ljlee: (peach_pissed)
I learned yesterday that evidently a bunch of jingoistic pseudo-historians (let's call them JiPHs for short) who claim to be "patriots" helped put a halt to the Early Korea Project, a joint publication project by Harvard University and (actual) historians of ancient Korea. The JiPHs' complaint? That the project put the site of one of the major Chinese colonies, Nakrang, in the Korean peninsula, as opposed to the Chinese continent where the JiPHs insist Nakrang was located.

Theories on the location of Nakrang
Different theories on the location of Nakrang: Most South Korean scholars (green), North Korean scholars (blue), so-called "irregular" scholars, i.e. JiPHs (red)

The JiPHs' argument, as always, is total baloney. The historical and most crucially the archeological evidence points to Nakrang being on the peninsula, around what is now Pyeongyang, North Korea. (Green area of map above) The JiPHs, however, insist that Nakrang was in modern China to the west of the Liao River (Red area of map) because Reasons because Korea wasn't centered on the Korean peninsula we were a continental power dammit and the Chinese could never have had a presence on the Korean peninsula and it's colonialist to say otherwise and wahhhhh why are their dicks so small.

That's their entire thing, that ancient Korea has to have been a continental power, no, a continent-spanning empire in order for our history to have any worth, the evidence must only be interpreted to support this conclusion, and any scholarship that says otherwise is imperialist treason to the Korean people and ughhhh I feel slimy just typing this wanky nonsense.

Like mainstream historical scholars tend to, I've regarded the JiPHs with amused tolerance because I assumed they were harmless though annoying cranks. But now, realizing they can get valuable, serious research shut down with their pseudoacademic crap and get members of the national legislature on their side, I realize they are a serious threat and need a stompdown.

This gives me more incentive than ever to finish and publish my novel which places Nakrang, obviously, squarely in the Korean peninsula where it belongs. I want with all my heart for this novel to gain enough influence that the idea of Nakrang in Pyeongyang becomes popularized and the JiPHs can only scream and cry while their "theory" goes down the toilet where it belongs. That's not the only JiPH sacred cow I'm slaughtering, so may their cryfest be bitter and long.

And sure, if that happens they'll start their usual campaigns of smears and harassment, tactics that people with actual proof and logic on their side don't have to resort to. And you know what? Bring it. I am so ready for these liars and cowards. They have gone too far and this means war.
ljlee: (soseono)
My heroine, the Lady Soseono, is a famous figure in Korean history and one of the most prominent women from ancient Korean history. She has appeared in numerous works of historical fiction, usually as a supporting character by her second husband's side but more rarely as a protagonist in her own right. Obviously I couldn't neglect the market research in this area, and I felt a combination of trepidation and anticipation as I searched for novels starring Soseono for comparison with my own ideas.

What I found, to my disappointment and admittedly a small thrill of delight, was that these novels did not in any way do her justice. Some combination of the words trashy, offensive, and pointless applied to all of them, and none of them showed the depth of linguistic and historical research that I was hoping for. Here are some of the works I've looked at, or at least skimmed because my patience only goes so far. I did get some ideas for my own novel from these, mostly in terms of what not to do, so at least it wasn't a complete waste of time.

Three novels, many non-graphic mentions of rape because ugh. )

Even aside from quality issues, these books don't accurately portray the language or society of ancient Korea. "Soseono," for instance, was unlikely to be her given name but was probably a place name or title. Then again this lack of research is a flaw in all Korean historical fiction, not just these three novels, and that's something I hope to correct with my own work. These novels taught me what to do and especially what not to do along the way.
ljlee: Queen... er, Lady Misil (misil)
I'm reading a book called Ancient Korean Conceptions of Life and Death (고대 한국인의 생사관), which turns out to be a little bit of a misleading title--in fact the author Na Huira frankly admits that we can't know for sure how ancient Koreans viewed life and death. We have a better idea once they took on more cosmopolitan (and better-documented) beliefs, most prominently Buddhism. This doesn't help me a whole lot, though, since my story takes place centuries before Koreans became Buddhists. Besides, culture probably played a role even after the changes in religious faith, differentiating a Korean Buddhist's beliefs from, say, those of her Vietnamese co-religionist.

One wedding and one funeral, except not really? )

So this book, while slender and speculative out of necessity, is providing me with some good material. More than the information, though, I like the feel for the ancient Koreans I get from reading. The discussions give me the means to knit together information I already know, like with the Bear Woman myth and marriage as death-rebirth. For some reason I never thought of the myth in terms of a wedding ritual before, though the connection is obvious once I think about it. I look forward to what more I can learn.

Also I dug up a whole bunch of books on the details of Goguryeoh life, and I'm hitting the library so hard once I get a free day. Snoopy dance!

Yay! )
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
Friday and the weekend was taken up with a series of work and social engagements (and sleep, sweet sleep) but I did read several articles about ancient Goguryeoh and Baekje and write out some of my ideas about Book 1. The most interesting article was about the strategic use of traffic routes by the ancient Chinese to cut the ancient Korean groups from each other and to contain them. It was like watching a chess or Go game in real geographical space, the way these kingdoms used key bases to contain and counter-contain each other.

Portraying an epic Chinese-Korean chess match doesn't have to be racist )

My continuing attempts to outline the second half of Book 1 reminds me again how complicated this dynamic can be, with three kingdoms in a delicate maneuver of cross and double-cross. Sometimes I'm convinced I'll never get it right and the book will never get written, but that's a trick of time perception where it feels like the present is forever. I'll get past this eventually. I already had a couple of mini-breakthroughs today and I think I'm close to a workable story. Come on, self, hang in there!
ljlee: (bursting)
I keep blowing my self-imposed deadlines on the novel, so I've decided to work on it a little every day--specifically at least one hour a day. I'll be blogging about that work, both as a way to leave notes to myself and to show that hey, it's alive!

She didn't eat rice, at least not a lot of it. )

I ended up checking out one book I hadn't seen before but had marked in my research notes, Traffic Routes and Footholds in Ancient China-Korea Relations. I need to get serious about spatial relations and trade/military routes and bases. I've placed most of the major locations in the story, but haven't figured out a pivotal one--the seat of the heroine's first husband. I do have a site I like very much, but I'll need to check and see if it's feasible.


Apr. 2nd, 2014 05:17 pm
ljlee: (candle)
Ever get the feeling that you're really weird? Looking through other people's Facebook feeds leaves me feeling like the biggest freak in the world, like they have this whole world of grown-up real-life stuff while all I can think about is work and writing, specifically how to get the maximum amount of work done in the shortest amount of time so I can write, edit, and research.

While other people are posting about restaurants, careers, and wine, I'm obsessed about the implications of the bear as a water spirit in ancient Korea and how mythological symbolism might show up in the etymology of ancient place names. And Mongolian horse breeders left behind in Jeju Island in the 15th century after the great Mongol empire's influence had receded from Korea. Where and what I eat or do while thinking about these matters is just housekeeping.

I heard somewhere that people don't change but grow into more of themselves, and that seems to hold true for me. It's right back to middle school when I was reading Merriam-Webster's and writing down the etymologies of words that sounded pretty to me. This notebook has since grown to a 800-item text file. It now occurs to me--hindsight!--that this fascination might have been leveraged into the makings of a linguist, but who cared when I could become a lawyer? No one, certainly not me at the time.

I had the same confusion back then, my head buried in Lord of the Rings and Ivanhoe, that everyone around me was living in a world that I couldn't understand but should not only join but thrive in. I kept up that appearance as long as academic success was all that mattered, then started crashing badly once I went away to college and things like initiative and ambition became indispensable. I could bend myself out of shape for only so long, it turned out, before I started to break.

Self-acceptance is only marginally easier now than it was twenty years ago. At least I'm mature enough to admit what truly gives me joy. I still struggle with accepting that it's okay to take joy from what I do. And I wrestle with the fear, of course, the ever-present fear of failure, of commitment, of not being good enough.
ljlee: bam bam (headdesk)
In the course of researching for my novel, which takes place in ancient Korea and parts of modern-day China, I turned to e-book bookstores among other sources. It seemed an easy start, a way to dip a toe in the waters without devoting too much space and money from the first go.

Unfortunately, that water I was dipping into? Actually sort of scummy. Now I did fish out one excellent book, a work of non-fiction that I liked so much that I read it all the way through even though only a small portion was directly relevant to my research. Unfortunately the other books I found on Google Play were all duds, particularly the historical fiction.

Bad history, horrible writing, and terrible art )

I am duly traumatized by my attempts to begin research via e-books. I'm not even getting into the nonfiction fails--bad history books based on a known forgery don't even make the cut after all the crap I've been treated to. Now look what you've done it, awful historical fiction--you've raised the bar so high, or sunk it so low, I can't even get a proper hate-on for run-of-the-mill bad books.
ljlee: (soseono)
It seems that I am not the only one (Korean link) to surmise that my heroine Soseono's marriage to her second husband was a form of Levirate marriage where a man married his late brother's widow. The thing is, the relation between No. 1 and No. 2 stretched the definition of "family," to say nothing of "brothers."

Of ancient power struggles and romantic comedy )
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
So I've begun reading basic information (links to Korean page) about the history of my heroine's people circa 1st century B.C. I've learned this in school, glanced over web pages and so on but now I'm reading with a purpose in mind, namely to learn what kind of people these were and how their worldview and customs might have affected my heroine's story.

One thing that strikes me is that the customs of Buyeo, or Buri, were oppressive as hell by modern standards. Their politics were centered entirely around the nobility, and it seems their subjects were commoners in name but close to slaves in terms of the way they were treated. "Serf" may be the Western equivalent of their status. We know about four articles of Buri's laws, which were:

Murder, arson, and jaywalking. Or rather, jealousy. )
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
I don't know what exactly moved me from inaction. Maybe it was a couple of recent experiences which convinced me that some published authors actually suck at this whole writing and thinking thing and I could do better if I put my mind to it.* Maybe it was the galvanizing examples of my friends, one of whom is working on her second novel and another of whom landed a photography intership. Even as I feel happy for them and root them on I can't stop a voice in a corner of my mind: "What are you doing, dumbbells?"

What I'm doing )


ljlee: (Default)
L.J. Lee

June 2016

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