, and boots that deny ankles.

In the nineties, though, Sailor Moon came along. I enjoyed the focus on female characters and how they were empowered. I’m not talking about their ability to use magical attacks, I’m thinking of their ability to make decisions. Agency, in other words. Serena, the title character, is not brave. She has to drag herself into conflict, and she usually has to make the decision to go without much help. Serena isn’t strong, or fierce, or smart, or even hardworking. Yet she is the leader of the Sailor Scouts. Why? I wondered. Her willingness to suffer for what is right, and her compassion for others, are the qualities that make her outstanding. The moral, and I sense a Japanese mindset here, is that leadership should be based on character, not skill. I’m on board for that.

The series explores personal relationships and talks about the importance of things like friendship, honesty and loyalty. Middle grade stuff that imparts worthwhile values. So far, so good.

What gives me a lingering feeling of dismay, though, is the linking of female power to sexuality. When the girls transform, (by speaking the magic phrase, “Sailor Moon Make-Up,” no less), they acquire sparkly lipstick, their school uniform blouses tighten to body-shirts, and their hemlines rise drastically. While these abbreviated outfits are perhaps a little more suited to fighting, they are far from ideal. I would write it off as fan service if the series were being marketed to boys. When aimed at girls, though, the message seems to be that power comes with makeup and sexy outfits.

If this only happened in Sailor Moon, I’d shrug it off. However, it seems to be widespread. In Pretty Cure, the magical transformation also results in revealing costumes, to the point where some conservatives complained about Natalie’s bare midriff. In Mew Mew Power, all the girls get scanty outfits. In Digimon Frontier, Zoe, the token female, gets more than a costume makeover, her pre-adolescent body gets several years more mature so that she can fill out her bikini. (None of the boys show more skin; they get armor and stuff.) In Card Captor Sakura, the card-driven magic doesn’t endow Sakura with a change of clothes, but her sidekick is a costume designer who sews up a new outfit for every adventure. To be fair, not all the costumes she produces are revealing, but the message that clothing matters is there.

I like to joke that you can tell whether a cartoon is intended for boys or girls by the clothing. If everyone wears the same outfit week after week, it’s for boys. If there are constant wardrobe changes, it’s for girls. Okay, I’m not really joking. As a rule, it works quite well.

While we’re on the topic of sexuality, kudos to the makers of Sailor Moon for including a lesbian couple. Please note that if you only saw the American dub, you might be under the impression that Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus are close cousins who just happen to hold hands sometimes. In the subtitles for the original Japanese soundtrack the dialog is clearly romantic, and there’s no mention of them being related. Listening to the English soundtrack while watching the original subtitles is amusing, especially when an earnest line about spending the night together is replaced with inane chatter about eating treats. I give part points for making the outwardly feminine Neptune the one who takes charge of their relationship, rather than the androgynous Uranus. I’m prepared to believe that stems from a desire to break away from stereotypes and make them real and complex characters. I take points off for making the pair of them hostile outsiders to the rest of the scouts. The two of them are older than Sailor Moon and her friends, and they take a much harder line in their war on evil, being prepared to sacrifice innocents to achieve victory. So the lesbians are antithetical to the moral theme. Sigh.

Until recently, I thought I was alone in thinking about magical girls from a mature perspective. I was delighted to find out I was wrong. Thanks to a review by Derek Newman-Stille, I’ve become aware of Shattered Starlight, Nicole Chartrand’s webcomic about a magical girl who has grown up and tried to leave that life behind. It isn’t going well. She has adult issues and a lot of anger. Also, she’s a Montrealer, so her magical staff is a hockey stick. Check it out.

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