Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Distractions and Mash-ups: Samurai-Fantasy-Horror-Western

One of my fundamental flaws as a writer is related to a basic component of my personality: I'm easily distracted.

I'm also curious about a lot of stuff. And I have an uncontrollable urge to mash concepts and genres together.

This relates strongly to the not finishing a story aspect. I get distracted by something new that I'm reading and try to force some ideas from it into a setting or character concept or plotline that is already developed. [This is related to another troubling issue--I get bored with stories once I think I've figured out how to solve the major challenges with them.]

I recently finished a novel that was something of a western homage to samurai films and legends, watched some vampire television, and listened to some western-themed instrumental music. So of course I'm now trying to apply all of these themes to a short story concept I had several years ago, as well as attempting to compress a story that was originally 22,000 words (way too long to submit to most markets and far too short to be a novel) down to 7500 or 5000 words.

It is, shall I say, somewhat rough going. One of those things where I wonder if I'm a loon for even trying. But I want to try to finish it.

I have, however, decided upon an ideal martial style for fighting among and against vampires: Japanese sword-fighting, with its emphasis on powerful slashing strokes that sever limbs and decapitate foes. Because you can't really stab a vampire to death unless you've got a stake and great accuracy. And any sane vampire in a fantasy setting would wear some sort of armor protecting their heart, front and back.

So you're left with the need to hack the shit out of someone to incapacitate them. Vampires are strong and fast and seem unfazed by pain in many forms, but unless you're dealing with the ridiculous stuff like "turns into fog," they aren't impervious to steel. Chop off arms and legs and they should slow down. This approach should also work reasonably well against zombies.

To make it a little cooler, I decided that the vampire samurai equivalents in this setting also carry a traditional pair of swords, but instead of the long and short swords favored by the samurai, they carry a metal sword and one made of hard wood with a sharp point. The wooden one is the "mercy blade" for dealing with mortals and the "finishing blade" for staking fellow vampires.

Plus I think that the samurai loyalty and artistic aspects go very nicely with vampires. A vampire lord's retainers will all literally owe their vampiric status to the lord, so their blood is his to shed. And if they live a long time, they'll eventually get bored with mastering the blade and have to cultivate some other artistic pursuits.

It would be too confusing and complicated to explain the western influences at this point. And I should add that none of the main characters is even a vampire at this point. Which shows how useful all this thinking is.


El Jefe said...

From one easily distracted writer to another (tho' I have some Eurosupes stuff to shoot your way later in the week, once you get distracted from Mr. Toad's Intertextual Ride here ;-)Once again you're a real champion at figuring out what, plausibly, ought to be going on in a given situation. Makes sense that unless you descend into the Twilight/Sookie Stackhouse/Ann Rice thinking that, with rare exceptions, sociable groups of vamps (call them clans, covens, colonies, whatever) usually fall into ever-decreasing patterns of vicious predation, you would instead get a kind of Unseelie result, the dark side of the feudal/artistic elven coin. Nice. Good thinking, you. Love to see how it relates to the Western concepts -- probably a chance to inject some reality back into that bunch of myth-hooey anyway (rugged individualists in the real BFE Old West? A few crazy survivalists and some gay anarchist cowboy communes, sure, but rugged individualists? Not so much, not if you want to survive, like, a week.)
PS: just as a European-martial-arts public service announcement the Renaissance Italians and Germans had some great manual-of-arms stuff for fighting with two blades. If fractal geometry could bite, it would look like that. And by the nineteenth century the French had formalized a style of "cane fighting" (with sheathed or unsheathed sword-canes) that has a lethal streetwise elegance to it. Just the usual ramble there.

Doug said...

Jefe, you'd love Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe by Sidney Anglo. Loaded with images, excerpts, and dry commentary from old combat manuals. Lisa got me a copy through ILL. I might try to get it again just to scan a bit more from it.

El Jefe said...

Now that's one of my very favorite distractions, electronic card catalogs ....

PS: Check out the Trek mashup in your email, since you're in a mashing mood.