David Chart's Japan Diary

May 30th 2005

Today, the weather is deeply unpleasant. It's been raining all day so far, and it's now almost 6pm. It's not even exciting stormy weather; just grey skies and constant precipitation. The most excitement comes from the variation between really heavy rain and just light drizzle. This makes me particularly aware of the fact that I have to walk almost a mile and a half to connect to the internet, since today I need to send about 20 emails, and upload this diary entry.

Internet connection in my room has been severely delayed, and I have no idea when it will happen, or even if I will move out before it does. As the delays continue, that becomes an increasingly likely possibility. The inconvenient internet is something of an annoyance, because it's absolutely essential to my job.

Actually, my job is being mildly irritating in a few ways right now. I'm supposed to be writing a couple of books, but I can't get started properly because I'm waiting for approval of outlines from the publishers involved. This means that I'm going to have to write very quickly for a couple of months to get them done. My attempts to plan my schedule in advance so that it would all work out nicely have, as usual, been derailed by reality, leaving me with a mad rush to write stuff before a deadline.

Oh well. I am rather looking forward to writing the books in question, so at least the work should be fun once I can actually get going.

While I'm waiting for approvals, I've been working on one of my own projects, and that finally got to the stage of being ready for an initial playtest last week. It's a rather experimental roleplaying game, which means that the result of this playtest might well be 'no, doesn't work at all'. So this may be the last that the world hears about it. (I've already recruited playtesters.)

I think that it is very important for people to experiment in the arts (and roleplaying is part of the arts in this sense, because soap operas are as well), but people doing the experimenting need to be aware that it is of the nature of experiments that they do not usually work. Experimental theatre is usually dull. Experimental fiction is usually incomprehensible and completely unentertaining. (Case in point: Ulysses. Almost every chapter is a separate experiment, and I would say that most do not work. Joyce was a talented writer, as is clear in his earlier work, so his hit rate is not at all bad, but the chapters that are successful are still outnumbered by the ones that aren't.)

By the same token, experimental roleplaying games are generally unplayable. Mine has already had several versions rejected because I could see that they were unplayable, or at least incapable of doing what I wanted, without needing playtesters. The current version is one that I think could work, but it's still an experiment, so it probably won't.

That was actually most of what I did last week. On Saturday, I read The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde, which was simultaneously entertaining (for itself), and depressing (I wish I could write like that).

On Sunday, I went with Yuriko to see some of her friends. One of her friends from university had a baby about three months ago, and yesterday she was having a celebration to mark the baby's first taste of real food. Obviously, he can't really be weaned yet, so this was purely symbolic. The occasion was primarily an opportunity for a group of old friends to get together, ooh and ah over the baby, and chat while eating traditional celebration food. That included sashimi, so I was happy. We chatted for several hours; for some reason Yuriko's university friends seemed to be quite curious about her boyfriend, so I had to try, yet again, to explain roleplaying games in Japanese. I'm getting better at it, but it's really not easy; "the same sort of thing as Dungeons and Dragons" produces utterly blank looks over here.

In the evening, I watched I, Robot with Yuriko. I rather enjoyed it, and it managed the remarkable feat of simultaneously having a plot nothing at all like the book on which it was based, while being a remarkably faithful adaptation. Indeed, the final credit was 'Suggested by Isaac Asimov's book'. The fidelity consisted in the fact that the concerns of the film were the same as the concerns of the book, and the way in which those concerns were addressed were the same as the way they were addressed in the book. It wouldn't have quite worked as another story in the book, but that's largely because '1950s Science Fiction Short Story' and '21st Century Blockbuster Science Fiction Movie' are very different genres.

Overall, the film was both different from and better than the film I was expecting, which was a pleasant surprise.

It's still raining. It looks like I'm going to get wet.