Monday, April 30, 2012

"The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic"

"Why is a raven like a writing desk?"
"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

This post is slightly better then posting a picture of my pile of unread books, but only slightly. Yes, I am still reading books, but not so fast. Now I think about it, I really should buy a nightstand lamp one of these days.

So I've been a member of the Kyoto University Mystery Club for a little shorter than a month now, but it is been a blast. And oh-so-relevant to this blog. Like I mentioned before, many important writers in the New Orthodox movement of detective writing originate from this club, having honed their writing (and deductive!) skills through the club activities and is thus considered an important breeding ground for future talent too. Famous old members include Ayatsuji Yukito, Norizuki Rintarou, Abiko Takemaru, Maya Yutaka and Ooyama Seiichirou, and that is when I limit myself only to writers whom I have discussed in the past already! And even more interesting, many novels of the writers mentioned above are actually based on stories originally written within the Mystery Club. So I thought it might be interesting for those outside of the club to hear about how story publication activities work within the club.

The writing activities of the Mystery Club are roughly divided in three kinds: the 'Guess the Criminal' original stories, original stories published in the internal Mystery Club Communication magazine and the annual publication Souajou (also known as Souanoshiro), which is sold at the november festival of Kyoto University. The last week, the new members were challenged with some of the older 'Guess the Criminal' stories, which are probably exactly what you'd expect them to be. Members are given a short story (fewer than 10 pages) including a Challenge to the Reader, which they have to solve within an hour. During that hour, members can go to the writer to check whether their deductions are correct. If incorrect, the writer might give some hints to push the reader towards the right direction. At the end of the session, everybody is given the final part of the story featuring the solution. It is also the time for the readers to comment on the story, so the writer can learn from it. For reference, Norizuki Rintarou's Yuki Misshitsu and Abiko Takemaru's 8 no Satsujin amongst others were originally Guess the Criminal scenarios.

And it's friggin' awesome. We did two stories this week (which I won't discuss in detail as I assume these stories are meant for members-only), but they were really good stories. As in really really good. Considering the history of the club, it shouldn't surprise that the set-up of these stories were very classic, invoking all the right tropes, without feeling dated. It was fun to see my fellow members scribbling on the pages, underlining suspicious utterances and pieces of text. Heck, it sometimes even pays off to bounce off ideas with other members! My opinion of the stories we did last week might be a bit skewed because both of them felt very Queenian, with especially Friday's one being a classic puzzle based on deducing all the characteristics the murderer had to have, but even without my Queen glasses, these stories should be considered great in set-up, hinting and writing and in my opinion could have been published as proper stories. Just imagining that the Mystery Club has a whole database of these Classic stories that non-members will probably never see is just strange. By the way, I solved both stories only partly. Yes, I definitely want to solve at least one story before I leave Japan.

I do have to admit that these Guess the Criminal scenarios are also the things that are keeping me from reading books here: it's not like I don't read detective stories anymore: only that I can't really post about them.

I am less familiar with the two other publication activities of the club (hey, I've only been here a month), but the Mystery Club Communication is a members-only magazine, featuring short essays on the genre and stories by the members. It also seems like it is a sort of an excercise for the annual publication Souajou, which also features essays and stories by (all) the members, but is naturally also subject to much harsher editing, with the word Shuraba (field of Asuras; bloody battlefield) apparently being the default term for the crunch-time leading up to the publication. With the harsher editing, it shouldn't come as a surprise that many of the famous writers' stories are also based on the stories they managed to publish in Souajou (including Maya Yutaka's debut work, several of Norizuki Rintarou's short and longer stories). In fact, publishers also seem to be interested in Souajou, as they might be able to discover a new writing star!

There are some other regularly repeated activities at the club, but I might write about them at a later stage.

No comments :

Post a Comment